MG Mason

Need a Villain? Call Him / Her By This Name…


I have recently started re-watching Battlestar Galactica and finally getting to introduce my girlfriend to the show. We’re about halfway through season 1 so far and I can’t wait to introduce her to the arrival of Battlestar Pegasus, the advanced warship that turns up unexpectedly in season 2, sending BSG into a whole new direction for the next half season.

Admiral Cain with the series’ diplicitous anti-villain – Gaius Baltar.

The arrival of Pegasus throws the dynamic of the fleet into chaos because the commander of the ship is an Admiral – immediately relegating Commander Adama from the head of military operations to its second in command. There is much handwringing over this from President Roslin and the civilian government who have come to form an alliance with Commander Adama that works well for the fleet.

We don’t know what to make of the arrival of this sparkly new ship under the command of the mysterious Admiral, but there is a clue to the nature of her character yet she is quickly revealed to be a brutal and often sadistic leader (she shot her XO in the head for refusing an order that endangered the ship and was probably illegal. Pegasus also had a civilian fleet which it eventually stripped for parts and then left to float in the vastness of space, helpless. We don’t know what their fate was)  – leading to friction between her and Adama and upsetting the balance within the fleet.

Pegasus was so pivotal to the end of season 2 and early season 3 that they even made a standalone TV movie about it called Razor to show what happened to the ship in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the 12 Colonies, leading up to its rendezvous with Galactica.

Yet if we wanted a clue to her brutal leadership, we need only look as far as her name: Admiral Helena Cain.

Cain, it seems, is one of the most popular names to give to a villain or villainess in fiction. Admiral Cain is arguably even more brutal than the Cylons who are trying to wipe humanity out. You don’t need to be a theologian to understand the origins of this name either. Cain in the Bible is a deceptive and angry murderer who kills his brother so it is no wonder that this name persists in fiction. God sends him away and puts a mark on him that means nobody would be able to kill him. Here’s a few more examples of Cain-as-villain that I can think of.

There are many, many more on the TV Tropes website but I have only listed above those that I am aware of and have experienced – there are examples of male and female characters from film and TV, literature and comic books, video games and so on. It does seem the most common villain name. I wonder if the name “Cain” (and variations in the spelling of the name) is a little overused in fiction, but the other side of me thinks that using that name will put us in no doubt about their character – we will know from the start that they are the villain of the piece.

What do you think, is the name overused? Does it not bother you? Or do you like the familiarity of a villain with that name in that you know what to expect?