For decades fans have argued over the best Star Trek captain. No longer. Today we present the definitive ranking of every main crew member aboard a televised Federation starship (or space station).
Every Star Trek fan has wrestled with it: is Kirk a better captain than Picard? Is Archer better than both? The captain you prefer speaks volumes about your personality. If you love Picard, you’re a theatre nerd. If you think Janeway did no wrong, you’re a psychopath.
But listen, this isn’t about personality. This isn’t about favourites. I’m here to rank every single Starfleet crew member according to their goddamn job, because that’s what they’re there to do. Let’s work our way up.
6. Jake Sisko, Deep Space Nine
This softboi has no place on a starship.
5. Wesley Crusher, The Next Generation
He’s a genuinely smart kid, and will go far at the Academy once he tones it down a bit. For now: shut up, Wesley.
4. Pavel Chekov, The Original Series
Did you know that Soviet Russia actually invented ensigns? Chekov is a cheeky ensign, but a skilled one.
3. Sylvia Tilly, Discovery
She’s a little awkward, but does everything asked of her and then some. A good lateral thinker and a gosh-darned great friend.
2. Nog, Deep Space Nine
Proving you can count on a Ferengi for more than just a rip-off, Nog brings honour to all ensigns.
1. Harry Kim, Voyager
It’s a fucking outrage that Harry was never promoted. This man has gone above and beyond the duties of a goddamn admiral just to keep Voyager on track. Harry Kim is the most capable, most kind, and most well-rounded character in all of Star Trek and to give him the rank of Ensign is to spit on the spirit of Starfleet itself. Another reason Janeway is going to Hell.
5. Hikaru Sulu, The Original Series
Sulu is a Helmsman, Security Officer, and an astroscientist. It’s hard to be good at one job when your boss is making you do three at the same time.
4. Data and Wesley Crusher, The Next Generation
I’m putting these two together because when they’re driving it kind of feels like the Enterprise-D is just a point-and-push — there’s not a lot of manoeuvring.
3. Ro Laren, The Next Generation
A brief but welcome addition to the helmsfolk clan, Ro made driving the Enterprise-D look exciting! Also, I have a soft spot for Bajorans.
2. Keyla Detmer, Discovery
The good ship Disco has weathered several dicey bits of space and pulled off some whack manoeuvres – and Detmer’s the helmsman behind it all.
1. Tom Paris, Voyager
He’s a hothead, he’s a liability, he’s the best damn pilot you’ve ever seen!
3. Janice Rand, The Original Series
She started out as a yeoman, and royally pissed Kirk off when she insisted he follow his doctor-ordered diet. She was a Communications Officer during the whale probe incident, which is one of the weirdest things a communications expert has ever dealt with.
2. Nyota Uhura, The Original Series
For some reason, women are always Communications Officers. This might be because they’re willing to actually listen. In addition to being the best exolinguist around, Uhura shared ship’s counsellor duties with McCoy by singing, consoling, and generally offering an alternative to the doctor’s whisky box.
1. Hoshi Sato, Enterprise
Sato was the first human to learn the Klingon language, broke a superior’s arm over a poker game gone wrong, and once screamed when she found dead bodies, which is a very healthy and normal reaction that more people should have.
7. Neelix, Voyager
Oh my God, that voice. Does anyone actually like Neelix? His job was “chef” and yet everyone on board used replicators to make food — telling.
6. Guinan, The Next Generation
Whoopi Goldberg as an immortal bartender. It works.
5. Saru, Discovery
The first and only Kelpian in Starfleet does the hard work on Kelpian-human cultural relations by asking Michael Burnham to kill him. This only brings them closer together. What didn’t kill Saru literally made him stronger, and now he’s on track for captaincy.
4. Dax, Deep Space Nine
Dax is a xenomorphic life form consisting of a Trill symbiont and a willing host and they are hands-down the funniest person on the space station. Jadzia Dax is their form throughout most of Deep Space Nine, but in their previous form as Curzon Dax they were friends with Sisko. Watching him call the energetic, progressive young Jadzia “old man” is a simple joke, but it kills every episode.
3. Seven of Nine, Voyager
This is a controversial entry due to her human biology. However, she used to be a Borg drone and that’s as culturally removed as you can get from human. Watching her learn to embrace herself and others as individuals is cry emoji.
