The Best Captains In Science Fiction

    October 25, 2011 at 5:50 am

    The science fiction genre is populated with strong-willed commanders who captain their respective vessels across the cosmos.  Everyone has their favorite, and that is why we have compiled a list of some of the best captains in sci-fi movies and TV.  Prepare to get beamed up…with the best captains in science fiction! Engage!

    Jean-Luc Picard/James Tiberius Kirk

    Star Trek: The Next Generation/Star Trek

    kirk picardTrekkies have debated for years over who is the better commander.  On one hand, James T. Kirk has become the epitome of a captain who makes decisions based on his gut.  Picard, on the other hand, is a hard-lined, by-the-books commander from a well groomed military family.  Both care deeply for their crew, although Kirk seemed less broken up whenever a ubiquitous security officer would meet a sensational death during a mission.  Picard is an old-world gentleman, while Kirk is more of an entitled high school athlete who just assumes any vaguely female carbon based life form in the galaxy wants to have sex with him.  In his defense, though, most of them do.  It can be argued that Picard outmatches Kirk in intellect, but that Kirk makes up for this deficit with boyish guile.  After all, it was he who reprogrammed the Kobayashi Maru simulation, thus making him the only Starfleet cadet to pass the test.  This would be like hacking into the computer that grades the SAT multiple choice and giving yourself a perfect score.  Is it cheating?  Yes.  But you secretly wish you had the balls/gumption to do it.  So in summation, Kirk is a loose-cannon, Picard is a cerebral tactician.  In many ways they are polar opposites in personality, as well as hairline.  Even though both have their positive attributes, the debate over who is better will likely endure for a millenia to come.

    Dave Bowman

    2001: A Space Odyssey

    bowmanWhat does a good captain do when his entire crew dies, his on-board A.I. computer goes crazy, and he is left all alone in deep space?  He completes the damn mission!  That is exactly what Dave Bowman does in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Dave is the ideal captain for this situation.  He has no family, no wife, no hobbies, and very little personality.  This guy’s got nothing going on, except his mission to Jupiter!  Dave shows very little emotion throughout the film.  He only kind of raises his voice when the HAL 9000 won’t let his space pod dock. And when it comes time to exit his pod and brave the vacuum of space without a helmet, he does so with nary a whimper.  After terminating the higher brain functions of the HAL 9000, he then pilots his space pod into a mysterious black monolith, thus hurtling him through a trans-dimensional portal and setting him down in a bizarre hotel suite where he encounters himself aging rapidly through different stages of life.  Then he turns into a giant space zygote.  This ending has understandably perplexed movie goers since the film’s release, and has convinced stoners everywhere that the whole movie was really just Dave Bowman having a bad acid trip.  If that is the case, then he was tripping balls like a champ.

    Korben Dallas

    The Fifth Elelement

    fifth element korben dallasBruce Willis is at his best playing the disgruntled and world-weary Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element.  Dallas is an ex-special forces officer turned cab driver.  In the future, however, cabs are high tech machines that can fly, and Dallas is the baddest ass of all bad asses.  Dallas is a typical antihero scofflaw who doesn’t care about the rules, maaaaaan!  When a barely-clothed Mila Jovovich crashes into his cab, it sends him on a series of crazy adventures that result in him saving the world.  Chris Tucker does an excellent job playing Ruby Rhod, the flamboyant radio host who eventually serves as Dallas’s wacky sidekick.  Korben is an excellent pilot, and is able to fly numerous alien spacecrafts with only a moment’s notice.  He is also an excellent team leader.  He has the correct amount of reluctance and swagger that allows him to command respect from just about anyone, including blue squid women that sing opera.  And of course he has the most important quality among Sci-fi captains; he defeats pure evil.  In the words of Ruby Rhod, he is “SUPER GREEN!”…(that’s apparently a good thing).


    The Last Starfighter

    last starfighter grigA good captain inspires his crew to be their very best, even if that crew consists of only one other dude.  In The Last Starfighter, Grig pushes his earthling counterpart Alex to save the galaxy.  If you haven’t seen this 1984 classic, then you need to treat yourself.  It’s about five parts Star Wars, three parts Battle Star Gallactica, and two parts Footloose.  Grig is the alien pilot of a intergalactic fighter aircraft called a Gunstar.  He is paired with Alex, a reluctant teenager from Earth.  He teaches young Alex how to operate as the gunner of the spacecraft, and together they topple the evil Ko-Dan Armada, thus saving the galaxy.  The antogonist, Xur, is an awkward guy who is kind of like a combination between Kahn from Star Trek, and one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz.  But apparently he’s super evil.  And without Grig’s wisdom, support, and go-getter attitude, Alex would have never found the courage to defeat him.  It should also be noted that Grig looks suspiciously similar to Louis Gossett Jr.’s character from Enemy Mine, which is a movie that did NOT make this list, because it SUCKS!  That’s right, I said it.  I await your hate mail, world.

