Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ranks and Insignia of Starfleet
Ranks and insignia of Starfleet are fictional military badges and titles which are portrayed in the science fiction universe of Star Trek. The ranks listed below are those which are used by the Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets. The ranks indicated have evolved through both live action productions, Star trek fanon, and official Star Trek publications and literature.
The rank of Fleet Admiral, apparently the highest commissioned rank in Starfleet, was first mentioned in Star Trek: The Original Series, in the episode "Space Seed" when Doctor Leonard McCoy, observing a dinner set for Khan Noonian Singh, commented that the ship must be expecting a Fleet Admiral for dinner. However, other than this one remark, an actual Fleet Admiral was never seen in the Original Series and the highest rank appearing on camera was that of Commodore (A few Admirals did appear in later episodes, but their rank insignia was not visible).
It was not until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock that an actual Fleet Admiral was seen on camera. Fleet Admiral Morrow, played by actor Robert Hooks, was the first Fleet Admiral of Star Trek to actually be seen by the viewing audience. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the rank of Fleet Admiral became generic, often used to describe any Admiral appearing on the show. However, in Star Trek publications, the rank of Fleet Admiral was established with an insignia of five gold pips within a gold collar rectangle.
Fan literature has speculated the existence of even higher ranks than Fleet Admiral to include such ranks as "Sector Admiral" and "Flag Admiral". None of these ranks has ever been declared offical by the producers of Star Trek, with the highest rank mentioned in live action producers being that of Fleet Admiral.
When Star Trek was first aired, the nature of the episode plots did not have the crew of the USS Enterprise coming into frequent contact with senior officers of the Starfleet Admiralty. The first such instance was in the episode "The Menagerie" when the viewing audience was introduced to Commodore Mendez. A full Admiral, however, was not seen on camera until the second season of Star Trek during the episode "Amok Time". The Admiral in question (named Admiral Komack) was then only visable via long range communications on a viewscreen and at such an angle where sleeve insignia was not visable. It is for this reason that, during the time frame of Star Trek: The Original Series, all insignia above the rank of Commodore remains unknown.
It was not until Star Trek: The Motion Picture that an actual Admiral's insignia was seen on camera, that being the insignia for Rear Admiral James T. Kirk. In the film, Kirk speaks of meeting with more senior Admirals, but these persons are never seen and the viewing audience is left to speculate how the senior Admiral insignia may appear. In the next feature film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk is the only Admiral seen in the entire film. Kirk's actual rank in the film is also questionable, as he is addressed simply as "Admiral", however publications regarding the film (as well as information from costume designers) indicates Kirk may have been a Vice Admiral or perhaps even still a Rear Admiral. It was not until later feature films that additional Admirals were seen on camera and the full scope of the "movie rank pins" was established.
The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was slow to introduce Admirals. With the exception of a cameo apperance by Leonard McCoy, in the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", an Admiral was not seen in the Next Generation series until Q impersonated one in the episode "Hide and Q". It should be noted that Q's false Admiral uniform was never again seen in any subsequent production of Star Trek.
In the first season Next Generation episode "Too Short a Season", a 24th century Starfleet Admiral is at last seen on camera, introducing the viewers to a strange form of insignia that did not last past the show's first season. In the second season of the Next Generation series, as well as all subsequent productions, Admirals appear much more frequently with a simplar system of pip insignia worn within "rank boxes" on both collars of a uniform.
When Star Trek Enterprise debuted, the pilot of the series introduced the viewers to an Admiral in the very first episode establishing how the 22nd century Admiral insignia appears. Later publications from the producers of the show established the complete system of Admiralty ranks in use during the time frame of Star Trek Enterprise. Oddly enough, however, there appear to be more Admiral ranks than there are regular officer positions since the ranks of Lieutenant Commander and Lieutenant Junior Grade do not appear in the Enteprise television series.
The rank of Commodore was often mentioned in Star Trek: The Original Series; however the title fell into disuse in the feature films and follow-on series. A Starfleet Commodore is briefly seen in the Federation Council Chambers of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but the later Star Trek television series have never had a Commodore appear on camera.
