Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Star Trek's Best Non-Captains

Trekkies have long argued about who is the best captain, Kirk or Picard, and what is the best ship. I'm not going to wade into that mess (Picard, 1701-A), but I was thinking: no one ever talks about the rest of the crew. It takes more than a captain and a ship to save the galaxy.

I've got every crew position listed here, as well as some other non-positions that exist in most of the shows. I'll be looking at the five main shows that got significant airtime (so I'm not including the Animated Series or Final Frontier), as well as the movies: Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), Star Trek: Voyager (VOY), Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT). It's worth noting that TOS and TNG have an unfair advantage, having by far the most screen time.

N.B. Sometimes I had to make assumptions as to who was in charge of a particular position. In these cases, I italicized the character's name to make it clear they are not a clear choice.

XO: Spock, Riker, Kira, Chakotay, T'Pol

Is there any contest?

Spock
There is an old Vulcan proverb: Only Nixon could go to China.
I grew up with Riker as the XO I knew and loved, as TNG was the Star Trek on TV when I started watching. But then I saw Star Trek VI in the theater. Spock would win this competition based on his performance in that movie alone. If you need me to explain any more of why Spock wins here, you should just stop reading and watch Star Treks II, III, IV, and VI. Or, hell, the Reunification two-parter on TNG.

I'd give Kira the nod for second place. She makes an excellent counterpoint to Sisko's emotional wrangling and firm commitment to the principles of the Federation.

Science Officer: Spock, Data, Jadzia Dax, Kim, T'Pol

Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind.
Apparently, humans are not all that good at science. This one is a tough one. I don't really want to give Spock wins in the first two categories, but he's such a great science officer. In the end, though, I have to give Data the nod, as he not only is the science officer, but is a science experiment himself.

Chief Engineer: Scott, La Forge, O'Brien, Torres, Tucker

I love Geordi. Love him to death. I love LeVar Burton too. I mean, look at this tweet:


Amazing, right? The problem is, La Forge is a fairly one-dimensional character. I blame the writers for this. There are only a few times when he gets an actual story for himself. He has the Brahms storyline, the bit with his mother, and a few other notable story moments (his eyes on the Ba'Ku planet). Interestingly enough, one of his best episodes is where he teams up with our winner, Scotty.

I'd like to get my hands on her "ample nacelles," if you pardon the engineering parlance.
This is the first award I'm giving that was significantly influenced by the alternate timeline of Star Trek XI. Simon Pegg nails it; he must have studied James Doohan's performances religiously. Between the canonical and inaccurate "Beam me up, Scotty," the classic Scottish accent, and all of the pop culture references, Scotty has to be the winner for Best Chief Engineer.

RIP, James Doohan.
Chief Medical Officer: McCoy, Crusher/Pulaski, Bashir, EMH, Phlox

This was a tough one, but not because they are all great. Really, they all are pretty meh. They all have their perks. McCoy is a great ornery bastard and has the classic line: "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a ____!" Crusher has the interesting backstory with Jack and Picard. Bashir has the whole genetically engineered storyline, along with the Section 31 links and brofriend O'Brien. The EMH's struggle with transformation from an emergency short-term backup to a full-time chief medical officer. And Phlox well, Phlox is just this cuddly Denobulan with a cheery bedside manner and three wives. 

In the end, the doctor that I'd most want treating me is the EMH.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency.

Tactical/Weapons: Checkov, Worf/Yar, Kira/O'Brien/Worf, Tuvok, Reid

If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand!
Worf wins this category because he's clearly the most badass of the options. As much as I love Checkov, he was kind of a wuss as a weapons officer. Tuvok was more interesting in his role as Janeway's 2nd officer, and Reid, well, kinda sucked. Worf runs tactical on the Enterprise-D, and he captains the Defiant. He's a badass Klingon warrior. And this all in spite of getting shot down left and right.

Helm: Sulu, LaForge/Ro/Crusher/Redshirt, N/A, Paris, Mayweather

OH MY
From this point onward, the competition thins, as not every crew has a reasonable competitor for the position. And on top of that, two of the three full-time helmsmen are boring characters (Paris and Mayweather) That said, Sulu doesn't need the reduced competition to win this category. To be fair, he wasn't that memorable in his TV series... well, except for one notable episode:

The only Starfleet officer to go topless (beside, you know, the dozens of times Kirk loses his shirt)
But it's the movies (1-6 and prequels) that nail it for Sulu. Between freeing his captainsaving his former captain, as well as wielding the best future sword since the lightsaber, Sulu wins best helmsman.

