I woke up this morning at 6am and just couldn’t get back to sleep no mater how hard I tried. My mind simply would not calm down- and for some reason I was wrestling one issue: KIRK VS PICARD. Ohhh the woes of Geeks with insomnia! I’m not sure why I was thinking about this particular debate this morning. Maybe it was because I’ve recently seen both William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart on stage. My Shatner sighting was a few weeks ago when I caught his one man show on Broadway “It’s Shanter’s World, We’re Just Living In It”. I blogged about that experience already though. I saw Sir Patrick just 2 days ago at a Star Trek Convention. His hour on stage was well worth the ticket price too! He was intelligent, witty, insightful, humble & charismatic. I was on cloud nine.
Whenever I tell people that I’m a Trekkie they often respond with one of two questions: 1) “So, Kirk or Picard? 2) What did you think of the new movie? Well, we all know that I LOVE the 2009 J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie– so that takes care of question #2. But question #1 is a little harder to answer.
Comparing Captain James T. Kirk and Captain Jean Luc Picard is a little like comparing apples and oranges because they come from very different televisions show from two different eras of television writing– the 1960’s and the 1980’s. Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) is about the adventures of Captain James T Kirk and his intrepid crew as they explore the galaxy bolding going where no man has gone before. Captain Kirk is the star of the show and the hero of every episode. He is at the front of the pack whenever they beam down to a new dangerous world. He is passionate– making love to women along the way and fighting hand to hand (or boot to chest) with any bully who gets in his way. He’s a genius level thinker who can “talk a computer to death”. No really– in more that one episode he actually kills evil computers, robots, & androids, by out-thinking them. (See “The Changling” and “I Mudd” for two examples.) It really IS Shatner’s world on TOS. Now, I must point out that it’s the trinity of Kirk, Spock, & McCoy that really make up the complete hero figure of the show. Kirk alone is a incomplete. But the logical Spock and the passionate McCoy are really like two sides of Kirk’s brain. They are constantly fighting it out as they advise Kirk on what they think he should do each week. But again– James T. Kirk is the main focus of the show.
Star Trek The Next Generation, however, has an ensemble cast. The show is about a starship of explorers and scientists who are led by the thoughtful, intelligent, & brave Captain Jean Luc Picard. He relies heavily on his senior staff of officers– commanding them with an almost laissez faire style of leadership. He trusts Commander Riker to lead the away missions on the dangerous planets. There is no need for him to be at the center of each adventure. On TNG not every episode is about Captain Picard– in fact there are a number of episodes in which he barely appears. (See “Lower Decks” and “Sub Rosa” for two examples.) Captain Picard is not the hero each week but rather a piece of larger, more interesting puzzle. Some episodes are about Geordie or Riker or Counselor Troi or Data, etc. It’s just a very different way of writing a television show than the TOS writers were doing back in the 60’s. Now don’t get me wrong– Picard is a great captain and a well written character. He is a wise leader. He enjoys sipping Earl Gray tea and reading Shakespeare on the sofa in his office. He’s like a really cool college professor. You know, they kind that doesn’t give letter grades because he doesn’t see the value in that kind of assesment system. If given the choice, I’d want to serve on Picard’s ship instead of Kirk’s for sure! First of all, Kirk always seemed to loose a crewman or two every week– usually ones wearing red shirts. The writers of the TOS used these deaths to show the audience the severity of the situation.
So, you see, it’s not an easy question to answer. When you look at everything Kirk has done he ends up looking like a super hero. It’s hard not to say that he’s the better Captain. But Picard is the person I’d want to actually serve under.
One closing note– when I finally gave up on sleeping this morning, I opened the dresser drawer to pull out a t-shirt. Without really thinking a red one caught my eye so I pulled it out and put it on. I just realized I’m wearing my “10 Reasons Why Kirk is Better Than Picard” t-shirt. I got this shirt at Target a couple years ago because it made me laugh. Here are the reasons listed (they’re all very tongue-in-cheek).
10. One word: Hair!
9. Kirk would personally throw Wesley off his bridge.
8. Kirk would never sing to children in a crisis.
7. Kirk wasn’t shy about taking his shirt off.
6. Kirk can beat a Klingon bare-handed.
5. Three words: Flying Leg Kick.
4. Kirk doesn’t let the doctor tell him what to do.
3. If Kirk finds a strange spinning probe, he blows it up.
2. Kirk never drinks tea, ever.
1. Kirk can beat a Vulcan at chess.