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For additional meanings of "Captain", please see Captain.
"Well, now that you have another pip on your collar, does that mean I can't disagree with you anymore?."
"No. It just means I'm never wrong."

Captain was a commissioned officer rank, the equivalent of which was used by the service organizations of many civilizations. The title of captain was often used by vessel commanders and, as a naval rank, in many Earth navies and Starfleet, was above commander.


On Earth, the rank of Captain had its origins in Medievalism, where a Captain was often a nobleman or other person of prominence who both raised and commanded a company of soldiers. The works of William Shakespeare gave reference to several characters who were captains, including a captain mentioned by Michael Williams in the play "Henry V". (TNG: "The Defector").

By the 18th century, the rank of captain was common in most militaries of Europe. The rank was used specifically in the armies of Napoléon Bonaparte and was pronounced "capitaine" in the French language. The entity Q, in a sardonic reference to the French heritage of Jean-Luc Picard, frequently referred to the starship captain as "Mon capitaine". (TNG: "Hide And Q", "All Good Things...")

The naval rank of captain was also common in Earth militaries and was used by the United States Navy branch of the United States military and was comparable to the infantry rank of colonel.

By the mid-22nd century, captain was a senior line officer rank of most space services and usually given to the commanding officers of starships. In the Earth Starfleet, and later the Federation, it was represented by four collar pips. This naval rank was equivalent to the Romulan Star Empire's commander grade, the Cardassian Union's title of gul and the Ferengi Alliance's quasi-military DaiMon title.

A senior captain given a large degree of responsibility or administrative assignment was sometimes given the title of fleet captain.

The rank of captain could also be held by non-command personnel, especially on ships with a number of veteran and senior officers whose experience had warranted advancement to the rank of captain but without command of a starship. Such was the case on the USS Enterprise-A, where the senior staff consisted of no less than three captains: the commanding officer (James T. Kirk), the first officer (Spock), and the chief engineer (Montgomery Scott). (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) Captain Scott had previously held his rank of captain while chief engineer of the USS Excelsior, where he was known as the "captain of engineering". (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

Montgomery Scott is shown wearing a captain's rank pin in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, yet a commander's insignia in the final court martial scene of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, possibly a production error. By Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and for all appearances thereafter, his uniform is depicted with a captain pin.

The rank of captain could also be held by staff officers, such as Phillipa Louvois, a Judge Advocate General sector officer in 2365. (TNG: "The Measure Of A Man") Although most Starfleet Captains were in the command division, the rank was obtainable in both the sciences and operations division, as the rank was held by Captain Krasnovsky in 2267 and Captain Worf in 2401. (TOS: "Court Martial"; PIC: "The Last Generation")

Tryla Scott was said to have achieved the rank of captain faster than anyone in Starfleet history as of 2364. (TNG: "Conspiracy")

Krasnovsky is the only character in Star Trek to be seen wearing a sciences uniform while holding the rank of captain. Only two captains have been pictured in an operations uniform; Scotty beginning with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Worf in Star Trek: Picard.

In the 2360s, K'Vada, Kargan, Korris, Kurn, Larg, and Tel-Peh were captains in the Klingon Defense Force. (TNG: "Heart of Glory", "Redemption II"; DS9: "Dramatis Personae") In the 2150s, Vorok was a captain in the Klingon Imperial Fleet. (ENT: "Unexpected")

Captain was a title typically held by commanders of merchant vessels and sometimes service craft. In 2367, Wesley Crusher remarked in a bemused manner that Dirgo was claiming to hold the rank of captain while serving as the master of the mining shuttle Nenebek. To this, Dirgo sternly told Crusher that yes, indeed, his rank was that of captain in comparison to Crusher's rank of ensign. (TNG: "Final Mission")

When Lieutenant Commander Data was asked in 2368 by Timothy why he wasn't captain of the Enterprise-D, Data explained that "My service experience does not yet warrant such a position." (TNG: "Hero Worship")

Some known Starfleet captains included:

The Starfleet of the alternate reality established in 2233 by the temporal incursion of the Romulan Nero had the following noteworthy captains:


Background information[]

The lead characters in Star Trek productions have traditionally been Starfleet captains. In the broadcast television era, these characters were (in production order) James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), and Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula; the only difference when listed chronologically being that Captain Archer was before the other four captains). This format was the intention from the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Cage", wherein Captain Christopher Pike is established as the lead character. At first, the only exception to the captain-as-series-lead practice was when Sisko was portrayed as a commander during the first three seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, however in the streaming era, this has become much more common: for example, in Star Trek: Discovery, Captains Philippa Georgiou, Gabriel Lorca, Christopher Pike, and later Saru serve as secondary characters to series lead Michael Burnham, who only becomes a captain herself at the end of the third season after a long story arc. Similarly, Star Trek: Picard follows retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard, while Star Trek: Lower Decks follows a group of ensigns.

Regarding the challenge of following the legacy of so many extremely well-established series lead characters who had been Starfleet captains, Discovery Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman commented, "It's incredibly difficult to follow the amazing Starfleet captains that have already been created and beloved by so many. Every single one of them in different ways have been rendered so beautifully and so specifically that they're all tough acts to follow, but I'm sure that, when each one was being conceived, that the creators of those particular captains were scared about, you know, matching the one that had come before." ("Discovering Discovery: The Concepts and Casting of Star Trek: Discovery", DIS Season 1 DVD and Blu-ray special features)

The actors who have appeared in lead roles as Star Trek captains on broadcast television have been extremely varied. Jonathan Frakes remarked, "The five captains are so distinctive because of the five actors that play them, obviously. Patrick [Stewart] was cast against type, coming after Bill [Shatner]. Avery [Brooks], quite obviously, was cast against type, coming after Patrick. It was smart to bring Kate [Mulgrew] in, as a woman, and then Scott [Bakula] had an entire charm of his own. I think [...] whether it was planned or not, it was a very successful endeavor." (The Captains)

The Bajoran Militia, which also used army rank names, has been referred to by the Star Trek Encyclopedia as having a captain grade, with an insignia seen in episodes on officers subordinate to Major Kira Nerys, although they were never referred to by that rank on screen.

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