I am a huge Star Trek fan. My “first contact” (get it?) with the series was actually way back in high school when my friend was raving about an episode he watched regarding the crew of the Next Generation’s latest encounter with Q. At that time, I’ve never watched a single episode of the show, Next Generation or otherwise, but I did have a passing familiarity with the franchise. And I didn’t really want to know anything about it because I’m a huge Star Wars fan! But the way he was describing the episode did pique my interest so I decided to watch an episode or two just so I can point out how inferior it was to Star Wars!
Even since then, I got hooked on Star Trek. I watched every episode of The Next Generation as it came on. Later on, I found out they were replaying old episode of The Original Series and, I have to say, I really enjoyed that show as well! Both series’ had a great cast of rich and diverse characters. As I watched both The Original Series and The Next Generation, I grew to love Star Trek as much as my beloved Star Wars.
While I may have trouble picking which franchise I like more, there’s something that every fan of Star Trek has to choose in their lifetime: who’s their favorite Captain? Is it James T. Kirk from The Original Series or Captain Jean-Luc Picard from The Next Generation?
Both may have been captains of the USS Enterprise and got their knowledge from Starfleet Academy but both of them definitely wouldn’t agree on what’s the right way to command a mission into the final frontier. And they certainly have different ideas on how to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations… although both of them regularly go where no one has gone before.
First, let’s take a deeper look into the commanding officer that started it all: James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk is noted for his ability to think outside the box. He was the first cadet in Starfleet to defeat the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru simulation test. Even though he technically cheated (he reprogrammed the computer to make the unwinnable scenario beatable), Kirk was given a commendation for “original thinking,” and his creative way of thinking has gotten him and his crew out of very tough scrapes in the past.
Additionally, Kirk is a man’s man! Kirk is not afraid to beam down to a planet first, even though he knows it could be risky. He is more of an adventurer than an actual explorer and he takes the initiative to be the part of the first landing party. Much like the old explorers of Earth, Kirk loved discovering new lands and making contact with new species. Of course, if he does encounter any hostile forms of life, Kirk is not beneath to using brute force to ensure the safety of his ship.
While it may seem that Kirk subscribes to the philosophy of “might makes right,” he is extremely cunning and resourceful when he needs to be. In one memorable episode (Arena), Kirk battles a Gorn, an alien being with superior strength. Kirk manages to fashion a firearm using the natural materials scattered around the area and defeat the Gorn. Still, Kirk refuses to kill the Gorn even if the alien would not do the same for him, showing that he is a compassionate person and knows the value of life.
Kirk, however, isn’t perfect. He does have a lot of flaws. More often than not, Kirk would rely on his gut instead of brain. This tactic may have gotten him out of trouble at times. But this has also gotten him into hot water as well! Also, Kirk does have a tendency to be a macho, cocky jerk as, well, he is the youngest Starfleet captain of his time!
Oh, and he’s kind of a chauvinistic pig at times. For some strange reason, women, no matter what race or species, tend to fall in love the manly stud that is Captain James T. Kirk. Kirk’s is pretty famous for banging green skinned chicks if given a chance. Or course, he’s also okay with hitting them after getting it on with them.
No, really! See?
Now, let’s move to the Captain of The Next Generation, Jean-Luc Picard. He’s the opposite of his predecessor with regards to some aspects. For one thing, Picard relies mostly on his intellect rather than instinct. He is a more stoic leader. While he will get angry at times, especially if his ship and his crew are placed in danger by others, he tends to use diplomacy instead of threats.
Picard will also delegate tasks based on his crew’s strengths and weaknesses. Unlike Kirk, who seems to do pretty much everything in each episode, Picard assigns tasks, which shows that he is more of a strategist when it comes to dealing with battles. He feels that, as captain, the safety of the Enterprise is his primary responsibility. As such, he doesn’t beam down for most of the away missions. Besides, he can bark orders from a starship safely orbiting around a planet instead of going down to the surface.
Picard is still an explorer with an inquisitive mind. But unlike Kirk, he is satisfied with gathering data and information to study the object in question. No need to go down to the planet and check it for himself! He’s also extremely intelligent and well-versed in culture of pretty much all of the races in the Federation of Planets. Picard also gives off an aura that demands respect from his crew. Some of his crew members may even be a little scared of him!
This is also a weakness since, in order to keep this aura of respect, he hasn’t really tried to bond with the crew. Then again, the macho swagger quota for The Next Generation was met because of Riker! Riker’s balls are so big he has to swing them over chairs so he can sit down comfortably!
Another possible weakness of Picard would be his constitution. As he isn’t as young as Kirk, he cannot really go toe-to-toe against most opponents. He will try to out think his opponent but, he is definitely not the strongest captain to roam space! He also can be a little bit arrogant, which actually led the Federation to meet their greatest foe: The Borg!
This happened during the episode entitled “Q Who?” Q, a being with almost unlimited power, wants to be a part of the Enterprise crew. Picard, feeling that the human race is capable of handling any situation, declines the offer. Slighted, Q transports the Enterprise to an uncharted sector of space where the ship face off the Borg, a race with a singular mind hell bent on conquering every other sentient race. After several attempts to defeat a single Borg ship and any attempt to escape thwarted, Picard humbles himself and admits that he was wrong to Q in order to save his ship.
Now, the question still remains, who is the better captain? Well, it’s actually a matter of preference… and maybe when you were born.
Both of them was a product of their respective times. Kirk was the human hothead and going with your gut was the way to show you were heroic, which was expected of heroes during the 50’s and 60’s. Picard was the more strategic one who relied on using his brain, which is what we wanted leaders to personify during the 80’s and 90’s.
As a child of the 80’s, I prefer the less macho but more intelligent Picard. Which is not to say I dislike Kirk’s style of leadership. At times, it’s important to go with your gut like he did. But, more often than not, I respond more to Picard’s style. So, for me, I say Picard is a better leader.
So, go ahead and celebrate, Jean-Luc. You may have doomed the human race into being cybernetic drones of the Borg in the future. But at least you meant well.
Who’s your favorite Starship captain? Let me know who in the comments section below!