Rating the Star Trek captains by their cars

Recent news that Patrick Stewart will be reprising his role as the patrician Jean-Luc Picard in an all-new series has spread throughout the Star Trek community like, to pick an example at random, Tribbles through a Jefferies tube. Fans are beside themselves with excitement, eager to see what adventures their baritone-voiced, beloved captain will get up to next.

Will there be further battles with the Borg? Perhaps. Will on-again, off-again love interest Dr. Beverly Crusher come back into the picture? Maybe. Is there going to be lots of tea, Earl Grey, hot? Make it so.

But among all the pointy-eared jubilation, there’s an undercurrent of good-natured bickering. Captain Picard is certainly a very popular captain, but is he the best captain on Star Trek? Fans are quick to take sides and defend their favorite, be it Picard, no-nonsense Captain Janeway, the quite-a-lot-of-nonsense-actually Captain Kirk, or one of the others who manned (or womaned) the helm.

Let’s avoid measuring performance based on traditional captaining skills like throwing styrofoam rocks at lizard-headed aliens, negotiating with formless energy blobs, or annoying the Klingons. Instead, let’s judge ’em by the same metric as we do the neighbors—by what kind of car they drive. Which Star Trek captain is best? Let’s grab the keys, and engage.

Captain Jonathan Archer — Scott Bakula

1966 Cadillac DeVille Convertible
1966 Cadillac DeVille Convertible CBS

As the captain of the first Warp 5 capable starship, Scott Bakula’s Jonathan Archer carried the weight of considerable expectation on his shoulders. However, Star Trek: Enterprise didn’t appeal to the critics, and the show ended after four seasons of mixed reviews.

Likewise, the former start of Quantum Leap doesn’t fare particularly well in our captaincy exams, as there’s nothing particularly interesting parked in either his personal or professional garages. Still, there are a few points to be awarded for his present ride of choice. As the lead detective on NCIS: New Orleans, he swans about town in a powder blue 1966 Cadillac DeVille convertible. Hardly warp capable, but still pretty cool.

Captain Kathryn Janeway — Kate Mulgrew

1971 Ford Country Squire star trek voyager
1971 Ford Country Squire Paramount Network Television

On any normal list, Captain Janeway would be bumped up a couple of points at least for breaking new ground in the Star Trek universe. Add in some pretty firm-handed captaining, and we’d soon see the commander of the Voyager promoted to Admiral.

However, here it’s all about the cars and only one real example makes its way into the running: a battered, old Ford LTD Country Squire driven by one of Janeway’s long-lost relatives (also played by Kate Mulgrew). In the episode, the old land yacht is nursed along despite mishaps and funds running short. It’s a good match for the resourceful Janeway, but not quite enough to stir the imagination further.

Captain Gabriel Lorca — Jason Isaacs

Alfa Romeo Alfasud front 3/4
Alfa Romeo Alfasud Dennis Elzinga

Newest of the current crop of captains, Captain Lorca isn’t the main star of Star Trek: Discovery, but a leading figure. However, the real-life Isaacs gets some major points for borrowing his dad’s Alfa Romeo Alfasud early on, then continuing the trend of light and zippy with a Talbot Sunbeam and a Peugeot 205 GTI—two of them in the family, in fact, as his wife also bought one.

As if that weren’t enough, Isaacs went on to own two Saabs, a convertible and a wagon. And yet, in the end, it all seems to have gone off the rails with the purchase of his current 2009 Prius, as there are no plans for anything more exciting.

Captain Benjamin Sisko — Avery Brooks

1989 BMW 635CSi red 3/4 front
1989 BMW 635CSi Mecum

Avery Brooks, as Captain Sisko, has the kind of voice that intones command, the basso profundo of authority. Fitting, then, that he’s best associated with big, Bavarian straight-sixes.

Before he was captain of the Deep Space Nine space station, Brooks was better known as A Man Called Hawk. Hawk, a main character from the crime drama Spenser: For Hire, got his own popular spinoff, and was forever seen behind the wheel of a mid-1980s BMW 635CSi. Now that’s the kind of ride even a Ferengi would have to respect.

Captain James T. Kirk — Chris Pine

1957 Porsche 356A

Two Captain Kirks? No, this isn’t some mirror-universe plot line, it’s just that we have two Kirks to choose from: the new, shiny Captain Kirk from the rebooted Star Trek movies; and the old, still got-it Captain Kirk, who probably hit on your mom back in the day. And possibly a week ago Tuesday as well.

The former, Chris Pine, has a lot of car-guy credentials, and is constantly being spotted by paparazzi behind the wheel of something great. So far, the list includes a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, a Porsche 356 Speedster, and a green 1960s 911, along with a host of more-modern machinery. Pretty classic stuff, but also all kind of obvious choices. A true captain might have to be a little more daring.

Captain James T. Kirk — William Shatner

1963 Chevrolet Corvette front 3/4
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Mecum

William. Shatner’s Captain Kirk is. Possibly. One. Of. The most. Iconic science fiction characters in existence, if not least for his memorable speaking cadence. But Billy Shatner is also just the kind of car guy you’d hope, as one quick story will tell.

In the studio parking lot, most days would see Leonard Nimoy’s beautiful black Buick Riviera parked near Shatner’s red Corvette. The Riviera was Nimoy’s pride and joy, and he was photographed with it while dressed in character as Spock. On set, the two behaved pretty much as their characters might, with Shatner forever stealing and hiding the bicycle that Nimoy used to get around the studio lot. One day Nimoy got fed up and locked the bike in the trunk of his car—Shatner had the car towed.

That kind of clownish car-pranking is just the thing to raise the original Star Trek captain right to the top of the list. However, Jean-Luc is going to go one better.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard — Patrick Stewart

Austin A35 front 3/4
Austin A35 Billopp

Having apparently stopped aging in 1995, Stewart is ready and eager to come back and tell everyone what lies ahead in the next chapters in Jean-Luc Picard’s life. But if life imitated art, it wouldn’t be wine-making or collecting literature that would occupy Picard’s retirement. It’d be racing.

Stewart has long been a motorsports fan, and even appeared in a BBC documentary along with Sir Stirling Moss. He’s also raced a couple of times at Silverstone, once in a Morgan and more recently in an Austin A35. He’s quite handy behind the wheel as well, and passed his ARDS (Association of Racing Drivers Schools) certification without difficulty. Must be all that holodeck practice.

For being a dedicated racing fan, for paying tribute to the racing greats, and for being a bit of a hot shoe whether in the captain’s chair or in the driver’s seat, Captain Picard is the best Car Trek captain there is. Now, order up some Earl Grey from the replicator, and give Chief Engineer La Forge a call. This Morgan isn’t going to get itself through Federation scrutineering.

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