In the Star Trek Universe, you can rely on a number of things being consistent no matter which incarnation you’re watching: there’s always going to be a crew, there’s always going to be a leader forced to make difficult decisions, and there’s always going to be the presence of Starfleet. Starfleet is a program under the United Federation of Planets whose missions are scientific, diplomatic, defensive or a combination of all of the mentioned above. Starfleet has many responsibilities, as well as many members of various rankings similar to how we rank military officials. Starfleet has admirals, captains, commanders, etc., and one ship even has a “morale officer,” though this job was created under unique circumstances.
Across all of the Star Trek shows and films, we have been treated with seeing the comings and goings of many Starfleet officers. Some of them we only see for short time, while some of them we get to follow through seven seasons and a couple of movies. Starfleet has a lot of rules and directives that every member has to follow. When someone breaks the rules, there are consequences (unless you’re James Kirk who usually gets away with just about anything). On Star Trek: Discovery, the main character Michael Burnham has a fall from grace when she stages a mutiny against her captain and yet, this is a character we root for throughout the show. Starfleet Academy is full of characters, and here at CBR, we’re taking a look at the best and the worst of them.
20 BEST: BENJAMIN SISKO
Commander turned captain turned Emissary to the Prophets, Benjamin Sisko had quite a trajectory in the seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While Captains like Picard and Kirk are the most well-known in popular culture, Sisko deserves the same amount of reverence.
Unlike Picard and Kirk, Sisko’s responsibility, for a long time, was manning a space station. This meant he consistently dealt with the politics that arose out of having so many different species and citizens interacting. He handled all of his responsibilities while raising a son. Though he was at first a reluctant leader, he worked through his issues -- a lot of this happened in just the first episode!
19 WORST: CHAKOTAY
Chakotay initially resigned from Starfleet to join the Maquis, a group of rebels who disagreed with how Starfleet was handling the war against the Cardassians. However, he was forced to join Starfleet again when he, with a group of the Maquis, was stranded with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant.
Rebellion aside, the reason Chakotay is on this list is that the writers never really figured out what to do with his character. He was devoted to his captain, sure, and got some backstory (involving literal spirit animals), but we’re still not sure what his purpose on the ship was. The unlucky guy even he fell in love with someone that he was doomed to always forget.
18 BEST: CLARK TERRELL
Clark Terrell is not a Starfleet officer that immediately comes to mind when you think about Star Trek -- there are plenty of other well-known characters in this universe. However, Clark Terrell deserves a shoutout and the standing on this list for what he was willing to do as a captain.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan infects Captain Terrell and Chekov with Ceti eels which allow Khan to control them. Under Khan’s command, Terrell and Chekov help Khan to take control of the Reliant and act as a trap for Kirk. When Khan gives Terrell the order to end Kirk, Terrell resists. He take himself out instead to protect Kirk and the rest of the crew. This act of sacrifice should always be remembered among Star Trek fans.
17 WORST: SAAVIK
Saavik debuted in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and has been played by two different actresses: Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis. Another Vulcan, Saavik spent time learning from Spock as well as Kirk. However, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, she helps Spock, but a little too much was asked of her.
In The Search for Spock, Spock is reborn and quickly grows up. Saavik watches over him during this process. When Spock hits the pon farr stage where he has to mate, she helps him out once more. Too much is asked of Saavik, and this is a miscalculation the writers made. The character had a lot of potential to be significant but will ultimately be remembered for mating with a young Spock.
16 BEST: SPOCK
Spock is a forever fan-favorite character for a reason -- he was the perfect foil for Captain Kirk. While Kirk had a tendency to act first and think later, Spock could always be relied upon to give good counsel when Kirk needed it. Spock was, first and foremost, logical. Their friendship was truly born out of the “opposites attract” saying.
Spock and Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played him, have had a lasting impact on the Star Trek fandom. Leonard Nimoy directed one of the most delightful Star Trek films, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Even in the Star Trek film reboot, Zachary Quinto’s Spock is a beloved character.
15 WORST: NEELIX
Neelix is not an original member of the Voyager crew. Like the members of the Maquis, Captain Janeway brought Neelix onboard seemingly out of necessity, as she felt she needed someone familiar with the quadrant to help them establish relationships with the different species they would encounter.
