Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

williamshatnercaptkirk.jpgHave you seen the newest “Star Trek?” If so, you may want to chime in on Time.com’s poll which asks your opinion on the best Enterprise captain of all time. Would you choose William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Piccard, Scott Bakula as Captain Archer, or Chris Pine in the new J.J. Abrams film?
When Gene Roddenberry created “Star Trek” for television (beginning with the 1966 season), he had much more in mind than just science fiction space adventures. To “boldly go where no one had gone before” had as much to do with questions of ethics and morality as it did with galaxies and space quadrants. With that in mind, here are my picks for the best captains who’ve driven–and responded to–the moral quandaries through the years:
Number one is clearly William Shatner as TV’s Captain Kirk. I distinguish the TV character from the movie version because the mental, emotional and spiritual dilemmas he faced were stronger and more complicated as compared to the Kirk of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and six of its sequels. The ’60s were a tumultuous time in our history and the TV version asked significant moral and political questions by creating 21st century parallel contexts. And they did it well. I think he was at his best in the episode featuring the first on-screen kiss between a Caucasian and an African-American, as well as “The Menagerie” which aired in two parts.


Number two in my book is Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Piccard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” At the time he tried it, there had never been another Kirk and the Enterprise had had only had one other captain (Jeff Hunter as the original Captain Pike.) Piccard and his new crew took on many of the same topics as the original, including war, economics, racism, human rights, religion, technology, authoritarianism, and imperialism.
Piccard’s gentler, classier captain was an excellently re-invented lead role which didn’t make us forget Kirk, but we didn’t long for him as much, either. And different than Shatner, his movie re-incarnation played true to the role he created on television.
I’d put the current Kirk (Chris Pine) third. He’s effective and believable in this prequel, and it works in a way very similar to the reinvented James Bond franchise. In my view, Pine didn’t bring out the moral depth of Shatner or Piccard, but I suspect we’ll see more of that in the next one.
Fourth on my list is the Shatner in the movie versions. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn” marked the only time he brought the savvy, passion and grit of the original Kirk to the big screen. The rest were more campy and “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” was clearly the worst. Shatner wasn’t lousy in these but he wasn’t the original.
Scott Bakula (as Captain Archer on “Star Trek: Enterprise”) is last on my list mainly because I just didn’t watch it much, and the ones I saw didn’t bring the kind of moral depth and ethical confusion as the classic version.
William Shatner at LocateTV.com

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