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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

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

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Old February 25 2013, 07:41 PM   #1
Pavonis
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Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

I'm currently in a re-watch of TOS, and while I am thoroughly familiar with the show after many, many years of watching it, I've found myself asking a new question about the uniforms.

The colors of the uniforms seem to denote divisions - gold/green for command division, red for services support, and blue for sciences. Then the officers have an assignment insignia on their chest, within which is another symbol. Those symbols are a star, a spiral, and an oval embedded in a circle (more or less). The star is, as far as I can tell, always on gold/green shirts, the spiral is always on the red shirts, and the oval is always on the blue shirts. This pairing of color and symbol strikes me as redundant. Why a color and a symbol that convey the same information?

My first thought was that the pairing is deliberately redundant, to aid any individuals with color blindness, or possibly individuals from species with monochromatic vision.

My other thought was that the symbols could be mixed-and-matched, with the spiral/oval/star suggesting a subdivision within the larger division denoted by the shirt color. Thus Scotty, for instance, would wear red as an engineer, but as a chief engineer, he could've had a star in his assignment patch to indicate his command authority in engineering. Or the astrobiologist Ann Mulhall could've had an oval in her assignment patch despite wearing services red, to indicate her scientific specialty in the services division. We never saw any other pairings like that, did we? I'll be watching for any throughout my latest tour through TOS.
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Old February 25 2013, 07:46 PM   #2
Timo
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

It might also be that the colors are unrelated to divisions or lines of work, and instead designate degrees of command authority: blue for staff officers, red (TNG gold, TOS pilot brown, STXI something else, you get the idea), for restricted line officers and gold for unrestricted line officers. There's some inconsistency between character specs and uniform color in both cases, but more with the "divisions" interpretation than with the "authority" one. Although the "authority" issue involves the whopper of Spock...

Timo Saloniemi
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Old February 25 2013, 07:56 PM   #3
Pavonis
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

While I am familiar with the difference between line and staff officers, I'm not familiar with the distinction between restricted and unrestricted line officers. If red were "restricted" line officers, then would Scotty be allowed to take command regularly? And then of course you do raise the question of staff officer Spock....

Though I do like the idea of blue/red/gold designating staff/restricted/unrestricted, something I hadn't considered before. Still, what's with the little symbols in the assignment patches? They still come off as redundant.
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Old February 25 2013, 08:39 PM   #4
J.T.B.
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Pavonis wrote: View Post
While I am familiar with the difference between line and staff officers, I'm not familiar with the distinction between restricted and unrestricted line officers.
In USN terms, a restricted line officer is essentially the same as a staff corps officer, except that their specialty does not have its own corps (intelligence, public relations, HR, crypto, oceanography and so on). They cannot succeed to command of a vessel.

There doesn't seem to be anything "restricted" about Scotty's line officer status.

The badges and colors were a little more mixed in WNMHGB, though not in any kind of system I can figure out. In the regular production run, though, the colors and badges do seem to correspond one-to-one.

Justin
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Old February 26 2013, 12:15 AM   #5
SchwEnt
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

I suspect there are more symbols used in the chest insignia than the standard three we saw. For instance, Nurse Chapel (blue) has a medical cross, whereas McCoy (also blue) has the sciences oval signifying his broader life sciences duties in addition to CMO.

Official or not, I'd say there could be lots more that we haven't seen. Between division colors and rank and department symbols, one could get a broad variety of shipboard posting indicators by appearance.

Plus, we've seen Starbase Commodores in red when you'd think they'd be in command gold. So many combinations should be possible, not strictly the command star w/gold and science oval w/blue, etc.
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Old February 26 2013, 12:25 AM   #6
Robert Comsol
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Pavonis wrote: View Post
My first thought was that the pairing is deliberately redundant, to aid any individuals with color blindness, or possibly individuals from species with monochromatic vision.
You already provided the answer: Back in the 1960's during TOS' original run there were still many households belonging to a "species with monochromatic" black & white only television sets.

Bob
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Old February 26 2013, 01:00 AM   #7
Pavonis
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post
Pavonis wrote: View Post
My first thought was that the pairing is deliberately redundant, to aid any individuals with color blindness, or possibly individuals from species with monochromatic vision.
You already provided the answer: Back in the 1960's during TOS' original run there were still many households belonging to a "species with monochromatic" black & white only television sets.

Bob
True, but then the screen size and resolution of 1960s sets wouldn't have rendered the assignment patch as easily visible and distinguishable. Even on my big-screen TV the symbols aren't always easily seen, especially with the sparkly background they're on.
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Old February 26 2013, 01:38 AM   #8
blssdwlf
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Regarding the assignment insignia, if you take TOS as a whole then their meanings aren't really decipherable. Scotty sports the round insignia in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and then puts it away for many episodes and then dons them again briefly in "Lights of Zetar". McCoy occasionally changes his insignia form round to the spiral. The star seems to be consistent with the yellow/green shirts.

However, as you'll find out, the delta insignia is also seen on other ships and starbases and also mixed in with the insignias that have no room for these little differentiators, like Decker's insignia from "The Doomsday Machine".

So, the shirt colors are likely for divisions but the insignias are something more personal, like a decoration rather than anything meaningful, IMHO.
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Old February 26 2013, 01:47 AM   #9
GSchnitzer
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

From the "For What It's Worth" Department:

Science patch on Gold from "The Corbomite Maneuver" (and "Mudd's Women")



Science patch on Red from "The Galileo Seven"



Engineering patch on Blue from "Obsession"



Science on Red from "The Lights of Zetar"

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Old February 26 2013, 01:59 AM   #10
Pavonis
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Oh, that's a brilliant find, GSchnitzer. Thanks. I'll be watching for more like that. Behind the scenes, then, were the patches removable from the shirts, or were they permanently sown on?
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Old February 26 2013, 02:15 AM   #11
GSchnitzer
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Oh, that's a brilliant find, GSchnitzer. Thanks. I'll be watching for more like that. Behind the scenes, then, were the patches removable from the shirts, or were they permanently sown on?
The costumes, by SAG rules, had to be laundered each night (so that actors weren't forced to wear old sweaty, smelly costumes). The patches and braid had to be removed, since the costumes (especially the old velour ones) would shrink somewhat, and the fabric would have puckered under the patch/braid. So the patches/braid were removed each night and sewn on each morning. Mistakes happened a couple of times with the resewing That's also why there were a lot of ensigns and lieutenants: it's easier to sew on no braid whatsoever (or just one row) than it is to sew on multiple rows or those annoying little dashes. .
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Old February 26 2013, 02:17 AM   #12
EnsignHarper
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Oh, that's a brilliant find, GSchnitzer. Thanks. I'll be watching for more like that. Behind the scenes, then, were the patches removable from the shirts, or were they permanently sown on?
AFIK, the insignia were removed for cleaning each night - so it is very VERY likely that an occasional slip up happened.

TLOZ is a classic example, as Scotty's insignia switches back and forth a few times...I bet if you had the call sheets for that episode, you could pin it down by each day!
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Old February 26 2013, 03:22 AM   #13
blssdwlf
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

And the insignias from "Where No Man Has Gone Before"...

(click to enlarge)


Scotty kept his insignia around to show off to Mira Romaine
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Old February 26 2013, 04:41 AM   #14
BK613
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

Of course there is this guy's patch in The Cage.
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Old February 26 2013, 05:32 AM   #15
CorporalCaptain
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Re: Divisions, Insignia, Uniforms and Assignment Patches

BK613 wrote: View Post
Of course there is this guy's patch in The Cage.
Awesome. I never knew that. Does the other guy behind in blue also have the same one? I can't tell.
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