Star Trek Star Trek, Paramount+, and a Defense of the Greatest Star Trek Captain

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Give my wordiness, I thought I'd nutshell the topics for everyone-
Is Paramount+ a good shepherd of the Star Trek brand,

Sure.
The first season of DIS was, for me, disappointing. Extended riffs on two classic stories, but both went on longer than they needed to. Season two was amazing, though, and leads to the upset in the captain rankings I suggest below. Since then, the series fulfills the promise of strange new worlds, etc.

LOW, as you note, gets Trek: it is able to mock it without undermining the setting or cheapen other instantiations. That's an amazingly fine line, and it seems to be walking it well.

At the same time, PIC left me cold and nostalgic for better Picard stories, and I couldn't get through an episode of Prodigy because all the tropes it was drawing on were Star Wars and not ST.

and why do people continue to hold James T. (the T. stands for "Terrific at Chewing the Scenery") Kirk in such high esteem?

Boomer and Gen-X nostalgia, and the momentum that carries.

Kirk set the benchmark and is what many of us saw first, and his enthusiasm and humanity and intense engagement with everything was inspiring.

Plus, what are the only true and indisputable Star Trek Captain rankings?

That said, I shall now definitively prove that your rankings are incorrect* and that a True and Accurate answer is as follows:

*for certain meanings of "incorrect"

Starting from this list, I will add only one, who is one of the several captains in DIS, who has a complete story arc (spoilers for Discovery follow):
That leaves us with the following-
TOS: Captain James Tiberius Kirk ("Kirk")
TNG: Captain Jean-Luc Picard ("Picard")
DS9: Captain Benjamin Sisko ("Sisko")
VOY: Captain Kathryn Janeway ("Janeway")
ENT: Captain Jonathan Archer ("Archer")
Most of what follows is true.

6. Kirk (TOS). Undeniably adventurous, Kirk is the worst captain we've seen. Things always become personal, rules are there to be broken, cultures to be victimized for immediate gratification, crewmen to be sacrificed to avoid the need for careful planning. He's all id. There's no doubt he was successful, but he's not the captain any starfleet graduate should aspire to be. In the first episode, he oversees the destruction of an alien race; he'd have been killed in the second episode by a teenager if he had not been rescued by a more competent captain, in the third episode he falsifies a service record of a friend; etc....

5. Sisko (DS9). To be fair, Sisko probably is responsible for more deaths than Kirk, because he starts the war with the Dominion, which kills a billion or more sentient beings. Most are Cardassians, so perhaps that doesn't matter to you or the Federation, but as a body count it's impressive for a captain of a ship that doesn't move anywhere. Taking a cue from Kirk, he actively manipulates a planet's culture and becomes a religious icon for the Bajorans. He at least struggles with the tension and divided loyalties of being a prophet and being a captain, which shows us he knows he's no good.

4. Picard (TNG). Completely competent as a captain. A little too excited in the first season to separate the families in the saucer section from the actual protection the ship he is in charge of can offer, Picard knows how to lead and how to defer to expertise, when he's not on the holodeck or being a mouthpiece for genocidal space robots.

3. Janeway (VOY). Extraordinary circumstances can make a hero, as Janeway shows. Cast into a distant sector, her return to the Alpha quadrant led to First Contact with so many species, which she accomplished (in a way Kirk did not) conscious of the regulation and expectations of a Starfleet captain.

2. Archer (ENT). Weak writing in the first two seasons mean this series starts with so many dogs that it's surprising it got renewed. However, ENT season 3 gives the Xindi arc which combines the distant-quadrant arc of VOY with an immediate threat to Earth. Archer brings his ship home and saves our planet. He has a dog and plays waterpolo -- a much deeper character than you suggest, I tellz ya, and a detail we never saw in action, though it was said so many times, proving the screenwriting maxim of "Tell, don't Show". ENT season 4 (with a new showrunner who IIRC is not a waterpolo fan) gave a number of stories about the foundation of the Federation. Each was 2-3 episodes, and revisited something from TOS, but with greater scope for character development. Archer isn't the focus of all of these stories -- as is right since he's a captain -- but the stories provide origins for so much of what we see as definitional for the Federation, that we can claim Archer's understanding of captaincy was crucial to the formation of what a Starfleet Captain should be.

