Being a starship captain is often seen as a glamorous job but that depends on the size of the crew and the situation the ship is in. A Starfleet captain during a peace time can be far less demanding than if you’re in the middle of a genocidal war and captaining the last surviving large battleship. In a small ship, the captain often has to do other jobs, as well. However, all of my favorite captains are fiercely loyal to their crews.
1, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: TNG)
Every time captains are talked about the first person who comes to my mind is Picard. He’s a diplomat but also a soldier when needed. He’s also a captain that can be trusted; he will always do the right thing, even when it comes with a cost. He even goes against orders when he thinks that those orders are wrong. He also has a lot of other interests: Shakespeare, archeology, horse-back riding, and playing a detective on the holodeck.
”There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience, but ignore their personal liberties and freedom. Order a man to turn his child over to the state? Not while I’m his captain.”
2, Commander William Adama (Battlestar Galactica)
Adama is similar to Picard in that he tries to always do the right thing. But he’s in a very different kind of place; he has to put the survival of the whole species above the survival or comfort of few. He also doesn’t really have time to do much else. In essence, he’s the real leader of the Colonial Fleet; if he hadn’t accept Roslin as president, he could have taken the job himself. He also has a interesting relationship with his second-in-command Colonel Tigh; there are pretty fundamental issues they disagree with but they still trust each other without reservation.
”There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”
3, Pyanfar Chanur (C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur series)
Pyanfar is in a very different place than either of the previous captains. Her ship is Pride of Chanur which has quite a small crew and they are all her relatives because that’s how her race does things. They belong to a species called the hani which are lion like: the males stay at home and rule while the females go out and trade. Pyanfar is fiercely loyal to her crew and tries her best to keep them out of trouble in a wide galaxy filled with alien species.
4, Ka D’Argo (Farscape)
Maybe I’m cheating because most of the time Moya doesn’t have an actual captain but instead the small crew decides things together. But D’Argo was voted captain even though it didn’t happen until the fourth season. At first glance, he’s a fierce warrior but pretty quickly we get to know his tragic background and about his quest to find his son who has been sold into slavery. He also dreams about far simpler life than on board Moya with other escaped convicts.
5, Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)
Firefly’s a small ship with a tightly-knit crew and passengers. Mal doesn’t trust easily but when he adds someone to his small crew, he’ll always defend them. He was on the losing side of a war and is quite bitter about it, not trusting the current government at all.
“I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you.”
6, Cordelia Naismith (Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor)
Cordelia is a scientist and when we first meet her, she’s the captain of a science vessel Rene Magritte. She comes from Beta Colony which is the cradle of democracy but is situated below ground on a world where atmosphere isn’t breathable, so certain civil liberties have been curtailed. She’s highly analytical and uses her skills a lot outside science, too. When she emigrates to technologically backward planet, she enthusiastically encourages the inhabitants to embrace higher level tech. Admittedly, she’s in a far different role for most of the series.
“I don’t want power. I just object to idiots having power over me.”
“Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. We’re not giving up. We’re waiting for a better opportunity to win.”
7, Han Solo (Star Wars)
Han is probably the first starship captain I ever encountered and I still have a soft spot for charming scoundrels. When Han is introduced he says that all he cares about is money but his actions quickly disprove his words. And given that he has a loyal wookie at his side, he’s probably always had a more honorable streak.
8, Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager)
Janeway’s in quite a different situation than Picard and she still manages to keep her crew together and focused on finding home. She even has to face down the Borg with just one ship and integrated the Maquis terrorists into her crew. We even got a glimpse of what could happen to a crew without a captain like Janeway in ”Equinox”.
“It’s never easy, but if we turn our backs on our principles, we stop being human.”
9, Boss (Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving into the Wreck and sequels)
Boss is the first person narrator in the series and so far we haven’t learned her name. She doesn’t use it because she feels that she’s a very different person now. Originally she was the only crew member in her ship ”Nobody’s business” but sometimes she took on additional crew. In the first book, she dives the spacecraft’s wrecks which is so dangerous that she needs more people and picks very carefully only the best. She values her independence and freedom above anything else.
Who are your favorite captains?