Star Trek Guide

Star Trek Theory: Kirk Is The Reason Picard Stayed as Enterprise Captain

Meeting Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in Star Trek Generations may have been a deciding factor in why Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) remained as Captain of the Starship Enterprise for as long as he did. In Star Trek: Picard, Trekkers learned that Jean-Luc was promoted to Admiral and headed up the mission to rescue the Romulan people from their sun going supernova before he quit Starfleet in 2385. Of course, Kirk was promoted to Admiral not long after he completed his legendary five-year mission as seen in Star Trek: The Original Series - and Picard learned key lessons from Kirk's career mistakes after meeting the Starfleet icon.

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Star Trek Generations was the historic meeting between the two greatest Captains of the Enterprise. Kirk was believed dead when he was lost in the space-ribbon called the Nexus in 2293; 78 years later, Picard's mission to stop a mad scientist named Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) from destroying a star and killing billions led to him getting trapped in the Nexus as well - where Jean-Luc met Kirk, who believed he was also newly-arrived in the other-dimensional plane. They quickly agreed to team up and the two Captains returned to Veridian III in 2371 where they stopped Soran's scheme. Sadly, however, Kirk died from injuries sustained in their conflict. After burying Kirk, Picard returned to his Starfleet career - headlining three more Star Trek: The Next Generation movies - before he finally vacated the U.S.S. Enterprise-E's Captain's chair in 2385. All told, Jean-Luc Picard was Captain of the Enterprise for 21 uninterrupted years.

When Kirk deferred to Picard as his peer in Star Trek Generations and humbly asked, "Who am I to argue with the Captain of the Enterprise?", Kirk asked if Jean-Luc was nearing retirement. When Picard answered, "I'm not planning on it," Kirk offered this crucial advice to his successor:

Judging by Picard's career path after his chance encounter with Captain Kirk, Jean-Luc took his words to heart. Picard remained Captain of the Enterprise for another 14 years. After "making a difference" and saving the galaxy multiple times, Jean-Luc finally left Starfleet when he was 80 years old.

If Kirk could undo his past mistakes, he would undoubtedly have remained as Captain of the Enterprise for as long as possible. Kirk held the rank of Admiral for the first four Star Trek TOS movies, accepting a desk job that his two best friends, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), told him flat-out was a mistake. As Spock succinctly told Kirk, "Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else is a waste of material." Naturally, the logical Vulcan was correct. In fact, Kirk was relieved when he was demoted back to Captain after saving the Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, because it meant he could officially do the only job he wanted all along: "making a difference" by commanding his beloved starship.

Indeed, Admiral Kirk resorted to Machiavellian means to regain his command. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk used his rank to take the Enterprise away from its rightful Captain, Will Decker (Stephen Collins), when V'Ger threatened the Earth. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock was Captain of the Enterprise and he graciously offered the big chair to Kirk, knowing Jim wanted it (and would have taken it anyway) when Khan (Ricardo Montalban) stole the Genesis Device. And, as Trekkers learned in Star Trek Generations, Kirk retired after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, only to turn his back on his peaceful, country life with his new love Antonia and return to Starfleet because he missed the action.

Admirably, Picard never displayed any inconsistency with his chosen career path; Jean-Luc was always solely dedicated to Starfleet and he fully understood the significance of being the Captain of the Enterprise, which is also the flagship of the United Federation of Planets in his 24th-century era. No doubt, Picard also studied Kirk's career and the mistakes his predecessor made. So it's logical to assume that, after his fateful meeting with Kirk, Picard likely decided it was wise not to argue with the career advice given to him by the Captain of the Enterprise.


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