What Do the Different Uniform Colors Mean on Star Trek?

Gene Roddenberry may have dreamed of a perfect future when he originally created Star Trek, but parts of his vision were firmly rooted in the real world, specifically in the physical makeup of the crew of the Enterprise itself.

Roddenberry, along with the show's producers, decided to take numerous cues from the United States Navy when creating the official ranks on the show, including a captain overseeing a crew made up of a commander, a handful of lieutenant commanders, lieutenants, and numerous subordinate roles. But it's the different colors of the Starfleet uniforms that really tell the story of how the Enterprise operates.


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Fans know the basics: an array of blue, red, and gold shirts line the bridge of the ship every episode. Those colors weren't just randomly picked for the sake of diversity, though. They actually correspond to the ship's various service roles. The gold shirts are worn by the command division, which includes Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu, and Pavel Chekov. Red uniforms belong to the engineering/communications division, including chief engineer Scotty and communications officer Uhura. The blue shirts are worn by the science/medical staff, including McCoy and Spock.

As with everything in Star Trek, though, it's a lot more complicated than all of that. In addition to the red shirts belonging to engineers and communications personnel, they are also assigned to the security division. What's the purpose of the security division on the Enterprise? Well, they're usually the mindless supporting characters who are immediately killed whenever the crew is confronted by a new enemy. This is something of a running gag for Trek fans, as whenever one of the "Red Shirts" is seen on screen, you know they're not long for this world.

Also, those gold shirts worn by Kirk and crew? Well they might not have been so gold after all. According to an interview with Star Trek's costume designer, William Theiss, the idea was for the show's uniforms to be red, blue, and green. In fact, on the set, Kirk's outfit certainly looked to be an avocado (or lime) green, but the end result was a little different when the studio lights finally hit the uniform.

"It was one of those film stock things," Theiss said, "it photographed one way—burnt orange or a gold. But in reality was another; the command shirts were definitely green."

This might come as a surprise to Trek fans until you remember that Kirk actually did wear green on a few occasions, including the times he was in formal dress and his seldom seen alternate green get-up.


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These alternate uniforms were all the exact shade of green Theiss describes, but they were made from a different material than the standard Enterprise shirts and apparently had no issue retaining their natural color scheme when lit on set. The gold shade may have been a production mishap, but the color has since entered the Trek canon as the official hue of Kirk and his command staff. So, in the Star Trek universe Kirk wears gold; in the real world, though, the bridge of the Enterprise was designed with a completely different color palette in mind.

It gets more confusing when you look at the later Trek series, like The Next Generation, which had the command staff in red and operations in yellow—basically the reverse of the original series. Then, of course, the movies switched costumes and colors with nearly every entry, including the infamous powder blue monstrosities worn in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Roddenberry's eye for detail was unique for sci-fi TV at the time, and everything on the Enterprise had a specific purpose. So despite some production fumbles, ill-fated redesigns, and inconsistencies later on, the colors that make up Starfleet's uniforms tell a story that many viewers probably never even noticed.

Mifflin Madness: Who Is the Greatest Character on The Office? It's Time to Vote

Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
Steve Carell, as Michael Scott, hands out a well-deserved Dundie Award on The Office.
NBC

Your years of watching (and re-watching) The Office, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, have all led up to this moment. Welcome to Mifflin Madness—Mental Floss's cutthroat competition to determine The Office's greatest character. Is Michael Scott the boss you most love to hate? Or did Kevin Malone suck you in with his giant pot of chili?

You have 24 hours to cast your vote for each round on Twitter before the bracket is updated and half of the chosen characters are eliminated.

The full bracket is below, followed by the round one and round two winners. You can cast your round three vote(s) here. Be sure to check back on Monday at 4 p.m. ET to see if your favorite Dunder Mifflin employee has advanced to the next round. 

Round One


Round Two


Round Three


The Office Planned to Break Up Jim and Pam in the Final Season—Then (Smartly) Thought Better of It

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski star in The Office.
NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted when, in Season 3—after years of flirting—John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together. But an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.

Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philadelphia and Pam struggled to take care of their children on her own back in Scranton, putting intense strain on their otherwise seemingly perfect relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice.

As Collider reports, Pam and Jim's relationship could have taken a turn for worse in the final season—and the writers had planned it that way. As recounted in Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, series creator Greg Daniels sat down with each of the show's stars before starting the final season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea of putting Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice. According to Krasinski:

"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do … And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.'"

Several writers weighed in with ideas about how they might handle a split between Jim and Pam from a narrative standpoint—though not everyone was on the same page.

Warren Lieberstein, a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of bringing Brian—the documentary crew's boom operator—into the mix. “[This] was something that came up in Season 5, I think," Lieberstein said. "What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.

Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to fans of the show." Ellickson said that they backtracked so quickly, they even had to re-edit certain episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up. Which is something the show's millions of fans will be forever grateful for.

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