It just seems so odd that they so many of the different races in Star trek are treacherous. There are the Klingons, the Cardassians, the Romulans, the Founders and Jem H'dar and the Breen. I also will add Ferengi to the list because even though they aren't war-like...they are devious.

Did the writers of this universe really need this many adverse species?

  • 20
    Peace wont give you 176 episodes.
    – bobbyalex
    Mar 9, 2015 at 4:48
  • yah, it wont be a science fiction if romulans and humans were singing and dancing in a garden of flowers.. Mar 9, 2015 at 4:53
  • 7
    You're using a selective listing. Have you compared how many warlike races there are to non warrior races, like Vulcans or Organians?
    – Tango
    Mar 9, 2015 at 4:58
  • 4
    War-like, treacherous and devious aren’t synonyms. Are you asking why so many races in Star Trek have negative aspects to them? Mar 9, 2015 at 9:36
  • 2
    Also, you're listing the major powers of the galaxy. A warlike nature (like the Klingons), or at least a potentially violent nature (like the Humans or Romulans), is a surer path to building an empire than peace and cooperation. Doesn't mean there aren't millions of less-militant and less-powerful civilizations surrounding them.
    – Nerrolken
    Mar 9, 2015 at 16:19

3 Answers 3


This list presents 241 humanoid species of Star Trek universe. The amount of warlike races is, basing on your listing and accounting for some you might have missed, somewhere around 10.

That means that about 3-5% of all the races in the galaxy are warlike. Not an appalingly high number.

  • 1
    The OP only mentioned major species. The memory alpha list includes a lot of minor species, many of which are also warlike - the Hirogen, the Borg, Nausicaan, Reman, Vaadwaur, Vidiian, half the Acamarian, Akritirians, Andorians, etc. I think your percentage is a little low. Apr 15, 2015 at 18:54
  • @Bachrach44 That should be somehow offset by Federation species that are confirmed to be there but were not mentioned by name on screen (150 planets in total according to Memory Alpha, not sure how to get info of how many were shown or avoid double-counting multiple planets by same species). Also, this answer was not meant to exactly be hard science
    – Deltharis
    Apr 15, 2015 at 21:47

Did the writers of Star Trek need to create numerous violent species to propel the show over the course of its 40 + years of existence? Yes. Did they create too many? That depends. Given the science behind intelligence, it might be said they didn't create enough.

Given the number of stars in our galaxy (100 to 400 billion are estimated ranges and the corresponding hundreds of billions of potential planets out there) there could be any number of life forms doing any number of things. The scientific thought says, predators (and omnivores) will likely develop intelligence since you don't need intelligence to sneak up on a plant.

Such active and predatory intelligence will give rise to both dominance and survival of the fittest social hierarchies and likely create species who will see conflict and competition as natural drives even after they become cooperative enough to develop space-flight.

From a production standpoint:

  • We have to consider both the needs of the market (the viewers - what they will watch and their reasons for watching it) and the needs of the production company (who need to get viewers in order to get advertising in order to pay for the continued existence of the show).

  • A show needs consistent elements - characters (protagonists and antagonists) the viewers can relate to. They need enough consistent ones that they can reuse costumes for and enough new ones to keep people guessing as to what the next week's threat is going to be.

  • Writers need to have plot elements they can rely on for the relatively simple stories presented in at least 1/3 of all Star Trek stories - crew meets unknown element, crew interacts with unknown element, unknown element becomes known, crew defeats or escapes unknown element.

  • All of this is to say, Star Trek was like any other business in some regards. It was forced to make concessions regarding its players, its enemies, its models, its cinematography and not all concessions were created equal.

As Star Trek became more famous, in later iterations it was possible to create many more new races whose motivations were less clear cut and allowed some room for actions beyond violence such as:

  • The wormhole aliens (The Prophets) who lived in the Wormhole near Bajor. We never know what they want, or why they do what they do, only that they have some affection for Bajor and its people.

  • More malevolent lifeforms such as Species 8472, whose primary motivation was the extermination of all lesser species (at least at first).

  • There was the expansionist role played by The Borg who simply wanted to absorb your species and technology. They didn't consider themselves good or bad.

  • Or some combination of the other motivations such as the Breen or the Dominion.

Violence, as depicted in Star Trek, would be expected from at least some degree of the aliens in the galaxy given the forces that would drive a species into space: the urge for competition, territoriality, the urges for expansion, the urge to dominate other life forms would all be urges, at least some species would take into the last great frontier. It would be a feat if a species could overcome its biological urges long enough to meet alien life without killing it out of a xenophobic fear of the Other.

  • Incidents in Human history should make this abundantly clear. Any time a low tech culture met a high tech one, the low tech culture tended to be consumed, enslaved or eliminated completely.

  • Why would first contact in space be any different? If anything, Rodenberry showed great restraint in his presentation of many aliens. Most were willing to put aside their cultural xenophobia once aggressive tactics failed, political machinations however continued for decades; see Romulans and Cardassians. The Klingons eventually gained some measure of respect for humanity and found reasons for effective camaraderie.

In Summary:

Ecosystems are potentially dangerous and inherently violent. Why would space and the expansion into a vaster ecosystem be any less dangerous than one confined to a single planet. If anything, entering the space ecosystem could mean a species exposes itself to complete annihilation the first time it meets a threat with superior technology... and the means to reach the weaker system's home worlds.


A good story requires conflict. And conflict is easy to come by when one party is the amoral villain. Creating a race of villains is an easy way to come up with materials for storywriting.

As posted in the answer by Deltharis, there are hundreds of humanoid races in the Star Trek universe. The "villain races" are just a few of them. Also, some are not always villains. The Klingons, for example, started out as pure villains and later made a 180° turn and became good guys during TNG and DS9. Why do the evil guys seem so predominant? They get so much screentime because they make for easy and interesting plots.

But why not have only one designated villain race?

  • Different villains are good for different plots. The Klingons are great when you want to write about military conflict, because that's what their shtick is. The Romulans and Cardasians are also militant, but more manipulative and diplomatic. The Ferengi are weak but smart and sneaky. The Borg are creepy and challenging, but lack personality. More villains offer more plot variety, which is important for a franchise as long-running as Star Trek.
  • Having many villains allows to actually defeat one once in a while. When you only have one villain in your fictional universe, your heroes must never be allowed to completely defeat them, because then your franchise is over. But when you have lots of villains, you can afford to sacrifice one once in a while because then you can still write plots with the others. For example, the Klingons were de-villainified after the events in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and became mostly protagonists instead of antagonists.
  • 1
    1: A good story can be had without conflict. 2: Conflict can come from two opposing parties with good intentions - one doesn't need an amoral vilain to have conflict. 3: It is true, however, that doing it this way makes the story easier to write, if a bit predictable.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 9, 2015 at 13:22
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    Klingons didn't exactly make a 180 degree turn. They didn't change at all- there was the constant threat that they would go back to their old ways. The only reason they didn't was because their empire was too weak. When they got strong enough they did exactly that- they went to war with the Federation briefly during the Dominion War. Mar 10, 2015 at 9:09
  • the best Trek episodes weren't when there was a war between species, but rather ethic, scientific and moral dilemmas. The episode where Data is on trail to determine if he's sentient, or the conspiracy DS9 episodes (In Pale Moonlight and some other I forgot) were absolutely the best episodes in the entire franchise in my opinion, and didn't feature any war (even if there was a war going on in the background)
    – Petersaber
    Jul 10, 2015 at 9:50

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