If we're discussing the role played by the Tzenkethi in Trek lit, we should probably talk about the activity they're most frequently found engaged in: manipulation of other nations. Whether it's quietly rearranging the political status quo on Romulus, meddling on Talar, or using the Venetans as puppets, the Tzenkethi of the Typhon Pact era seem to have taken to pushing their own agenda pretty much anywhere within reach. Boosted by the security offered by the Pact, the Coalition apparently feels ready to extend its hand invisibly across known space, into the hearts of other powers - allied, rival or neutral. Given what we learn of the Autarch's agenda in Rough Beasts of Empire
and Plagues of Night,
it all apparently feeds into an effort to strengthen Tzenkethi power relative to the Federation, so that eventually they can "turn the tables" (keeping in mind that the Tzenkethi leadership view the UFP is a fearful spectre that will destroy them if it gets the chance).
Every time we've seen the Tzenkethi in the Typhon Pact
books, they're up to something, maneuvering others for their own ends.
- They bring the unstable elements of Romulan space to heel while encoraging the reabsorption of the Imperial State, in order to give the Pact greater strength and stability. All this is achieved in an underhanded manner, shamelessly undermining an allied nation and assassinating its officials.
- They build artificial short-range wormholes, so that the Breen and Romulan intelligence agencies can steal from the Dominion, while not actually sharing the full extent of their plans (note that while the Breen and many of the Romulans seemed to genuinely believe the justification of "we need parity", the Autarch clearly desires much more than a balance of power, stepping up harrassment of Federation shipping and telling Alizome that the UFP will soon come to fear the Tzenkethi...
- They manipulate the leadership of popular movements on Talar, all in hopes of forcing the Federation's hand and painting them as brutal enforcers squashing protest.
- They turn the Venette Convention, a potential ally of the Federation, against the UFP through careful exploitation of Venetan naivety, and steer this nation into a close alliance with Ab-Tzenketh, allowing them to potentially place weapons on the Federation border and that of two of its allies.
So: the Tzenkethi are manipulating and using everyone in pursuit of their (or the Autarch's) agenda.
In the Brinkmanship
review thread, however, it was suggested by one poster that having gotten a bit of a scare at Venette by finding themselves no longer in control of the situation, the Tzenkethi might start reigning in their scheming a little. That got me thinking about how the master manipulators seem to come undone by failing to understand that things, having fallen neatly into place, won't just stay
neatly in place.
First there was Praetor Kamemor. She served their purposes very well when considered as a passive, unknowing piece in the game, but of course she's not
a passive piece and that proved to be a problem. When she acted on her own moral and political judgement, she brought the Tzenkethi plan into jeopardy. At first the Tzenkethi had gotten what they wanted - a reunited Romulan state led by a moderate who would strengthen and stabilize the situation - but their plan to eventually turn that strength against the Federation came undone when Kamemor pursued her own agenda and pushed for peace.
Then, the Tzenkethi were forced to back down when the Federation and Cardassians pulled a scheme of their own, despite Alizome being clearly in control of the situation on Venette (and being kept distracted from the counter-scheme by having the Federation delegates put in a situation where they couldn't effectively challenge that control).
It would seem the Tzenkethi are frequently underestimating the degree to which other races will avert the intended outcome of their plotting. The Tzenkethi schemes work very well - but ultimately come undone when the aliens they're manipulating fail to act as expected once the plan has been unfolded. It seems to me that the Tzenkethi don't easily grasp the idea that unexpected consequences might arise when their pawns and pieces do their own thing
rather than staying where they've been steered to. When I considered the Tzenkethi social structure, wherein everyone knows their place and function, this made a great deal of sense.
The Tzenkethi leadership, for all their skill at manipulation, are used to tidy
manipulation - manipulation of pieces that happily allow
themselves to be manipulated, and which are comfortable in the position they're placed in. Basically, it's far too easy a game. When dealing with aliens, the combination of this expectation - that people will slot in where you've steered them - and general xenophobia seems to blind the Tzenkethi to the idea that everyone won't just fall into place as and when the Tzenkethi plot.
The Tzenkethi, it seems to me, are almost a little Venetan themselves; not quite grasping how everyone else works and assuming their ways are applicable everywhere. I think that this might prove the Coalition's undoing if it doesn't back down, because it's going to overextend its reach.