Starship Insignias: One Patch to Rule Them All

We’re all familiar with the Enterprise insignia:

  Enterprise Patch

Folks may or may not know that the papers of the late Gene Roddenberry ended up in the Film, Television, and Theater Archival Collections at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).  They can be found in the “Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Television Series Collection, 1966-1969.”  These old archival papers are located in 41 boxes and take up about eighteen feet of shelf space.

At any rate, one of the more interesting memos located in the collection (found in Box 36, Folder 1) was a memo from Star Trek series associate producer Robert H. Justman to costume designer William Ware Theiss.  (Gene Roddenberry received a carbon copy of this memo–which is how it came to land in this Roddenberry collection.) 

 

TO: Bill Theiss

FROM: Bob Justman

SUBJECT: STARSHIP EMBLEMS

DATE: December 18, 1967

Whilst sitting in Dailies today, it was noticed that a Starship Captain (from another Starship) was wearing an emblem unfamiliar to yours truly. I have checked the occurences out with Mr. Roddenberry, who has reassured me that all Starship personnel wear the Starship emblem that we have established for our Enterprise Crew Members to wear.

Doubtless this situation has arisen due to the fact that a different Starship emblem was used last season on “CHARLIE X”. However, the personnel of that other ship in that show were the equivalent of merchant marine or freighter personnel — and therefore not entitled to bear this proud insignia on their individual and collective breasts.

Please do not do anything to correct this understandable mistake in the present episode. However, should we have Starfleet personnel in any other episodes, please make certain that they were the proper emblem.

Under penalty of death!

Signed this 18th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1967, by

ROBERT H. JUSTMAN

Chief Inquisitor

 

CC: Gene Roddenberry

John M. Lucas

D.C. Fontana

Gregg Peters

RHJ:sts

P.S. A carven “I’m sorry!” will be sufficient.

R.H.J.

 

(Hat tip to Harvey and Maurice at the TrekBBS for unearthing this.)1

So, while the insignia for the crew of the Antares seen in “Charlie X” (and in “The Trouble With Tribbles”) was meant to be some kind of “merchant marine”-type insignia…

Antares Patch

and while the insignia of Commodore Matt Decker seemed to have slipped by Bob Justman some months earlier (possibly because Decker was known to have been a commodore and not your run-of-the-mill “starship captain, or maybe because Justman simply didn’t  have the responsibility to review the dailies back in the earlier “Produced by Gene L. Coon” days of “The Doomsday Machine”),…

Constellation Patch

producer Bob Justman seems to not have been wild about the insignia worn by Captain Ronald Tracey in “The Omega Glory,” which was filming on December 18, 1967….

  Exeter Insignia

Justman’s edict, per Executive Producer Gene Roddenberry: Starfleet crewmembers will henceforth wear the same insignia.  It’s noteworthy that the crew of the Defiant in the third season episode “The Tholian Web,” in the only subsequent time we saw non-Enterprise starship crewmembers, the crew does indeed seem to have the “regular” Starfleet/Enterprise patches–although most of them are actually hidden from view.

So, interestingly, it might not actually have been a “mistake” that non-Enterprise personnel were seen with the Enterprise patch; it may actually be the case that Bill Theiss came up with and implemented the idea of different ship patches as a unilateral decision without producer approval, that was later “corrected” following this “mistake” in “The Omega Glory.”  Seeing that the Enterprise symbol was adopted later in the Star Trek movies, it may be the case that this was the symbol for Starfleet all along, and that the Constellation and Exeter patches were simply “production mistakes.”

Ultimately, knowing definitively how things work in the fictional Star Trek universe is probably unknowable and may be akin to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin–but it sure is interesting. 

As always, questions, comments, feedback, and, of course, “shares,” “likes,” or “+1s” are always appreciated.   So, are you getting any educational or entertainment value from this post?  Send us a couple of bucks!  (See the links below to donate.)

 
1. Harvey, “Starfleet Command Insignia” [Msg 29], The Trek BBS (forum)
        January 31, 2013 (5:57 p.m.)

 

Author Greg Schnitzer

Gregory L. Schnitzer is Co-Executive Producer on the fan-based Internet series Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II (formerly known as Star Trek New Voyages). Greg is a Registered Nurse and is often in charge of Emergency Medical Services at the Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II shoots. He is also the production's Property Master and on-again, off-again Set Decorator. Born and raised in Los Angeles (which he still calls "home"), in real life, Greg is a Registered Nurse, currently working in Health Information Management at a variety of medical facilities in the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Find Greg's page on the IMDB at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3348883

More posts by Greg Schnitzer

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Masshuu il Thulcandra says:

    Would love to have a ‘Tracey” style patch. I think it’s cool and I want one! Wish the picture was better to download and print.

  • Acekard 2i says:

    Awsome site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also.

  • Michael M says:

    In the “Ultimate Computer” the captain of the Lexington also was wearing a different patch than the enterprise crew.

  • Stevolution says:

    I remember reading somewhere that this was later explained away. I think it was a novel based on the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I’m not 100% sure, and no longer have a copy to check. Anyway, it stated that all Star Fleet ships originally had their own insignia, with additional departmental symbols such as the command “star” pictured above. It was decided, when the Enterprise was the first (or only one?) of the “5 year” missions to successfully complete its voyage, to honor that success by taking the Enterprise insignia and turning it into the Star Fleet insignia. I remember knowing as a kid in the ’60s about the different department symbols and tunic colors and various ship symbols, so this must have been addressed publicly at the time.

  • Jason says:

    Stevolution: I recall reading the same thing. I had the thought once, in order to allow for non-Enterprise officers appearing with the Enterprise insignia in episodes such as “Court Martial”, that the insignia were fleet specific and centered around the flagships (ie: Constitution class ships). This would allow for the officers in “Court Martial” to be in the same fleet as Enterprise without being assigned to that ship.

  • Corylea says:

    That’s interesting; thanks for explaining this!

  • D. Jacobs says:

    Even if we discount the Antares insignia, as being a civilian ship (though the crew seems to be wearing StarFleet uniforms) We still have the Enterprise, Exeter, Constellation, Defiant, and StarFleet Command, all having different insignia. Technically, shouldn’t Commodore Decker, be wearing the StarFleet Command “Starburst,” instead of, the Constellation insignia? I like some of the distinct insignia, and it would be possible if there were only 12 or 13 Constitution Class ships, but there are Scout, Destroyer, and Transport ships, in StarFleet, as well as the Cruisers. It would become difficult to come up with a distinct insignia for each…

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