Star Trek Hardly Ever Uses Abrams’ Movie Captain Rule (When It Should)

If Starfleet Regulation 619 was strictly implemented, captains across the Star Trek universe would be forced to resign command on a regular basis.

J.J. Abram’s Star Trek introduces a Starfleet regulation regarding starship Captains that is often violated but rarely implemented. Starfleet Regulation 619 states that any command officer (addressed as “Captain”) who is emotionally compromised by the mission at hand must resign said command. Captains are often emotionally compromised across the many Star Trek properties, yet Regulation 619 is rarely used, and for good reason.

The 2009 reboot Star Trek, helmed by J.J. Abrams, ushers in the Kelvin Timeline, an alternate universe with a significantly different history and development from that of the original Prime universe. The timeline split occurs when the Romulan Nero (Eric Bana) travels back in time to 2233 and destroys the Federation starship USS Kelvin, commanded by Lt. Commander George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth). Without his father’s influence, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) embarks on a very different path to Starfleet than his Prime counterpart. However, Kirk still finds himself serving alongside Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

Related: Star Trek 4’s Rejected Plan Made The Same Abrams Kelvin Movie Mistake

Why Star Trek Rarely Uses Starfleet’s Emotionally Compromised Captain Rule

Kirk dying in Star Trek: Generations and Into Darkness

One of the few instances in which Starfleet Regulation 619 is used comes in Star Trek 2009, the movie in which its existence was first revealed. Spock maroons a mutinous Kirk on Delta Vega, where Kirk meets the older Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) from the Prime timeline stranded there by Nero. Realizing the fate of Earth hangs in the balance, Prime Spock informs Kirk of Regulation 619 as a means to take command of the Enterprise. Kirk returns to the ship and provokes Spock, who has just witnessed the death of his mother and the destruction of his home planet of Vulcan, into a violent outburst, revealing himself to be emotionally compromised and unfit for command.

Regulation 619 exists in both the Kelvin and Prime timelines, as evident by Prime Spock’s knowledge of it. However, it’s rarely used because it can create unnecessary upheaval on a ship, not to mention most crew members are probably too loyal to their captain to ever use it. Replacing a starship captain, especially during the crucial moments of a life-or-death mission, is not ideal. Even when they are emotionally compromised, captains often give the crew their best chance of survival and the mission its best chance of success. Abrams’ Star Trek is an exception as Kirk is privy to vital information that makes him the more suitable candidate to captain the Enterprise. Plus, loyalty to Spock isn’t a problem for Kirk as he and Spock have yet to form a friendship.

Regulation 619 Would Create A Storytelling Problem

Spock and Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness

Captains becoming emotionally compromised by the mission at hand is a common Star Trek trope, one that creates a problem if Regulation 619 is to be taken seriously. In Star Trek: The Original Series season 1, episode 13, “The Conscience of the King,” Captain Kirk’s affection for Lenore Karidian (Barbara Anderson) blinds him to her murderous actions in a time of crisis, yet he never relinquishes command. In Star Trek: Discovery season 4, Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) maintains command of the USS Discovery-A while hiding her emotions inside a noise-canceling bubble. A story cannot afford to have its lead protagonist constantly resigning the very command that makes him or her the lead protagonist.

A captain must possess the ability to make rational decisions in order to protect the crew and carry out a successful mission. The reasoning behind Star Trek‘s Regulation 619 is that a captain who has become emotionally compromised no longer has that ability. The regulation is prudent and practical within the Star Trek universe, but from a story development standpoint, it’s simply illogical.

More: Star Trek: Every Time Captain Kirk Violated The Prime Directive, Explained

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