Nasa / Space

The Top 20 Sci-Fi Starship Captains of All Time

Kirk, Picard, Solo, Adama, Zaphod Beeblebrox--who is the greatest starship captain in sci-fi history? Your friendly neighborhood Trivia Geek found a list that claims to declare a winner, but you just know there's a million arguments to be had first. Join in.

The Top 20 Sci-Fi Starship Captains of All Time, according to Kunochan.com, are as follows:

  1. Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  2. James T. Kirk (Star Trek)
  3. Han Solo (Star Wars)
  4. Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager)
  5. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly)
  6. William "Husker" Adama (New Battlestar Galactica)
  7. Bruno J. Global (The Super Dimension Fortress Macross)
  8. Turanga Leela (Futurama)
  9. Jacob Keyes (Halo)
  10. John J. Adams (Forbidden Planet)
  11. Wilhuff Tarkin (Star Wars)
  12. Christopher Pike (Star Trek)
  13. Creideiki (Startide Rising)
  14. David Bowman (2001: A Space Odyssey)
  15. The Doctor (Doctor Who)
  16. Zaphod Beeblebrox (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
  17. Exeter (This Island Earth)
  18. John Robinson (Lost in Space)
  19. Adama (Old Battlestar Galactica)
  20. Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

I hate almost this entire list. I'll accept that some serious heavies don't qualify because they are primarily station commanders or one-man pilots, not starship commanders (Sorry Sisko, Sheridan, and a whole bunch of Skywalkers). I'll even accept (nay, support) Picard over Kirk, no matter what this video has to say about a throwdown between the two Trek captains. But Janeway over Mal Reynolds? Seriously? Mal weakened a repressive regime decieving all of humanity. Janeway rescued a crew that she got lost. And I like Futurama as much as the next guy, but no way Leela gets a higher spot than the entire list of Doctors.

That said, take the top six, throw out Janeway, and you've got my a pretty decent top five, in probably the right order. I'm curious to hear the consensus, so let's hear it, people:

Who are your top five sci-fi starship captains?

Comment away.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

153 comments
postal124
postal124

I suggest John Geary of the "Lost Fleet" book series. He is a cross between Buck Rogers and Horatio Hornblower. His battles are mass fleet actions and not the single ship to ship fights most of the captains listed above specialize in. (So maybe he is best fleet admiral if we are going to be precise).

WesleyRoss
WesleyRoss

Freeman Lowell the botanist (played by Bruce Dern), aboard the Valley Forge in the sci-fi movie, 'Silent Running'.

kpoole
kpoole

Let's not forget that the entire mission of Picard turned out to be in the mind of Q. Kirk is legendary Picard is imaginary.

StormForge
StormForge

Yes, Lloyd Bridges and NOT Michelle Forbes, Admiral Helena Cain. Don't get me wrong. I love Star Trek but Edward James Olmos is so clearly #1, even if the list is silly. 1. William "Husker" Adama - Olmos 2. James T. Kirk - Shatner 3. Commander Cain - Bridges 4. William Riker - Frakes 5. Jean Luc Picard - Stewart Khan is memorable but a lousy skipper. His temperament is totally unsuited to command and just as he did would get everyone killed. Solo is a pilot. The Doctor is a time pilot. Now if you are talking about robots, Robby rules. All hail Robby. Even as the evil robot on Lost in Space.

Montgomery Gator
Montgomery Gator

That list left out Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant. He should be at least in the top 10.

workshop
workshop

What about Commander Jameson? Elite.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

But I can't support Picard over Kirk. Kirk was a man's man. Picard was slightly weenie-ish in comparison.

ddobson
ddobson

Sisko was captain of the USS Defiant and Sheridan had White Star 1.

bgarcia
bgarcia

Legendary hero lost for century in cryosleep only to be awaken to find that war that started in his time is still being waged. "The Lost Fleet" book series. Very exciting I highly recommend it.

DaemonSlayer
DaemonSlayer

Can the TARDIS actually be considered a starship? TARDIS is Time And Relative Dimensions In Space... not a mere starship or time machine.

chaneys
chaneys

Anytime a woman TRIED to play captain, the ship was doomed. Example...Janeway got lost 70,000 light years from home...Deanna Troy crashed the enterprise into a planet. Just proves that even in the future women can't drive. Those two must have been on the communicator and putting on makeup at the same time.

edgarjluque
edgarjluque

I like more Kirk than Picard cause he was more creative and work with less resources remember the original Star Trek was a 60s series, Picard looks like he knew everything... anyway why Jonathan Archer (Enterprise) is not at the list???

edgarjluque
edgarjluque

I like more Kirk, Picard was too serious and looks like he know everything, Kirk was more creative with less resources (and technology for the time when the series was released)... anyway why Jonathan Archer (Enterprise)is not on the list?

laj1
laj1

Sisko is conspicuously absent. And he was a Captain on the show longer than he was a commander so the "no commanders" statement doesn't hold water. The man had the hardest job captains if you think about it: balancing being revered a religious icon, while balancing that conflict of interest with Federation responsibilites at the mouth of a wormhole in an unstable part of the galaxy, not to mention the constant threats over the years such as the Cardassians, the Maquis, the Klingons and of course, the Dominion. All that and being a single dad, which is a pretty tough job in itself. "Nuff said.

rabear
rabear

love that book. yah, the dolphin was one smart captain.

