Kirk vs Picard? Picard vs The Doctor!

WARNING: The “geek factor” of this post is a little high.

Are you a Star Trek fan? If not, do you know one?

In the days before J.J. Abrams breathed new life into the original series, there was a classic debate right down the middle: Who was a better captain of the Enterprise: Kirk or Picard?1

Every Trek fan I’ve met has a stance on this. I have my own opinions in this matter, but I also believe that each captain has their own merits and that each speaks to a certain kind of person, so there is no right or wrong answer.2

It also probably depends on which you saw first. Just as Doctor Who fans tend to lock onto their first Doctor as their favorite, the version of “Trek” you saw first may shape which one you prefer.

Note: This was recently “proven” in a highly scientific study across a vast cross-section of the population in the form of a Facebook post to all my friends.

I recently read two io9 articles which not only helped me better express my own answer to this question, it also put into words why I enjoy(ed) shows like “Lie to Me,” “House M.D.,” “Doctor Who,” “Sherlock,” and “Scorpion” but the main characters often rub me the wrong way.

Why I’m Kind Of Tired Of The “Smartest Man In The Room”

The Underlying Assumption That’s Necessary For Every Star Trek Mission

If you are feeling a little “tl;dr”3 it’s okay. I’ll summarize.

In shows like Doctor Who, Scorpion, and the others; the main character is the “smartest man in the room.” They are the ones with all the answers, even if those answers are wrong (or misleading) more often than not. In the end, they have the right answer and save the day.

But no one really wants their help, do they? At least not at first. There’s always a lot of “who do you think you are?” and “why should I listen to you?” questions that have to be answered because no one wants to deal with them. And along the way our “smartest man in the room” may get punched in the face, shot, thrown in jail, etc. Why? Because they are jerks. They know everything… except when to shut up.

There is a reason that “Wisdom” and “Intelligence” are separate attributes in Dungeons and Dragons.

Star Trek, on the other hand, and “The Next Generation” in particular, focuses on the team. Picard is established early on and often as being accomplished, intelligent, and athletic. And yet when it matters most he’s asking his team for their thoughts before taking a course of action. He doesn’t have to be the smartest person in the room but instead surrounds himself with smart and talented people. Kirk does it as well to a point but with more swagger and panache.

So which one are you more like? Which one do you want to be more like? Do you want to be the person that everyone comes to for answers in spite of your personality or because of it?

There are no right or wrong4 answers here. Just something to think about.


  1. Anyone who tries to suggest that Enterprise‘s Captain Archer was better, clearly wasn’t watching the same show I watched.
  2. Except Archer. Archer is the wrong answer.
  3. “Too long. Didn’t read.”
  4. Seriously! It’s Scott Bakula from Quantum leap, he had a Beagle, and I still didn’t like Captain Archer!

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