A first season episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation, entitled "Coming of Age", gave indication that by the time frame of the 24th century Commodore might no longer have been a rank of Starfleet. This is taken from a line of dialouge where Captain Jean Luc Picard is told that he is to be promoted directly to the rank of Admiral and assume duties as Commandant of Starfleet Academy. Since promotion to Commodore is not mentioned, it may be assumed that the rank was no longer in service.
Some early publications, from the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, indicate that Commodore may still have existed during the time frame of the Next Generation series with the insignia conjectured to appear as five pips worn on a uniform collar. Later publications indicated that the rank of Commodore may have been denoted as a single rank pip insignia, enclosed within an Admiral "rank box", worn on both collars of a uniform. This theory, however, is contradicted in the Star Trek Encyclopedia when the one pip insignia is indicated as an Admiral (posssibly a Rear Admiral Lower Half). It can therefore be assumed, unless additional information is promulgated by Star Trek producers or through official sources, that subsequent to the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation the rank of Commodore ceased to exist.
There have only been two Fleet Captains shown in the entirety of Star Trek, both from the Original Series. Garth of Izar and Christopher Pike are the only Star Trek characters to have ever held the rank of Fleet Captain and neither of these characters was shown wearing Fleet Captain insignia. Star Trek publications, however, have established Fleet Captain as being a rank between Captain and Commodore with an insignia of three sleeve braids. The "Star Trek Encyclopedia" would later establish a feature film rank pin for Fleet Captain, but this pin has never appeared on camera in a live action production.
During the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the rank of Fleet Captain was conjectured to consist of five gold pips worn as collar insignia. This was never deemed offical by the show's producers, however, and since a Fleet Captain never appeared on camera during the time frame of the Next Generation series, the viewing audience was left to speculate. An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, entitled "Inquisition ", may have shown a modern Fleet Captain insignia, that being four collar pips worn with a gold bar base. The insignia was worn by Section 31 Operative Luther Sloan. In the episode, Sloan was referred to as "Deputy Director".
There is ample evidence that Fleet Captain may be an honorary title, bestowed upon highly senior and successful Captains. This would explain instances where regular Captains have been shown promoted to the Starfleet Admiralty, apparently skipping the rank of Fleet Captain. In such cases, it can be assumed that Fleet Captain is not a prerequiste for promotion but rather a special rank bestowed under certain circumstances.
Lieutenant Junior Grade
The rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade was originally one of the rarest ranks of Star Trek as it was not until the time frame of Star Trek: The Next Generation that a substantial number of characters held the position. The first Lieutenant Junior Grade seen on camera, as well as the only one to appear in the entire scope of Star Trek: The Original Series, was Lieutenant J.G. Tormolen who appeared in the episode "The Naked Time". In the episode, the insignia for Lieutenant Junior Grade was established as a broken "hash mark" rank braid.
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade ceased to exist as several pre-production publications established that there was no rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade and the former insignia for the position was now the insignia for the rank of Ensign. This was, perhaps, a means to distinguish Ensigns in the Motion Picture from Crewman, since during the Original Series time frame Ensigns wore no insignia whatsoever.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan introduced the feature film rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade as well as the new Lieutenant J.G. rank pin worn throughout the movie by the character of Saavik. In the film, however, Saavik was simply referred to as "Lieutenant" and some publications from the time of the film specify that she was not a Lieutenant Junior Grade but rather a full Lieutenant. It was not until the establishment of the full Lieutenant rank pin, viewed briefly in later feature films and in the Next Generation series, that Saavik’s rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade was confirmed.
After the airing of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lieutenant Junior Grade became a much more commonly held rank with two of the main Next Generation characters (Geordi LaForge and Worf) holding the rank in the show’s first season. In addition, with the much more simpler "pip rank system”, determining which characters were Lieutenant Junior Grades became a much less complicated process. The last established Lieutenant Junior Grade Star Trek characters were Nog and Tom Paris from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek:Voyager respectively.
