TV’s most outspoken space explorer has a question for the minds behind America’s newest branch of the military: “What’s wrong with you, Space Force?”
In a Military Times op-ed published on Wednesday, actor William Shatner railed against the US Space Force for choosing the Air Force officer rank structure over the Navy, contravening decades science fiction conventions.
“Do you know the history of the entertainment space? Let me show you what I mean,” wrote Shatner, who played Captain, later Admiral, James T. Kirk on “Star Trek.”
“Throughout the history of entertainment, which predates the actual history of spaceflight by decades, we have had captains,” he wrote, providing examples of Navy ranks adopted for the fictional space exploration from the early 20th century.
Shatner invoked the heroic exploits of fictional space captains, while poking fun at television space colonels.
“We can’t forget [U.S. Air Force] Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut who crashed his ship and seriously injured himself, costing the taxpayers $6 million to get him back on his feet, who was played by my dear friend, Lee Majors,” wrote Shatner, referencing the 1970s television series “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
A Navy Captain holds a rank equivalent to that of a Colonel in the Air Force, Marine Corps, or Army.
The Air Force inherited its rank structure as an offshoot of the Army in 1947, when the United States Air Force became an autonomous branch.
Space Force retained the same structure when Air Force Space Command separated from the Air Force in December.
In his op-ed, Shatner suggested borrowing the rank structure made famous in “Star Trek,” following in the footsteps of creator Gene Roddenberry, who chose Navy ranks for his Starfleet despite having been an officer in the US Air Force.
“They made more sense when you were talking about a (space)ship,” Shatner explained.
It may not be too late for lawmakers to see things the Shatner way. The hierarchical structure of the Space Force is not yet set in legislative stone.
The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2021 includes a provision that the Space Force must adopt the rank structure of the Navy.
The amendment, proposed by Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawThis question will ensure Democratic annihilation in 2022 House Ethics Committee rejects security screening fine for GOP lawmaker Juan Williams: GOP is an un-American party MORE (R-Texas), a former Navy SEAL, would bring back the Space Captain and drop the Space Colonel.
Although the Senate version of the NDAA does not include a similar provision, the two bills are expected to go through bicameral negotiations this fall.