When Star Trek was launched on Sept. 8, 1966, this Gene Roddenberry creation not only boldly went where no man (or woman) had gone before, but launched a science fiction franchise that is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. It not only wound up birthing six television series (with a seventh, Discovery, set to debut in 2017), but also yielded 13 motion pictures, with the most recent being Beyond, the third installment of the original series reboot starring Chris Pine as the young James T. Kirk. The following are the Starship captains who helmed their own series and are also featured in the 2011 documentary The Captains.
Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner)
Captain Kirk was technically the second captain who wound up taking the helm from Jeffrey Hunter’s Christopher Pike (above right) after the latter declined to shoot a second pilot. Into the breach stepped William Shatner, whose captain was a derring-do, swashbuckling maverick whose charisma and chance-taking was balanced out by a multi-racial crew of intelligent and fascinating characters with their own quirks and charm.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)
Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his first officer Commander William Riker were calling the shots on the Enterprise-D, a century after Kirk and his crew had made their mark. As much as Kirk may have attacked issues by the seat of his pants, Stewart’s Picard was a far shrewder tactician and diplomat. And while the self-described “bald, middle-aged Englishman” may not have had as dashing a visage as his predecessor, Stewart’s Shakespearian-influenced delivery and no-nonsense approach to his character secured his position in the Star Trek canon.
Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks)
Unlike his predecessors, Captain Benjamin Sisko oversaw Deep Space Nine (DS9), which was a space station and not a starship. Positioned above the planet Bajor, the DS9 platform winds up being in a strategically advantageous position due to its proximity to a stable wormhole. While Sisko wasn’t jetting around different quadrants, he still had to deal with the recently liberated populace, a rapidly encroaching enemy, taking on the religious role of being named an Emissary of Prophets and being a single parent.
Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)
Captain Janeway was the first female captain to commandeer the helm of a Star Trek series. Janeway’s particular challenge was having her ship be marooned 70,000 light years from home and having to make a 70-year return trip. Unlike her male counterparts, Janeway is a scientist adamant about adhering to Star Fleet regulations and being unwilling to compromise her principles in this lawless corner of the galaxy, all the while leading her crew through a seven-decade journey home.
Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula)
This prequel featured Bakula’s Jonathan Archer as the commander of the first starship Enterprise, a decade before the United Federation of Planets would come into existence, at which point he would later become president of that union. His evolution as a captain had him starting out cut from the same rule-breaking daredevil mode as Kirk, albeit far more inexperienced, and eventually making morally questionable decisions as a means to an end for human survival that included torture, murder and theft.