1. Captain Christopher Pike (DIS season 2, SNW). The first captain of the Enterprise we met, returned and was given a rich story in DIS season 2, that showed leadership and humanity within the frame of the Federation's rules. Never has there been a captain that balances caring for his crew with the burden of his position. On top of that, he is acting with a certain knowledge of his own future (which viewers of the original pilot/TOS's "The Cage" know as the earliest presentation of any captain to be true), which means his self-sacrifice, rescuing others at intense personal cost, is unparalleled for any Star Trek Captain. Pike's story arc unfolds operates with the inevitability of a Sophoclean tragedy.

(And now we will get a series with him.)
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
LOW, as you note, gets Trek: it is able to mock it without undermining the setting or cheapen other instantiations. That's an amazingly fine line, and it seems to be walking it well.
The lack of discussion of LOW is ... disappointing.

But is there really anything to say other than, "Yes, it is awesome and funny."

6. Kirk. Undeniably adventurous, Kirk is the worst captain we've seen. Things always become personal, rules are there to be broken, cultures to be victimized for immediate gratification, crewmen to be sacrificed to avboid the need for careful planning. He's all id.

In other words, bestest Captain EVAR!!!!!!!!

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2. Archer (ENT).
... He has a dog and plays waterpolo -- a much deeper character than you suggest, I tellz ya, and a detail we never saw in action, though it was said so many times, proving the screenwriting maxim of "Tell, don't Show".

This is true, he did, in fact, have TWO defining characteristics. One of which I cannot remember. Much like T'Pol, who was well-served by the need for constant group showering before, after, and sometime during away missions.
 

Staffan

Legend
Dis was hard for me to get into at first. I do think it found its legs about mid first season. Its a different kind of Trek for sure, but it does have very Trek feeling moments. The one thing I dont like about it is how important they make Bernham to all the plots. It often feels like she dwarfs the crew and thats too bad because there are some great characters here. NOTE: I am only through season 1 and 2. I dont know what 3 and 4 have instore for me.
One of my problems with Discovery is the combination of short seasons and continuous storyline focusing on Burnham. The result is that Burnham is front and center, with Tilly, Saru, Stamets, and whomever is captain this season getting a little development, and everyone else is just background noise. With the TNG-era shows, there were more episodes per season (26 IIRC), and most episodes were quite self-contained. That left room for an episode or two per season focusing on different crew members, which meant that the whole crew was built up well. While Picard was undoubtedly the lead character on TNG, we also got to know and care about Riker, Data, LaForge, Crusher (both of them), Worf, Troi, Yar, and even some recurring characters like O'Brien and Barclay. Even if Tasha Yar was killed off in season 1 (and in a pretty dumb way), that death was felt, because we had seen her in action, and we had learned stuff about her background, and so on.

By contrast, Discovery kills off one member of the bridge crew about halfway through season 2 (I'm trying to be vague to avoid spoilers). That death didn't touch me at all, because until that point we barely got to know them. The character had a distinctive appearance, and in the aftermath of the death we got to see the other characters react to their death, and tell us bits of their backstory and distinctive traits. That's the kind of stuff we should have gotten before their death.

Same thing in early season 3, where one character blames themselves for an accident. The next episode deals a bit with their loss of confidence and their attempts to regain it, which of course culminates in a success. Again, this was a character I barely knew the name of, so why should I care?

I haven't seen season 4 on account of the show moving to Paramount+ instead of Netflix, so I don't know if they're doing anything to change this. But I think it's hard to change course this late.
 


payn

Legend
One of my problems with Discovery is the combination of short seasons and continuous storyline focusing on Burnham. The result is that Burnham is front and center, with Tilly, Saru, Stamets, and whomever is captain this season getting a little development, and everyone else is just background noise. With the TNG-era shows, there were more episodes per season (26 IIRC), and most episodes were quite self-contained. That left room for an episode or two per season focusing on different crew members, which meant that the whole crew was built up well. While Picard was undoubtedly the lead character on TNG, we also got to know and care about Riker, Data, LaForge, Crusher (both of them), Worf, Troi, Yar, and even some recurring characters like O'Brien and Barclay. Even if Tasha Yar was killed off in season 1 (and in a pretty dumb way), that death was felt, because we had seen her in action, and we had learned stuff about her background, and so on.

By contrast, Discovery kills off one member of the bridge crew about halfway through season 2 (I'm trying to be vague to avoid spoilers). That death didn't touch me at all, because until that point we barely got to know them. The character had a distinctive appearance, and in the aftermath of the death we got to see the other characters react to their death, and tell us bits of their backstory and distinctive traits. That's the kind of stuff we should have gotten before their death.

