On Poetry, Prose, and Videogames

JLawrence Kenny

Maniacal Monday: Dr. Nefarious, from Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal

on October 4, 2011

This week, we’ll be taking a break from the heavy, terrifying villains in favor of a more comedic villain. When it comes to bad guys in the world of comedy, their actions tend to be over-the-top and farcical. Their plans are crazy, and are usually either horribly convoluted to the point where you have NO idea how it works, or so spectacularly simple that you wonder where they learned how to be evil in the first place. Just like normal villains, however, they have just as varied and deep a background as any other (usually) and are the driving force behind the plot of the story. Enter Dr. Nefarious, from the Ratchet & Clank game series.

Captain Qwark: Bullshitter Extraordinaire

First debuting in the third game of the franchise, Up Your Arsenal, Dr. Nefarious is a robotic supervillain with a grudge to pick with series regular, Captain Qwark, a superhero who coasts by on looks rather than actual heroics. (More on him in a different installment of MM) Due to their past together, Dr. Nefarious, a genius bullied by Qwark in his youth, ends up being turned into a robot with a tendency to short-circuit and pick up soap operas. He is accompanied by his equally robotic servant, Lawrence, a shrewd butler who acts as a comic foil to Nefarious’s overly ostentatious, constantly making fun of him in a roundabout manner. As the plot progresses, Nefarious reveals his evil plan to use a ray gun that transforms organic life into mindless robots, and his only opposition is the protagonists of the game, Ratchet and Clank, along with the Galactic Rangers. In the end, Nefarious is defeated by our heroes, and finds himself stranded on an asteroid, making a few cameos until the most recent game, where he was reintroduced as the primary villain. For the sake of brevity, however, I’ll stick to his first appearance.

Dreadfully sorry, sir, I didn't mean to show them your dirty laundry as well.

As mentioned above, Nefarious’s character comes from one primary source: his overzealous personality. His almost constant yelling, while meant to be menacing, becomes a hilarious parody of stereotypical evil supervillains. His reactions to the comedic events that surround him, from being accidentally left behind on a self-destructing vessel to his audition tape for Galactic Idol being seen by our heroes, are what brings his character to life. He is also convinced that one of the game’s heroes, who is the star of a show called Secret Agent Clank, actually is the character he plays in the show, even going so far as to kidnap Clank in an attempt to convince him to join Nefarious’s scheme. He’s not particularly scary, and he doesn’t even come across as threatening for the most part, and that’s the genius of villains in comedic stories. They make us laugh, even as the entire galaxy is about to come crumbling down as a result of their actions.

Totally NOT a Death Star prototype.

Of course, while Dr. Nefarious is a hilarious character, whose personality is nothing short of ridiculous, his actions are nothing to be taken lightly. His superweapon, the Biobliterator, is an amazing creation, capable of transforming organic matter into mechanical. Ignoring the physical impossibilities of such an invention, the Biobliterator was a planetoid-sized and shaped weapon that Nefarious controlled and even successfully used several times, even going so far as to create a second one in case of emergencies. He kidnaps Clank and replaces him with an evil replica, who transmits data to Nefarious from the back of the other protagonist, Ratchet. This may be merely for comic effect, but it suggests that his replica was convincing enough to fool someone he had known for a few years, which would be a truly remarkable feat. Even before his diabolical plan began coming to fruition, Dr. Nefarious had secured the services of an entire race of aliens and was staging very successful attacks on planets throughout the universe, completely overwhelming the Galactic Rangers. Were it not for the actions of Ratchet and Clank, it is almost certain that he would have been victorious in his takeover of the universe, completely annihilating all organic life, and when you think of these actions without relating them to his crazy character, it’s actually a pretty horrifying and evil plan.

And remember, blowing shit up will ALWAYS solve your problem.

The Ratchet & Clank game series has been one of my favorites since it came out, its oftentimes risqué humor really making it a standout among other RPGs and FPSs. It successfully crosses the bridge between fantasy and sci-fi, and it has evolved along with its audience. Dr. Nefarious is a perfect example of a comedic villain, stereotypical and ludicrous, and his character just makes the game even more fun to play, which is what a good game should strive for. All the development and flashy graphics count for nothing if the audience doesn’t enjoy themselves, and Dr. Nefarious, as well as the rest of the cast, ensures that we do.

Next Week: Gaston, from Beauty & The Beast

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