And yet, Neelix’s role on the ship turns into a cook and “morale officer.” His love interest, Kes, goes away in the middle of the series, and he doesn’t have much to do in the rest of the series. He takes on a godfather role for one of the kids on the ship, but ultimately he just pops up in scenes in the cafeteria to ask other characters if they’d like dinner with an anecdote.
14 BEST: DATA
Data was Starfleet’s first android officer, and he proved to be invaluable to the Enterprise-D team. With Data on the crew, we got a lot of reflections on humanity throughout the seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Not only was Data obviously very smart, but he also made himself valuable with his physical strength. Additionally, because he was not human, there have been situations where the rest of the crew was incapacitated while Data was not, leaving Data to save the day. He’s also one of few characters in Star Trek to have a pet, a cat named Spot.
13 WORST: WESLEY CRUSHER
Wesley Crusher is another Star Trek character to drop out of Starfleet only to return. We got to know him on the Enterprise-D because his mother, Dr. Beverly Crusher, was serving as the ship’s chief medical officer. Wesley’s purpose as a character was to have a young presence on board that the kids watching at home could identify with, but oftentimes the character was just annoying.
Wesley has gotten a lot of criticism over the years for being an annoying character, but there’s no doubting that the kid was gifted. He figures out what the Traveler was doing before the rest of the crew, and he did go to join Starfleet. Though he resigns, we know that at some point he does become an officer based on his get-up at Troi and Riker’s wedding.
12 BEST: NYOTA UHURA
Uhura is an integral part of the original Star Trek franchise. Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played her, was a woman of color who was prominently featured on television in a time where this often wasn’t the case.
Uhura’s role on the Enterprise was as the chief communications officer. She was the one who was in charge of sending and receiving messages. While known for bringing Tribbles on board the Enterprise, there have been numerous instances of her having an active role in saving the day. This includes tricking androids that she turned on the crew in the show and a fan dance in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
11 WORST: RO LAREN
We got to know Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her time in Starfleet was marked by tragedy. In one of her early assignments, she disobeyed orders which led to the demise of multiple crewmates. As a result, Starfleet court-martialed her, and she only got a release to help them with a Bajoran criminal, leading to her presence on the Enterprise-D.
No one seemed to trust her with the exception of Guinan. She proved herself worthy to Picard and the rest, and Starfleet allowed her to attend Advanced Tactical Training. Eventually, though, she sided with the Maquis and left Starfleet once and for all, betraying Picard’s trust in the process.
10 BEST: KATHRYN JANEWAY
Captain Janeway was the first featured female captain in the Star Trek Universe to helm her own series. She didn’t just get to explore space, however. The premise of the show, Star Trek: Voyager, is that through a freak occurrence, the ship was beamed to another quadrant of space, so it was her mission to return her crew home. The only problem is, with their technology, it would take beyond their lifetimes to make it back.
This meant Janeway had to get creative. No one was prepared for a lifetime aboard this vessel, so she integrated the Maquis into her crew, she sought out new technology, and she defended her ship and her crew, often putting her life on the line. Captain Janeway not only did her job, but went above and beyond anything expected for a Starfleet captain.
9 WORST: VOQ/ASH TYLER
A surprising reveal during Star Trek: Discovery’s first season is that Ash Tyler, the man Michael Burnham was falling in love with, was a sleeper agent. Voq, a dangerous Klingon, underwent an intense surgery to look human which included splicing DNA and retaining memories of the original Ash Tyler.
Obviously, this was a huge betrayal not only to Michael but to all of Starfleet. The crew was originally sympathetic of Tyler’s post-traumatic stress, but it was actually the Voq memories coming through. He also ends Dr. Culber, who was one half of our favorite Discovery couple, Culber and Stamets.
8 BEST: HIKARU SULU
During the time when Star Trek: The Original Series was airing, it was rare to see an Asian person have a meaningful role on television. Hikaru Sulu was one of those characters that gave the Asian community some representation in a time where there wasn’t much in media.
Sulu, though most remembered for being shirtless with a rapier, was very good at his job. Not only could he assume command of the Enterprise well, but he also becomes a captain in his own right. Even his daughter, Demora, becomes an Ensign, so the Sulu family continues to serve in Starfleet.
