Late last year, the United States Space Force was created, separating the Space Command division from the United States Air Force into a new separate branch of the US military. In the last few months there has been some debate over whether Space Force should maintain the rank structure of the Air Force (with lowest ranked officers as lieutenants and highest rank as generals), or use the US Navy system (with ensigns and admirals). Now Star Trek’s first captain is weighing in on the debate.
Shatner calls for Space Force to follow Star Trek
William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain James T. Kirk, penned an op-ed appearing today in Military Times titled “What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?” The issue that the Canadian-born Shatner seems to be most focused on is how the commanders of Naval ships generally hold the rank of Captain, including the real Captain James A. Kirk of the US Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt. But the equivalent Air Force rank is Colonel.
Shatner’s op-ed begins with:
What the heck is wrong with you?
I’m talking about the ranks of the Space Force!
What are you doing to us? 😱 There was no Colonel Kirk; not even in the mirror universe (which is what 2020 feels like at times.)
Do you know your entertainment space history? 🤔 🤷♂️
Shatner’s piece goes on to talk about all the great captains of sci-fi from Buck Rogers to Flash Gordon, even noting Han Solo was the “captain” of the Millenium Falcon. Star Wars side note: Shatner is choosing to ignore that Solo was later given the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance. Shatner also takes a swipe at some of fiction’s Air Force officers, including Major Don West from Lost in Space, Major Anthony Nelson of I Dream of Jeannie, and even Colonel Steve Austin, noting the taxpayer expense that made him the Six Million Dollar Man.
Star Trek’s first captain finally argued that the franchise is the key to his argument for Space Force to adopt US Navy ranking system:
“Star Trek” has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to “Star Trek” (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). Why not borrow back from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.
Congress is actually weighing this
This talk about Space Force ranks isn’t just a sci-fi debate; this issue is actually related to pending legislation working its way through Congress. Reporting on Shatner’s op-ed today, Stars and Stripes sums up the situation:
The House last month approved its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act with an amendment by Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw that would force the service to call its O-1s “ensigns” and those with stars on their shoulders “admirals.” That version has yet to be reconciled with the Senate’s.
The service won’t comment on pending legislation, Space Force spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mercurio said when asked about Shatner’s query. Officials are still developing the service’s uniforms and hope to soon unveil what they’ve decided the service’s personnel will be called to help craft its “unique and identifiable culture,” he said.
Star and Stripes also notes there are some in military circles who oppose the move to Naval ranks, pointing to a recent op-ed published in The Hill.
The Space Force logo and Starfleet
In July Space Force unveiled its new logo and motto. Since the service was created there has been discussion about the similarity between the delta symbol used by Space Force (and previously by Space Command) and the Starfleet delta seen in the Star Trek franchise, beginning with Star Trek: The Original Series. Some saw this as Space Force borrowing from Star Trek. However, the official Space Force logo announcement (seen below) notes the delta heritage goes back to 1961, three years before the first Star Trek pilot (“The Cage”) went into production. As noted by Shatner, both Space Force and Star Trek drew from the same heritage.
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