Star Trek Smackdown! Who’s the Best Captain?

If asked to name your favorite starship captain, most of you would probably choose someone from the realm of Star Trek—but which captain? Or if not a Trek captain, then who?

That’s the question at the heart of next week’s Star Trek Smackdown, hosted by the Paley Center in New York. A team of panelists, including yours truly, will be debating the topic of which starship captain is the best leader. Or, rather, the question is more specifically framed as: who, if anyone, was a better leader than Kirk?

In addition to the panel, the Paley Center (formerly known as the Museum of Radio & Television) is conducting an online poll to see what the masses think, so if you want to cast your vote for best starship captain, head on over to their website and let your voice be heard.

The Smackdown event itself is happening May 12 at the Paley Center in New York (6:30 – 8:00 PM). In addition to the debate, you’ll also be able to win valuable geeky prizes by answering trivia questions. Costumes are welcome. Admission is $10.

Here are the Smackdown panelists:

John Joseph Adams, editor of anthology Federations
Matt Mitovich, Senior Editor,
Bones Rodriguez, Author, Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women
Moderated by David Bushman, Curator, Television

Given his bibliography, I guess we know who Mr. Rodriguez will be advocating. Mitovich is a wild card–no idea which way he’ll swing. As for me, I’ll be championing Jean-Luc Picard.

Even aliens agree that Picard is a great leader. There’s an episode (“Allegiance,” from season 3), in which Picard is captured by a race of aliens so that they might learn the concept of leadership (which was unknown to them). They didn’t pick just any starship captain, they chose Picard to study. No one ever kidnapped Kirk to study his leadership style. (Perhaps a good thing, as he would have surely tried to sleep with their females.)

I’d be interested to hear what you all think. Who’s your favorite starship captain? Kirk? Picard? Sisko? Someone from a different franchise?

The Paley Center’s poll restricts its scope to television starship captains, but do you perhaps have a favorite from film or video games or books? (Somehow novel characters always get short shrift in these debates.)

So who’s your favorite? Sound off in the comments.


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