Kirk or Picard? So goes the geek version of Mary Ann or Ginger. If you really want to choose the Star Trek captain whom you would want defending your galaxy, you have only one legitimate choice. It ain’t Janeway.
Kirk and Picard represent the nationalist approach to military leadership. Remember when George W. Bush said “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Such black & white thinking aligns nicely with the view of the Federation in those two shows taking place aboard the Starship Enterprise. That either/or principle worked quite nicely in Germany during the 1930s as well. Anyone living in the future of beaming transporters and food replicators might well hitch a ride onto that whole “us or them” ideology.
Captain Sisko, situated way out there at the edge of the universe on the revolving space station known as Deep Space Nine does not. Kirk is a company man despite his seeming independent streak. Captain Picard seems to be even more of a company man by following Starfleet and the Federation guidelines as closely as possible at all times. In the world of Star Trek the Federation and its warriors in Starfleet represent a utopian vision of political leadership.
Captain Picard awakens to the dangers of utopian belief only in the vastly underrated film Insurrection. What Picard comes to learn on the big screen, Benjamin Sisko already understood on the small screen back he was still just a Commander. When you buy into the us or them mindset, you tend to become a little more flexible when it comes to putting aside the ethics and morality for which you are fighting. Abu Ghraib and waterboarding became household terms at the best possible time, during the heat of war. Acceptance became easier and it is not difficult at all to imagine Kirk approving of such tactics. Picard’s ability to accept such directives from the Federation grows more questionable following the events that take place in Insurrection.
Don’t you want something more from a Star Trek captain than protection from Romulans, Borgs and the Dominion? Wouldn’t you prefer to have a captain that protects you from the Federation as well? Section 31 is endowed with authority by Article 14, Chapter 31 of the Starfleet Charter. During the Dominion War story arc told on Deep Space Nine it is revealed that Section 31 is plotting to commit genocide against their enemies, the Founders. Capt. Sisko becomes a traitor in the eyes of the Republican Party of the 21st century by infiltrating Section 31 and fighting just as strongly against his own superiors’ wrongdoing as he fights against external enemies.
That’s the kind of “Star Trek” captain you should want.