I am a Trekkie from way back (pretty sure I was exposed in the womb) and circa Voyager I made up a chart comparing and contrasting the then four Trek series captains, plus Sulu because he’s awesome. I posted it to my Voyager fan-page on Geocities (remember Geocities?)
As you may guess from that title, the chart was specifically part of my analysis of Kathryn Janeway, who was and remains my favorite Captain of all: “When one is trying to understand or analyze a person or circumstance, one investigates that which has come before and compares the two. Thus, in order to fully appreciate Kathryn Janeway as a Starfleet captain, we must compare her to what we have seen before.”
Fifteen years later, I’ve decided to revisit the project and now present a 7 part series on Starfleet captains.
Part I: Ideology – the Captain’s philosophy and outlook on command as evidenced by his or her actions and decisions
James T. Kirk | “Rules Be Damned”
Kirk is a red-blooded all-AmericanFederation hero and generally of the opinion that if he and his fine ship and crew can’t do it, it can’t be done. The idea of asking first seems foreign to him and he lives by the idea that rules are meant to be stretched to their last resource and broken not if necessary, but when.
In his appearance in the alternate universe of the most recent films, Kirk flies by the seat of his pants even more and disbelieves in the no-win scenario even harder. Kirk is both our first captain and our most recent captain, he set the stage for the rest and he is their culmination. I find it fitting his philosophy may be explained as he doesn’t always know what to do, but he will never stop trying.
Jean-Luc Picard | “When in Doubt, Quote Shakespeare”
Picard believes with his whole heart there is no situation that cannot be solved with words. He’s no stranger to action, but negotiation and diplomacy must always be the first tactics. Likely due to various brushes with death (for example his brawl with the Nausicaan and the destruction of the Stargazer) Picard thinks things through more than the others and tends to regret his actions before he’s even taken them. But he is more than capable of making tough decisions and always follows through.
Benjamin Sisko | “The Mystic”
Before coming to Deep Space Nine, Sisko was an angry, lonely, man ready to give up on Starfleet. But fate intervenes and he finds himself not only commander of a space station, but a religious figure to the locals. Sisko is a builder, of ships and communities, and a father, to more than just his son. He finds his place in the universe and he is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to keep it safe. In the end, Sisko becomes a martyr in many ways, but in truth, he was always simply the best leader he could be.
Kathryn Janeway | “Yeee-haaa!”
As the daughter of an Admiral and the protégé of another, Janeway is born and bred Starfleet. The principles and philosophies of the Federation are precious to her and she takes pains to uphold them even when her ship and crew are flung seventy thousand light years outside of Federation space. However, she leads with her heart in every situation and is perhaps the most impulsive — and explosive — of all the captains. Janeway is also the most comfortable with her authority. Though she can be insecure and lonely in her position, no one so fully lives the title “Captain” as Janeway.
Jonathan Archer | “Faith of the Heart”
Archer is the “everyman” captain. He likes sports and red wine, his best friend is a dog named after the everyman muskateer, he has a boyish sense of wonder at just being out in space and meeting new people. He’s just so happy to be here! But that desire to hang out with the cool kids yields shallow relationships and a flippant command style. It might have been an interesting arc in the end but unfortunately he was only starting to grow into his role when the series was cancelled.
Christopher Pike | “Bruised, Not Broken”
In his one appearance, Pike starts out tired, jaded even, but finds himself reinvigorated by his encounter with the Talosians. It’s a quieter, more Picard or Sisko like arc than the second, successful pilot that features Shatner as Kirk in place of Hunter as Pike and somewhat famously ends in a fist fight. Pike comes off more thoughtful than active, but competent and he has the loyalty of his crew, particularly Spock.
In the alternate original series Pike is secure in his command and compassionate towards his crew. Ultimately his most important role is as a father figure for Jim Kirk.
Hikaru Sulu | “The Pointy End”
The only of Kirk’s crew to gain his own command on screen, Sulu is something of a wild card. We only have one instance to witness his command style, though we do it twice (in the sixth film and an episode of Voyager). But from his years on the series and in the films we know Sulu to be charming, dramatic, honorable, and kind. I imagine him taking to command the way he does to flying, sword fighting, shooting, and dressing: with incredible style.
Beverly Picard | “The Limit Does Not Exist”
Beverly gets even less Captain screentime than Sulu, and it’s in an alternate timeline. However, she’s also been in command of Starfleet Medical, has used her position as CMO to take command from Picard, has covered shifts on the bridge, and directed both a full medical staff and a theatrical troupe. She’s a force to be reckoned with. As doctor and mother it’s easy to categorize Beverly as a caretaker but those also make her a detective and a fighter. Beverly’s mission on the Pasteur is basically Doctors Without Borders in space and that is something to be celebrated.
This post is part of The Captains; read more (links will be added as parts are published)
Part 1: Ideology
Part 2: Vitals
Part 3: Reason and Knowledge
Part 4: Leadership and Loyalty
Part 5: The Prime Directive
Part 6: Extreme Measures
Part 7: Continuing Missions