For decades, “Star Trek” fans have tried to solve the unsolvable. Through vigorous debates on both sides of the issue, fans of both camps have created arguments based on the episodes and movies, which seem insurmountable. Who was the better captain — James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?
Thanks to these two characters and the iconic actors who brought them to life, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, there are literally hundreds of hours of ‘footage’ of the two captains in action. The Kirk character appeared in three seasons of “The Original Series,” two seasons of “The Animated Series,” and ten feature films. He will return for Season Two of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” It is worth noting that for three of those films, Kirk was played by Chris Pine, and in SNW, Kirk will be portrayed by Canadian actor Paul Wesley.
The Bad Kirk
According to SNW co-showrunner Akiva Goldsman, Kirk’s leadership style was written for a particular audience.
“Jim Kirk is a young boy’s fantasy of a ‘Star Trek’ captain,” Goldsman told CNN in a recent interview. “He’s brash, impulsive — he knows the rules but doesn’t follow them. He’s a swashbuckler.”
Meanwhile, only one person has been Captain Picard. Sir Patrick Stewart, a man well versed in the Shakespearean traditions of Great Britain, has been Picard since 1987. His English accent, oratory style, and striking hairline made him an immediate contrast to Shatner’s Kirk. Besides the physical differences, Picard was called upon to be a negotiator and mediator rather than a warrior, as Kirk had to be.
As Screen Rant’s Craig Elvy pointed out, Picard’s style was based on empathy, while Kirk was quicker to turn to combat. Picard’s story is still playing out, as Stewart will appear in “Star Trek: Picard” Season 3.
The Bad Picard
While the debate of Kirk versus Picard may never be resolved, it could be time for a new captain to enter the fray. Many contend that Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) could be the best captain of them all, since she guided her crew for seven years on their journey back to Sector 001 and was as knowledgeable about ship function as any engineer. Some fans give the nod to Captain Benjamin Sisko (as played by Avery Brooks), who became the first Starfleet captain to be elevated to the status of deity. But this new name who is up for debate is the oldest Starfleet captain — Captain Christopher Pike.
Pike vs. Cornwall
As so many fans are aware, Pike was the first captain of the Enterprise and was played by movie actor Jeffrey Hunter. His captain starred in “The Cage,” the first Trek pilot NBC rejected for being too cerebral. Now Captain Pike is brought to life by Anson Mount, who is forging a unique personality into the character for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”
It is almost as if the producers of “Strange New Worlds” are begging to get fans focused on comparing Kirk and Pike. In the seventh episode of SNW, entitled “The Serene Squall,” a few characters refer to Pike as a Boy Scout. This was a reference to Season 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery,” of how Admiral Cornwall (Jayne Brook) referred to Pike.
Pike’s boy scout nickname stands in stark contrast to how Kirk acted. In “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” David Marcus (Merritt Butrick) told his mother, Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), what he thought of Starfleet.
“Every time we have dealings with Starfleet, I get nervous,” David said. “We are dealing with something that could be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Remember that overgrown Boy Scout you used to hang out with… that’s exactly the kind of man….”
“Listen, kiddo,” Carol Marcus interrupted. “Jim Kirk was many things, but he was never a Boy Scout.”
This simple statement, which will be used later to contrast Pike against, will likely be explored in Season 2 of “Strange New Worlds,” when Wesley will join the show as a young Kirk. Though Pike appeared in just two episodes of “The Original Series,” two feature films (as played by Bruce Greenwood), Season 2 of “Discovery,” and ten episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” his command style will undoubtedly be different from Kirk’s.
As the argument between Cornwall and Pike illustrated, Mount’s Pike is more dedicated to sticking to the rules of the Federation and Starfleet. As Trek Report noted, Kirk’s “shoot from the hip” style will grate against his by-the-book command of Pike and could set up interesting situations for the show next season.
This will be unique, because unlike Kirk vs. Picard, Pike and Kirk will appear on the same screen, and will be part of the same television series.
Please note that Kirk and Picard did appear together in “Star Trek Generations,” but the laws of time and space were bent by an intergalactic space ribbon to make that happen. Pike and Kirk also appeared in “The Menagerie” together, but Pike was unable to move or communicate beyond a beeping light on his wheelchair.
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