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Old January 11 2008, 02:24 AM   #1
James Wright
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Location: Church Hill, Tennessee
Starfleet Ranks?

Why did Gene Roddenberry and the production team for TOS use the ranks of Fleet Captain & Commodore? By the time TOS was being produced the rank of Fleet Captain hadn't been used by any navy and the rank of Commodore was abolished in 1947!

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Old January 11 2008, 02:35 AM   #2
Therin of Andor
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

Why not? Fashion is cyclic.

I heard that the old rank of Commodore, in the real world, was replaced by the term Rear Admiral sometime between TOS and TMP, which is why it fell out of use in Star Trek.
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Old January 11 2008, 02:36 AM   #3
Trekzilla3k
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

heh heh heh..



you said "Rear"



heheheheheheheh
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Old January 11 2008, 02:48 AM   #4
A beaker full of death
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

JDW said:
the rank of Commodore was abolished in 1947!

Not abolished - existing commodores retained that rank.
The functioning of the Starfleet was based on WWII USN - specifically aircraft carriers.
You have to understand, WWII was THE defining event for several generations - from 1939 until well into the 70s. To this day, "the war" means WWII. Most of the audience in the 60s had either served or had a close family member who had served. The conventions were familiar to them. That's why TOS has the military verisimilitude later series lacked.
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Old January 11 2008, 04:47 AM   #5
James Wright
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

How many single pip Rear Admirals from TNG, DS9 & Voyager can you all name?

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Old January 11 2008, 05:50 AM   #6
MikeH92467
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

A beaker full of death said:
JDW said:
the rank of Commodore was abolished in 1947!

Not abolished - existing commodores retained that rank.
The functioning of the Starfleet was based on WWII USN - specifically aircraft carriers.
You have to understand, WWII was THE defining event for several generations - from 1939 until well into the 70s. To this day, "the war" means WWII. Most of the audience in the 60s had either served or had a close family member who had served. The conventions were familiar to them. That's why TOS has the military verisimilitude later series lacked.
Actually Commodore made a comeback during the 80's. The problem is that in the Navy everybody wants to be and admiral. During WW II the rank jumped from Captain (four stripes and an eagle) to Rear Admiral/Lower Half (two stars). The R.A./Upper Half (still two stars) Vice Admiral (three stars)

Commodore, I think was designated by one star then it went to Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, etc.

Now I think R.A. lower half is designated by one star, so they get to be admirals at one star, which actually makes sense to me.

I think Commodore could still be used as a term for a task force commander as a way of showing his command status, but I'm not sure about that....
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Old January 11 2008, 06:57 AM   #7
mada101
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

It's worth pointing out that Commodore is only no longer a rank in the US Navy. It's still 1-star flag in the British Royal Navy, several European navies and in the maritime forces of most of the former Commonwealth. Commodore is used as a nick-name for some type of special commanding Captain in the US Navy, I think, but that's all.

Fleet Captain was actually a title-come-rank used in the Royal Navy during the 18th century and in some German Navy at some other time (not sure when). It was also proposed as a real rank between Captain and Rear Admiral during the latter years of WWII in the US Navy (Commodore had been dropped at this point) or to be given to aircraft carrier captains, but was rejected. As a title, it is used in the civilian maritime field as the senior captain of a yachting club, just below Vice-Commodore.

In the entirety of TNG, DS9 and VOY, there were only two supposedly 1-pip flag officers seen, and both were in Season 1: Admiral Mark Jameson ('Too Short A Season') and Admiral Gregory Quinn ('Coming of Age', 'Conspiracy'). However, since the rank insignia wasn't really established for flag officers then, it's kind of unclear as to if they were 1-pins or not. None were ever seen in the later 'boxed' pin style. Noteworthy, the vast majority of flag officers seen in this period were 3-pin Vice Admirals, with only a handful of 2-pin Rear Admirals and one or two 4-pin Admirals. No 5-pin has ever been seen outside of the TWoK-era.

For reference, TOS only really showed us 1-pin Commodores. A handful of Admirals popped up, but only one was seen with rank insignia (a Vice Admiral). The TWoK era used the whole spectrum. ENT showed several 1-pin flag officers. Only one was named (Commodore Forrest, 'First Flight'), but others were seen in the background. The only 1-pin seen was Rear Admiral Leonard in 'Broken Bow' (possibly some in background, I don't know). Vice Admiral Forrest was the only 3-pin. No 4-pin or 5-pin were seen in this era.

