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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old October 23 2013, 05:08 AM   #1
Lance
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Commodores in command of Starships?

In "The Deadly Years" when Commodore Stocker takes command of the ship, it's only because Kirk has become incapable of command. It's a desperate situation that leads to the Commodore taking action (although he's obviously not a starship commander by trade).

Yet, "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Ultimate Computer" present us with Commodores who are seemingly in actual regular command of their ships: Commodore Decker of the USS Constellation, and Commodore Wesley of the USS Lexington.

We might excuse Wesley as being another unique situation, as they're testing out the capabilities of the M-5 in a battle scenario. Maybe he's only the temporary commander of the Lexington for the purposes of that particular test run.

On the other hand, the script of "The Doomsday Machine" basically assumes that Decker is the proper master of Constellation, that he is the captain except for his rank. Unless we are to assume that the Constellation's own captain died and Decker (like Stocker) simply happened to be on-board and took command?

What's the real-life protocol in these situations? Was it ever common in the real navy for a ship's regular "captain" to actually be a commodore?
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Old October 23 2013, 05:12 AM   #2
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

Lance wrote: View Post
Unless we are to assume that the Constellation's own captain died and Decker (like Stocker) simply happened to be on-board and took command?
No, I don't think the dialog in the episode bears this idea out.

The Doomsday Machine wrote:
DECKER: It's just that I, I, I never lost a command before.
This sounds like the ship was his assignment; Decker did not just assume command of the Constellation on his own authority when the assigned captain died.
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Old October 23 2013, 05:21 AM   #3
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

^ And Decker wore command gold. Stocker didn't.

Stocker was a commodore who was used to desk duty (commanding starbases and things like that). Other commodores, like Decker and Wesley, were starship captains in their own right.
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Old October 23 2013, 08:25 AM   #4
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

I always found it a nice gesture to setting: that Enterprise was part of a working space navy that also had other, more important ships commanded by officers of flag rank. (The transformation of Kirk into the setting's Ultimate Gary Stu and Enterprise into the Fleet's Most Important Ship Evar came later.)
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Old October 23 2013, 09:27 AM   #5
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

When The Motion Picture was in the planning stages, the idea was suggested that Kirk be promoted to Commodore rather than Admiral, because it was infered in the original series that it was demonstraby much easier for an Commodore to simply 'take' command of a ship without needing to take a reduction in rank to do so. An Admiral doing the same thing is a much bigger deal, and (it was felt) a little harder to realistically justify.

I guess they chose not to do that because 'Admiral Kirk' had a more impressive ring to it than 'Commodore Kirk'.
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Old October 23 2013, 09:41 AM   #6
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

Shouldn't have been a problem, really. Don't Admirals (Rear Admirals at least) pretty routinely take command of ships and use them as flagships? I guess maybe it's a problem if you want the Admiralty to be the equivalent of That Stupid Chief that McGarnickle has to go around to Get Results...
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Old October 23 2013, 10:18 AM   #7
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

^ I think in a real-life situation an Admiral wouldn't be "on the pulse" during such a command. Traditionally he'd be given his own command centre and would liase remotely with the main bridge, but to take the TMP situation as an example, Kirk would be in his quarters or an office on another deck or something, and not actually on the bridge (that'd be Decker's job). Of course this doesn't work dramatically, as we want to 'see' William Shatner in the big chair again, which is why the production team debated whether it'd just be easier to bump him to Commodore rather than Admiral, because it had been established in TOS that Commodores had that kind of authority.
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Old October 23 2013, 01:57 PM   #8
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

From Wiki:

Commodore is a military rank used in many navies that is superior to a navy captain, but below a rear admiral. Non-English-speaking nations often use the rank of flotilla admiral or counter admiral as an equivalent, although the latter may also correspond to rear admiral.


Traditionally, "commodore" is the title for any officer assigned to command more than one ship at a time, even temporarily, much as "captain" is the traditional title for the commanding officer of a single ship even if the officer's official title in the service is a lower rank. As an official rank, a commodore typically commands a flotilla or squadron of ships as part of a larger task force or naval fleet commanded by an admiral.


It is often regarded as a one-star rank with a NATO code of OF-6 (which is known in the U.S. as "rear admiral (lower half)"), but whether it is regarded as a flag rank varies between countries.[1]
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Old October 23 2013, 05:26 PM   #9
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

Lance wrote: View Post
In "The Deadly Years" when Commodore Stocker takes command of the ship, it's only because Kirk has become incapable of command. It's a desperate situation that leads to the Commodore taking action (although he's obviously not a starship commander by trade).

Yet, "The Doomsday Machine" and "The Ultimate Computer" present us with Commodores who are seemingly in actual regular command of their ships: Commodore Decker of the USS Constellation, and Commodore Wesley of the USS Lexington.

We might excuse Wesley as being another unique situation, as they're testing out the capabilities of the M-5 in a battle scenario. Maybe he's only the temporary commander of the Lexington for the purposes of that particular test run.

