Kirk vs. Picard, part 2: What about Captain Sisko?


Image Credit: CBS/Photofest

As we all know, pop-culture face-offs are, by their nature, bipolar. Chaplin vs. Keaton, Sean Connery vs. Roger Moore, McDonalds vs. Burger King. The saddest thing about this is that, like our two-party government, our options are limited. And, yet, nobody ever seems to care much for a third choice when it’s presented — I’m looking at you Harold Lloyd, Timothy Dalton, Wendy’s, Ralph Nader.

Earlier today, you witnessed my esteemed colleagues Darren Franich and Joseph Brannigan Lynch debate the respective merits of Captains James Tiberius Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard as if they represent all that the mighty United Federation of Planets has to offer. But PopWatchers, I come before you to argue for a third choice, a noble choice, the right choice: Captain Benjamin Lafayette Sisko. The anchor of that greatest of Star Trek series, the haunting, murky Deep Space Nine, is everything a Starfleet captain should be, even if he was merely a “Commander” for the first three seasons.

I won’t linger on Sisko’s stellar resume: the fact that he’s the only captain to design his own starship, the Defiant (Who are the four-eyed paper-pushers who designed the Enterprise, Kirk? Who?), or was himself a veteran of the Battle of Wolf-359, which a certain shiny-headed, King’s-English-accented Borg led, or that he held another little title, oh, I don’t know, Emissary of the Prophets? Did Jean-Luc ever have a non-Starfleet title not called Locutus of Borg? Or James T. any distinguishing characteristic other than an impressive Dickens library, a stash of Romulan ale, and a Starfleet record for notches on his belt?

No, no, no, I’m going to pit Sisko head to head with Picard and Kirk, mah friends. First, Sisko wipes the duracrete floor with JLP in the DS9 pilot, “Emissary,” confronting him about that little matter of how his wife died at Wolf-359 due to Locutus’ attack. Did Jean-Luc have even a “Make it so!” as a comeback? Nada. “Engage” that, mon capitaine!

Second, Sisko saved Kirk’s life in “Trials and Tribble-ations” when he and the DS9 crew traveled back in time to the 2260s to stop a rogue Klingon saboteur from blowing up the Enterprise. What did Picard do? He let Kirk get crushed by a bridge. And that whole bit about Kirk predicting, “I always knew…I’d die alone”? He didn’t even get that right. He died in Jean-Luc’s pasty, French arms.

Third, Sisko is a damn good father to his son, Jake. Now, I have no doubt that Kirk fathered many space-brats, but were any of them worth a damn? Exhibit A: David Marcus. Not even Worf’s son, Alexander, is as potent an example of generational decline.

I realize citing Marcus rests my case, but I’m just getting warmed up. If you thought that William Shatner cornered the market on hammy bombast, just check out Avery Brooks’ histrionics in “Far Beyond the Stars,” when his alter ego, an African-American science fiction writer in the 1950s who may or may not have imagined the entire Star Trek universe in his mind, wails, “IT’S REEEEEAAAALLL! Because… it’s… in… my MIIIIND!” Okay, maybe it’s not quite on the level of “KHAAAAAAN!” But it’s every bit the equal of “You… Klingon bastard… you killed my son!”

As far as showdowns against a backdrop of apocalyptic hellfire go, Sisko wins again. Sure, Kirk had his “I. Have. Had! Enough. Of. You!” parting-shot with Commander Kruge on the Genesis Planet, but Sisko didn’t just push his nemesis, Gul Dukat, into a field of lava. He went in himself, and became a god in the process, forever watching over the Federation from the Apple-Store-bright confines of the Celestial Temple. I realize becoming a deity can come with the territory when enlisting in Starfleet (see also Wesley Crusher and, temporarily, Reg Barclay), but, as far as I know he’s the only Captain to become one.  (That 7th Heaven guy in Star Trek: The Motion Picture doesn’t count.)

But perhaps most significant of all, Sisko redeemed the disgraced bloodline of the deeply misunderstood former First Lady Sherry Palmer when he married her 24th century descendant, Cassidy Yates (Penny Johnson Jerald). If the bravery those nuptials demanded doesn’t hands-down distinguish him as the Captain of all Captains, then you need to undergo the Kohlinar and brush up on your logic.

