It's the July 4 weekend, so naturally our thoughts turn to independence, and bloody, lovely revolution. Unfortunately, overturning your colonial rulers is hard work. So we've collected tips from the ten greatest science fiction revolutionaries, to help you prevail.
John Sheridan (Babylon 5)
The lesson: Keep an ace up your sleeve.
When President Clark of Earth declares martial law, the Babylon 5 station breaks away from the Earth alliance, and Sheridan starts recruiting Earth colonies to join his uprising. The odds are way, way against Sheridan — but there's a reason why he's the only human ever to have taken out a Minbari warship. He has an ace in the hole: There are a group of telepaths who have been programmed to interface with the Shadows' vessels, but their programming has driven them nuts and they screw up all technology when you take them out of cryosleep. These telepaths were a minor plot point earlier in season three, but Sheridan forgets nothing, and just when you least expect it, he smuggles them aboard Earth ships and takes out a large portion of the Earth fleet all at once. He also does a great job recruiting allies, including ships from the League Of Non-Aligned Worlds. This show, in general, is one long tutorial in insurrection — there isn't a major character on the show who hasn't overthrown at least one planetary government.
The Authority (The Authority)
The lesson: Become the lesser of two evils.
The Authority only take over the government of the United States after there's been a series of hideous failures that blow up the whole state of Florida and nearly caused a war with a set of extra-dimensional aliens. It's time to clean house, and the Authority are the ultimate ass-kicking Roomba of justice. Of course, as the fantastic/weird Ed Brubaker run on the comic proves, taking power is the easy part for these guys — holding on to it turns out to be the hard part.
Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
The lesson: Invalidate the governing ideology.
At the end of Return Of The Jedi, Luke doesn't just defeat Darth Vader in combat — he also proves that the Empire's main ideology is wrong. The Dark Side of the Force is not stronger than the Light Side. This is as powerful a blow against the Empire as launching a million X-wing fighters, because it undermines the Emperor's whole reason for being in charge. Instead of Vader converting Luke to the Dark Side, Luke brings Vader back to the light.
The Doctor (Doctor Who)
The lesson: Declare victory early.
The Doctor has overthrown more oppressive planetary governments than almost anyone. For a while there, he was toppling two or three a year.
His greatest revolutions, arguably, happen in "The Happiness Patrol," "The Sunmakers," and "The Long Game." And in all three cases, he's very interested in controlling the state's propaganda apparatus. This is especially true in "The Sunmakers," where he takes over the government's broadcasting center and announces that the revolution has been a success — before it's even started. Why wait until you've actually won to declare victory? Life is short, even for a Time Lord. (Go to about 3:40 in the video below.)
Mike (The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress)
The lesson: Don't be afraid to cheat
Mike, the computer that helps the residents of the lunar colony revolt against their Earth overlords, isn't above using base trickery to get ahead. When he worries that the Earth people will try to take out the electromagnetic catapult that the Loonies use to send grain to Earth (and which could be a powerful weapon) he has the Loonies build a secret backup model. He impersonates the colony's governor, to trick the Earth people into think they're still in control for a while after the revolution. He even allegedly stuffs the ballot box in the newly independent colony's first election. Because winning means cutting some corners sometimes.
Flynn and Tron (Tron)
The lesson: Force your enemies to put all their strength into their offensive
When Tron and Flynn lead the attack against the Master Control Program, they're outgunned, even though Flynn has amazing user powers. But when Tron attacks the Master Control Program's main enforcer, the program Sark, the MCP starts to panic. And the MCP makes a crucial mistake, putting all of its functions into Sark. This causes Sark to become giant and super-powerful, but it also creates a giant target — and leaves the MCP itself unprotected. Boo yah!
Paul Muad'Dib (Dune)
The lesson: Control access to a key resource
In the first Dune book, Paul proves he's the Kwisatz Haderach, and then launches an assault on the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV with the help of his Fremen allies. They win partly by riding on the enormous sandworms that are native to the planet Arrakis, aka Dune. But also, when Paul wins an audience with Shaddam, he threatens to destroy the spice, melange, that allows navigators to see and travel between worlds, unless Shaddam steps down as Emperor in favor of Paul. Faced with the loss of the all-important spice, the Spacer's Guild urges Shaddam to fold.
Captain Kirk (Star Trek)
The lesson: Blow up the computer.
I don't think Captain Kirk ever overthrew a repressive regime without first causing its computer systems to explode. It's just the way you do things, in James Tiberius' playbook: Step one, detonate the mainframe, and the system will collapse like a house of cards. Step two usually involves giving an impassioned speech with your shirt ripped in strategic places. But really, Kirk knows that most evil regimes are either run by a computer, or utterly dependent on a computer for their surveillance and social control infrastructure. And most computers can be talked into self-destructing. Oh, and if someone accuses you of being Archons, just run with it — especially if it freaks them out.
The SG-1 crew (Stargate SG-1)
The lesson: Prove that the godlike rulers aren't wielding the power of magic, just technology.
Pretty much every time the SG-1 gang steps through a stargate, they wind up upsetting the order of the galaxy. In their original movie, they defeat the false god Ra, and over the course of their series they bump off a bunch of the System Lords, former rulers of the galaxy. They also take time to unseat a bunch of random dictators and oppressive governments that aren't connected to the System Lords but are still unfair or icky. Overthrowing governments just comes naturally to these folks. And a lot of the time, they do this by proving the Goa'uld are using regular old technology, not magic, and anybody can control it. (They also gain key allies, including the Tok'ra and former Jaffa Teal'c, which is an important factor too.)
V (V For Vendetta)
The lesson: Create symbols that are more important than any one individual
(Spoiler alert!) V dies at the end of the miniseries, but through a series of twisted mindgames and psychological torture, he creates his own replacement: Evie, who takes over wearing the iconic mask and destroys Downing Street. The uprising succeeds partly because V, the symbol, can't be destroyed as easily as just wiping out one single person.
Star Trek screencaps from the always awesome Trekcore.
Additional reporting by Mary Ratliff.