6:00am PT by Aaron Couch, Graeme McMillan
Which 'Star Trek' Captain Is the Best?
Every week, Heat Vision's Aaron Couch and Graeme McMillan are
viciously arguing over having a friendly debate about a hot topic in the world of geekdom — and inviting you to join.
This week, we're getting a jump on next week's 50th anniversary of Star Trek by addressing the elephant in the starship: Just who is the best captain of the franchise? For reasons of sanity, we've limited it to the onscreen captains of each of the main series in the franchise (Otherwise, it'd definitely be Mackenzie Calhoun, of course), so we're picking from Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway and Archer ... which, for some, makes it no contest at all.
Graeme McMillan: The great thing about choosing the best Star Trek captain is that there are certain choices you can just ignore immediately. I mean, sure; Voyager's Janeway and Enterprise's Archer almost certainly have their boosters, but would even those fans really make the case that they're better than, say, Kirk or Picard or Sisko … ? Wait. This is when you tell me that you're going to be arguing in favor of Janeway, isn't it?
Aaron Couch: Thanks a lot, Graeme. Now I'm feeling a lot of anxiety. Because we're about to commit a Star Trek Cardinal Sin ... by not including Kirk in this debate. I'm going for Picard. As wrong as it feels not to have Kirk in this conversation, my heart has always been with Picard. Picard is the ultimate Starfleet officer — a diplomat, scholar, philosopher, adventurer and basically the guy that makes everyone else look terrible by being so awesome. (I'd kill to be a science officer on the Enterprise, but that's not even close to being ambitious enough for Jean-Luc.)
McMillan: While I am, as a balding Brit myself, flattered by your choice, for me, it's all about Benjamin Sisko. It's not just that Deep Space Nine is probably my favorite of all the Star Treks (although it is); it's that Sisko is the only Trek captain that gets to actually have a character arc throughout their series — in fact, Sisko's arc, which basically takes him through the recovery process of losing his wife and to an entirely different place emotionally (I'm trying to avoid spoilers for those who haven't seen the show, because they should watch the show), is arguably the entire point of DS9. More than any other Trek, the captain is central to the series; the show grows with him.
Couch: I agree that Sisko is the most human of any of the Star Trek captains. He's the only one with an actual family! (Or at least, unlike Kirk, he actually spends time with his son before he's in his 20s.) But the question is best captain. DS9 had the benefit of doing more serialized storytelling, but even within the confines of episodic television, Picard was able to grow. I still think "Best of Both Worlds" and "Family," in which he deals with the aftermath of his Borg assimilation, are the best string of episodes in Trek history. Picard continues to be haunted by his actions as Locutus through the movies, as well as the loss of his brother and nephew and the realization that he is going to be the last regard. If that's not growth, I don't know what is. But I'd like to know about what makes Sisko a better captain — because I truly believe captain to captain, Picard outstrips every other officer in almost every category.
McMillan: OK, I'll give you the post-Borg arc for Picard, although for me, that's nowhere near what Sisko goes through. But aside from being a good officer — who was the de facto leader of Starfleet force during the Dominion War, huh?— Sisko also gets to do things that the other captains don't: He gets to be afraid of things, he gets to be sneaky and underhanded in dealing with the Cardassians, the Ferengi and basically anyone he likes, and he also gets to be unconditionally loving around his son Jake. A lot of that is the set up of DS9 as opposed to the other shows, but Sisko is simply a more rounded character than the other Trek commanding officers: There's a lot more to him than Picard (or Kirk, for that matter) are ever allowed to display. OK, so he doesn't get to wrestle a gorn and rarely gets to grimace at Q, but he does get to wrestle his inner demons! That's something, right?
Couch: I'm glad you brought the Cardassians, Graeme, because I have four words for you: THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS. And one other thing I'd like to bring up: Picard is responsible for the death of Sisko's wife, who died during the Battle of Wolf 359. When Picard and Sisko meet in the DS9 premiere, Picard is shaken — but does not cower in shame — when Sisko brings up the fact that they've met in battle. Picard, always unflappable, does his duty, going as far as pressing Sisko to make sure he is right for the job.
McMillan: Fine, you've forced me to bring out the big gun, and my final argument in favor of Sisko: He's the only captain that gets to level up his appearance throughout his series. Yes, Picard gets to move into a cardigan look, and Kirk adopts a laid-back sweater thing, but Sisko has them all beat. Going from the casual, clean-shaven-with-hair look to his hardcore bald-with-beard styling? Show me another captain who can beat that.
Couch: One last pitch for Picard: He beat The Borg, matched wits with Q and bested Tom Hardy before he was Tom Hardy. No other Star Trek captain seems to have such a believable affection for his crew (No. 1!), and no one will do his or her duty better than Picard.
Well everyone, what do you think? How wrong were we for not including Kirk? Vote in our poll below, and share your argument on our Facebook page. The best-argued answer will get a Heat Vision shoutout on the Sept. 8 anniversary of Star Trek.