Why do I know all this? Military uniforms are an interest of mine, so I tend to look for these things on the actors when they appear
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Old January 11 2008, 07:45 AM   #8
Nerys Myk
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

I blame Horatio Hornblower.
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Old January 11 2008, 08:25 AM   #9
Timo
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

The thing is, Star Trek plots frequently require a guest character who outranks the heroic Captain, but not by too much. Commodore fit that bill excellently in episodes like "Doomsday Machine" or "Deadly Years". Admiral would have been too pompous, and having Kirk rile against one would have been far too much insubordination in this fundamentally conservative show.

As for Fleet Captain, I don't think such a thing ever existed. There is only a single episode where those words are uttered together, "The Menagerie pt I", and nothing in the plot really requires this rank to be distinct from plain Captain.

Another episode, "Whom Gods Destroy", speaks of something quite different, namely "starship fleet Captain" - clearly in the context of "Captain in the prestigious fleet of starships, as opposed to Captain in a fleet of lesser vessels". Again, there is no evidence that the character thus addressed, Captain Garth, would hold a higher rank than Captain Kirk.

Generally speaking, the writers and proofreaders of TOS weren't interested in inventing things out of thin air (once they had the warp drive, phaser and transporter done with, that is). However, the people watching their show generally represented a younger generation that had a different frame of reference. It wasn't unusual for them to misinterpret some things written by their parents' contemporaries... Many a fan still thinks, for example, that there must exist a rigid "chain of command" wherein every one of the main heroes gets his or her turn in commanding the starship, or that "giving no quarter" in the old Romulan war meant refusing to give bed and breakfast to the enemy. These are minor things, but sometimes quite telling.

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Old January 11 2008, 08:11 PM   #10
A beaker full of death
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

Timo said:
Another episode, "Whom Gods Destroy", speaks of something quite different, namely "starship fleet Captain" - clearly in the context of "Captain in the prestigious fleet of starships, as opposed to Captain in a fleet of lesser vessels". Again, there is no evidence that the character thus addressed, Captain Garth, would hold a higher rank than Captain Kirk.

I disagree, I think Garth was a Fleet Captain based on that line.
The Wikipedia article indicates there had been some real-world use of the title - take it for what it's worth.
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Old January 11 2008, 08:38 PM   #11
Adagio
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

According to wikipedia , "Commodore" is a title in the US Navy that is used to denote a senior captain in charge of a fleet or a visiting officer aboard a vessel who holds the rank of Captain. Since only one person aboard the ship is allowed to be called "Captain", the visiting officer is called "Commodore". I don't have access to the USN regs, only wiki, so take that for what it's worth.
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Old January 12 2008, 03:13 AM   #12
James Wright
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

If I remember correctly fleet captain was a temporary rank in the Royal Navy given to senior captains when admirals didn't have enough squadron commanders at sea, once any fleet action ended any fleet captain would revert to his previous rank.
Does anybody have any idea what the rank insignia of a starfleet fleet captain in TOS might look like?

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Old January 12 2008, 04:11 AM   #13
aridas sofia
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

It makes a great deal of sense to have not only a commodore rank, but also a fleet captain, in order to provide a highly decentralized command structure with on-site, mid-level management. Admirals by definition should be responsible for fleets, while fleet captains and commodores should command smaller force groups or shore installations. Meanwhile, lieutenant commanders, commanders and captains handle single unit commands.

The need for many, many such multi-ship organizations removed from higher fleetwide authority would necessitate the expanded mid-level command structure.
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Old January 12 2008, 05:03 AM   #14
James Wright
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

If you all are interested, my version of the fleet captain rank insignia would be TOS captain's insignia with another solid braid above the top braid and 1 pip above that.
TOS rank of commodore would remain as seen on screen but add 1 pip above it also since commodore and fleet captain are "just about" equal.

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Old January 12 2008, 12:20 PM   #15
C.E. Evans
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Re: Starfleet Ranks?

Commodore
Fleet Captain
Captain

Still no love for the enlisted rates, I see...
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