Information from the prequel series Star Trek Enterprise indicates that in this earlier period of Starfleet history, Lieutenant Junior Grade did not yet exist as a rank. This is contradicted, however, when in the episode "Divergence " an unnamed helm officer is reportedly referred to as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. Most official sources regarding the Enterprise series indicate that Lieutenant Junior Grade (and Lieutenant Commander) do not exist as officer ranks and the statement from "Divergence" may have been a plot error or an indication of the point at which Lieutenant Junior Grade became a rank of Starfleet.
Until the time frame of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Starfleet rank of Warrant Officer was never mentioned or discussed and it is not known if the rank existed prior to the late 24th century. The only Warrant Officer who has ever been seen in Star Trek was Kosinski, in the Next Generation episode "Where No One Has Gone Before". Kosinski wore a type of rectangular collar insignia that was never again seen in Star Trek. Later publications and literature indicate that Kosinki was a Warrant Officer, however due to his attitude in the episode (as well as his highly disrespectful demeanor towards commissioned officers) many have assumed he was a civilian granted a warrant rank due to the nature of his assignment.
While the rank of Warrant Officer was never again seen after the Next Generation episode, publications from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would establish a set of Warrant Officer insignia. In addition, the first two seasons of Deep Space Nine gave speculation that the character of Miles O'Brien was in fact a Warrant Officer, however later seasons made it clear that O'Brien was a Senior Chief Petty Officer. It is for this reason that, other than Kosinki, no Warrant Officer has ever appeared in Star Trek.
The Original Series
During the time frame of Star Trek: The Original Series, several enlisted Starfleet members are shown on camera however none of these persons wear any type of insignia. Through an examination of the dialogue in the episodes, however a rank system for enlisted personnel develops which is established completely by the third season of the original Star Trek series.
Star Trek Feature Films
Within the Star Trek feature films, enlisted personnel first make a brief appearance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture with a small number of extras addressed as "Chief", "Petty Officer", and "Crewman". The characters wear a simple version of insignia, that being a pattern of colored triangles displayed on shoulder tabs. The one confirmed Chief Petty Officer in the film, CPO Janice Rand, displays a hollow gold square centered on a shoulder strap. Ordinary crewman who appear in the film wear no rank insignia.
With the debut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a new uniform and insignia pattern was introduced and for the first time an enlisted uniform was established separate from the uniform worn by officers. This uniform, commonly referred to as the "space cadet jumper" was originally seen worn by Starfleet cadets and it is not until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock that the enlisted jumper is seen worn by actual enlisted personnel, that is crew members of the starship Excelsior. Based on information in Star Trek III, a pattern of enlisted insignia emerges for the feature films after Star Trek II. Enlisted personnel are shown to wear a variety of colored shoulder tabs which would seem to indicate their seniority as Petty Officers, with regular crewmen wearing bare black shoulder tabs.
The "shoulder tab theory" is challenged by some Star Trek sources which indicate that the colored shoulder tabs do not indicate rank as a Petty Officer, but rather membership in a particular shipboard department. Under this system, a gold tab would indicate an engineering petty officer, a grey tab operations, and a blue tab would denote membership in the science department. If this system is accepted, enlisted personnel in the feature films would have no rank insignia much like their Original Series counterparts. The Star Trek Encyclopedia attempts to explain this by providing rank insignia pins for Crewman and Petty Officer, however these pins are considered apocryphal since the feature film enlisted uniforms do not display rank pin insignia.
With the exception of Janice Rand in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, no Chief Petty Officers are ever seen in the feature films. Publications by the film producers indicate that, subsequent to Star Trek II, Chief Petty Officers wear officer uniform jackets (minus gold trim) with shoulder pins similar to the well known officer versions. This would correlate with uniform regulations of the United States Navy, where Chief Petty Officers wear officer uniforms with CPO insignia.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was first aired, enlisted personnel were again a very ambiguous subject. Apart from occasional dialogue addressing an extra as "Crewman", no set of enlisted ranks or insignia was established in the first two seasons of the Next Generation. By the third season, the character of Miles O'Brien had been developed into the first recurring enlisted role since Yeoman Janice Rand of the Original Star Trek series. The rank insignia worn by O’Brien was confusing, however, in that he was often addressed as "Chief", but appeared to wear the insignia of a Lieutenant (in one episode he is actually addressed as "Lieutenant").
