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Star Trek Reinvents TNG’s Barclay as a Super-Competent Villain

Warning: contains spoilers for Star Trek: The Mirror War – Data #1!The disturbing effects of Star Trek‘s Mirror Universe reinvent Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lieutenant Barclay as a villain. Throughout the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Barclay was portrayed as shy, withdrawn and anxious, but in the Mirror Universe, he is a scheming villain, one who is not afraid to use people as pawns or play the long game. Star Trek: Mirror War – Data, published by IDW, presents fans with this chilling vision of a beloved Star Trek character.

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Portrayed by veteran actor Dwight Schutlz, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s third season, in an episode titled ‘Hollow Pursuits.’ Barclay was unlike any other officer on the Enterprise, depicted as shy and withdrawn – a far cry from his bridgemates. Barclay would appear in more episodes of The Next Generation, as well as episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. IDW Publishing, who currently hold the rights to produce Star Trek comics, has returned to the Mirror Universe, that dark corner of the Star Trek multiverse, where in the place of the Federation stands the evil Terran Empire. Whereas the Federation is driven by exploration, the Terran Empire is driven by conquest. In the Mirror Universe, a number of Star Trek tropes and characters are flipped on their heads. The publisher has released a series of one-shots focusing on individual characters, and in Mirror War: Data, readers meet a dark version of Lieutenant Barclay.

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In the Mirror Universe, Barclay is still fond of the Holodeck, as he is in the Prime timeline, but his fantasies here are decidedly more violent. Data walks in on one of Barclay’s holodeck programs and asks about it. Barclay then fills him in on his family history: a hundred years ago, Barclay’s ancestors lived on a colony world, in relative peace. Then, Klingons attacked. Barclay’s father had built a shelter under their house and the family waited the invasion out, but when they emerged from the bunker, they were accused by other townspeople of being collaborators. Merliak, another colonist, led the hunt against the Barclays – a hunt that is continuing a hundred years later. Determined to end the blood feud and clear his family’s name, Barclay joined Starfleet, in order to gain experience with weapons and technology he can use to kill Merliak’s descendants.


Barclay Becomes a Killer

Barclay is successful, both in getting revenge and in clearing his family name, but this vision of Barclay is a far cry from what fans know and love. In the Prime universe Barclay is motivated by the same things that motivate everyone in Starfleet: seeking out new life and civilizations. But in the dark Mirror Universe, he is driven by the need for revenge.The Barclay of the Prime universe is awkward, often escaping into the Holodeck, but in the Mirror Universe he uses the Holodeck to sharpen his weapons skills. Barclay’s need for vengeance led him to Starfleet, where he gains additional experience with the technology needed to kill Erya, Merilak’s granddaughter.

Mirror-Barclay is more tragic than his Prime counterpart, and this tragedy leads him down a dark path, however the two are still bound together. Barclay’s shyness and need to escape others becomes the experience of literally being hated and hunted, while his method of escape becomes a way to obsess over his persecution and the dark deeds he’ll carry out to end it. The Mirror Universe’s evil incarnations are, in a twisted way, comments on the strengths and principles of their main-universe counterparts, and the twisted reflection of Barclay serves to show how, while he may not be the most confident person, he hasn’t allowed his anxieties to corrupt him.

Part of the Mirror Universe’s appeal is seeing dark, gritty visions of beloved Star Trek icons. The Mirror Universe flips the script on the Star Trek universe, and no character changed more than Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Lieutenant Barclay, who was recast as a vengeance-driven villain.

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