Encounter at Paley: Notes From the Starship Captain-off

Last night at the Paley Center, anthologist John Joseph Adams, TV Guide writer Matt Mitovich, Trekkian dating guru Bones Rodriguez, comic book historian Alan Kistler, and a roomful of fans gathered to debate the Greatest Starship Captain of All Time. It was a lively and often hilarious discussion that yielded several interesting points, and some real head-scratchers. Below are some highlights (and lowlights) from the panel; for the real effect, watch Kirk mack on a space princess every few bullet points.

– Some people came to the panel without having seen the new Star Trek movie. This was bizarre. Panelists attempted to discuss reboot!Kirk and Spock without spoiling the movie for anyone. This was hilarious. “Well, but his reactions make sense given…everything that happens!”

– If you’re wondering: Spock’s new characterization is terrible, except if it’s awesome.

– Despite several well-reasoned arguments about how each captain was the best for his era, Kirk’s position as best-beloved captain was never seriously in dispute. The cogent point that Picard is the captain least likely to kill one is superseded by the argument that Kirk is the captain one most wants to be. Majority rules.

– This did not stop people from cracking up when Kirk delivers stirring speeches as cavemen-clad Yangs listen to Kirk promise them that the Declaration of Independence is an infallible model for a Utopia. Really moving speech; really excessive eyeliner.

– Even though Picard’s greatest-hits reel included a scene of him forcing small children to sing French nursery rhymes, hardly anyone laughed; the shine off his head was hypnotic and soothing.

– If you wanted to talk about Sisko or Archer as captains, best of luck to you. Those two got handwaved away faster than time-space continuum contradictions.

– Battlestar Galactica‘s Captain Adama got a lot of face time for a non-Trek captain, including a clip that compared Janeway’s decision to split Tuvix to Adama’s telling Roslin he wasn’t comfortable signing off on the Cylon virus without her direct approval. Conclusion: Adama was a victim of plot and was made to “pass the buck” by the writers. (Or he valued the input and authority of the President of the Colonies, whichever. Is it because Roslin’s a lady that soliciting her judgment is passing the buck? Because Janeway’s like, “Girl, please.”)

– That was the only time Janeway was mentioned; better than Sisko, but barely. I blame Tuvix, who managed to induce giggles during his impassioned speech about how he accepts death and all the rest of them would have to live with what they were allowing to happen. Really moving speech; really bad hair.

– Among the captains not discussed: Captain Jeffrey Sinclair (Babylon 5), Captain John Sheridan (Babylon 5), Mal Reynolds (Firefly), Roj Blake (Blake’s 7), or anyone from Farscape (the Paley Center names the captain John Crichton, though I’m pretty sure the captain of that little space dinghy was Aeryn Sun).

– Seriously, we get a clip of SG-1 but no Sisko? Bajor’s gonna be pissed.

The panel ended with trivia questions rather than a Q&A (a cookie to the first person who identifies Xon), so the debate is far from over. So sound off, Tor.com readers: which TV starship captain is most overlooked?


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