Battle Royale: Kirk vs. Picard

Star Trek Movie Logo 2009 Beneath our society, a war has been raging. Two factions have drawn an invisible line and stand on either side, defending their honor — nay, the honor of the leaders their philosophy is based upon. It is a debate so fierce that the very mention of it will turn the most rational adult into an angry, spewing wreck, and every level-headed nerd into, well, an angry nerd.

And those are the worst kinds of nerd.

I’m talking about a debate that has plagued the civility of our world for more than two decades: Who is the best captain of the USS Enterprise?

I assure you this is not a topic I approach lightly. The last time I was caught in this I was an innocent bystander, trapped in the slobbering, gibbering ravings of angry nerds — I consider myself lucky to have escaped unscathed. Also, my car. I half expected to find my car covered with “PICARD RULES” and “KIRK IS AWESOME” in shaving cream. But I was lucky. I lived to fight another day.

Today is that day. Today I will compare James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard and determine who reigns as definitive captain of the starship Enterprise.

In order to have a fair comparison, The Editor and I sat down and watched the first Kirk episode (The Man Trap) and the first Picard episode (Encounter at Far Point 1 & 2) back-to-back.

Note:The first episode of the original Star Trek featured Captain Pike, so we watched the second episode, which had Kirk. Also, since Encounter at Far Point was actually two episodes, I wanted to keep it fair and give Kirk the same amount of face time. You know, because Kirk is an attention whore and would demand equal viewing had he been told of this discrepancy. So I also watched episode 3 of the original Star Trek (Charlie X).

While The Editor and I watched these shows, we commented on the strengths and weaknesses of each Enterprise Captain.

The argument against using only the first two episodes is that the characters continue to develop through the entire series, so it might be unfair to base it on a small, early snapshot. However, this is the fairest way. Though everyone in both series continues to change and develop over time, these beginning episodes reveal what lies at each character’s core. Also, many years have passed since I have watched a Star Trek episode (original or otherwise) so I went into this without any preconceived notions of who would reign supreme. All I could recall was that the two captains were entirely different, but nothing more.

Let’s get into it.

Kirk vs. Picard

As much as anyone would like to deny it, appearance plays a significant role in the way people identify leaders. Studies have proven that when voters have no information on candidates, they vote for the more attractive person. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why this is, we only know that it is. So we have to talk about it.

Captain Kirk
Kirk is generally known as a ladies’ man, even to people who haven’t watched a lot of the original Star Trek series. We don’t see a lot of his sexual prowess in the first two episodes, though the support for attractiveness is there, especially in all of his close-up shots: when the camera gets up close and personal, the mood lighting comes on and it’s Ridiculous Bedroom Eyes Time – even when he’s talking about a disgusting biological ailment and/or death.

I guess you could say Kirk has muscles. Times have changed and the definition of a hunky physique has changed, too, but back then I suppose you could call him “built”. Or “substantial”. Yeah, let’s call him substantial.

His mannerisms have flair: he employs a cool tricorder flip move and, when there is drama to be had, he flits around, then stops abruptly and holds bizarre poses. Possibly he’s playing Red Light-Green Light in his head. My favorite part about Kirk is that he crawls around in the dirt, performing silly fighting maneuvers. This behavior adds to his ruggedness.

And is it just me, or do none of his shirts fit?

Kirk Shirt

Captain Picard
Yep, he’s bald and he’s British. Good work, Sherlock.

Picard’s first appearance is as a black silhouette, Alfred Hitchcock-like. Then he emerges and is revealed as a short bald dude. I wouldn’t say that was a letdown; it was more of a surprise because immediately he is very un-Kirk-like. Though he was voted as “TV’s Sexiest Man” in 1992, I have to say that Picard’s attractiveness isn’t made by his physical appearance. It’s made by his persona. Don’t get me wrong, Picard isn’t unattractive. But he doesn’t fit the characteristics that typically make mainstream folks get hot over. And I may not even have brought all this up if not for the fact that on this version of the Enterprise, the captain’s chair sits between two others – where they seat Beardy McVirile and Bubbly McBreasticles, two people who are clearly put there to increase the sexy quota on that ship. This, to me, makes Picard’s physical attractiveness a question – or even a farce. If they had sat him between two regular people, I wonder if it would have been noticed. If they had sat him between Wharf and a gorgon, he’d be considered George Clooney in comparison.

On the bridge

Don't worry, audience -- here are two hotties who will save you from looking at the regular people!

