Oh Captain: Jacob Brown

Posted by CB Droege

Ship’s captains have been an important part of genre fiction for a long time. Thusly, in our first genre feature series, we’re looking at ship’s captains. Today’s captain is Jacob Brown of the Vanguard Explorer.

In 1988, Disney aired the three and a half hour pilot (in two episodes) for a new series called "Earth Star Voyager."

It was similar to the old "Battlestar Galactica," in that it featured a starship disconnected from human contact for an extended period of time, however, this show featured children as the ship’s crew in an attempt to bring in a younger demographic (of course there were good plot reasons to crew the ship with children, also).

The pilot didn’t track well, however, and the show was never produced any further. Even the pilot has been mostly lost to history, being nearly impossible to find today.

Brown was not the protagonist of the story. That spot fell to Captain Jonathan Hayes, the commander of the titular ship. Brown’s story begins 6 years before the opening of the plot:

He was the commander of the Explorer when it suffered a mutiny. Not much detail is given about the cause of the mutiny, nor of what happened during the fighting. One can assume that it was intended that much of that background would be given later in the series, as the character developed. What the audience does get to understand is that Brown knocked out the leader of the mutiny and escaped the ship in a stasis pod.

Years later he is picked up by the Voyager, and finds himself on a ship run by children on a forty year mission to investigate a possible habitable planet for the residents of the quickly dying Earth to colonize. However, he’s gone from one tumultuous ship to another, as he discovers that the Voyager has had its own share of issues.

The original Captain (and only experienced leader) has been murdered, leaving the oldest of the crew, 21 year old Hayes (the actor for whom also played a small role on another show about a ship called Voyager) in charge of the mission, almost immediately after it began. Someone on the crew is subverting the mission, and having some experience with a subverted crew, and more experience on a ship in general, Brown becomes like a combination advisor / guardian to Hayes and his young team.

With Brown’s help, the crew builds new weapons to defend themselves with (he opines that they are severely lacking in heavy weaponry, and happens to know how to build a rail-gun from spare parts), and successfully escapes from the clutches of an evil space-gang.

Brown is not without his own selfish motivations, however. When the Voyager comes across the remnants of the mysteriously derelict Explorer, he convinces Hayes to risk his crew and his mission in an attempt to board the vessel and retrieve the ship’s logs.

He is driven to prove that it was not his own incompetence which led to the loss of his ship, and he cannot bear to let the opportunity to clear his name go by, even if he never plans to return to active duty. Of course, we see him begin to regret the decision, when he sees that the crew could be in real danger.

Brown is the epitome of the literary reluctant father-figure. He is thrust upon this crew of young people against his will, and has no real desire to lead them, but lead them he must, even if he is not their captain in rank, he still must become the guiding force in their lives. His sense of duty compels him to this end, whether he likes it or not. He’s also got a strong badass vibe, which lends him credibility as a seasoned captain, but which also causes him to abrade some of the crew, though much of those interactions didn’t get more than an introduction in the pilot.

Maybe someone with the talent and vision in this culture of reboots will see their way to pulling this story out and blowing the dust off of it. Currently, however Disney has no plan to do so, nor is the property for sale, so we will likely never see any more of Jacob Brown, who could have been one of the great, classic captains.

Come back tomorrow when we will feature Captain Jack Sparrow. If there is a Ship’s captain which you would like to see featured in this series, let us know in the comments.