Late last year, the United States Space Force was created, separating the Space Command division of the United States Air Force into a new, separate branch of the United States military. In recent months, there has been debate over whether the Space Force should maintain the Air Force’s hierarchical structure (with the lowest-ranking officers as lieutenants and the highest rank as generals), or use the US Navy system (with ensigns and admirals). Now from Star Trek the first captain weighs in the debate.
Shatner asks Space Force to follow Star Trek
William Shatner, from Star Trek original captain James T. Kirk, wrote an op-ed that appeared today in military times titled “What’s Wrong With You, Space Force?” The issue the Canadian-born Shatner seems to focus on the most is how commanders of Navy ships typically hold the rank of captain, including the real-life Captain James A. Kirk of the US Navy destroyer USS Zumwalt. . But the equivalent Air Force rank is Colonel.
Shatner’s editorial begins with:
What’s 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 sometimes looks like.)
Do you know the history of your entertainment space? 🤔 🤷♂️
Shatner’s article goes on to talk about all the great science fiction captains, from Buck Rogers to Flash Gordon, even noting that Han Solo was the “captain” of the Millennium Falcon. Star Wars side note: Shatner chooses to ignore that Solo was later given the rank of General in the Rebel Alliance. Shatner also takes on some fictional Air Force officers, including Major Don West of lost in space, Major Anthony Nelson of I dream of Jeannie, and even Colonel Steve Austin, noting the taxpayer spending that made him the Six million dollar man.
from Star Trek the first captain eventually argued that candor was key to his argument for Space Force to adopt the U.S. Navy’s ranking system:
“Star Trek” borrowed much of its iconic rank symbols from the US 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 previous military space insignia). Why not borrow from “Star Trek” and adopt our ranks as well? We took them out of the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a US Army Air Corps veteran. They made more sense when talking about a (space) craft.
Congress is weighing this
This discussion of Space Force ranks isn’t just a science fiction debate; this issue is actually related to pending legislation that is making its way through Congress. Reporting on Shatner’s editorial today, Stars and Stripes sums it up:
Last month, the House approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 with an amendment by Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw that would require the service to call its O-1s “ensigns” and those with stars on the shoulders “admirals”. This version still needs to be reconciled with that of the Senate.
The service will not comment on pending legislation, Space Force spokesman Maj. Nicholas Mercurio said when asked about Shatner’s question. Officials are still developing the service’s uniforms and hope to soon unveil what they have decided the service’s personnel will be called upon to help shape its “unique and identifiable culture”, he said.
Star and Stripes also notes that some in military circles oppose the move to naval ranks, pointing to a recent op-ed published in The Hill.
The Space Force and Starfleet logo
In July, Space Force unveiled its new logo and motto. Since the service’s inception, there have been discussions of 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 have seen this as a Space Force borrowing from star trek. However, the official announcement of the Space Force logo (see below) notes that the Delta’s legacy dates back to 1961, three years before the first star trek pilot (“The Cage”) went into production. As noted by Shatner, Space Force and star trek drew on the same heritage.
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