7 WORST: KATHERINE PULASKI
The character Dr. Beverly Crusher was well-liked by Star Trek fans, so it was already going to be hard to replace Gates McFadden in Season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Though she was proficient at her job, she didn’t fit in with the rest of the Enterprise-D crew. Ultimately, this is not the fault of the actress, Diana Muldaur, who did the best she could with a difficult role.
Dr. Pulaski did not really get along with Captain Picard, nor was she very nice to Data. Pulaski was written to be more averse to technology (which was weird for her being in medical science), and therefore, she didn’t treat Data as a person when she first came aboard. With Data being a popular character, this didn’t go over very well.
6 BEST: PHILIPPA GEORGIOU
On Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Philippa Georgiou was an excellent role model for Michael Burnham. Even though Burnham eventually staged a mutiny against her, Georgiou recognized her skill and had Burnham accompany her to capture the Klingon T’Kuvma.
Georgiou bravely fell in the fight with T’Kuvma. Starfleet recognized her as one of the most decorated Starfleet captains, and even in her passing, Georgiou continued to influence Burnham. Her last will and testament bequeathed her most prized possession, a telescope, to Burnham. While we also have an evil Mirror Universe version of Georgiou to contend with, there’s no doubting that Georgiou was one of the best Starfleet captains.
5 WORST: ANTHONY HAFTEL
Vice Admiral Anthony Haftel was kind of the worst because he wanted to separate a child from her father. Even if we’re talking about an android father and child being separated, Haftel is guilty of abusing his power for sure.
Haftel specialized in cybernetics and took an interest in Data’s daughter, Lal. He wanted to take Lal to study her, which Data protested. Even Lal herself didn’t want to go with him. Haftel had no respect for neither Lal nor Data’s wishes, and it took Captain Picard’s threat to report him to Starfleet to get Haftel to back off.
4 BEST: JEAN-LUC PICARD
As far as the battle for best captains goes, it’s often boiled down to Captain Jean-Luc Picard versus Captain James T. Kirk among the Star Trek community. Picard has always proved himself to be an excellent Starfleet officer. He listens to and respects his crew, and prefers to negotiate rather than jumping in headfirst into a brawl.
Picard is an insightful character, and his respect means the world to many of the Star Trek characters. He’s also gone through a lot in his journey that deserves respect, including being assimilated into the Borg. We’re excited to see more of this character in the CBS All-Access solo series!
3 WORST: ALEXANDER MARCUS
Admiral Alexander Marcus is technically in the Star Trek “alternate reality” with the newer films featuring Chris Pine as James Kirk. Marcus appears in Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was a twist on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In Into Darkness, Marcus is responsible for reviving Khan.
In his hubris, Marcus thought he could control him, but of course, Khan outwits him. Marcus tries unsuccessfully to cover up his mistake and attempted to wipe out the Enterprise to keep his secret from being revealed to Starfleet. Marcus always thought he was doing the right thing even when he was very wrong, making him a terrible Starfleet officer.
2 BEST: THE DOCTOR
Voyager wasn’t prepared with a Doctor on board, so the entire time they were traveling back from the Delta Quadrant, their medical problems were dealt with by the Emergency Medical Hologram. Over time, the Doctor developed a personality and really became one of the crew. The ordeals the Doctor experienced were unlike any a human could fathom.
One example is the Doctor was reactivated in the far future and had to correct their version of Voyager, which is one where they thought the Voyager crew were all criminals. Because he was a hologram, he, on numerous occasions, was one of few crew members left to save the ship. He’s the best because he wasn’t meant for full-time Starfleet service, yet he went beyond our expectations.
1 WORST: GARY MITCHELL
The worst Starfleet member is from one of the first episodes of the Star Trek: The Original Series. Indeed, Gary Mitchell is the original terrible Starfleet officer. He was aboard the Enterprise because he was Kirk’s friend, but he eventually proved to be untrustworthy.
Mitchell started developing insane telepathic powers and turned on his friends and crewmates. Kirk wanted to maroon him on Delta Vega, but it came at a price. Multiple crew members passed away that day, including Gary Mitchell. He’s one of the most powerful beings the Enterprise came up against and also one of the worst Starfleet officers.