Whether you’re a hardcore “Trekker,” or just a casual viewer who calls obsessed fans “Trekkies,” many people who have viewed the shows and movies have probably wondered what it’d be like to serve aboard a starship. When people fantasize about being in Star Trek, they obviously don’t want to die. Put ideas of amenities aside: the holo-deck, T’Pol, Worf’s pizza slicers, and consider which ship you might live on longest if you were just a plain old ordinary crew-person. What it all boils down to is your captain. Of the five main series, here’s my analysis of which captain would best ensure your livelihood.
He’d kill you. Seriously, you’d die fast serving under Kirk. This surely doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Kirk is an extremely clever and strategic captain. He’s willing to make big gambles that sometimes payoff with explosive results. But, he barely bats an eye when someone dies. His crew can get killed just feet away from him and he sometimes doesn’t even turn to watch. He often doesn’t gasp or even shrug. I know, he’s willing to risk life and limb for his officers, but he does this only for his officers/friends. Kirk does accomplish some pretty big things over the course of the movies and TV show, but he also sets a standard for going through his crew like they are disposable paper cups.
While he at times takes command of ships, Sisko more often oversees an important Starfleet space station. Sisko is considered by fans to be an amazing strategist; he makes moves during the Deep Space Nine series to turn the tide of a war for Starfleet. He also breaks rules and does things of questionable ethics to get results. While he is a good strategist, other captains on this list have outsmarted powerful cosmic beings, and have stopped universal conflicts before they begin. Sisko is competent, and I like seeing someone other than the standard-issue white male, but Sisko isn’t afraid to send people to their deaths during the conflicts he’s involved in. People also die randomly on his space station, and he sometimes seems more intent on getting promoted to admiral than of having a love for ship or crew.
Again, it’s nice to see variety in starship captains. Janeway not only proves she’s competent, but is also the strictest in upholding Starfleet policies. She guides her ship through unexplored space independent of outside help. While losing crew seemed common early in the Voyager series, the death level tapered off over time. Yet, she has her flaws. Mainly, she’s coldhearted. Janeway punishes crew for diverging from orders, even if disobeying means saving everyone’s life on the ship. She has totalitarian moments, refusing to listen to others, even exacting revenge on her crew. Yes, she gets results, but her loyalty seems more to results than crew. Serving under her sounds nerve-wracking. Although Janeway and Sisko have good qualities, when it comes to Voyager and Deep Space Nine, these series are kind of like those students sitting in the back of the room who you forget even exist until one day the teacher calls on them and you look back and think, “oh yeah, that kid’s in here.”
Picard commands a larger crew than any other captain on this list. He also has families aboard his ship. He encounters war-bent aliens, puzzling cosmic phenomena, and near omnipotent enemies. Starfleet offers him promotions. He turns them down because he loves captaining. Casualties happen, usually due to the unexpected, or when fighting more powerful enemies. Picard is concerned with preventing casualties. He listens to his officers and he inspires his crew. He sets a standard for a starship captain, and yet sometimes Mr. Earl Grey Tea also seems like a snob. Whenever he nods at common crew, he doesn’t make small talk, just kind of stares off in the distance. His worst responses are to children. Early in The Next Generation, whenever he sees a kid he acts like it’s some sort of little alien critter. He acts like he was born at age 38. Though you’d be fairly safe under Picard’s command, he gets edged out, slightly, by someone else.
Archer makes some of the dumbest mistakes of any captain on this list, often acting like, “hey what’s the worst that could happen if a bunch of us go on an away mission to an unexplored planet, or, how about let’s move closer to that bizarre cloud of cosmic energy.” Then, Archer learns from his mistakes. In his defense, he is chronologically, the first of all these captains in his Enterprise series. Archer actually helps establish some of the directives that govern the future of Starfleet. Once seasoned, he has a lot of Picard’s best qualities: inspiring his crew, listening to officers, and having a concern for casualties. The big difference for Archer is that he smiles and chats with lower crewmembers when he sees them. Perhaps it’s partly because his crew is smaller than the other ship captains, but he just seems to have a more positive rapport with crew than the others. For this, I give him the edge. So although Archer is almost as ignorantly as dangerous as Kirk in his first season, he gets much better at captaining later. The guy would know your name, and he’d probably agonize if he lost you. That might almost make a hypothetical Star Trek death worth it.