Wednesday, January 18, 2006

All hail Servalan!

The Wikipedia list of Well known Supervillains contains exactly forty nine names. Only one of them is female. Whether this is an error and it was only supposed to be a list of male villains (since there is also a list of supervillainesses) anyway, or because only one female villain has really made an impact on popular culture equivilent to Fu Manchu or The Joker is not clear because that one female name is Servalan.

Servalan is quite simply the archetypal female super villain. She is the embodiment of the empowered woman. She is clever, capricious, sexy, ruthless, and as cuddly as a pit full of vipers armed with laser sights. She dresses to kill. That is to say she dresses extravigantly and people usually die in her immediate vicinity. And she really enjoys her work.

As the arch-villain of the british TV show Blake's Seven she is considerably more successful than the heroes. Despite Blake and Co. having the useful advantages of owning the most powerful and fastest spaceship in the galaxy, the only teleport system in existance (against which there is no defence), and an omniscient computer that can hack any other computer, they stumble around having the occasional inconsequential success in their revolutionary cause, while Servalan works her way up (over any number of dead bodies) to become President of the Federation. After the power of the Federation is broken (due to alien invasion, nothing to do with Blake's bunch) and Servalan is deposed, it is no time at all before she is building her second empire under the name of Commander Slear.

And in the end she wins.

Which is more than most villains can boast.


Haute Corbeille said...

Doesn't sound like much of a villain at all. Sounds to me like she's the hero. Granted, I've never seen the show and I'm just going off of your descriptions...

Chance said...

Never heard of her. In comics, there really aren't too many really successful female villains up there with Joker, Doom, Luthor, etc. Catwoman is probably the most famous female villain, and she's often portrayed as a thief with honor, if not practically a do-gooder. Smarter people than I (like you) could probably make some interesting inferences about how comics writers and readers see women based on that.

Anonymous said...

Meh, I liked Travis better. Both were fairly one-note camp villains, but Travis's character arc took him to some interesting places over the course of the first two (and best) seasons, while Servalan's shtick just stayed the same throughout the whole damn series, until her over-the-top femme fatal act reduced the show to high camp by the time of her season four appearances.

The last episode was the show's saving grace - and Servalan didn't win, or even show up, in that one. The fascist stormtroopers that deliver that final barrage of laser blasts are quite fittingly faceless.

Anonymous said...

Servalan, it must also be said, is a pretty abysmal administrator. Under her tenure several major revolts broke out, the Federation's central computer complex was destroyed, and the Andromedans invaded and nearly wiped out the human race; no totalitarian dictator worth their salt would've let a half-dozen escapees cripple the empire and leave it open for alien attack.

Servalan's one talent is her ability to rise through the ranks of the bureacracy based on little more than her rich-kid social status and in spite of the trail of failure, disaster and incompetence she leaves in her wake. Truly, she is the George Bush of sci-fi villains.

Mark "Puff" Anderson said...

I haven't seen Blake's Seven since the Dallas-based PBS station re-ran it many, many years ago.

I had forgotten all about Servalan.

She did just exude evil sexiness.

Mmmmm, evil sexiness...

Sorry, Homer moment.

Sad that the expectations of most of today's audiences would keep them from giving Blake's a try.

I look forward to the next time I catch it.

Thanks for bringing back a good ol' memory.

Mark "Puff" Anderson

Mark "Puff" Anderson said...


Truly, she is the George Bush of sci-fi villains.

Great line. Wish I had thought of that one.