On the other hand, the script of "The Doomsday Machine" basically assumes that Decker is the proper master of Constellation, that he is the captain except for his rank. Unless we are to assume that the Constellation's own captain died and Decker (like Stocker) simply happened to be on-board and took command?
I think Stocker was an exception due to an emergency situation, he had never commanded a ship and it is implied that is outside his normal career specialty.

Decker does indeed seem to be CO of Constellation and no other vessels. Wesley seems to be Lexington's CO as well as task force commander.

My usual pet explanation for the situation is that starships are organized in divisions (or squadrons if you prefer) of three or four ships. The captain of one of them has the rank of commodore and is division commander on paper, but in practice the ships are spread all over space on different assignments so the division command doesn't come into play very often. Wesley could be an example of the division commander actually taking command, but an oddity is that he wears the Starbase/Starfleet Command badge.

Side note: Decker would not be "master" of Constellation, that term applies to captains of merchant ships.

What's the real-life protocol in these situations? Was it ever common in the real navy for a ship's regular "captain" to actually be a commodore?
A bit of a complicated answer. In the olden days, the British navy divided commodores into first class, who had a captain under them on their own ship, and second class, who were captain of the ship as well as the squadron. So one was like a junior admiral, the other like a senior captain, but both were really captains with a temporary jump-up in rank, and both always had command over more than one vessel, which was the whole purpose of the rank.

The early US Navy, small and lean, used the "second class" commodores extensively. Como. Preble, who made a great reputation for the USN in the Barbary Campaign, was captain of Constitution as well as squadron commander. Thomas Truxtun, the "star" captain of the Quasi-War with France, had refused the command because the Navy Department wouldn't assign a captain under him for his flagship.

There was a time after the Civil War when a few USN commodores (a permanent one-star rank, by then) were assigned command of large warships, without an associated squadron command. This was mostly an aberration caused by the numbers of senior officers created for the war, and after the navy had down-sized in the 1870s it didn't happen any more.

Lance wrote: View Post
^ I think in a real-life situation an Admiral wouldn't be "on the pulse" during such a command. Traditionally he'd be given his own command centre and would liase remotely with the main bridge, but to take the TMP situation as an example, Kirk would be in his quarters or an office on another deck or something, and not actually on the bridge (that'd be Decker's job).
That is correct. The relationship between an admiral and the captain of a flagship, in theory, is supposed to be the same as with any other captain of the command. The admiral and the staff live, eat and work apart from the ship's personnel, and the admiral gives the captain the courtesy of notifying him in advance if he wants to leave flag country and enter the rest of the ship. As you say, not great for dramatic interplay.
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Old October 23 2013, 06:08 PM   #10
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

I think Star Trek, especially in its post-TOS incarnations, tried to be too identical to contemporary US Navy rankings. It's the freaking future dammit, and doesn't have to abide with our current standards.

I sort of liked the strangeness (to Americans at least) of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation series Fireball XL5-- a Colonel is commanding officer of the ship, but the head guy at the Earth base is a Commander with a Lieutenant as his assistant. I don't know if that's patterned after Royal Air Force or what. I adapted Fireball's style into my own fictional universe to keep it from looking too much like a Trek clone.
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Old October 23 2013, 11:13 PM   #11
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

A few things to add:

The only Commodore I know of in the current US Navy is a commander of a submarine squadron. The captain of a submarine is an 0-5 rank (Commander). He is called captain because Navy convention is anyone in charge of a vessel is called captain.

The commodore has the rank of 0-6 captain and is in charge of a submarine squadron.

I don't know for sure but I think if a commodore was on board a boat and the captain was incapable of command the XO would take over command of the vessel not the Commodore. Same goes for admiral/captain aboard an Aircraft Carrier.
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Old October 23 2013, 11:58 PM   #12
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

Does anyone know offhand whether any 'captains' of lesser ships in Star Trek were shown to be of rank less than captain?
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Old October 24 2013, 01:33 AM   #13
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

The Umbrella Corporation wrote: View Post
Does anyone know offhand whether any 'captains' of lesser ships in Star Trek were shown to be of rank less than captain?
The only time this happened was in DS9's "Second Sight" where a Lt has the conn of the Prometheus. DS9 companion states he should have been a Lt.Comm (wrong rank pips) and only so Commander Sisko could outrank him on the bridge.

NB. This is disputed by some on this board, as some think the Professor in the episode (a civilian no less) was in command or the normal captain was somewhere else. I don't think there is anything to support that.
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Old October 24 2013, 01:36 AM   #14
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

The timing didn't quite work but could have had a great tie in if Commodore Kirk did the commercials for the Commodore Vic 20
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Old October 24 2013, 02:35 AM   #15
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Re: Commodores in command of Starships?

The Umbrella Corporation wrote: View Post
Does anyone know offhand whether any 'captains' of lesser ships in Star Trek were shown to be of rank less than captain?
In TAS: The Eye of the Beholder, the captain of the Ariel was Lieutenant Commander Tom Markel.
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