And is it just me, or is Picard’s head shaped like an Alien head? I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Alien is bad ass. You are no match for Alien.

Picard-Alien Cranium

I declare their appearances a stalemate. Kirk scores with the chicks, but Picard has a sweet, Alienesque cranium.

Without a terrific crew, captains would be flying solo, doing it all themselves. Great leaders are people who rely on their crew’s expertise, utilize their crew to the fullest, and inspire. This is where we get into substantially different territory on our captains.

Captain Kirk
What’s different between the two series openers is that with the original Star Trek series, Kirk’s been captain for a little bit and he’s already established a relationship with his staff. Picard is new to the ship and he’s picking up a couple of new senior staff members. Kirk has already established his expectations. He yells at McCoy at one point, rebuking him for putting his emotions over logic and duty. He constantly relies on his senior staff for opinions and facts, which he pieces together in order to solve a mystery. And why wouldn’t he? He has Spock. You’d have to be a real moron to disregard Spock…

More on that in a minute.

Captain Picard
…is Kirk’s opposite. He’s introduced as a man of great intelligence who prefers to verbal combat over a physical one. In fact, in the first two episodes he is prone to long, rambling know-it-all statements.

He’s smart and knows a lot of facts. We get it.

But I also found him to be a contradiction. He gets pissy a lot and doesn’t like anyone stealing his thunder. Every staff member around him is apparently an idiot who needs to be corrected, from the lowly yeoman to the chief security officer. And correct them he does, in his long-winded way. Funnily enough, the only person on the ship who dares to be correct in Picard’s presence is a kid. And when it happens, Picard turns into a raging jerk and exiles the kid from his presence.

Apparently Picard doesn’t like it when someone steals his thunder. The only time I did see Picard attempt to rely on someone wasn’t really relying at all. After his new first officer (William Riker, AKA Beardy McVirile) comes on board, Picard orders him to connect the two halves of the ship together. You know, stick the big thing inside the little hole.


Euphemism, anyone?

I don’t consider that as asking Beardy to be useful. It was more like Picard wanted Beardy to prove he wasn’t a waste of space on his ship.

I can’t give Picard points for utilizing his crew, unless it’s because he wants practice at being smarter than someone. Sorry, Picard fans. Kirk comes out way ahead when it comes to utilizing and inspiring his crew.

Okay, so we’re at Kirk 1, Picard 0, but we haven’t even gotten to the most important issue: what are they like in action? The methodology of each captain in a dangerous situation can make or break their mission, as well as save lives.

Simply put, Kirk is a mover and a shaker. Sure, he hates mysteries. He says they give him a bellyache. But when danger abounds, well, screw danger. He rushes headfirst into a threat like a scantily-clad blonde in a horror flick. The safety of his crew is of utmost importance, so that’s probably why he prefers to do the dirty work himself. When it’s time to act, he and random, unnamed, red-shirted crew members protect everyone else.

But is it really that hard? Kirk generally only fights dumb enemies. He was first up against an alien woman who sucks salt from your body. His second combatant was against an incredibly annoying (albeit powerful) kid.

Charlie X

I’m pretty sure this kid was the inspiration for that whiny brat Anakin Skywalker.

Since Kirk dislikes mysteries, it’s probably for the best that the enemies are so stupid. If he encounters anything smarter than a box of rocks, he might be screwed — if it weren’t for Spock.

Unfortunately, Kirk has some quirks that compromise the Spock factor. I could (and probably should) have included this little tidbit when I talked about utility and inspiration of crew, but I decided to wait and mention it here: Kirk hangs up on Spock. At least, that’s what it looks like. When he’s on the planet and Spock is on the ship explaining something important, Kirk seems to cut him off and close the conversation a little too soon. It’s amazing Kirk survived as long as he had. Of all the people in the universe you’d want to listen to when you’re faced with danger, it’s Spock. Probably a bad idea to cut Spock off before he gets to the good part. You know, like how to stop something that’s trying to kill you.

Kirk Communicator

As I said earlier, Picard is Kirk’s opposite. He’s a deep thinker. When the crew is in mortal danger, his strategy is to send all of the pretty people into danger while he stays on the ship. And why not? There’s air conditioning. Granted, if he was using that time on board to actually think a way out of the mess he’s in, I wouldn’t mention this. However, in the episode I watched, Picard sent his crew into danger, then used that time to wander down to the sick bay and stare at Beverly Crusher’s breasts.

Now, most straight men and gay women probably find this a perfectly acceptable usage of time but I fail to see how breasts will rescue anyone from mortal peril. Okay, breasts are great. I get it. But they aren’t magical.