Niners, aren’t I right? I didn’t even mention Sisko’s love of baseball (Go London Kings!) or the fact that, as a native son of New Orleans, he can whip up a mean jambalaya. And will no one stand up for Janeway and Archer? At this point, it’s just sad…

Read more:
Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard: Who is the greatest ‘Star Trek’ captain of them all?
25 Legendary Pop-Culture Captains
20 Black Sci-Fi Icons

Comments (101 total) Add your comment
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  • Peggy

    Don’t forget he punched Q right in the nose! Best. Scene. Ever.
    “Picard never hit me.”
    “I’m not Picard.”

    • Shiny

      love it! The best ep of Trek is when Cisco dies and Jake spends his life trying to save him, with Tony Todd playing grown up Jake; still makes me cry.

      • Shiny

        Sorry for mispelling Sisko, no disrespect intended!

      • Chris

        That was definitely one of the best.

    • Lyndsey

      Ha! I used that example myself in the earlier post. I’ve always thought that epitomized Sisko’s character completely!

    • Chris

      Love DS9, but it’s still an inferior copy of the original, “Babylon 5.”

    • Anon

      LOL! Epic!

  • David

    Not to mention he blew up a Romulan ship and framed the Cardassians to draw Romulus into the Dominion war. Bottom line, Sisko is the only one of the five to serve on the front lines of a war.

    • JAM

      so Archer going after the Xindi doesn’t count?

      • Skip182

        correct. that whole series doesn’t count.

  • Jay

    OMG… Sisko may or may not have been a better captain than Kirk or Picard, (I have no gripe with THAT debate) but to say that Sisko was “The anchor of that greatest of Star Trek series” coudn’t be more wrong.

    DS9 was the worst of ANY Star Trek series….. ever. Yes, even Voyager & Enterprise were both superior.

    • Lisa

      “DS9 was the best of ANY Star Trek series…ever.” Fixed it for you.

      • Jay

        @Lisa: Do you really think that? I am a huge fan of all things Star Trek, end every single episode of DS9 just bores me to sleep.

        I mean, C’mon…. its just a space outpost. And.. IT JUST SITS THERE!!! Where’s the fun in that?

      • BrandonK

        Thanks, Lisa!

      • Lisa

        @Jay: Yep! To each his own, but it’s my favorite series. The characters are great and super complex, fantastic writing, and they do leave the space station. We can probably agree that Wesley Crusher’s sweaters are terrible though :)

      • markinnyc

        @Jay. actually DS9 was the only sereis to actaully have fun. From a baseball game against the Vulcans, to the unlikely romance of Rom and Lella, to one word MORN!
        The Enterprise always seemed like it was within a few hours of earth, never really cut off….and always had a villian of the week. DS9 actually got more in depth with a alien race, their religion, politics, and life. IT allowed for continual parallels into our world and politics with a great depth of understanding.

      • Cara

        DS9 had the best writing. I officially like TOS best, because it was the first, but I FAR prefer DS9 to any of the other shows. It had great writing, an intriguing arc, complicated characters…it was a show for adults.

      • Therealeverton

        Deep space 9 is the best Star Trek series by some distance. You’ll find a lot of people will tell you as much. Very strong, deep story than ran for years with twists and turns and plot lines that went from the first episode to the last.

        It also has far more action than any other Star Trek show or film. It’s described as “The Greatest action adveture series…” When they went wo war it wasn’t 5 or 6 ships there were hundreds and thousands of ships, The Klingons, The Romulans, The Breen, The Cardassians. Planets get conquered and wiped out. Sisko had to poison a planet so humans couldn’t live on it any more. He had to accept that and move on, same wiith an assassaination on a Romulan and worse.

        Anyone that claims to have watched all of Deep Space 9 and found every episode boring clearly hasn’t watched every episode at all. There’s more action inn season 6 or season 7 of DS9 alone than in the entire run of Star Trek & The Next Gen.

        Everyone is different (Hell there are people that like Voyager, maybe because of its simplicity) but the boring thing doesn’t ring true, it doesn’t match the show at all. They also didn’t have a perfect crew who all got on right from the sstart and rarely made mistakes. You really got to see ow difficult it ws maintaining the “federation paradise” that seemed to be so effortless and simple in the other shows.

