Starfleet ranks and insignia

The Starfleet insignia in the late 23rd century

Starfleet ranks and insignia are fictional titles and badges that form the hierarchy of Starfleet in the Star Trek television shows and movies.



The rank system of the Star Trek universe has always been based upon that of the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy, as opposed to some other science fiction franchises that have used a rank system based more upon an army set of ranks.

In Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, ranks are indicated by sleeve stripes; in later movies based on The Original Series, ranks are indicated by pins on a shoulder strap and the left sleeve. In later television series, ranks are indicated by varying numbers of pips or bars on the individuals' uniform collars.

Some licensed Star Trek publications present some insignia that contradict the ones shown on screen or in other publications. For example, the second and third editions of The Star Trek Encyclopedia offer differing insignia for various Starfleet ranks.[1] Additionally, some Star Trek publications, including officially licensed ones, posit additional ranks that are not seen or mentioned in live-action productions.


Star Trek: Enterprise, set prior to all other incarnations, did not include characters who hold the ranks of lieutenant commander or lieutenant, junior grade. The highest-ranking admiral seen wears two sets of three-pip insignia.

The Original Series pilot episodes

Officers in the first Star Trek pilot, "The Cage", wear a single sleeve stripe, with only the officer grades "lieutenant" and "captain" used in dialog. A "chief" is also visible wearing a different sleeve stripe. Characters addressed as "crewman" wear no sleeve insignia.

In the second pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", most officers again wear a single stripe; Captain James T. Kirk wears two stripes. Gary Mitchell is identified as a lieutenant commander.

The Original Series and The Motion Picture

Costumes in The Original Series were designed by William Ware Theiss and indicate rank with sleeve stripes. Robert Fletcher continued this system when he designed the uniforms for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There are fewer stripes than are on US Navy uniforms because four stripes for a captain would have looked "too militaristic".[2]

Example Original Series sleeve insignia for Captain

A rank of fleet captain is mentioned in two episodes, but no insignia is shown. An August 3, 1978, memo describing the sleeve stripes for The Motion Picture does not mention the rank of lieutenant j.g., assigning its insignia to ensign, and identifies the rear admiral insignia as having one double-width stripe below one regular-width stripe.

In The Original Series, every member of Starfleet wears an assignment patch on their left breast, which varies from ship to ship.[3] Within this assignment patch is a symbol that represents the officer's department, with Operations, Science, and Command represented by a spiral, a circle, and a star, respectively. In The Motion Picture, the emblem used as the USS Enterprise's assignment patch in The Original Series is used as an emblem by all of Starfleet.[4] The reason for this has never been canonically established, although Gene Roddenberry's novelization of The Motion Picture states that it was in honor of the Enterprise, which was the only ship of its class to return from its five-year mission with ship and crew mostly intact. The 2009 film Star Trek, set in an alternate version of The Original Series, also uses the Enterprise emblem for the entirety of Starfleet. In The Motion Picture, the department is indicated by the background color of the circle on which the Starfleet arrowhead is set, white indicating Command, red for Engineering, orange for Science, pale gold for Operations, green for Medical, and gray for Security.[2]

The Wrath of Khan to Generations

Fleet Admiral sleeve insignia
Fleet Admiral strap insignia

Fletcher redesigned the costumes for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This design is used in the following movies, up to Star Trek Generations, and variations appear in some flashback scenes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. In this costume, Starfleet officers wear rank insignia on the uniform shoulder strap and left sleeve just above the armband. A service bar is worn just below the sleeve rank pin, denoting how many years of service the officer has devoted to Starfleet in one-year and five-year increments.

During this era, insignia representing departments are not worn; it is instead indicated by the color of the shoulder strap, arm band, and undershirt.[3] A Starfleet insignia is worn on the left breast.

Flag officers also wore an arm band on their left sleeve just below the rank insignia that denoted their rank.

The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager

TNG, DS9, Voyager captain insignia

During all the shows set in the 24th century, a consistent insignia scheme is used for officers: a series of gold pips, either a solid color or an outline, worn on each officer's right collar. After the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a consistent scheme is also used for admiral insignia: a series of gold circles inside a black rectangle with a gold border worn on both collars.[3]

For the first season of TNG, admirals wear a different insignia, consisting of a triangle or stripe resembling gold weave along the right collar; one or two gold pips are sometimes underneath the weave. Three variants are visible in "Conspiracy": Admiral Quinn's insignia has no pips, Admiral Savar's has one, and Admiral Aaron's has two.

Voyager provisional Captain insignia

Star Trek: Voyager introduces what The Star Trek Encyclopedia refers to as "provisional ranks" for the titular ship's Maquis crew. All ranks up to Captain appear on screen; The Star Trek Encyclopedia shows them all to be analogous to the normal rank system.[3]

A Starfleet insignia is worn on the left breast: this also functions as a communicator badge. This commbadge insignia was redesigned for the movie Star Trek Generations (the only surviving part of a planned redesign of the uniforms), replacing the oval with a trapezoid.[5] This new commbadge is also used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from season three, and in Voyager.

Enlisted and cadet ranks are seen rarely; their insignia are unclear.

Alternate realities and 29th century

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Future Imperfect", officers wear a series of stripes behind the Starfleet delta. Another episode, "Parallels", see this in addition to the collar insignia; the bars correspond to the rank of the officer, matching the number (and type) of rank pips.

The 29th-century officers in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Relativity" wear chevron-like collar insignia.

See also


  1. ^ Okuda, Mike; Denise Okuda with Mirek, Debbie (1997). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-35607-9.  and Okuda, Mike; Denise Okuda with Mirek, Debbie (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-53609-1.  Images accessible at "Rank Comparison". Spike's Star Trek Page Rank Chart. Retrieved 2006-12-26. 
  2. ^ a b Sackett, Susan and Gene Roddenberry (1980). The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-79109-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d Okuda, Michael & Denise (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-53609-1. 
  4. ^ Okuda, Mike; Okuda, Denise (1996). Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. Pocket Books. ISBN 978-0-671-53610-7. 
  5. ^ "New Movie Costumes Planned". Star Trek Monthly (Titan Magazines): p. 7. June 1996. 
  • The TOS braid featured in the pictures above was recreated by Joseph Kerezman

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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