Every captain has had their own style which has allowed them to thrive in the circumstances that they found themselves. Kirk’s fast-and-loose style and supreme confidence was the perfect fit for the time he was in, essentially the Cold War in space. Picard was more diplomatic, the cerebral captain who would think his way out of every situation. Sisko was the aggressive intellectual, a man of duty to his family, the Federation and cosmic forces beyond his comprehension. Janeway was formal and correct, razor-sharp and always on edge, performing a job that seemed too large for anyone. As for Jonathan Archer, what sort of captain was he?
Over the short time we got to know him, Archer went from enthusiastic go-getter to militant obsessive, and finally to war-weary veteran. We know that after being captain of the Enterprise he became an admiral, then a diplomatic ambassador, and ultimately president of the United Federation of Planets. He went a long way, although it’s those few short years that were the only ones we would ever see. Because of the changing nature of his job, it’s hard to pick out any specific incident that defined his character. However, maybe it’s this ability to adapt and grow as a person that made him who he was. So for this final Alternative Factor we’re going to look at one of the biggest moments in his evolution.
COULD ARCHER HAVE BEEN THE ONLY ONE CAPABLE OF HANDLING THE ATTACK ON EARTH?
When the Xindi first attacked the Earth, killing seven million people, it fell to Captain Archer to lead the counter-attack. The Enterprise got refitted as a warship, now with a crew including MACO soldiers, and the mission became one of stopping the Xindi at all costs. Archer’s outlook became darker, and he wasn’t out to make friends or be an ambassador for the planet. He had to be the man who would save it.
Heading into the Delphic Expanse, the ship encountered a series of anomalies and diversions as Archer struggled to learn the true identity of the Xindi. During this time Captain Archer had to perform many acts that were against his personal code of ethics, engaging in torture, theft and even (arguably) the murder of Trip’s clone in order to achieve his goals. When he discovered that the Xindi were comprised of many species, he tried his best to appeal to them and learned that they were being manipulated. Diplomacy helped win him allies, but it still resulted in a desperate battle to save the Earth when a weapon of mass destruction was unleashed. It was a lot to handle, and it’s no wonder he became jaded, yet he never gave in. But could the later captains have coped with these burdens?
KIRK: When the Earth is attacked by a mysterious weapon, Starfleet becomes dispatched to find the culprits. Kirk heads out with the Enterprise, gathering information where he can that leads to a disturbing revelation: the newly-formed alliance between the Romulans and the Klingons has a dark objective, with their goal being the destruction of the Federation and the annihilation of the Earth itself. While Starfleet is weighing up the information and just what their plan should be, Kirk makes a stand and decides to head into the neutral zone with the Enterprise. It’s against orders, but Kirk has never been one to let orders outweigh his own decision-making process. An early battle leaves a Romulan ship almost destroyed but with survivors. Kirk gives the go-ahead to steal the cloaking device and leave the Romulans to drift to their deaths.
Moving through the highly militarised Neutral Zone is still dangerous, even when cloaked. In using the transporter patterns of Spock to create an experimental clone in order to harvest it for organs. Bones second-guesses himself when he realises the clone is sentient, but despite the objections Kirk orders Bones to perform murder to save his friend. Kirk finds unlikely allies with several Klingons like Kang, Koloth, and Kor, who question their chancellor’s decision to form an alliance with the untrustworthy Romulans, who seem to using Klingon ships for their own dubious reasons. Kirk learns of another weapon of mass destruction being developed from these Klingons. Ultimately Kirk would lead the offensive to destroy this weapon, and knowing his complete determination he wouldn’t quit until the job was finished.
PICARD: One year after the Borg’s first invasion of Earth, defenses are still on high alert. However, when a large Borg Sphere appears and sets about destroying vital military targets on the planet, the Enterprise 1701-D leads the charge to destroy it. Going through the wreckage, they learn that this is just the first wave, and that an entire Borg invasion fleet is on its way. Due to the limited defenses Earth has left, Starfleet opts to keep as many ships as possible nearby to bolster its strength. Picard, still full of vengeance after his time as Locutus, disobeys orders and takes the Enterprise out to battle the Borg head-on.
While his crew supports him, they privately question his decisions. Picard will hear nothing of it and meets up with the Klingons, urging them to join him in battle and equip the Enterprise with a cloaking device. He has a plan, and the Klingons help him to pull off a daring heist before finally confronting the Borg. Like a man possessed, Picard sets about targeting the Borg with his newly-acquired own weapons of mass destruction. Unleashing a wave of adaptive sentries taken from the weapon-building planet of Minos, Picard orders the Enterprise into battle on what could be the ultimate suicide run…
SISKO: We don’t have to imagine if Captain Benjamin Sisko could handle the attack on Earth, he lived it. The Dominion War was arguably bigger than the Borg invasions or the Xindi attack. He hardened himself even more than Archer, hardly wavering, and proved himself more than capable to handling the seemingly-overwhelming challenges that lay ahead. His tactics mirrored Sun Tzu, using concepts of spies, deception, and death ground in his bid to topple the Dominion/Cardassian/Breen alliance. With the Defiant geared for war from its creation, Sisko had all the tools necessary for the job.
It was in wartime that his real edge showed. He was determined almost to the point of obsession, doing anything it would take to spearhead the Federation to victory. He wasn’t afraid to bend – and even break – ethical codes, manipulating the Romulans to ally themselves with the Federation. He would lie and obstruct justice to achieve his goals, even becoming an unwilling accomplice in murder. Even when handling the Maquis he was willing to poison the atmosphere of one of their colonies in an effort to win. The only regret he would feel from his actions was that he felt no remorse at all. It’s little wonder that even Worf was intimidated by Sisko, the ultimate wartime leader. Of all Starfleet captains, he was the most underestimated and yet the one who should be feared more than any.
JANEWAY: When the USS Voyager enters Borg space after several delays, they expect the worst reception imaginable, and tensions are running high. However, nothing happens. There is no opposition, and no signs of life in any way at all. Making their way through as fast as they can, they finally encounter wreckage of Borg ships everywhere, with no idea as to what has happened. They begin scavenging for parts, and find a Borg drone barely alive, who they bring on board with the goal of learning more. This drone, identified as Seven Of Nine, is not only cut off from the collective but it appears the collective has been entirely destroyed. Seven is uncooperative, but Janeway refuses to torture the dying drone for information. However, Chakotay knows that the information is vital and tortures the drone without Janeway’s knowledge, resulting in Seven’s death.
Chakotay’s actions cause a deep rift between the captain and himself, although he explains that the elimination of the Borg, and hundreds of planets, was by a species known only as 8472. While this species was provoked by the Borg, it has become aggressive and is headed through the Delta Quadrant on a path of destruction. Janeway determines that it has to be stopped in order to save countless lives. However, initial skirmishes prove that they are clearly outmatched. The success of using nanoprobes to defeat species 8472 without Borg assistance is limited and Species 8472 launch a counter-offensive. With the pressure building and her crew, ship and the entire Delta Quadrant facing certain doom, Janeway swallows her pride and breaks every ethical code she believes in. With a heart full of regret and self-loathing, she simply murmurs, “Q, we need your help…”