      • Skip182

        @Jay, you do realize that the last 4 seasons weren’t just sitting on a space station, right? Heck, during the early stages of the Dominion War the federation wasn’t even the controling force on the station. It wasn’t until Sacrifice of Angels that the station was retaken, and even after that a good deal of the show followed the Defiant as it patrolled the front lines. As for the episodes where they’re on the station, they are still great. The episode In the Pale Moonlight showed the murkiness of morality and showed how desperate the situation was that Sisko had to lose his self-respect in order to save the entire quadrant. This was BY FAR the greatest of Trek series and had the best captain, best engineer, best doctor, and best Jadzia Dax :)

    • Gerry

      Sorry Jay, DS9 no doubt had a weaker first 3 seasons, but so did Next Generation, but it went on to become the best, most daring Trek show.

      Now, I understand if you don’t dig it because it goes against Roddenberry’s vision, but that’s precisely the reason why man of us do. It shook things up, dared to paint things a grey instead of black and white, had good guys do terrible things and vice versa.

      Of all the Treks, it stands alone with the original show as a true trailblazer.

      • Therealeverton

        Pretty much; it dared to be different and took risks. Season 3 was the watershed though. From the moment they truly went against the Dominion at the end of season 2 and got the defiant in Season3 it went from good Trek to great and finished as one of the best sows on TV

      • JAM

        youre right, it definitely was a sow!

    • Jay

      Copying my reply to a thread below to end the discussion:

      You guys have convinced me to give it another shot. I have MAYBE seen 15-20% of the episodes of the series. Although I’ve never cared for it, perhaps I just didn’t give it enough time

  • Therealeverton

    Sisko, Sisko, Sisko all the the way.

  • Marc

    The last 3 seaons of DS9 were among my favorite in the entire Star Trek universe, only beaten by season 7 of TNG!

    • Daxx

      Concur. If you got rid of the “filler” episodes, you could even consider it to be worthy of a 3-4 full length movie series.

  • Fantasm

    1. Picard
    2. Kirk
    3. Janeway
    4. Sisko
    5. Breaking the temporal prime directive and going back in time to erase Star Trek from existing.
    6. Archer

    • Kiki

      I think for me it’s (if I’m being honest):
      1. Picard
      2. Janeway
      3. Archer
      4. Kirk
      5. Sisko

    • Therealeverton

      1. Sisko
      2. Kirk / Picard
      4. Janeway

    • DK

      Fantasm, you got it exactly right.

    • ftp

      fantasm ftw, especially #5. i ignore quantum leap star trek and pretend it never existed myself.

  • Mike

    Gotta say, I love me some Sisko myself.

  • John A

    I don’t think Sisko was the best captain. In fact, the heavy-handed performance by Avery Brooks was a huge turnoff;


    DS9 is by FAR the best of the Star Trek series’. Dark, serialized, moving, and with a stellar supporting cast larger than any of the other Star Treks (this includes the major recurring guest stars), I’ll take DS9 any day over The Original, Enterprise, or Voyager.

    That being said, PICARD FOREVER.

    • Jay

      I am just now finding out that there are people like you that actually thought DS9 was the best series.

      This is unfathomable to me. I tried numerous times to watch and get into it, but in my opinion, DS9 was the worst of any Star Trek series. A space station that just sits there isn’t nearly as exciting as the adventures of a Starship

      • R.J. MacReady

        I thought the Dominion War was pretty exciting.

      • Cara

        The first season of DS9 was weak — so perhaps that’s why you had trouble getting into it? I thought it had by far the best characters of all the newer series, plus the best writing. The season-by-season development of the Cardassians, the Bajorans, the politics — very complicated and interesting.

      • Lyndsey

        The first couple of seasons did start out a bit slow but once Worf joined the cast with the Klingon conflict & then the conflict, followed by the war, with the Dominion it really took off! Unlike the original & TNG, DS9 had storylines that stretched over entire seasons. You could miss a couple of the others without actually missing anything but with DS9 you could miss a major plot point if you skipped an episode. Plus the later additions of the Vegas holo-club & such just made it so much fun! DS9 dealt with the most serious issues (including the Federation’s attempt at genocide) but it also had the most light-hearted moments & the best comic relief (Quark especially)! It’s just a fantastic show!!!

      • Jay

        You guys have convinced me to give it another shot. I have MAYBE seen 15-20% of the episodes of the series. Although I’ve never cared for it, perhaps I just didn’t give it enough time

      • Lyndsey

        Glad to hear it Jay! It takes a lot of patience to get through the first 3 seasons but there are plot elements that will appear later. Once Worf arrives in season 4 is when things really get good! Plus you’ll meet my absolute favorite Klingon, General Martok…who is awesome!!!! I think DS9 definitely did the best with Klingon storylines, especially since Dax also had a great history with them.

