Welcome to the last in a series of articles wherein I attempt to build the ideal crew for a ship, using characters from the many variations of Star Trek. To be a candidate, all you need is to be a series regular on one of Star Trek‘s TV incarnations, from The Original Series onwards. Now that we’ve assembled our crew, we need someone to lead it. So let’s choose our captain.
Candidate 1: James Kirk
Kirk’s reputation as a rulebreaker is undeserved, but his gung-ho attitude and hotheadedness make it an understandable misconception. The sort of leader to get down and dirty with his work, Kirk’s habit of leading away teams in person is a dangerous habit, and responsible for some of the more notorious incidents to occur under his command. There have been multiple deaths under his command, though he and the senior officers generally emerge unscathed.
Candidate 2: Jean-Luc Picard
Picard is a stickler for the rules, going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that the Federation sticks to its principles. He work ethic and passion for exploration are undeniable, but he does come across as an aloof figure, isolating himself from his crew. Sometimes this is for the best, avoiding any romantic complications, but it makes him a difficult man to know. And that dedication to the rules? Sometimes a little more leniency could be of use, especially where the Prime Directive is concerned.
Candidate 3: Benjamin Sisko
If you want to win a war, follow Sisko. Sisko has endured a lot of hardship in his life, but still pushes on. he has experience leading both starships and space stations, and regular exposure to innumerable alien cultures. It’s one of these that poses a slight issue. While we must of course respect other cultures, Sisko is the messiah of an alien religion, and this does interfere with his work. Whether he is guided by Prophets or manipulated by atemporal alien entities, Sisko’s judgement must be brought into question. Yes, things have worked out well so far, but what will the Prophets ask of him next?
Candidate 4: Kathryn Janeway
I’m conflicted on Janeway, and the disclaimer must be that her captaincy took place under highly unusual circumstances. To her credit, Janeway brought her crew home, seamlessly joining Starfleet and Maquis together, and dealing sever damage to the Borg in the process. However, her track record is one of impulsive and often reckless decision-making. An alliance with the Borg and an interdimensional war against Species 8472 is the most egregious example, but there are many more. Janeway got the job done, but at what cost?
Candidate 5: Jonathan Archer
If you can look past Archer’s hostility towards Vulcans (which he does eventually grow out of), Archer is one of the better captains to serve under. He barely loses a crewman, is cordial and even friendly with many of his crew, and approaches exploration with a true sense of wonder and optimism. However, this approach makes him woefully unsuited for active service, as the Xindi crisis shows. During this period, Archer loses nearly a third of his crew, and commits multiple war crimes. One can’t hep but wonder if times of war required a change in captain.
Candidate 6: Gabriel Lorca (Mirror)
By all accounts, Gabriel Lorca is a skilled an popular captain. this man, however, is an imposter. Hailing from an alternate universe where tyranny and murder are a way of life, this Gabriel Lorca should not be allowed anywhere near the command seat of a starship.
Candidate 7: Christopher Pike
In may ways, Pike is the natural successor to Archer. He commands with kindness, taking the time to get to know his crew. However, he handles himself a lot better under pressure. Suddenly being reassigned to an unfamiliar ship that has every right to be paranoid, and caught in the aftermath of a devastating war, Pike fares better than anyone had any right to expect.
Candidate 8: Saru
The calm voice of reason and scientific enquiry, Saru had a long route to the captain’s chair. Despite the long journey, however, he may not be well suited to it. Saru is a man to takes his time, investigating a problem from every possible angle. For a scientist, this is wholly understandable. But for a captain, these delays can spell disaster. It is a job that calls for decisive action. And action is far from Saru’s strong point. This is a man better suited for an advisory position than the commanding role.
Candidate 9: Michael Burnham
With a history of taking the universe’s problems on her shoulders, it was only a matter of time before Burnham took the captain’s chair. It’s early days yet, but to her credit her endeavours thus far have been successful. With a solid crew to back her up, it seems there are no limits to what she might achieve. However, she has a tendency to put herself at the front of the action, taking on roles better suited to others. Along with a hefty saviour complex, one has to wonder how long Burnham will last before she burns herself out.
Candidate 10: Carol Freeman
Freeman has a tough gig, commanding one of the most anarchic ships in Starfleet. Leaving aside allegations of nepotism, she does a good job of keeping a dysfunctional crew together. However, her current command has seen her relegated to a supporting role in Federation affairs, and while she performs well under pressure, it’s impossible to know how she’d perform under different circumstances. At the time of writing, there are also some very alarming allegations being levelled against her concerning the Pakled homeworld.
With one obvious exception, I’d happily serve under any of these captains. Really, the problem is choosing a good all rounder. My instinct is to choose Archer, but while he may be the peacetime leader, his leadership falls apart as soon as war breaks out. And with the number of threats the Federation poses, war often seems inevitable. With that in mind, the best captain, based on what we know so far, is Christopher Pike. He’s amiable, competent, and doesn’t crack under pressure. truly, one of Starfleet’s greats.