Traditionally, at the heart of every addition to the star trek franchise is a captain. They lead the team as they go where no one has gone before, and they carve a place for themselves in the hearts of the public. Some are more memorable than others, of course, but these mainstays of the programs are all wonderfully crafted, with distinct personalities and qualities that set them apart from other captains. While Picard is undoubtedly a fan favorite, unbeatable in the proverbial boxing ring of Starfleet’s top captain, what about Travelerit’s Kathryn Janeway, and Deep Space 9is that benjamin sisko?
From 1995 to 2001, Traveler have graced television screens, following the adventures of the fantastical female protagonist Captain Janeway and her crew of the aptly named USS Voyager, as they are transported over 70,000 light years from Earth into the distant and uncharted Delta Quadrant. Unable to return home, the show follows their adventures as they traverse their way back to earth, encountering various new alien species along the way. Deep Space 9 started a few years earlier, going from 1993 to 1999, chronologically overlapping with the events of Traveler. Rather than following the usual pattern for star trek tales, Deep Space 9 was placed on a space station of the same name, rather than a starship, with Commander (later Captain) Sisko. It was feared that the stationary aspect of the station, literally unable “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new lives and new civilizations”, would be boring. However, the show surprised audiences, highlighting Starfleet and Federation politics as well as new aliens through the clever introduction of a stable wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant.
To determine who was the best captain, it is important to understand the term. “Captain” within Starfleet has two meanings, an esteemed military rank but also a title. One can be called a captain if he commands a starship or is promoted to the rank of captain. Sisko, during the first two seasons of Deep Space 9, held the military rank of commander, in charge of all day-to-day operations around a Federation space station. However, when he was aboard the USS Defiant as a senior officer, he commanded the ship. He only became Captain Sisko when he was promoted in Season 3, decorated and referred to as such even when not aboard the Defiant. Janeway, on the other hand, is introduced early on as a Starfleet captain in both rank and title; his rise in rank was not shown to the public.
With these aspects in mind, when talking about who is the best captain, the answer comes in two parts. First, who is the best captain in terms of military rank and as an example of Starfleet rules and regulations? Second, who is the best captain as commander of his crew and the people he is responsible for? Although the two overlap a bit, there is a slight difference between these aspects that is exaggerated when looking at the different captain techniques used by Sisko and Janeway.
They are both placed in difficult positions. Janeway must traverse light years of uncharted space with new dangers – and old dangers in the recurring form of Q – around every corner, knowing it would take around 75 years to get home. Meanwhile, Sisko is tasked with defending one of the federation’s most tactically strategic positions due to the wormhole, protecting their position from a plethora of villains. These situations make their duties as captains very different.
The best way to differentiate each captain is to highlight the aspects of the role they are best at. Picard, who arrived long before Sisko and Janeway, was a brilliant newborn. It shines a light on what Starfleet is and what it should embody, fancy new uniforms and all. There were, of course, issues along the way, including moral ones, which Picard had to tackle head-on, but the vision The next generation represented was that of a beacon of hope for the future of humanity. That’s part of what makes him so beloved. Janeway and Sisko, meanwhile, dealt with other issues.
Sisko dealt with the detritus left behind by Starfleet decisions on a much smaller, more personal level. He was more of an ordinary man, a great leader but with flaws – like his anger issues, which he is aware of and constantly struggles to deal with. He deals with moral gray areas and constantly breaks the rules, favoring what is “right” over what is ordered. This is a stark departure from Picard who, at least in the early seasons, rarely broke a rule, as the rules and regulations aligned well with his moral compass. The Universe is a confusing place, and a long list of rules doesn’t always apply to every situation. That’s exactly what Deep Space 9 explores, throwing Captain Sisko into difficult situation after difficult situation, constantly balancing the line between being good and doing questionable things for good reasons.
Janeway is also thrown into a predicament and manages to return home. However, it lacked the same emotional, philosophical, and moral depth that Sisko portrayed. She was lucky enough to develop an interesting character, as she constantly struggled with her guilt for losing her entire crew at 75 from home. Instead, however, she focused solely on coming home, making the series repetitive. She arguably didn’t change much throughout the show, and was surrounded by people who actually grew as characters: the Doctor exploring his new “liveliness”, Tom Paris becoming a better person, and of course Seven of Nine and his rehabilitation from the Borg. Janeway was much more like Picard in this way, barely deviating from the rules, following Starfleet guidelines as a prime example of a good captain. However, she lacked the calm, diplomatic finesse that Picard exhibited.
Both captains were placed in impossible situations and had to work things out, often putting those expectations on themselves and bearing the brunt of the responsibility throughout their prospective streak. However, it looks like audiences have a clear winner as to who was the best. Captain Sisko was a better character, with much more emotional depth. He constantly made relatable mistakes, trying, over and over again, to make the right choice when there was no clear answer. Janeway gets lost in space, but successfully brings her crew home, saving them time and time again and protecting them from danger along the way, and remains the pinnacle of what a military captain should be about. road: follow Starfleet rules and regulations. In conclusion, Janeway is perhaps the best captain in rank, while Sisko is the best captain in title. One is a bright Starfleet beacon; the other, a man determined to protect life, but who doesn’t always play by the rules.
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