For most Star Trek fans, it’s as personal a question as how you take your coffee or what side of the bed you sleep on. Who is YOUR Captain?! – that said, even the most passionate fan of one leader or another would readily admit that they’ve all had their highlights…
In celebration of the launch of our brand-new Star Trek Mission Crate, we’ve decided to make today’s Friday Five a celebration of some of the meatiest episodes of Star Trek‘s many incarnations for the captains who lead the way. These are by no means an exhaustive list, just some of our faves; and we’re keeping it to the TV series, because if we dipped into the movies it could get really complicated…. (KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!)
Kirk (TOS): “City on the Edge of Forever”
Oh, there were quite a few choices for ol’ James T. here – fighting the Gorn, swimming in Tribbles, just being straight up bananas, etc. But it’s difficult to argue against the absolute bravery and fortitude that Kirk demonstrates in this legendary Season 1 TOS episode penned by Harlan Ellison. Having been transported through a time rift to 1930’s America, the moment that Kirk stops McCoy from preventing the death of the woman he loves – who Kirk knows must die in order to prevent an alternate future in which the Germans win WWII – is devastating. For a guy with a reputation for burning through the ladies like underwear, it’s a rare occasion where Kirk is forced to confront his heart’s desire and act so selflessly. (“City On the Edge of Forever” is one of the handful of Trek episodes to win the prestigious Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.)
Picard (TNG): “The Inner Light”
Truth be told, this was a flip of the coin; we could have gone with “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, the terrific third season episode which presents a time rift, the lost Enterprise-C and Picard’s reunion with Tasha Yar, who never died in that timeline. But we can’t deny the emotional impact of this fifth-season Hugo-award winner, in which an alien probe knocks out Picard for all of 25 minutes while, unbeknownst to the crew, his consciousness is transported to an “iron-weaver” in a minimally advanced society, and he lives out an entire lifetime there. That the episode leaves what Picard experienced open-ended – he seemingly did live that entire lifetime – is one of the beautiful grace notes of the story, and Patrick Stewart just slays every scene.
Sisko (DS9): “In the Pale Moonlight”
The arrival of Deep Space Nine in the Trek canon was the first real seismic shift of tone of any title in the franchise to date; while the first two series were about discovery and exploration, DS9 was about conflict, and war, and the moral complications that befall a wholehearted leader like Benjamin Sisko in such circumstances. “In the Pale Moonlight” focuses on Sisko’s role in a crucial point in the war with the Dominion, during which he checks his morals at the door to get the Romulans on board to turn the tide of this conflict. This monologue at the climax of the episode is not only the beating heart of the script, but one of Avery Brooks’ finest moments in the entire run. You can see here why DS9 die-hards love this show so much. (Editor’s note: I’m one of them!!!)
Janeway (Voyager): “Deadlock”
Not a one of the Trek series was without a dizzying array of storylines to keep the premise fresh and interesting… and yet, few arrived with as much baked-in promise as Voyager. They were flung to the far-reaches of the Delta Quadrant – anything could happen! – and in “Deadlock” pretty much everything did. The ubiquitous space-time rifts that cause so much FUN in various Trek timelines provide excellent shenanigans for the Voyager crew here, including a superb to-and-fro for two Katheryn Janeways which only serves to prove that the so-far first and only female commanding officer in Trek lore is the baddest of the badasses.
Archer (Enterprise): “First Flight”
Fine, let’s be honest; it’s a select group of fans, to be fair, whose fave captain is Archer. But for you Enterprise die-hards, we propose this!: Most of the very best Enterprise episodes really focus on either Trip, or T’Pol, or both. Archer is a bit of a guest-star in his own show, sometimes, but “First Flight” is a most excellent flashback glimpse into not only Archer’s backstory but the genesis of the first Enterprise mission itself.