Kish and I have been spending the last few months working through the Star Trek TV shows. We began with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, after Richard recommended it as an interesting and thought-provoking show. Kish, who just does not like science fiction and never got into the original Star Trek, gritted her teeth and agreed to watch a few shows.
To her surprise, and my surprise, too, Kish liked the characters and some of the plot lines on Deep Space Nine, so we watched every episode. Then, after we finished that series, we turned to Star Trek: The Next Generation, and now we’re on to Voyager.
I think one of the things that we’ve found interesting about the different Star Trek shows is the different styles of the captains. Deep Space Nine‘s Benjamin Sisko, stationed out on the frontier, was brave, tough and aggressive, with a sense of humor and a ready smile and a very strong mystical side. In many ways, Sisko is the most outwardly human of the captains. The Next Generation‘s Jean-Luc Picard, entrusted with the command of the Federation’s powerful flagship vessel, was formal, reserved, and by-the-book, an intellectual who was far more comfortable mediating a difficult dispute between warring alien races than dealing with the personal problems of his crew. (Thank God Counselor Deanna Troi was on board to deal with those troublesome personal issues!) And Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway, trying to unite a patched-together crew and get them home after being thrust 75,000 light years away by a powerful alien, is careful and decisive but with a decided warmth and obvious interest in the individuals who make up her crew. Sisko, Picard, and Janeway all can deliver a reprimand, but she’s the captain who is most likely to take a moment to offer a compliment.
Which captain is best? Kish started out advocating for Janeway, then switched to Picard, and now is thinking maybe it’s Sisko. Each of them has their own style and their own strengths and weaknesses, and each of them engendered great loyalty among members of their crews for different reasons. I think your choice might depend upon the specific circumstances. If you had to select a captain to make a decision that would decide the fate of the universe, I’d definitely pick the careful, thoughtful Picard. If you needed a captain to try to beat the odds and come up with an imaginative solution, I’d go with Sisko. And if you had to pick a captain to be your boss and colleague, day after day, I think I’d opt for Janeway.
How do these three stack up against Captain James T. Kirk, the swashbuckling adventurer who invented the captain’s role on the original series? Well, he’ll always be my favorite because he was the captain of my youth, but the episode-by-episode nature of the original shows and the movies never allowed his character to be developed with the same care and consistency as the others. One thing’s for sure — if you were one of those anonymous red-shirted security guys who got killed every episode on the original series, you’d prefer anybody but Captain Kirk.