By the fifth season of the Next Generation series, a system of rank insignia for enlisted personnel had at last been established. Such insignia was actually identical to officer pips, with a variation in the number of pips displayed depending on an enlisted member’s status as a Petty Officer, Chief Petty Officer, or the higher CPO ranks. The rank pips in the Next Generation series also were displayed in silver and gold with silver worn by officers and gold for the enlisted ranks. Later Star Trek productions would eliminate this gold/silver distinction and establish gold pips as the standard insignia for all grades.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
In the first seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there were no established enlisted ranks in use. Miles O’Brien, whose character had crossed over from Star Trek: The Next Generation, now wore a single collar pip and was referred to variously as "Chief of Operations", "Chief", and some scripts and publications indicated his character was a Warrant Officer. The novelization of the episode "Emissary", refers to O'Brien by a never-before-heard rank known as "Ensign Junior Grade".
In the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, the character of Miles O'Brien was the first enlisted character of Star Trek who was addressed as a recognizable enlisted title and given an insignia which was clearly established as an enlisted rank. From this point on, Miles O'Brien was referred to as Senior Chief Petty Officer with the dialogue of Deep Space Nine making it clear that he was an enlisted member of Starfleet. The insignia worn by O’Brien was the basis for the first complete enlisted rank insignia pattern shown in Star Trek.
Star Trek Voyager
Star Trek Voyager did not address the question of enlisted ranks nor was any version of enlisted insignia seen on camera during the production of the show. Due to the plot of Star Trek Voyager, it can perhaps be assumed that the ship has very few enlisted crew members with the majority of the ship manned by Starfleet officers and provisional Maquis personnel.
Star Trek Enterprise
Within the time frame of Star Trek Enterprise, enlisted personnel are often seen and addressed by such titles as "Chief" and "Crewman", however no insignia is ever shown to be worn. Since Enterprise is set before the original Star Trek series, it can perhaps be said that this lack of enlisted insignia is along the same lines as enlisted ranks and personnel seen in the Star Trek pilots of the 1960s and Star Trek: The Original Series.
Fan literature and publications have speculated several different versions of enlisted insignia, but none of these insignia patterns are considered canon since they have not appeared on camera nor in any publication sponsered by the producers of the show.
While Star Trek Enterprise contains a lack of enlisted insignia, the dialouge of the show has established a system of enlisted ranks very similar to the modern ranks of the United States Navy. The ranks extend to Chief Petty Officer, with the Earth Starfleet possibly also maintaining the ranks of Senior Chief and Master Chief Petty Officer. To date, however, no character holding these ranks has appeared on the show nor have these two senior enlisted ranks been mentioned in live action dialouge.
It should be noted that Starfleet enlisted ranks do not take into account Enlisted rates. Enlisted rates are titles that enlisted personnel hold, depending upon their career field, and to which they are typically addressed in verbal correspondence. An example would be a Petty Officer Second Class, who holds the rate of Yeoman, referred to as "Yeoman Second Class".
The concept of Starfleet Enlisted Rates is widely unexplored and there are very few references to enlisted rates in the feature films or television series. The following is a list of the only confirmed Starfleet enlisted rates which have been mentioned in the dialouge of Star Trek live action productions.
|Yeoman||Star Trek: The Cage||Unaired Pilot||Yeoman Colt|
|Communciations Technician||Star Trek: The Cage||Unaired Pilot||Chief Garrison|
|Yeoman||Star Trek: The Original Series||Numerous||Janice Rand + various others|
|Medical Technician||Star Trek: TOS/TNG||Numerous||Numerous|
|Engineer's Mate||Star Trek: The Original Series||That Which Survives||Crewman Watson|
|Transporter Technician||Star Trek: TNG/DS9||Numerous||Miles Edward O'Brien + various others|
|Combat Tactical Specialist||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Nor the Battle to the Strong||Burke|
|Security Specialist||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Valiant||Dorian Collins|
|Sensor Analyst||Star Trek: Voyager||Good Shepherd||Tal Celes|
Starfleet Dynamics, an unofficial Star Trek technical manual, is the only publication to date which gives a complete listing of all possible Starfleet enlisted rates, however this publication is considered fan literature and not deemed official by the producers of Star Trek.