      • markinnyc

        If you only watched episodes from the first two seasons you may think that. It took till the season before Worf came on to really find its feet.

      • Brady

        I must say that this is the reason that I love Star Trek fans so much- you had an engaging, respectful debate that led to one side reconsidering the other, without it devolving into name-calling.

      • Pope Carmelita I

        Even though Jay thinks it was boring “because it was a space station that just sat there”…the action came to them! All kinds of aliens came through, some just for passing visual effect, some involved in the complicated storylines. And they did leave the space station about a third of the time…

        There were several layers of storylines, which intertwined, and some, like all the Trek series, were standalone episodes, but overall it was an excellent piece of work.

      • Shiny

        DS9 was richly layered with complex characters and once they got rid of Berman/Braga they got into a fascinating mythology involving the worm hole aliens, restoration and reunification, terrorism and a cold war; the whole thing was fascinating. It got better with each season; less shiny spandex and more drama.

  • BrandonK

    I think Picard is the greatest, but Sisko and Kirk are awesome, too. I think Janeway was good, but what I like best about her was just Kate Mulgrew’s acting. Love her!

  • Craig S

    Enterprise is my favorite of the Star Trek series (finale notwithstanding) and Captain Archer is easily my favorite captain. He paved the way for all of the other captains, and is the only one whose storyline remains unaffected by the events of the JJ Abrams movie.

    • markinnyc

      actually, since the timeline is now broken most likely the Borg did not go back in time (1st contact) and therefore the episode when Archer finds the Borg in the snow is now moot.
      Storyline affected. Nerd flag flying high.

      • AustinFan

        @ markinnyc

        Actually it did still happen, hate to break it to ya, the only thing that the new movie did was create an alternate timeline(see Back to the Future Part II for explaination on primary & alternate timeline/realities). So in the New timeline, yea it could maybe not happen, but whose to say that it doesn’t still happen? That the borg don’t still try to assimulate earth? Either way the original timeline is still in tact, but unaccessable from the alternate time, unless character from the alternate timeline travel back in time before the alternate timeline was created.

    • Therealeverton

      Common mistake NONE of the Captains have had their timeline affected by the film. That’s the beauty of the film it ALL remains the same and there are a NEW set of adventures to be had in the new film’s reality.

      In fact the film’s timeline couldn’t exist without the “original” 5 shows on 10 Movies still happening.

  • wg

    Total love for DS9 but dude, you did not have to disrespect David Marcus who died protecting a fellow prisoner – totally worthy of Kirk’s son!

    • Lisa

      Plus, you can totally pull out the sad factoid that the actor playing him died at parties to bring down the mood. You’re welcome!

    • Cara

      I agree with wg! The whole POINT of that relationship was that the two were so unlike each other — the son thought the dad was a thoughtless warmonger, the dad thought the sons was a wimpy scientist — but by the end, both see worth in the other (and in the other point of view.)

    • Lyndsey

      Agree, I loved David Marcus & the, brief, relationship he had Kirk. Plus David died to protect Saavik & Spock. I thought Shatner actually played it perfectly. Kirk looked gut-punched when Saavik said David was dead but I think her calm, Vulcan delivery of the news contributed to his understated reaction. Besides, a life & death situation is no time to fall apart…I think the writer forgot that Kirk & his crew’s lives were all still in jeopardy so like any good leader he had to put aside his personal grief to save the lives he could.

  • Jeremy

    One thing Sisko did that Picard never did was punch Q straight in the jaw. You know Picard wanted to, but he wouldn’t because he didn’t always act as he wished he could. Sisko was never afraid of his emotions and he acted on them.

  • Mike

    Sisko? He doesnt even beat the chick who got her ship lost a billion miles from home on the first episode? You cant compare him with the real captains.

    • Lisa

      If you don’t know “the chick who got her ship lost” name, then I don’t trust your opinion.

  • Isembard

    HA! That’s always been my answer to Kirk vs. Picard. DS9 is the definitive ST – just makes the others look amateurish.

    Makes my day to see Sisko getting some love!!!

  • T

    Best DS9 Episodes ever was “Trouble and Tribbleations” and “Our Man Bashir” loved that one.

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