2. Elim Garak, Deep Space Nine
He’s a bisexual lizard worm who runs a tailoring shop on a space station and also he’s a spy for the Cardassians, or is he? He’s Doctor Bashir’s best friend and deserves more love for putting up with that guy.
1. Quark, Deep Space Nine
Quark is your stereotypical grumpy barman, serial entrepreneur, and all-around asshole. On more than one occasion he has battled his baser instincts (the Rules of Acquisition) to save the skin of his fellow crew members. If that’s not true love and friendship, I don’t know what is.
6. Hikaru Sulu, The Original Series
Who let this man bring a sword on board? A good security officer needs to be able to defuse an argument, not start one.
5. Worf, son of Mogh, The Next Generation
Swinging a bat’leth does not a good security officer make. Having a Klingon on your security team is a genius move, but his honour sometimes stood in the way of those hard moral decisions. I’d love to hear him and Tuvok host a security dilemmas podcast.
4. Malcolm Reed, Enterprise
His stiff upper lip was grating, but he improvised, adapted, and overcame when it was required. His section 31 training gives him an edge over more traditional security officers.
3. Ash Tyler, Discovery
Despite the glaring failure to realise he was, himself, actually a Klingon agent, Tyler’s very good at his job. He’s instinctive but not impulsive, he’s willing to operate in grey areas, and he will do anything to keep his crew safe from harm.
2. Tuvok, Voyager
He turned an entire ship of Maquis terrorists into Starfleet’s finest. That’s just good security practice. On a personal note, Tuvok taught me more about what it is to love than any human, and now I cry when I think about him.
1. Odo, Deep Space Nine
A grumpy pile of goo is the only security standing between Dominion hordes and the Alpha Quadrant. Odo sleeps in a bucket and can’t be bothered shapeshifting himself eyebrows. He’s not from Starfleet, and he’s not going to run the station that way – and that’s the smartest choice a security officer ever made.
6. Miles O’Brien, The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine
He spends all his time on the holodeck instead of anywhere near an engine.
5. Charles “Trip” Tucker III, Enterprise
More notable for being a bit of a skux and getting pregnant that one time than his engineering capabilities.
4. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, The Original Series
He’s very good at delegating but seems to run overtime with projects. Big mad scientist vibe.
3. Geordi LaForge, The Next Generation
He can see through walls, so he’s pretty good at his job.
2. B’Elanna Torres, Voyager
Breaking glass ceilings for Klingons and women everywhere, she’s the most talented engineer in the Maquis and Starfleet.
1. Paul Stamets, Discovery
He gave his own body for the mushroomverse! He is literally part of an engine now.
6. Michael Burnham, Discovery
She’s very smart but absolutely dismal at following orders. Sorry, Mike, but that’s the job. Why can’t you be more like your brother?
5. T’Pol, Enterprise
With only 22nd century Federation tools at her disposal, T’Pol had a difficult job. She rose above the dumbassery on her crew and helped the Federation go really, truly, where it had never gone before (anywhere).
4. Spock, The Original Series
Thanks to his half-human, half-vulcan outlook, Spock sees things more objectively than any other science officer. He’s “rational” with a dose of human imagination, which means he’s the best damn problem-solver on the ship. He’s good, but he doesn’t have the curiosity required to be a great Science Officer.
3. Jadzia Dax, Deep Space Nine
One part mad scientist, one part beacon of progressive virtue, Dax teaches us all about the wonders of science and the perils of not being cool enough (the peril is that she’ll do a sick burn on you in front of everyone).
2. Data, The Next Generation
The cornerstone of science is curiosity, and Data’s is relentless. He’s constantly asking questions, tweaking himself, and generally annoying the shit out of Picard – and that’s what a good science officer does.
1. Kathryn Janeway, Voyager
She may be a captain, but Janeway started out as a science officer and never stopped. She subsists solely on coffee, has wiped the doctor’s memory several times, is the most feared captain in the Delta Quadrant, once turned into a giant lizard, and sanctions murder — she’s the ultimate mad scientist.
7. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, The Original Series
A terrible doctor. He doesn’t know jack shit about non-human biology and uses racist slurs against Spock.
6. Hugh Culber, Discovery
Has the best bedside manner of all the Starfleet doctors, but this didn’t stop him from dying, did it?! Nice one, Culber.
