Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Greatest Starship Captain Ever?

Okay, so it's 2010, the Year We Make Contact. That means Scifi needs to get over the Mayan 2012 doomsday "prophecy", post-apocalyptic craze, and embrace space travel. And what better way to celebrate Scifi's outer space roots than by deciding who is the greatest Starship Captain ever?
Over the next few days, I'll evaluate cool captains by the following criteria to determine who is the best ever:
Live Action- there are plenty of cool starship captains in Comic Books ("Starslayer") and novels, but face it, Scifi (despite it's current feminist "syfy" spelling) is primarily for dudes, and dudes want to see their favorite captain chasing, jiggling, bouncing, alien babes. No matter how good it's art, print cannot reproduce the 3D movement of live action. In the same manner, cartoons just can't do justice the girlish form like live action.
Must be a dude- as mentioned previously, we dudes like to see girls' curves, preferably with as little covering them as possible. Unless the official captain's uniform is a bikini then, chicks belong beside the real captain, not the helm of a starship.
Coolness- Face it, there are many, many starship captains in film and TV, but how many were cool, main characters (or villains) and how many were supporting characters played by actors doing commercials now? If you got less than 5 minutes of screentime, unless you're someone of Samuel Jackson's standing, your character is not a great anything.
Must have a crew- Pilots need not apply for this award. Yeah Luke Skywalker can wield the force and a lightsaber while flaying rings around most ships out there, but a single droid added for comedic effect doesn't count as a crew. Similarly, while the Tardis the the greatest ship of all time, and the Doctor definitely has had some HOT chicks (Rose Tyler and Martha Jones for example), he has no crew. Just occasional passengers. Sorry, Doc, but you are not a captain. More like a time-hopping playboy joyriding in the ultimate hot rod.
Once a GSCE candidate has passed his initial screening, the only fair way to determine the greatest is to score (on a scale of  1 to 5) each captain.
Captain Skills: Anybody can be given a starship to control, but as the many Imperial Commanders under Palpatine proved in the Star Warsfranchise, that isn't enough. How well you conduct yourself, your crew and your ship is what matters. Maybe it's skills as a diplomat, a strategist or a boss, but a good Captain has to be part military tactician, part coach, part pilot and part big brother. A GREAT captain has a little of George S. Patton thrown in for good measure.
Personal Combat Skills: If you're the main character, you can't sit on board the ship throughout your film/tv series. Your ass has to get into the thick of it. Can you unleash your inner Bruce Lee? Or do you resort to talking and firing off stern notes of protest?
Starship Combat Skills: You might be the worst captain ever to set foot in space, but if you're a mastermind at space combat, your crew might forgive you, since you're keeping them alive and all. The ability to keep your crew, and that very expensive ship under your control, in one piece is a crucial skill.
Ladies Man: Scifi fans want to see chicks. So if the Captain is some monkish prude happier playing with star charts more than star tarts, he is going to score low. If however, he's got a hot babe in every port of a long running TV series... well, that tends to keep the fans happy.
Crew: A captain is only as good as his crew some would argue. A better way to look at is a great captain surrounds himself with a great crew. Being the most awesome, ass-kicking, starship piloting, gigalo in space is all fine and good, but if your crew is a bunch of namby-pamby, wet-behind-the-ears cadets fresh from the academy... well, you're going to spend most of your time fixing their mistakes, instead of being great yourself.
Coolness: Finally, you had to be cool to be considered GREAT, but exactly how cool are you? A by the book, military genius with pressed uniform and a stiff upper lip might score points in other categories, but could be the biggest nerd to ever leave orbit. Scifi fans don't want to imagine themselves as nerds in space, they want to picture themselves as a cool bad ass, with hot alien girlfriends.
Now that we've established a fair and impartial judging process, next we start analyzing the captains themselves.

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