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A cult leader is the central figure in a religious or quasi-religious group of believers. Such cults -- and those who lead them -- are typified by deviant or non-mainstream belief systems or philosophies.
A cult-leader is a figure who typically views him or herself in terms of a divine or pseudo-divine nature.
Cult-TV programming, has, over the years, given audiences some terrifying and mysterious cult-leaders.
Going back to Star Trek (1966-1969), the final season introduced audiences to Dr. Sevrin in "The Way to Eden." This mad cult-leader perverted the mission of several peace-loving hippies to find the mythical planet of Eden. In fact, Sevrin was a megalomaniac and carrier of a disease that would harm those he sought Eden with.
One of the earliest episodes of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), "Planet of the Slave Girls" saw Earth endangered by a malevolent cult leader, Kaleel (Jack Palance) on the planet Vistula. Kaleel actually seemed to possess God-like powers, including the ability to kill his believers with a touch.
A first season episode of Blake's 7 (1979-1981), "Cygnus Alpha," also featured a cult-leader on another world. Brian Blessed played Vargas, a madman who wanted to convert the galaxy to his cause.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), in "Descent" -- a two-part episode -- Data's brother, Lore (Brent Spiner) became the cult-leader of several renegade, individual Borg drones. Having been separated from the Collective, they required Lore's leadership to help them deal with their violent emotions.
The fourth season episode of The X-Files (1993-2002), "The Field Where I Died," featured a cult leader, Vernon Ephesian (Michael Massee), of the Temple of the Seven Stars. Both Ephesian and his cult were corollaries for real life cult leader, David Koresh.
Chris Carter's Millennium (1996-1999) also featured a cult-leader, at least in its second season: The Old Man (R.G. Armstrong). He seemed to be a benevolent leader, but there was much about him that Frank Black (Lance Armstrong) simply did not know.
More recently, cults and cult-leaders have again been in vogue. The Following (2013-2015) involved a detective (played by Kevin Bacon), fighting the violent, terrorist followers of cult-leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a former college professor of literature.
And currently Hugh Dancy plays sinister Calvin Roberts on The Path (2015 - ), an original series about a cult called Meyerism, which is basically a stand-in for Scientology.