The question often gets asked, ‘Which Star Trek Captain was the best?’. It is one of those questions which is sure to rouse ire and passion among those who follow the show. I have been to Star Trek conventions and overheard conversations of fans where I have seen this topic devolve to acrimony and sniping. To the uninitiated, this would seem like a frivolous thing to argue about but if you loved the show – you get how important of a conversation this can be. So here you get my answer.
I don’t think it was Jean Luc-Picard. I adore the actor and I would pay money to hear Patrick Stewart’s voice read the Waffle House menu – the guy is an amazing actor and human being. As a Starfleet Captain though? He was too perfect and in my mind rarely got tested. His subordinates were all the best at their jobs and on the same sheet of music. His ship was the best in the Fleet but when you really get right to it he was never really tested, failed, and hit rock bottom. Sure, there were bumps in the road but that was all they were – minor bumps on the road to another triumphant end of an episode.
Captain Kirk was personally brave but likely a terrible Captain. He was way too emotional and led with his chin. He was capable of being goaded, didn’t like to delegate, and in the balance seemed to treat anyone who wasn’t on the bridge or in his close circle of friends as props in his own personal heroic story. Don’t believe me, just ask the dozens of Red Shirts who died only for Kirk to walk away heroic with nothing more than a torn shirt.
As far as Captain Janeway, I respected her adherence to principles and dedication to science but I could never really identify with her. It is somewhat unfair because with the exception of the holographic Doctor her crew felt really flat and uninspiring to me so I therefore couldn’t get into the show as much as the others. But ultimately, I respected Captain Janeway but felt her to be less ‘interesting’ than others on the list.
But Captain Benjamin Sisko? He was a Captain with flaws and because of it, he was far more interesting than any of the others on this list. He had a temper, he could be rude, he occasionally made decisions which came back to haunt him. Avery Brooks managed to do something which I hadn’t seen before in Star Trek, add nuance and shades of gray to his Starfleet Officer. Sisko was a good but imperfect man thrust into the middle of great events.
The reason why this was important because looked at what he had to work. Sisko didn’t have the best ship in the Fleet, he had a station no one wanted. He didn’t have the best crew, half of them didn’t care for him at first and hated the fact that they were assigned to the middle of nowhere. He had to deal with an unruly group of former insurgents now trying to govern and an aggrieved enemy who wasn’t happy about it. There was intrigue and nastiness all around him and that was before the drama of the Dominion War. None of the other Captains ever got tested like Sisko.
There was a scene in a DS9 episode which in my opinion was the best Star Trek scene ever. Sisko, having just lied and served as an accomplice to an assassination which tricks the Romulans into joining the Federation in their increasingly desperate war against the Dominion, looks into the camera and admits he compromised his values and with self-loathing splashed across his face he grimaces and practically spits in disgust. He then looks at the camera and says, ‘And I would do it again. I will learn to live with it’. No equivocation, no last minute high minded speech, no improbable attempt to seize the moral high ground. Just a man who had to make a hard but necessary call and owning up to it.
That is why Captain Benjamin Sisko was the best Star Trek Captain.