We’ve celebrated Star Trek’s legendary starship captains, but for every Kirk, Picard or Sisko there are some truly horrendous captains that appeared in the Star Trek television shows and films. Here are the worst Star Trek captains in the history of Starfleet.
10. Captain Liam Shaw (Star Trek: Picard Season Three)
Command: U.S.S. Titan-A, NCC-80102-A
This guy is certainly the best of the worst. Shaw is abrasive, rude, risk-averse and an all-around jerk. But what cements Liam Shaw’s place on this list was how he dumped command of his ship, the Titan A, onto Will Riker, instead of acting like a real captain and getting the Titan out of danger. Still, many times during Star Trek: Picard, Shaw was the voice of reason and he was not afraid to say “Wait a minute, should we be doing this?” whenever our heroes ran off to danger. Also, he often was a scene stealer thanks to Todd Stashwick’s acting skills, especially once we learned he was a survivor of the Battle of Wolf 359.
9. Captain J.T. Esteban (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Command: U.S.S. Grissom, NCC-638
The list has many risk-averse commanding officers and J.T. Esteban is great example of this trait. During his brief appearance in the film, Esteban came off as an unyielding, by-the-book type who refused to listen to reason. What was even worse with Esteban was that he was too slow to react to sudden developments and this cost him his life, along with the crew of the Grissom when the Klingons destroyed his ship.
8. Captain John Harriman (Star Trek Generations)
Command: U.S.S. Enterprise-B, NCC-1701-B
“It won’t be installed until Tuesday!” was the infamous catchphrase from this hapless captain. Harriman had the unenviable task of following up the legendary James T. Kirk as he assumed command of the Enterprise B during the opening scenes of Star Trek Generations. Right away, Harriman was in over his head and was frozen with indecision as he tried to command the Enterprise literally under the shadow of Kirk.
7. Captain Lawrence Styles (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Command: U.S.S. Excelsior, NX-2000
Styles was a pompous, egotistical jerk who had the audacity to think his shiny new Excelsior was superior to the original Enterprise. Yes, the Excelsior was new with the latest tech, but that does not mean it becomes a legend. The minute he was introduced in the film and displayed a dismissive attitude towards the Enterprise and the original crew, fans instantly disliked him and for good reason. One of the best moments in the film was when he saw his beloved ship suffer an epic malfunction as it tried to pursue the Enterprise as it took off on its last voyage.
6. Captain Gabriel Lorca (Star Trek: Discovery Season One)
Command: U.S.S. Discovery, NCC-1031
The captain of the Discovery was popular when he was first introduced due to his no-nonsense and stern attitude that was a more realistic portrayal of a commanding officer. He even gave the disgraced Michael Burnham a chance to redeem herself by posting her on the ship. However, once it was revealed that Lorca was actually a manipulative wannabe despot from the Mirror Universe, he earned a permanent spot on this list. It’s too bad Lorca turned out to be such a dick, for a while, he was the best character on the show.
5. Captain Ben Maxwell (Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Wounded”)
Command: U.S.S. Phoenix, NCC-65420
The ends clearly do not justify the means with this starship captain. He has a tragic backstory where his family was killed by Cardassians during a war. In the episode “The Wounded”, Maxwell took it upon himself to launch preemptive attacks on Cardassians with his starship, the Phoenix, because he was convinced the Cardassians violated a treaty with the United Federation of Planets and were rearming themselves against the Federation. Even though in the end he was correct, his actions nearly sparked a war between the Federation and the Cardassians that the Federation was not in the condition to fight after Starfleet was decimated by the Borg earlier in the season.
4. Captain Ronald Tracey (Star Trek “The Omega Glory”)
Command: U.S.S. Exeter, NCC-1672
How this lunatic ever passed Starfleet Academy is anyone’s guess. First, he got his crew killed when he led a landing party on one of those parallel worlds and contracted a virus that killed everyone on his ship, the Exeter. Then, he openly violated the Prime Directive by taking sides in a local war on the planet. This he did to supposedly provide immortality to humanity. Finally, he tried to get the locals to kill Kirk, Spock and McCoy by exploiting their superstitious beliefs. Great job there, Tracey.