No. They really aren’t.

Stiff Posture

My posture isn't the only thing that's stiff, Doctor Crusher...

I got the impression that Picard really wasn’t too concerned about the predicament they were in, which was pretty serious — a powerful, all-knowing being was putting Picard on trial for all of humanity. If Picard couldn’t redeem the entire human race from past to present, everybody was screwed.

And I’m not talking about Bev Crusher’s breasts.

Picard’s lack of focus on the immediate danger made him flippant and uncaring. At one point he flatly states that he would be willing to destroy his ship to beat “Q”, the all-powerful, all-knowing being who is calling the human race to account. Notice what I am saying — the point wasn’t that he wanted to “save everyone”. It’s that Picard would destroy the Enterprise to win.

We’re back to throwing tantrums when someone one-ups his ginormous brain.

Based on the episodes I watched, Kirk comes out as the clear winner in his methodology. Despite hanging up on Spock, Kirk personally gets more done. Plus, I feel that Kirk’s motives are more genuine. He cares about his crew while Picard just doesn’t like it when someone steals this thunder. Maybe he’s smarter than Kirk. But he throws too many stupid tantrums. Maybe I should give him more credit. After all, he does sit next to Bubbly McBreasticles, who is the most annoying senior officer in the history of science fiction and would also drive me into a rabid fit. McBreasticles is an empath. While that sounds really neat, all she does is sit around and report the obvious.

Sensing Things

I sense joy! And hunger! And I think someone has to go Number Two.

If Picard were a man of action, he would blast her out of the airlock. Or have someone beam her to another planet. Too bad he’s a thinker. He could ask Beardy to do it, but it only makes sense for the two beautiful people on the ship to have some sort of sexual tension. No way is Beardy going to jettison his opportunity for some bedroom action.

But I digress. Though mental intellect would be a key driver to outstanding performance, emotional intelligence reigns. Kirk simply shows more. Picard needs to get out of his head. The score is Kirk 2, Picard 0. Kirk is the winner.

Verdict: Kirk captain is best captain.

Captain Awesome

34 thoughts on “Battle Royale: Kirk vs. Picard

  1. Patrick Thunstrom says:

    Damn straight. That is all.

    Actually, to be fair, Picard does eventually learn to trust his crew, and the late versions of both captains are far and away a different competition, but awesome breakdown of the early captains!


    • Jen Kirchner says:

      Thanks Patrick! I definitely enjoyed writing it. So glad you had a good time reading through the breakdown. Maybe later I can do a “mid-life Picard vs. Kirk”, though I’m not sure it would be as funny.


  2. Christopher Mackay says:

    You’re kidding, right?

    “Alienesque cranium”? I have it on good authority that bald guys are hot.

    Kirk’s a hot-headed Canadian with bad… speech patterns.

    Wait: Canadian’s not actually a strike against him.

    Stalemate was really the only way to go here, Jen.😛

    PS — what do you drive? I’ve got some extra shaving cream here and now that I’m on the west coast…😉


        • Jen Kirchner says:

          I didn’t notice that about Picard’s clothes. In the episodes I watched, I didn’t see that he’s “not dressed properly…”

          And the only reason I know about the quote is because I’ve heard The Picard Song!

          If you haven’t heard The Picard Song by DarkMateria, you need to click that link. SFW.


  3. Jared says:

    Hmmm, I don’t disagree, but I’m to convinced either. Kirk was a captain back when men were men! He was a frontiersman. Picard would have died on the frontier.

    But Kirk could not haved handled the Enterprise D. Star fleet protocol kept Picard on board most the time. Few missions were first contact. The Captain needed to be more diplomatic than Kirk ever could be.

    In other words, it apples and oranges. But even so, I think your analysis would have benefited by a secondary review of third season episodes (TOS only had three seasons). With a secondary review you could look not just at where the captains started from, but also how they evolved.

    Finally, I’d like to see a critique of how the captains handled similar situations. Ad powerful as that annoying boy was, he was no Q. But Kirk did face some god-like opponents. Viewing the captains in similar situations would prove helpful.


    • Jen Kirchner says:

      You’re probably right. Going into this, I realized I was giving a very limited view of both captains. Unfortunately, having to watch a gazillion episodes and taking copious notes just didn’t sound like a good time to me. Perhaps down the road I could sit down and compare later episodes and write a follow up. We’ll see.


