This is part two in my seven part series on Starfleet captains. Part one discussed what they stand for, now we look at where they’re from and how they achieved command.
Part II: Vitals – the Captain’s family, birthplace, and training prior to command
James T. Kirk | “Farm Boy”
Hometown: Riverside, Iowa
Family: Kirk’s parents are George and Winona; he has an older brother George Jr. (Sam). In the TOS films he is revealed to have a son with Carol Marcus, David.
Training: Kirk held a Tactical position. We also know he was on a command track from the beginning and likely worked a variety of bridge positions.
Analysis: Alternate reality Kirk is defined by the death of his father on the day he was born. In the original timeline, Kirk was ambitious but in the new one he acts as if he has something to prove.
Jean-Luc Picard | “Old Town Elite”
Hometown: La Barre, France
Family: Picard’s parents are Maurice and Yvette and he is also the younger of two brothers. Robert Picard stayed in France to tend the family vineyard, married Marie and sired Rene. Robert and Rene died in a fire.
Training: Prior to command Picard held the Conn position.
Analysis: Though reserved and aristocratic in comparison to the other Captains, young Picard was a dreamer and an over-achiever. He left the continuation of the Picard family legacy to his brother and Robert and Rene’s death weighed heavily on him not only for their loss.
Benjamin Sisko | “Creole”
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Family: Father Joseph, mother Sarah, though he was raised by his father’s second wife and did not know Sarah (who was inhabited by the Prophets) was his mother until he was an adult. Ben has a (half)sister, Judith, and two (half)brothers. Ben has a son, Jake, with his late wife, Jennifer, and his second wife, Kasidy, is pregnant at the conclusion of the series.
Analysis: Sisko is introduced as a family man in the pilot and remains one throughout. We spend more time with his family (Jake is a series regular) than any of the other captains and he appreciates his home and heritage more overtly.
Kathryn Janeway | “Traditionalist”
Family: Kathryn is the daughter of Starfleet Admiral Edward* and his wife Gretchen*. She is older sister to Phoebe*. Before Voyager was lost in the Delta Quadrant, Kathryn was engaged to be married to Mark Johnson. (*All these names are established apocrypha)
Analysis: We do not meet any of Janeway’s family on screen, and all of their characterization comes from the canon-but-also-not-canon novel, Mosaic, by showrunner Jeri Taylor. By virtue of necessity or design Voyager is Kathryn’s home and her crew is Kathryn’s family.
Jonathan Archer | “Starfleet Brat”
Family: Archer’s father, Henry, developed the first warp engine capable of warp five and was a primary designer of the Enterprise NX-01 that his son Captains. Henry died when Jonathan was 12, leaving him to be raised by mother, Sally. Jonathan is an only child.
Training: Archer was a test pilot.
Analysis: Archer’s daddy issues are not as pronounced as AOS Kirk’s but they are there. Otherwise, we don’t know too much about his past.
Christopher Pike | “Enigma”
We learn nothing of Pike’s history in the pilot or the films.
Hikaru Sulu | “Bay Area Baby”
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Family: As Sulu is the only of Kirk’s original bridge crew to be made Captain (on screen), he is also the only one with a child. His daughter, Demora, follows in his footsteps as Conn officer.
Training: Sulu was Conn officer under Kirk. He also has training in the Sciences and Security.
Analysis: I love that Sulu has a family and a career separate from the Enterprise. I wish we got more of his childhood AND Demora’s childhood on screen. I would watch a whole series dedicated to that.
Beverly Picard | “Actual Space Baby”
Hometown: Beverly was born in Copernicus City on Earth’s Moon and spent her childhood on the Arvada III and Caldos colonies.
Family: Beverly’s parents died when she was a young child and she was raised by her grandmother, Felisa Howard. She was married to Jack Crusher and they had a son, Wesley. Jack died under Picard’s command when Wesley was three years old. In her appearance in the alternate timeline Beverly was married to and divorced from Picard.
Training: Beverly trained at Starfleet Medical and served as Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise. As CMO she had the rank of Commander and while not in the direct chain of command she could take command of the ship as necessary.
Analysis: It fascinates me that of all the captains listed here, Beverly has the most diverse and interesting childhood.
Overall: Despite the Federation including countless planets and cultures, more every day, the captains and their crews are overwhelmingly human, and predominantly white and male.
Kirk and Archer both have Vulcan second in commands, but Spock is half-human and T’Pol is not in Starfleet. The rest of Kirk’s crew is human, Archer has an alien doctor but he is also non-Starfleet (at this point the Fleet is a Terran thing but it doesn’t and shouldn’t stay that way!). Picard’s senior crew includes two aliens but Deanna is again half-human and while full Klingon, Worf was raised by humans. Troi is not in the command structure until the seventh season and Worf is not in the command structure until Deep Space Nine. As for rich European archeologist Picard and rugged Alaskan cowboy Riker, it’s a contest which is more stereotypical in the straight white human male of privilege Olympics (Riker has more overt Daddy Issues so he probably wins).
Sisko’s second in command is a Bajoran raised on Bajor by Bajorans — but she’s not Starfleet. There are, in fact, many non-humans in Sisko’s circle, but very few are Starfleet. Dax is the most “alien” of the main characters in any of the series, and she’s enlisted, but Jadzia is a scientist and Ezri a counselor (both great and important, but not specifically command track). Janeway’s crew is the most diverse, though still human-heavy. Tom Paris is the token white male in her senior crew; her first officer is representative of indigenous American peoples and spent at least part of his childhood offworld and her third in command is a full Vulcan raised on Vulcan by Vulcans and also black (proving finally that racial diversity actually exists in non-terrans). Though none of them are in the command structure, she has two alien adjuncts (Neelix and Kes), a human/Klingon hybrid raised by a Klingon mother (and her father was Hispanic), and a human assimilated by the Borg when she was six. And, of course, her CMO is made up of light.
Even the guest star captains follow this mostly human, mostly white, mostly male pattern. We do meet Captain Silva La Forge of the Starship Hera — Geordi’s mother and a woman of color in command!! — but she is dead (fridged) before we ever even hear her name. Also, with the exception of Picard, the captains are all American. I love that Kirk and Janeway are both midwesterners but, come on. Where are the colonials (another reason Beverly should be a Captain in more than an alternate reality)? Where are the people who make up the rest of the planets in the United Federation?
Meanwhile, Captain Pike’s disability ended his career in TOS, and fanfiction aside we have exactly zero queer characters in Star Trek.
As for training, piloting the ship has the edge: Archer, Kirk, Sulu, and Picard all started there. Go, Nog, go!
This post is part of The Captains; read more (links 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