Star Trek Captains

[Blogger’s note: Dammit, I did it again, and immediately after noticing I did it the first time. Here’s last week’s. This week’s at 00:30.]

I like Star Trek. It is an enjoyable show. I’ve seen most of the episodes of TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY and ENT. I’ve seen all the movies. I’ve read several novels, quite a few technical manuals, several scripts, and a few “making of” books. I own three role-playing games based on Star Trek. I am familiar with the universe. I tend to annoy Trekkies, however, as I point out continuity errors, logic flaws, plot holes, and weak characterization. On one occasion I had one woman in tears and another throwing things at me because I said Starfleet would never consider Riker for command after he refused three offers as one of the prime requirements for command is to not be afraid of taking command. Trekkies are weird, and I’m a bit of a bastard. So, at risk of offending Trekkies with my answers, let’s consider one of the perennial questions of Star Trek. Which captain would you choose to serve under?

Only top billed captains will be considered, no guests stars and no regulars acting in command. We just don’t see enough of them in action to make a fair judgement.

Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. Kate Mulgrew has said in an interview that based on seven seasons of scripts, she thinks Janeway is insane. I agree. It’s not that she’s callous or blood thirsty or over trusting or paranoid or naive or generous. It’s that she’s all of these things. Her personality and character are all over the map. She takes situational ethics so far it’s situational sanity. She’s radically inconsistent. Her two stablest traits are blatant favoritism and bad decisions.

Janeway plucked Paris out of prison, gave him a temporary brevet rank of lieutenant j.g. He broke a lot of rules. He endangered the ship and crew. He never really got the hang of “Tom Paris isn’t the most important thing in the universe”. Over the course of the series she busted him and promoted him. Meanwhile, Ensign Harry Kim did his job and did it well. On several occasions he performed above the call of duty. But his wasn’t Janeywaney’s pretty boy, so he remained an ensign. (Let’s not even mention Seven of Nine.)

Season 1, Episode 1, “The Caretaker”: At the end of the episode, Janeway had the opportunity to take the survivors of her crew and the Maquis crew home. No fuss, no bother. Instead she blew up the Caretaker array.

First, her reason for blowing it up is gobbledygook:
TUVOK: Wouldn’t intervening and destroying the array violate the Prime Directive?
JANEWAY: Not at all. By choosing not to destroy the array we would be intervening and thus violating the Prime Directive.
TUVOK: Lady, what are you smoking?
The Prime Directive is one of the stupidest, impractical and most immoral ideas in science-fiction history (I can hear the Trekkies hyperventilating) and none of the captains were consistent in applying it, but Janeway was the queen of Prime Directive schizophrenia. “The Prime Directive requires me to abandon the aliens who helped my crew escape to a horrible fate.” “The Prime Directive requires me to leave any captured crew members who don’t appear in the opening credits to torture and slow, painful death.” “The Prime Directive requires me to wipe out all sentient life on this planet because they said something nasty about my girlfriend.” And it didn’t even apply in “Caretaker”. The Kazon are a warp-capable culture.

Second, leave and blow it up, you idiot. You had photon torpedo warheads. You had timing devices built into those warheads. You had a transporter. Strap one of your magical tricorders to a photon head. Set the whole thing to go off five minutes after it detects it has been transported. Transport it. Flip back home. Boom. You’re spared your “Year of Hell” and we’re spared seven years of hell.

Picard made some moving, very long speeches on the sanctity of all life as his crew was being slaughtered. Shoot back, you moron! Or get the hell out of there. I’d rather not serve under a captain who is obsessed with the philosophical implications of my entrails being smeared across the bulkhead by the alien of the week. Picard is also probably #2 on the Prime Directive schizoid list.

Archer was a man out of his depth. To be fair, his whole crew, his whole planet, was out of their depth. He was willing to step back and review options. He stood by his crew and fought for them, but if he was outmatched he was willing to run away, get bigger guns, and come back. He stayed on mission. I would be happy to serve under Archer.

Kirk had a ridiculously high casualty rate. His command style could border on reckless, but he stood by his people and did not needlessly risk them (usually). He wasn’t as overmatched by the galaxy as Archer. He cared for his ship, his crew, his mission, and innocents. In “The Devil in the Dark” he deployed his crew to protect the innocent miners. When he realized what the real situation was, he switched to protecting the innocent horta and brokered a compromise. He was always willing to take action, but was capable of backing off to avoid needless escalation. Needful escalation was his bread and butter. Since I dinged Janeway and Picard for being inconsistent about the Prime Directive, I expect Trekkies are jumping up and down in their seats yelling that Kirk violated the Prime Directive all the time. Yep. But he was a lot more consistent about it.
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK (on screen): Ha-ha, Kirk! You cannot interfere. Your precious Prime Directive forbids it.
KIRK: That’s true. Mr Sulu, blow that bastard out of the sky.

Kirk seems to have had much the same opinion of the Prime Directive as I do. I would be happy to serve under Kirk, but not in a red shirt.

Competent, dedicated to his people, gets the job done: Sisko has all the good qualities of Kirk with a lower casualty rate. (Yes, yes. The Dominion War. I’m talking about missions he led.) He’s also more diplomatic and people-smart than Kirk. (Or maybe Kirk never had to display those qualities to the same degree.) Sisko is my first choice of commanding officer.


About gordonrhorne

Professional dilettante past my year of grace. View all posts by gordonrhorne

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