    • cyp says:

      Actually he fought a god (ep “Who mourns for Adonais”) and destroyed it! Picard just got Q to let him go with his incesisive blabering. If Picard wouldn’t have had sex (like 3 times in the whole series) there be no reason why not call him gay. And gay in the most stereotypical sense. He is bald man (any woman who says bald is sexy has father issues) with an ego the size of Jupiter based on his knowledge not actions who is incapable of doing almost anything. Also he gets his advices for a bartender.


  4. Josh says:

    Blasphemy! A million dollars for the NOSE of the infidel!

    Name the reference and you get 1000 “cool” points…because I know you want those points so bad.


    • Jen Kirchner says:

      I fail. I have no idea where the reference comes from and I was hoping someone would respond correctly so I wouldn’t have to fess up. I even googled the quote, but my website comes up as the 4th listing. Failboat. Zero cool points for me. LOL


    • Jen Kirchner says:

      I’ve actually never watched any of the other Treks beyond the original and Next Generation. I’ve barely watched Next Gen, for that matter. I watched a few episodes about the Borg and I’ve seen the movies. And no offense to Next Gen folks, but as far as the movies go, original Star Trek > Next Gen. I don’t even have to do a pseudo-scientific breakdown for you. That infamous hot tub scene with naked Beardy and Bubbles is forever burned in my brain.

      A pox on whoever came up with that scene.


  5. Kendall Grey says:

    Love your breakdown of the two captains, Jen. IMO, Kirk is a space cowboy. He gets sh*t done any way he needs to and uses the tools at his disposal – including the ladies.😉 Prime Directive? Pfft! Who needs it?! I have a mission!

    Picard is more of a rule-follower, and yeah, he is pretty stuck on himself, especially in the early episodes. In some ways, they might both be representative of their respective generations. Kirk of the wild-ass, free-loving 60s, and Picard of the “let’s all be very PC so as not to offend anyone” 90s.

    I love both captains for different reasons. And I’m not at all bothered that you picked Kirk over Picard.🙂


  6. WE Linde says:

    You’re a brave person to wade into the midst of this rivalry. As a certified Star Wars nerd (and therefor an outsider to Star Trek nerddom) I feel I can provide an objective “harumph” to your call…Kirk is best.


  7. Tiffany A White says:

    Jen – this is absolutely brilliant and a blast to read. I’m sending it to E – it’s right up his alley. Sorry I’m so late to the party…but you know I love you! ❤

    I’d go with Kirk too, but the fact that his shirts don’t fit cracked my @$$ up.


    • Jen Kirchner says:

      Haha, thanks Tiff. I’m glad you liked the comparison. I plan to do more of these kinds of funny articles, but only as they come to me. I can’t force ’em. But there will be more, I promise. If anyone has ideas on what they’d like me to write about, I take requests.

      Of course, I reserve the right to veto a topic if it’s disgusting or something. LOL


  8. Candice Bundy says:

    Wow, see what I miss while I’m on the beach in Mexico?

    Fabs write up Jen! And I agree with Kendall, each Captain is very much a product of their generation, and I think in later episodes Picard is a bit more relaxed and emotional, less stuck in his head. It’s part of his character journey.

    However, we, as a culture, have swung back to adoring space cowboys. Thus the Farscape and Firefly series fan bases, and you could even argue for the steampunk movement in there.

    Just my two cents. And hey, it’s always hard to argue with the original, i.e. Kirk.


    • Jen says:

      Hah! No tarring & feathering necessary. A few people on Twitter said the same thing. However, this is a battle between Enterprise captains and, unless my Star Trek sources fail me (Wikipedia, lol) she was the captain of the Voyager. I’ve never seen a Janeway episode but I have been told that I should. Apparently she’s a bad ass. My kind of lady.


  9. TJ says:

    Well done, Jen! Kirk is clearly the greatest captain in Star Trek history, and here are a few more reasons…
    1. Kirk didn’t need a holdeck, bar, or ship’s counselor. His sheer personal awesomeness was all that he needed to keep his crew in line.
    2. Picard was assimliated by the Borg. Kirk would have seduced the Borg Queen, then took advanatge of her sleeping afterwards to turn the entire Borg collective into a bunch of spare parts for Scotty.
    3. Kirk never lost any of his bridge officers to a pool of goo. Picard loses Tasha Yar, then replaces her with the only Klingon in history with a losing record in hand-to-hand combat.
    4. Q wanted to study Picard. Q would have wanted to party with Kirk.
    5. Picard played poker. Kirk invented Fizzbin.

    I could go on, but you get my drift…


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