Betrayal is one of the most loathsome of crimes and has a long and murky history. It even has its own price (thirty pieces of silver) and its own catchphrase (Et tu, Brute?).
But it’s part of human nature and the ignoble art of selling out your compadres and comadres will continue into the future and all other known universes if sci fi is any judge of character. Here are five low-down and dirty acts of treachery in sci fi. And not all of them are carried out by a bad person or out of self-interest…….
This being about betrayal it’s a no-brainer to realise that every one of the examples below is a major plot spoiler. So don’t read on if you can’t think of any treacherous sci fi characters – I won’t even say what the titles are ’cause that would spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet.
But if you think you know who I may be talking about, read on. You have been warned….
Warning: Plot Spoilers Ahead!!
1. Cypher (Joe Pantoliano), The Matrix
Cypher was never going to be noble character – snarky, jealous and with dodgy facial hair – he’s the least likeable crew member on the Nebuchadnezzar. But then, in exchange for the illusory but vivid steak’n’redwine-filled existence of the matrix, he betrays Morpheus, Neo and the rest of the crew to Agent Smith. And in so doing becomes a worthless piece of shit who really should have taken the blue pill. But he gets his comeuppance in the form of an enraged Tank.
2. Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), Aliens
Where to start with this weasel of a character? First he sends a bunch of colonists out to the Alien planet without warning them what’s in store for them, then he gets Ripley to agree to go with the marine expedition to investigate said colonists, who are now missing, by promising her that his plan is to destroy the aliens when he really wants them to produce a bioweapon. And worst of all, as a treacherous finale, he traps Newt and Ripley in a lab with a couple of face-huggers in an attempt ‘impregnate’ them so he can smuggle a couple of aliens back to Earth.
Oh, and he disses Hicks.
This guy’s depths don’t even have a bottom and you find yourself cheering the aliens on when they get hold of him.
3. Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon), Battlestar Galactica
To paraphrase Bryan Adams, everything Ellen does, she does it for him.
‘Him’ being husband Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan). Desperate to keep Saul, now leader of the human resistance on New Caprica, from being thrown back into the Cylon prison, Ellen collaborates with the occupying Cylons and betrays the resistance. People get killed. As does Ellen, at the hands of Saul, in what is the end to a storyline that is grim and sad rather than evil and despicable.
4. Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec), The Stand
Harold Emery Lauder is an awkward, spotty teenager with delusions of superiority and an unrequited crush on Frannie Goldsmith. You should feel sorry for him but his character is so slimy and repellant, you don’t. With his vengeful little mantra, “every dog has his day” playing in his head, he engineers the downfall of Mother Abigail’s good guys and defects to the dark side. Only things don’t go entirely to plan and he ends up dying in a ditch like the worm he is.
5. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Like Ellen Tigh above, Lando commits his act of betrayal out of slightly nobler motives than naked self-interest. Threatened with the take-over of Cloud City if he doesn’t co-operate, he hands over Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to Darth Vader.
Indulging in his own bit of treachery, Vader then goes back on his agreement and so manages to create another opponent as Lando returns to the good side, helps the others escape and sets of to rescue Han. The force is again strong.