Warinpiece
Warinpiece

Top 5. . . hmmmmmm. maybe. As for Dr. Who, technically, it isn't a "Starship/Spaceship". It's a Time Machine disguisd as a Phone-Box. Thoough Dr. Who is a great Traveller Who's trekked further than any Captain has ever trekked. If we're going into literature, then Dan Dare of Eagle comic(British) fame would have to be a great contender. War

docotis
docotis

In one episode of next-gen, under star fleet orders, Data assumed command and proved worthy of inclusion here..

carhearts
carhearts

Ok, so she never actually sat in the 'captain's chair' (except for a few moments prior to going into 'cryo-sleep' at the end of the first 'Alein' film...and she may have only been classified as a 'Warrant Officer' while in the employ of 'Weyland/Yutani', but who among us would disagree that she did'nt posess the 'salt' or the resourcefulness to BE a ships captain ? ? ? Heyl...I'd serve 'under' her at a moments notice !

Dustyrose
Dustyrose

One of my favorite "Sci-Fi" films is the spoof "Galaxy Quest" The Commander/Captain Peter Quincy Taggart is truly a hero and great leader by not only inspiring his reluctant actor/crew but saves an entire race from annihilation. Probably ranks up there next to Jon Luc Picard.

Riggs25
Riggs25

Colonel Steve Zodiac, Fireball XL-5

DigitalFrog
DigitalFrog

JL Picard - Star Trek JT Kirk - Star Trek (definitely in this order) Han Solo - Star Wars Dylan Hunt - Andromeda Thor - Stargate SG-1 (Asgard - come on, he flys the whole ship by himself!)

blarman
blarman

Han Solo (Star Wars) - C'mon. He has a persona all his own. Everyone else is friggin military! John Sheridan (Bablyon 5) - He commands a White Star-class ship which can create it's own jump points. And he kicks two uber-powerful, ideological warring factions out of the galaxy. So what if most of his time is spent hanging out on a space station? Captain James Tiberius Kirk - yes, he was a womanizer, but the guy was a brilliant tactician. Captain Jean Luc Picard - more a politician/diplomat than a combat pilot, nevertheless one of the most famous. Commander John Crichton - he's lost in a galaxy far from home on a living ship with a crew full of quixotic aliens. Talk about culture shock. Malcolm Reynolds - If you had watched the series, there are extra-solar planets, it's just that the series spends a lot more time discussing social issues than coming up with the newest application of galaxy-saving particle-physics. Mal is actually one of the more intriguing (and unfortunately short-lived) characters in sci-fi. (PS. The movie was a BAD ending to a great series.) Adama (Original Series) - This guy was the original Picard but he had the added responsibility of navigating the remains of humanity through a brutal gauntlet of cybernetic foes bent on destruction. A politician AND a general. Khan (Star Trek) - Ah, to be an egotistic, marauded super-genius. If this guy could have gotten over his wife's death, he could have been stellar. (pun intended) Others I do not place on my "great" list: Luke Skywalker - X-wings do have hyperspace generators - read the books! Captain Jayneway - She's WAAAAY down my list of competent and endearing starship captains. Commander Sisko - He had flashes of brilliance, but whole weeks of mediocrity. Adama (new Battlestar Galactica) - haven't seen enough of the series to comment. Keep in mind that I am restricting my list to televised productions. There are a few other notables from literature, but that list is for another thread.

PhillyDave
PhillyDave

I agree with adding Blake from Blakes 7... And how can you forget Captain Avatar from StarBlazers? He saved the Earth from Desslok.

Nodisalsi
Nodisalsi

Calvert from Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn triology - nails so many lead women characters he makes Kirk look like a geek. And what about Honor Harrington? I bet she'll still give Janeway a scare in spite of the inferior tech she commands.

dpanzer
dpanzer

Starblazers, anyone?