Security Officer: ??, Worf/Yar, Odo, Tuvok, Reid

Only one of these people has the sole responsibility of security, and he's our winner.

Doctor, if a Klingon were to kill me, I'd expect an entire opera on the subject.
Constable Odo is an amazing security chief. Hell, if we only had season one of DS9 to rely on, I'd still pick Odo for the way he deals with Quark.

Counselor: McCoy, Troi, Ezri Dax, Neelix, ??

I grew up with Counselor Troi, but she seemed more useful to the ship with her empathic abilities than with her actual counseling. One of these made a very important contribution to their crew in the counseling field...

As they say on Talax: "Omara s'alas - Good news has no clothes." 
Technically, Neelix was the (self-appointed) morale officer, not a counselor. Still, I'd argue he did more for his crew's mental health than any of the official counselors (especially Ezri).

Communications Officer: Uhura, Sato

I guess Starfleet's universal translator tech improved such that communications officers were no longer necessary by the time of TNG. Makes sense; the universal translator was improved to the point where a dedicated communications officer was no longer required. I'm throwing a curveball here:

Math is just another language.
Uhura is the easy choice, but if you took the time to actually watch Enterprise, you'd see that not only is Sato a deeper character, but she's also much more badass at the whole language thing. Remember Star Trek VI? Uhura couldn't even speak Klingon (of course, the alternate-timeline Uhura can). In the end, only one communications officer became empress:

You're speaking with Empress Sato. Prepare to receive instructions.
Token youth: Ensign Ricky Redshirt, Wesley, Jake, Kes, Mayweather

OK, real dregs here, but this category must be addressed. As much as I love Wil Wheaton...

But I'll always remember it as something more - as the place I learned that the line between courage and cowardice is a lot thinner than most people believe. 
Jake grows up. He's a little kid at first, pissed that his dad moved him across the galaxy... again. But he gets used to the station, makes friends, and makes the bold decision to stay on DS9 as a reporter when the Dominion took it back over.

Comic Relief: Checkov, Barclay, Quark/Rom, Neelix, Trip/Phlox

This is a real tough one. Really tough. I was all set on my choice before I spoke to my friend/best-trekkie-bro Joe, and he almost convinced me to change. Almost.

Doctor! My capillaries are shrinking! 
Quark and Rom are designed for humor, and they are hilarious. If you think I'm wrong in choosing Reg Broccoli, I won't begrudge you. But Barclay is hilarious without trying to be, and he's far more human. AND he was on two series', TNG and Voyager (yes, Quark had a cameo in the premiere of Voyager, but that doesn't really count).

Non-Spock What-Does-It-Mean-To-Be-Human Character: Data, Odo, Seven of Nine/EMH, T'Pol

It seems that every series after the original had a character who struggled with humanity. The struggle was more prominent in a few of these characters, but in the end, it was always Data.

0.68 seconds, sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity.*
If I need to explain this, you're not a trekkie.

* Of all the images I got for this post, this one was by far the hardest to source. Normally, between Google Images and Memory Alpha, I had no problem getting the picture I wanted. However, I was only able to find two versions of this shot; one that was badly distorted, and one that had anti-hotlink text pasted all over it. In the end, I had to get out my DVD (it was still in the shrink wrap; I hope it wasn't valuable) and take my own screencap. Though, as I type this, I just realized I get the movie for free through Amazon Prime. Oh well. 

Non-Kirk/Picard Captain: Sisko, Janeway, Archer

Hey, the other captains need some love, too! These three all have great traits. Sisko embodies the moral philosophy of DS9 (more Kantian than the others) by being willing to do the dirty work to get the right outcome. Janeway is the exact opposite; she never betrays her moral compass on the way back to the Alpha Quadrant (though she does lose it when dealing with the Equinox). And, though he gets a lot of flak, I have to give Archer credit for being a truly dynamic character. He starts off as this starry-eyed captain, thinking about how great the world is. Then the Xindi come and bust down humanity's door, and he transforms into a badass dude willing to do anything to save earth.

There's coffee in that nebula.
I choose Janeway because of her moral compass and because she brought her ship and crew back home from 70,000 light years away. I wouldn't argue if you prefer Sisko, however.

Sex symbol: Uhura, Troi, Mirror Dimension Kira, Seven of Nine, T'Pol

You know I had to go here, right? Well, here it is. Who's the best sex symbol on all of Star Trek? Well...

One or both?
I bet you didn't see that coming, did you? I mean, he made an asexual being attracted to him. How much more sexual can you get?

Post a Comment
All rights reserved. Take that!