Same thing in early season 3, where one character blames themselves for an accident. The next episode deals a bit with their loss of confidence and their attempts to regain it, which of course culminates in a success. Again, this was a character I barely knew the name of, so why should I care?

I haven't seen season 4 on account of the show moving to Paramount+ instead of Netflix, so I don't know if they're doing anything to change this. But I think it's hard to change course this late.
Right, only folks in close orbit to Burham get any depth.
 


Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Also, I'm surprised no one has mentioned The Orville yet. I personally thought it was fine, but I know folks who love it as it feels distinctly like a true "Star Trek" show to them. And I will admit, it definitely does hit the tone of some of the older Star Trek shows.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
The lack of discussion of LOW is ... disappointing.

But is there really anything to say other than, "Yes, it is awesome and funny."

Lower Decks shows us that what makes Star Trek is not about a bridge crew, or about weirdness in space, and it's not about tone.

It's about an attitude towards the unknown, a trust in science and humanity, and it presents a model of work friendships that is unattainable in real life.
 

payn

Legend
Also, I'm surprised no one has mentioned The Orville yet. I personally thought it was fine, but I know folks who love it as it feels distinctly like a true "Star Trek" show to them. And I will admit, it definitely does hit the tone of some of the older Star Trek shows.
My issue with Orville is it was part ST and part Seth McFarlane comedy. It was neither as good as Trek or typical McFarlane comedy series. Guess that mix was just right for some.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Btw, as someone who hasn't watched much Star Trek, would Picard be worth a watch? Or is it very much "You need to love Star Trek to like this show"?
 

payn

Legend
Btw, as someone who hasn't watched much Star Trek, would Picard be worth a watch? Or is it very much "You need to love Star Trek to like this show"?
Its so filled with blasts from the past its a nostalgia trip. I mean, its ok on its own, but its really something for old fans. Kind of like when they finally made a good wolverine movie. It's great on its own, but the history of Grant and Stewart and the characters make it more impactful.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Its so filled with blasts from the past its a nostalgia trip. I mean, its ok on its own, but its really something for old fans. Kind of like when they finally made a good wolverine movie. It's great on its own, but the history of Grant and Stewart and the characters make it more impactful.

That's helpful! May be worth a watch then, but I've still got to get through the rest of the Witcher, Foundation, Arcane, and now Boba Fett... aye there's too much tv and far too little spare time in my life.
 

S'mon

Legend
I feel very similarly to you. Disco was interesting but seemed to misunderstand what makes Star Trek, Star Trek - for the first two seasons. Then they seemed to say, "Oh, you want HOPE and People Backing Each Other Up? YOU GOT IT!"

Now, while perhaps overly sentimental, it's Star Trek dialed at 11. I quite like it.

I actually liked 1st season STD, somewhat to my surprise - but it didn't feel like Trek at all. Kinda the 4e of Star Trek series. :D
 

MarkB

Legend
The lack of discussion of LOW is ... disappointing.
Well, you did make Captains the subject, and then rule it out in your criteria.
But is there really anything to say other than, "Yes, it is awesome and funny."
Yes. Of all the modern shows, this is the only one that captures the visuals of Star Trek really well. Discovery is notoriously shy of giving its ships decent beauty shots (or even significant lighting), and Picard repeatedly does the thing of filling out its massive fleets with scores of identical vessels.

But Lower Decks loves its ships - even the ones that really shouldn't be loveable, like the Cerritos. It gives them screen time and screen presence the way that the TNG-era shows did, and it serves up some excellent action sequences when it wants to.
 

Yeah- don't get me wrong, I enjoyed DIS for the first two seasons, despite agreeing with what @payn wrote before- it was the Burhnam show far too often.

But whatever misgivings I had have been swept away.

So far, in what is quite a rarity (I mean .... Buffy would be an exception for the first three seasons), every single season of DIS has been better.

3 >> 2 > 1. I think 4 might be the best yet, but we'll have to see how it's resolved ....
Discovery 3 and 4 are definitely better but imo there has been precious little improvement regarding the Burnham Show problem. They still persist in having her personally solve nearly every problem.
 



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
He has a dog and plays waterpolo -- a much deeper character than you suggest, I tellz ya, and a detail we never saw in action, though it was said so many times, proving the screenwriting maxim of "Tell, don't Show".
And what else do you play in water? Marco Polo. Who was Marco Polo? An explorer! Which is why Archer was made Captain.
 



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