I was warned not to write this. Someone close to me said that picking a captain other than James T. Kirk as my favorite was sacrilegious. After all, he’s the first – the original – and all other captains are just shadows of his greatness, no?
While I do highly admire Kirk and his leadership skills, he’s not my favorite. Granted, he’s not down on the list by any means; he’s actually a very close second. But there’s another captain whom I think was incredible as leader of the Enterprise.
His name is Jonathan Archer. That’s right – the captain from Star Trek: Enterprise is at the top of my list.
Now before anyone decides to go on the attack because I didn’t chose the ever popular James Kirk, again keep in mind that, in my opinion, both are highly skilled leaders of the Enterprise. However I believe it’s Jonathan Archer that possessed the greatest mastery of skills as captain.
While it’s true that Kirk was the original captain in terms of Star Trek’s television history, in actuality Enterprise was the prequel. So Archer was actually the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise (if we want to get really technical here). He was the first to explore deep space via an experimental prototype – the Enterprise NX-01. His ship was a bit smaller than Kirk’s, hence he had only about 80 crew members to aid him. But he made up for that with an earnest desire to explore and meet new civilizations and attempt to defend those who were at the mercy of stronger, more aggressive races. He literally was the initial representative in first contact situations. There were no predecessors – he was it, and he made the best of every situation he encoutered.
Archer demonstrated that he’s more than able to use force when necessary. From the torturing of an Ossarian pirate named Orgoth to get the information he needed, to the withholding of a cure for a dying race to allow evolution to run its course – Archer has proven time and time again that he could handle stressful and morally complicated situations. There was no precedent for him to follow, no pre-established rules and regulations. Everything was a first experience and things were rough for both him and his crew. Yet he always seemed to make it through by doing his best to choose right from wrong.
In his own words, “Someday… my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can’t do out here, should and shouldn’t do. But until somebody tells me that they’ve drafted that directive… I’m going to have to remind myself every day… that we didn’t come out here to play God.”
Having fallen in love with space after being given a copy of “The Cosmos A-Z” for his birthday as a child, Archer always knew he was destined for space travel. Even so, he never could’ve prepared himself for having aliens as part of his crew. His relationship with T’Pol was rocky to say the least, and he and the doctor Phlox had their difficulties at times. It’d be safe to say that his relationships with both aliens and humans were strained at times, but Archer always exercised as much diplomacy as possible – except for when he told T’Pol upon first meeting her, “Volatile? You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from knocking you on your ass.”
While all of the captains were fully competent to lead the Enterprise, Archer was the most capable. His experiences were the foreground which subsequent Starfleet commanders followed. Being the first doesn’t mean you do it without mistakes; it means that others get to learn from yours. It’s clear that while Archer’s career wasn’t mistake-proof by any means, it gave others a model in which to follow.