I mentioned some of these thoughts earlier over on Facebook, and figured I’d expand on some thoughts in a blog post. Think of this as a supplementary to my December 2014 post on the future of Star Trek.
What happened was that I had seen the link to this post over at Startrek.com, “Kirk vs. Picard: An Enduring Debate” by David McDonnell, on my Facebook newsfeed, and I thought it had an interesting look at the history of the debate of Kirk vs. Picard. But, then again, my initial reaction to the article was, “Good Lord, the Kirk vs. Picard is a never-ending debate since ST:TNG started. Can’t we just agree that they’re two very different styles of captains?”
Generally, it always seemed to me to come down to Kirk, Man of Action, versus Picard, Man of Contemplation. But… on further thought, if one looks at the overall evolution of both of them, they’re probably not that different from each other…
After all, young Picard started as a Kirk-esque guy, but matured from his experiences (as Picard and Q realized, “Johnny” Picard was a boat-load of fun, but losing his (physical) heart and growing up made him the man that he became), and Kirk probably wished he had a Picard maneuver to deal with Khan in another way back in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (TWOK), which reached ridiculous Picard-level of Shakespearean tragedy.
Moreover, during TWOK, Kirk’s love for antiques and dead tree books was a plot factor – and he clearly had his leanings to be contemplative, but for the lust for action (hence, he lost Carol Marcus, as she had implied during TWOK). I was always curious about how TWOK explored the intellectual and thoughtful sides of Kirk, the parts of him that were more than the rash and romantic space cowboy. Could a parallel universe Kirk become a Picard-esque man?
Well, the rebooted J.J. Abrams-verse ST has yet to suggest that – he’s still the Man of Action, even though he tries to keep in mind the principles of Starfleet and all that – but the new version of Kirk seems to have a greater yearning for family more than original Kirk did (considering what J.J. Abrams did to his biological father and his father figure, which didn’t happen to original Kirk). Hmm…
Then, a Facebook friend (J) posted a response to my sharing the link on the Kirk vs. Picard debate, along the lines of, hey, forget Picard and Kirk; there’s Sisko and how far he went in the episode of “In the Pale Moonlight” on “ST: Deep Space 9.” That got me thinking: Sisko did the things so many wouldn’t do to save the Federation, as shown during the Dominion War arc (and even the Maquis storyline, when the Federation entered a real gray moral territory over how it treated Federation citizens and how Sisko was so determined to uphold the Starfleet way). What does that say about Sisko as a Starfleet leader? Is he the “better” man? Or were the others “better”?
Picard sure wouldn’t do what Sisko did, even if he might understand and empathize with Sisko. Picard had a darker man in him (I think his Borg trauma probably only enhanced it; see the example of the movie, “Star Trek: First Contact”), and he went through more than what most normal men would have gone through (besides the Borg trauma, there was torture by the Cardassians; essentially mental rape when the alien entity made him live a whole life in the episode, “The Inner Light“; and losing lots of his friends, relatives, and at least two ships), putting aside for the moment Sisko’s own tragic loss of his first wife and the personal revelations about his mother. But, Picard’s darkness tended to be reined in by his principles and respect for basic things, like life, love, nature, and free will (especially free will, since he and Q had ridiculous interactions about that).
And, Kirk…? (original Kirk, that is). Hmm. Is it weird that I’m not sure if Kirk would do what Sisko did? Maybe Kirk would have turned away from everything, to be the cowboy, ride his horses, keep having adventures, and save the universe when he wants to do so and feels he was the one to do it. Did Starfleet and the Federation mean that much to Kirk? Or did he just live in such a different era than Picard and later Sisko? New Kirk might be different, since Starfleet gave him a life worth having, but original Kirk was still quite the heroic figure (almost in that Greek mythology sense, which the original series and the movies certainly pushed).
Or is Sisko such an outlier to the Kirk vs. Picard debate because he’s not an Enterprise captain? He was, in some ways, both action and contemplation, and beyond either – more the whole person – or “being,” especially if one accepted the final arc he had on “ST:DS9.” (I can’t say that I did – but primarily because I appreciated Sisko as a human being, and believed that he liked that about himself too, despite or because of his bond to the planet Bajor).
But, then again, the Star Trek novel, The Serpent Among the Ruins by David R George III (Amazon link here), at least posits one Enterprise captain would pull some conspiracy stuff to save the Federation, where John Harriman (generally the guy in the movie “Star Trek: Generations” who allowed Kirk to save the day) pulled off quite a stunt to give himself and Starfleet a clean conscience while manipulating a war (see here for the post to my reaction to that book).
Kathryn Janeway of “ST: Voyager” and Jonathan Archer of “ST: Enterprise” — well, I could go into a whole rant, but I won’t. I liked both shows on their own, but for me, it’s harder to say whether their lead characters quite match the explorations of socio-political issues and character development the way Picard, Kirk, and Sisko did. I’m not even sure if Janeway and Archer quite fit that whole debate of action versus contemplation or the “screw that” schema that Kirk, Picard, and Sisko have.
Janeway should have been “the scientist,” but I don’t think the writers of ST: VOY did her favors by not fully fleshing out her journey through the Delta Quadrant (at least not in a more satisfying way for me). Archer was very much a character of his times, reflecting the early roots of Starfleet and the Federation – and his journey got derailed by the Time War arc (I could try to explain that, but I can only say that it made things very messy in a needless way; you’re more than welcome to search “Star Trek: Enterprise” on triscribe’s search function and see what I thought back when the show was on). Overall, I’d say that the journeys of Kirk, Picard, and Sisko made for a good range of leadership to check out.
By the way, I looked it over and I think my list of what I think of as ST moments still holds for me (mind you, that post was just my opinion of what I had liked; different people might have different takes on what they feel is an ST moment). Feel free to check that out.
Meanwhile, I had seen this this article over at Deadline by Mike Fleming, Jr., about director Justin Lin, who is tasked to direct the next reboot movie of the J.J. Abrams-verse. The article gave me hope that Lin could pull off a good ST movie, especially since he said he grew up watching ST. I think if Lin can tell a good story while highlighting the development of the bonds that the crew of the Enterprise has (yep, that group of professional, stubborn but open-minded, multi-racial, multi-species of people), it’d be fun.
Honestly, I didn’t think I’d enjoy the Fast and Furious franchise until Lin had stepped in and tweaked it, not that I’d compare F&F and ST… Not exactly, anyway. But, a fun series that moves the viewer’s emotions… that’s surely what ST is, isn’t it?