Why the Greatest ‘Star Trek’ Captain Is Officially Janeway

Kate Mulgrew as Janeway

Paramount Kate Mulgrew as Janeway

In a recent article on Space.com, writer William Worrall put in words the agonizing debate that so many fans of “Star Trek” have had in their minds since 1987 or so. Who was the better captain — James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard. 

For Worrall, this is an almost unsolvable puzzle. He cites opinions of fans for both captains, as some prefer Picard because of his “sophistication, his commanding demeanor, and the classically trained actor that portrays him.” That actor, Patrick Stewart, portrayed Picard for seven years on syndicated television, in four films, and now in three seasons of streaming TV. 

Meanwhile, Worrall says that others prefer William Shatner’s Kirk. He writes that fans are drawn to Kirk because of his “rough and tumble attitude, and the cheesy, over-the-top style of his acting that matches the show around him.” Shatner played Kirk for three seasons of “The Original Series,” two seasons of “The Animated Series,” and in eight feature films. 

Kirk vs. Picard

Shatner helped start Trek, while Stewart helped breathe new life into the franchise. Kirk was a captain created for audiences in the tumultuous 1960s. Later, Picard was captain during the years when George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were presidents. The late 1980s and early 90s were not so unpredictable.

Some may argue that neither Kirk nor Picard were the best of what Starfleet had to offer, and instead, it should be Benjamin Sisko. As portrayed by Avery Brooks, Sisko was both level-headed and passionate. He understood the science and technology of a space station while getting knee-deep into the spirituality of the Bajorans. 

Derek Faraci writes that there are many reasons why Sisko should be considered to be the best, including managing to keep everything together despite a war erupting around him. He also noted that Sisko “isn’t afraid to get dirty” and wasn’t above blackmail and falsifying evidence. 

Sisko the Best?

And while those other two captains have been brought back in films, animated shows, and new series, Sisko has not. Perhaps Sisko going to live with the Wormhole Aliens is too complex a story for writers to bring him back.

Rather than any of those three, and certainly not Scott Bakula’s Archer (the only captain besides Kirk to ever get his show canceled), or Michael Burnham or Carol Freeman (both whose missions are not over and their time in the chair cannot be compared to the others yet), it looks like the writers and creative minds at Paramount have made their decision. It’s Kathryn Janeway.

Is Janeway the Best Captain?

Judging by the sheer amount of places where she appears now, she must rank at the very top of the list. Since the end of her own show, “Star Trek: Voyager,” Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) has popped up here and there in interesting spots. 

In “Star Trek: Nemesis,” Janeway had a small cameo and issued orders to Picard. Yes, she became an admiral before Jean-Luc. She’s been mentioned many, many times on “Lower Decks” and she’s now the star of a new season of “Star Trek: Online.” Not to mention, three (maybe four) versions of the character appear on “Star Trek: Prodigy.”

That is, fans get to cheer on Holo-Janeway, an evil version of Holo-Janeway. At the end of “A Moral Star, Part 2,” viewers get to see the real Janeway again. Yes, the actual human Janeway is back, in command of the U.S.S. Dauntless and she is going to save her comrade (and possible love interest), Chakotay.

Interestingly, Janeway was so highly decorated and revered that Starfleet decided to create a holographic version of a living person as a teacher for cadets. And, on top of that, she’s still on active duty! The Federation does not allow cloning or genetic modifications. Still, Starfleet must think she’s just the greatest if they’ve done the next best thing. 

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