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

The list is of Starship Captains, so if the person is the ultimate authority of what gets done on and with the spaceship, they qualify. The problem arises with captains of small ships (i.e. with a crew of roughly 5 or less). While still being captains, they really are glorified pilots of their ships, and not really commanders. IRL, John F. Kennedy, while still a captain of a PT boat, would fit this category. Louis Wu, Jim DiGriz (sp), Han Solo, and Malcolm Reynolds also fall into this category. Personally, I wouldn't crew with, or for, any of them. Captains of larger crews start really demonstrating their command abilities where it really counts. Kirk, Picard, Adama, Tarkin and Khan are the real commanders. However, none of them represent or support societies that I'd be interested in supporting in an enlisted or officer role. The one commander/captain that isn't even on the list that I would find inspirational enough to work for who defends a society semi-recognizable and acceptable is Honor Harrington.

jravelo2
jravelo2

Fire SDF-1 main cannon! :D

caswell_anderson
caswell_anderson

I'm sorry. If you consider animated Captains. Then you must include Captain Abraham Avatar (Star Blazers). He was Captain of the Yamato.

richard.figueiredo
richard.figueiredo

I really don't understand what Christopher Pike is doing in that list. Why he and not Sulu? At least Sulu saved Kirk's arse in ST:VI. And why Zaphod Beeblebrox? Ok, I love the character, but as a captain what has he achieved? I really miss Sheridan on that list. And Bill Adama should be much higher, top three, IMHO.

jck
jck

Hm. Let's see. He got that Vosh (sp?) chick... He later in the story line marries Bev Crusher... He got that hot babe in that ST:TNG movie who could stop time... Compared to some of the ones Kirk got, I'd say Picard and his bald head are doin pretty good. :^0 I say Picard. But then again, I didn't see ST:TOS til it was in first cycle of reruns on UHF TV when I was about 2 lol

seanferd
seanferd

And both had commanded vessels previously in their careers, even if that wasn't a part of the main story. Captains are judged on captainly behavior such as command, not how clever were the maneuvers they came up with. If they came up with them. Assuming the writers knew what they were talking about, and the maneuvering made any sense at all. So who says these guys are flying desks, eh?

isapp
isapp

We've just had that discussion here in the office. IMHO, since the TARDIS can travel not only to any place in the universe but also to any time in the universe, it qualifies as a ship. It may look like a police box ever since the chameleon circuit broke, but it still travels.

kryan
kryan

the definition of a starship is a ship that travels between stars. did the tardis travel or just materialise in another part of the galaxy. But in event horizon that bent time to travel between stars does the tardis do the same if yes then yes it does travel between the stars. but another note is this thread was started for the best starship captains and i don't think the doctor was he couldn't control his ship for toffee or control his crew.

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

"Blake's 7" was a most enjoyable low budget 'space adventure' show, I liked it better than ANY "star trek." Like the original star trek, it was all in the acting, with cheap, on-the-fly props. But unlike star trek, the cast of Blake's 7 could ACTUALLY ACT. As for "Janeway," you have GOT to be kidding!! The most lame, craptastic TV show ever produced. I guess PC just had to rear it's ugly head. BTW of all the star treks I liked "enterprise" the best. Unfortunately it came along when trek-burnout was settling into the audience. Janeway, cripes... the worst actor ever to get a paycheck from Roddenberry's franchise.

gdunger
gdunger

Ripley gets a field promotion to Captain so she qualifies and definitely should be on the list.

MarkWAliasQ
MarkWAliasQ

I'd serve under or on top of her too, well I would have 20 years ago but she aint no Captain, period.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

His da wasn't half bad either. :D Add in Leary of Bantry, Pyanfar Chanur and Nick Seafort, should get all this tv dross out of the top 5.

StomsAz
StomsAz

I would have to agree. Honor Harrington should be in the top 5 of this list.

portable
portable

I agree! Honor stands out above 99.9% of the list. Great person, great leader. Thanks for the reminder. Also like "First Mate" Nimitz. :-)

blu_z
blu_z

The others, sure. When you only have partners or family in your crew then you are not really in command. But Mal's not only has uppity crew members, he has long term passengers and has to make a payroll to boot.

blu_z
blu_z

As somebody noted earlier, dead people are not allowed.

jck
jck

I look at this list, and I see Sulu missing. Hell, he saved Kirk's hide. Well, who hadn't saved Kirk :^0 Suuuuuluuuuuuuuuuuu Sulu... lol George Takei is a cool mofo.

a.southern
a.southern

Any program with Brian Blessard as a baddy in the first few episodes should be mentioned.

pmolina
pmolina

We didn't actually see him die.

pmolina
pmolina

If Han Solo can be on the list then might as well stick Ace Rimmer in too. But leave Captain Hollister off.

pmolina
pmolina

The trader from Star Trek. Forget his first name. Granted a dark horse candidate, but he would be near the top my list of starship captains who would be most fun for an evening out on the spaceport.