5. Beverly Crusher, The Next Generation
Great bedside manner! Overwhelmingly average in every other area. Bonus points for knowing when to ask for help.
4. Katherine Pulaski, The Next Generation
Terrible bedside manner, incredibly knowledgable doctor. I would trust her with my life.
3. Julian Bashir, Deep Space Nine
When you find out he’s illegally genetically enhanced, suddenly it makes much more sense how a doctor can be so good looking and so skilled.
2. Phlox, Enterprise
He had less technology available to him than other doctors, so often had to improvise using small animals. A master of biohacking.
1. The Emergency Medical Hologram, Voyager
Over the course of the show, he goes from a short-lived emergency medical tool to a man with passions and interests who can actually leave sickbay. Thanks to carrying the entirety of Starfleet’s medical knowledge in his data banks, he accomplishes some of the most impressive feats in its history: he de-assimilates a Borg, wipes out Species 8472 with biological warfare, and creates fully-functional holographic lungs.
7. Michael Burnham, Discovery
She assaulted her captain and was sentenced to life in prison. Cool character choice, terrible job performance.
6. Saru, Discovery
Smart but a little too practical to be the cutting-edge moral compass a starship needs, On the other hand, all Discovery’s captains were loose units, so this might have been a good staffing choice.
5. Number One, The Original Series/Discovery
She didn’t even get a name, but Pike’s first officer Number One stole the show. She featured in the first Star Trek pilot back in the 60s, where she was clearly the most competent crew member. She was revived for a single episode of Discovery, but it’s not enough.
4. William Riker, The Next Generation
A fierce defender of his crew and an absolute skuxx deluxx. Not in any way Picard’s moral touchstone, but then Picard doesn’t need ethical advice – he needs someone who can pull off a v-neck and seduce emissaries.
3. Chakotay, Voyager
A terrorist with a heart of gold, Chakotay literally gave up his role as a Maquis leader to merge his crew with Janeway’s and follow the rules of Starfleet. He is the reason Janeway remains loveable and never goes full despot. Chakotay is an angel.
2. Spock, The Original Series
Like all good first officers, Spock’s main role is to make the captain check himself. Without Spock, the Enterprise would have collapsed in a hundred different ways, a hundred times over.
1. Kira Nerys, Deep Space Nine
She disagrees with Sisko on almost everything. She used to be a “terrorist” (Bajoran resistance fighter) and honestly, sometimes she still is. Kira has to represent the interests of Bajor and those of Starfleet, and she kind of hates them both. This makes her perfect for the job.
7. Gabriel Lorca, Discovery
He’s a mirror universe replacement. Due to being from the evil Terran empire, he’s not a good captain.
6. Christopher Pike, The Original Series/Discovery
Pike is just really hot and very calm. He’s not actually that impressive. He figured out some dudes with big brains were psychic, big whoop.
5. James T. Kirk, The Original Series
Sure, he’s charismatic, but he has less concern for the prime directive than any other captain. If he stopped ignoring red flags and listened to even one single member of his crew, he wouldn’t rip so many shirts.
4. Jonathan Archer, Enterprise
Being the first captain of the first ever Enterprise in Starfleet history is a tough job. He later became President of the Federation and had two planets named after him. A good captain, but I minused points because I watched Quantum Leap before this and can’t take him seriously.
3. Kathryn Janeway, Voyager
She’s the smartest captain, the best speech-giver, and the best at pool. She still murdered Tuvix.
2. Jean-Luc Picard, The Next Generation
Despite the Locutus of Borg incident (R.I.P. Sisko’s wife), he’s still one of the finest captains in Starfleet history. He’s also BFFs with Q, which is a huge asset to the Federation.
1. Benjamin Sisko, Deep Space Nine
He won the Dominion War, he punched Q in the face, and he was, briefly, a literal God.
independent journalism happen!Find Out More
Deanna Troi, The Next Generation
Thank you for your sacrifices, Deanna. Whether it was losing your ability to breathe when they made you wear those dresses, or the mental pain inflicted by being able to read Riker’s mind, you have given more than the crew of the Enterprise-D will ever know.
Special R.I.P. awards to Tasha Yar and Kes, who both passed on in the service of developing their shows in new directions.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.