The rank of Cadet was first established in Star Trek: The Original Series through dialogue referring to Starfleet Academy. Two Starfleet Cadets, albeit illusions/recreations, were seen in the Original Series being a cadet in Captain Pike’s Orion slave girl dream (“The Menagerie”) , and the recreation of Cadet Finnegan seen in the episode “Shore Leave”. In both cases, the cadets were shown wearing a silver grey tunic without any rank insignia.
Starfleet Cadets did not appear again until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In the film, cadets wore a “space cadet jumper” with red tunics and red shoulder tabs. An oddity was that the Cadets in Star Trek II referred to themselves as “Midshipman”, contradicting earlier information that Starfleet Academy students were known as Cadets. However, it is possible that the Starfleet Academy students in Star Trek II were senior cadets, most likely fifth year or graduate level students, given the advanced nature of their training.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the rank of Cadet was firmly established as the title held by Starfleet academy students however it was not until the episode “Allegiance ” that a Starfleet Cadet was actually seen. The cadet in question, albeit an imposter, wore a modified Starfleet uniform without any insignia. In the episode “The First Duty ”, the viewing audience sees Starfleet Academy for the first time since Star Trek II and a system of Cadet rank pips is established.
The pips seen in the episode "The First Duty" are deemed to be the official cadet insignia for future series and programs, however it is of interest that cadets seen in Star Trek Deep Space Nine do not wear this insignia. The cadets in question may have been wearing field uniforms without insignia or this could be a costume error on the part of the Deep Space Nine producers.
Wesley Crusher's Uniform
The uniform worn by Wesley Crusher, serving as an “Acting Ensign” in Season 2 and 3 of the Next Generation series, is an oddity in that the uniform was never explained nor has any other character in a subsequent episode or series of Star Trek worn a similar Starfleet uniform.
Wesley Crusher’s uniform appears as a light purple tunic, with a sweater like shoulder piece, that is worn without any identifying insignia except a standard communication pin. The producers of Star Trek admitted in later years that this uniform was designed along the lines of a “Starfleet West Point” look and was simply created to give Wesley a more military look, thus gearing his character away from the boy-like child character seen in the first season.
Based on the limited information provided, one possible explanation of Wesley’s uniform is that the purple tunic was a sort of “junior youth” uniform similar to the present day Sea Cadets or the Cadets of Junior Naval ROTC. Another explanation is that the uniform is indeed a established Starfleet uniform, possible an Officer Cadet or junior Midshipman jacket.
The character of Wesley Crusher was later promoted, via field commission, to full Ensign and from that point wore a standard Starfleet uniform with Ensign insignia.
Upon his acceptance to Starfleet Academy, Wesley’s field commission as Ensign was apparently revoked and he began wearing the standard uniform of a Cadet.
In the first two seasons of Voyager, it was unclear whether or not the insignia worn by the Maquis was a version of Starfleet insignia or paramiltiary insignia of the Maquis. Later seasons of Voyager, however, gave evidence that the Maquis officers, seen wearing the new insignia, had been granted provisional Starfleet commissions and were considered equivalent to Starfleet officers.
Since the close of the Star Trek Voyager television series, several Star Trek publications have confirmed that the "provisional rank insignia", seen throughout the Voyager television series, were standard Starfleet insignia for civilians who had been granted officer responsibilities and held appointments as temporary Starfleet officers.
The following publications and productions, written by the producers of the Star Trek series, contain source information for Starfleet insignia. Along with live action dialogue, this combines to form the most "offical" insignia pattern of Star Trek.
Live action sources
- Star Trek: The Cage
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek Feature Films (2 through 6)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- Star Trek: Voyager
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Feature Films
- Star Trek Enterprise
- Star Trek Chronology
- Star Trek Encyclopedia
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual
- Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Officers' Manual
- Starfleet Dynamics
- Klingon Covert Operations Manual
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