    The Doctor

    Doctor Who

    doctor who matt smithThe Doctor looks human, but he is actually a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.  He pilots a ship that is arguably the most complicated vessel in modern science fiction.  The TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) is a ship that can travel through time and space, disguise itself in any environment, constantly shift the size of its interior, and is practically self-aware.  It has dozens of other qualities that would take an entire article to list.  The only person qualified to harness the power of the TARDIS is the Doctor.  His bond with his craft is very close, and he treats it like a living thing (which it kind of is.)  The Doctor’s sole purpose is to protect the human race from all sorts of nefarious forces.  His show has been on since the early sixties, and he has yet to be defeated.  This is due in large part to the fact that if he is near death, he can simply regenerate himself into a new form (which also comes in handy when contract disputes cause actors to leave the show.)  At his core, The Doctor loves people and always brings out the best in his companions.  He’s like a really jovial and quirky asexual uncle.

    Tuck Pendleton


    innerspaceOuter space can be dangerous, but INNERspace can be even more wrought with peril.  Any time you are shrunk by a team of scientists and injected in to Martin Short’s blood stream, things could get tricky.  Not to mention HILARIOUS!  This is the basic premise for Innerspace. Dennis Quaid plays Tuck Pendleton, a military man who is chosen to take part in an experiment that would put him in a high-tech pod, shrunk to microscopic size, and injected into a fluffy bunny.  But through a series of mishaps, he ends up being injected into Martin short, and just like that, we have a comedy.  Pendleton quickly becomes an expert of the human body (well, at least Martin Short’s body), and for that distinction alone he should be admired.  But he also gets into a tiny fight with a tiny villain inside a tiny robot inside of Martin Short.  Pretty cool.  There’s also a touching moment where he’s been transferred into his girl friend’s body (played by Meg Ryan) and he sees that she’s pregnant with his baby after he steers past the embryo (y’know, for the ladies). All in all, Tuck Pendleton is a miniaturized hero, and I would be thrilled to have Dennis Quaid inside of me…wait, that didn’t come out right.

    Malcom “Mal” Reynolds


    nathan fillion fireflySome uber-nerd would probably throw a brick through my window if I didn’t include Mal from Firefly on this list.  Mal is played by Nathan Fillion, and Nathan Fillion is a god among nerds.  If you didn’t know that, you probably don’t hang around enough nerds.  Although the original TV series created by Josh Whedon had a short initial run, it spawned two feature films and a large and loyal fan base.  Much of that is due to the character of Mal, who owns and captains the starship Serenity.  Mal is what some would describe as “damaged goods”.  He’s mysterious and flawed.  He’s kind of like a young Clint Eastwood in space.  Mal is sort of a wanderer, but always has the best interests of his crew at heart, as any good captain should.  There, I successfully avoided a shattered window.  Although someone is still probably going to slash my tires, since I’m leaving Han Solo off of this list.  Yeah, sorry.  But I will include…

    Lando Calrissian

    Star Wars Epidodes V and VI

    lando calrissianThat’s right! Lando!  AKA the coolest cat in the Star Wars universe.  So get out of my face with that Han Solo jive.  Lando is WAY better.  Lando has a gargantuan extended universe backstory, but it suffices to say he is very good at being a scoundrel/gambler/pilot/business man.  Lando was the first to win the Millennium Falcon during a game of Sabacc (which is kind of like Texas Hold-em, but for SUPER high stakes.)  He then lost it again to Han Solo, but then briefly used again in Return of the Jedi to destroy the Death Star II.  Of course, he also ran the lucrative mining colony at Cloud City, where he ended up pulling a fast one on Darth Vader and Boba Fett by ambushing the storm troopers that were holding Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO, ultimately setting in motion the events that would lead to Han being rescued.  The man is sneaky.  He also proves that a good leader never panics when the chips are down; he just gets even.  And his co-pilot in Jedi was hilarious.  I don’t know what that thing is called, but it looks like a frog beetle person, and makes noises like “hubbubub…hububadubadub.”  Yeah, that thing is awesome.  There is little doubt that Lando is no scruffy-looking nerf herder.

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