3. Captain Rudy Ransom (Star Trek: Voyager “Equinox, Part I and II”)
Command: U.S.S. Equinox, NCC-72381
Here is another fallen Starfleet captain who flagrantly violated the Prime Directive. Stranded in the distant Delta Quadrant, Ransom and his ship, the Equinox, had suffered numerous calamities. Desperate for fuel to get home faster, Ransom’s crew discovered that dimensional beings generated a power source for the Equinox, but the beings had to be murdered for the fuel. This led to a disastrous conflict with the Voyager and its crew. Special dishonor also has to go to Ransom’s first officer, Maxwell Burke, for taking command of the Equinox from Ransom after the captain began to see the error of his ways.
2. “Captain” Tim Watters (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Valiant”)
Command: U.S.S. Valiant, NCC-74210
This insufferable snot-nosed punk deserved to be killed for his arrogance. He gets the title of captain in quotes because he was just an elite cadet who wound up in command of the Valiant when the ship’s crew was killed. So, he doesn’t even deserve to be called a captain. Anyway, during his dictatorial command he refused to listen to reason, threw people who disagreed with him in the brig, and let his arrogance kill the remaining crew of the Valiant when he foolishly led a doomed attack on a Jem’Hadar battlecruiser. In the words of Nog, who was one of the few survivors, “in the end, he was a bad captain.”
1. Captain Edward Jellico (Star Trek: The Next Generation “Chain of Command, Part I and II”)
Command: U.S.S. Cairo, NCC-42136 and U.S.S. Enterprise-D, NCC-1701-D
Man, was this guy a raging A-hole! Super strict, authoritarian, obtuse, antagonistic, unwilling to listen to others, Jellico just rubbed people the wrong way. After taking command of the Enterprise D from Jean-Luc Picard, Jellico quickly alienated the ship’s command officers with his brusque, My-Way-Or-The-Highway style of command. Sure, his manner of running things was effective, and arguably realistic according to those with military experience, but he had everyone so wound up that morale plummeted badly on the ship. It was no wonder that we cheered when Riker finally told him off. Unfortunately, this jerkwad was eventually promoted to an admiral as seen in Star Trek: Prodigy, and he has not changed a bit.
Anyone has a different list of captains that should be mentioned? Feel free to leave a comment!
Maybe the captain from “The Doomsday Machine”. He basically did the Captain Ahab act and wanted to sacrifice the crew to kill the Doomsday Machine.
Dekker almost made the list but he was a commodore.
Jellicoe was definitely deserving of the #1 spot on this list. Ronny Cox also proved his gift for unpleasant sci-fi roles in Robocop, Total Recall and Stargate SG1.
I think Jellico rubs people the wrong way because he is so much like the bosses we have to deal with. But I’ve heard that his strict approach supposedly works in real life, but in my experience workplaces run like Jellico’s often end up being miserable places and bleed workers quickly.
Indeed. The scene where Riker in his quarters severely criticizes Jellicoe’s command abilities in front of him makes me feel sorry him.
Well, Jellico had it coming to him, but he turned out ok since we next see him as an admiral in Prodigy
That’s a really interesting list, never thought about the worst Captains in Star Trek before. Edward Jellico would be my top choice as well, he was such a….. well, not v very nice was he! Poor old Captain John Harriman, he never had a chance really, maybe if he’d taken the Enterprise B out for a spin on Tuesday instead everything would’ve been ok LOL?
Yeah poor Harriman was in the wrong place at the wrong time! But who knows what became of him, putting aside the Beta canon, maybe he was inspired by Kirk’s sacrifice and learned to become a decent captain.
It does make you wonder what happened to him doesn’t it? Maybe it will be addressed in a spin-off novel or comic one day perhaps?
Alan Ruck reprised Harriman for the YouTube Star Trek Story “Of Gods And Men”. It involved the mirror universe and also brought back Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig.
Cool! I’ll have to check it out, thanks for the info.
Ah yes, that’s right. I knew it rang a bell as soon as I thought about Captain Harriman.
I know he appeared again in the Star Trek novels of the Lost Era.
That’s good to know.
I agree with many of your choices, but I have grown to like Shaw. While I do agree he gave command up too easily to Riker, it was a producers choice to give Riker and Picard more scenes on the bridge.
Oh I agree that Shaw has grown on us and would rather see a Shaw-based series instead of the just announced Starfleet Academy show (BARF!). But Shaw did not give a good first impression and the transferring of command was uncalled for. Any other captain would have thrown Picard and Riker in the brig.
I so agree about Starfleet Academy, esp if it’s in the Discovery era. Give us a Titan show with Shaw & Seven and then interweave legacy characters from the other shows in!
I have always thought that a Star Trek series that takes place in the Starfleet Academy would be a good idea. But especially in this very challenged era for the Trek universe, it’s a question of how you do it.
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