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William Shatner wants the US Space Force ranks to use captains, not colonels

Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) introduces legislation changing a U.S. Space Force rank from colonel to captain.
Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) introduces legislation changing a U.S. Space Force rank from colonel to captain.
(Image: © Rep. Dan Crenshaw/YouTube)

In a bizarre, real-life plot twist worthy of any "Star Trek" episode, none other than William Shatner, the actor who famously played Captain James T. Kirk in "Star Trek: The Original Series," wants U.S. Space Force to rename its colonels to captains.

What Shatner's supporting now is a proposed amendment to the House of Representatives’ version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — which is appropriately nicknamed the "Starfleet Amendment." 

The amendment, which was introduced by former Navy SEAL Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) in late July, would replace the current designation of colonel in the U.S. Space Force with captain. It hasn't passed yet, and the proposal will need to be supported by the Senate to become law.

Related: What is the Space Force?

After the amendment was announced, Shatner quickly waded into the fray. First, on Aug. 21, he posted a message to the Space Force on Twitter, contradicting his Twitter bio which reads that his feed is "not political."

"Dear @SpaceForceDoD, I have a question to ask, if it's OK. I'm just a nobody here but I was wondering; is it true that the commanding officer onboard a 'Space Force' ship is designated a Colonel & not a Captain? Is this up for debate? I think I'd like to debate the issue," Shatner tweeted.

Crenshaw replied to the tweet on Aug. 25, stating "Hey @WilliamShatner I got you covered. My amendment passed out of the House, and instructs the Space Force to use Navy Ranks. We'll be working to keep it in the NDAA!"

After this exchange, Shatner kept going. The 89-year-old, who usually tweets several times a day, penned an opinion piece calling for there to be captains in the Space Force instead of colonels. Emojis peppered Shatner's argument, which was published in "The Military Times" on Aug. 26.

"What the heck is wrong with you? I'm talking about the ranks of the Space Force," wrote Shatner in the opinion piece. "What are you doing to us? 😱 There was no Colonel Kirk; not even in the mirror universe (which is what 2020 feels like at times.) Do you know your entertainment space history? 🤔 🤷‍♂️"

So what does the U.S. Space Force think about this? The newly founded military branch declined to comment on the argument when asked by SpaceNews.

"We are aware of recent public discussions and opinions on potential naming conventions for ranks in the U.S. Space Force," Lynn Kirby, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Space Force, said in a statement to SpaceNews.

Kirby added that the branch "continues to work with our partners in Congress and with space professionals to define the culture and brand that respect our long history and reflect our role in protecting the ultimate high ground. We don't comment on proposed legislation and will announce Space Force ranks when the decision is final."

This argument comes as the Space Force looks to establish its own unique identity from its Air Force heritage. It's a brand-new military branch, having only been established in December 2019

The Space Force got some satirical attention for creating a seal that looks a lot like the "Star Trek" insignia, and the new branch was further lampooned in a new Netflix series (starring Steve Carrell) that played on the public's confusion about what the Space Force will really do.

Officials within the Space Force fear that the Starfleet amendment could make the branch look more like a Trek joke to outsiders, Space News said. However, leaders within the Space Force had been considering using Air Force ranks before, the article added, with a slight change to use "specialists" to refer to junior enlisted personnel instead of "airmen."

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  • terranape
    Let me preface this by mentioning that I am seriously biased, as I am a Navy vet.

    If the discussion is ranks in the Space Force, I would propose that the naming convention be a bit of a hybridization of USN and USAF. The O's should follow the Navy's structure, and enlisted should follow the AF's.
    One caveat to that statement, "Spacer" should replace the "Airman" moniker for the junior enlisted.
    Reply
  • Steven Baxter
    Will the name change the mission? If it does, then by all means lets all get together and make it a proper one. But if it does not, why is a real Space Force being questioned by a make-believe one? I understand that many peoples interest in space was sparked in thier early years by a great epic story or two. But now that we have all grown up, do we want to still live in that primitive fantasy world of illusion, or are we truly ready to boldly go where we have not gone before?
    Reply
  • Mergatroid
    Steven Baxter said:
    why is a real Space Force being questioned by a make-believe one? I understand that many peoples interest in space was sparked in thier early years by a great epic story or two. But now that we have all grown up, do we want to still live in that primitive fantasy world of illusion, or are we truly ready to boldly go where we have not gone before?

    Maybe because the make-believe one and others like it inspired and predicted much of what we are doing now. Or maybe just because all ships should have a captain, as has been traditional in both the real world and the make-believe ones.
    Reply
  • terranape
    Mergatroid said:
    Maybe because the make-believe one and others like it inspired and predicted much of what we are doing now. Or maybe just because all ships should have a captain, as has been traditional in both the real world and the make-believe ones.

    Well said.
    Reply
  • dwnewberg
    Popular culture has contributed and shaped the dreams to come true as science fiction becomes reality. We cannot dismiss the impact that people like Gene Roddenberry and Issac Asimov has had on contemporary culture and our dreams of what becomes reality. Just consider the flip phone, lasers, flat screen televisions. Do we laugh at their designs or celebrate them as technological breakthroughs? I agree with Cpt. Kirk. We need to dream more. Being realistic never got us in the air or to the moon. I think a captain commands a starship. Live long and prosper! Keep making dreams reality and you will also have the minds as well as the hearts of the people.
    Reply
  • Grinning Bandicoot
    Admin said:
    William Shatner wants U.S. Space Force to rename its colonels to captains.

    William Shatner wants the US Space Force ranks to use captains, not colonels : Read more
    Now is the chance to create a rational system of rank. Lieutenant Commander vs Commander, Lieutenant Colonel vs Colonel, Rear Admiral of the lower half vs Rear Admiral of the upper half. Silver and Gold historical accidents. Why not acknowledge in both ' O' and 'E' the bottem three levels equate entrant, apprentice, and journeyman. If one thinks it out the cycle of repeats again but with either technical in enlisted or leadership on officers. Then flag rank in officers or SNCOs enlisted. Warrants have a rational easy to scan system. Adapt something in the same fashion to those in grades below 7 and name it accordingly.
    Reply
  • Bonzadog
    I wonder if a Space Force is a good idea. OK Space is used to spy satellites, but to have some sort on military presence in Space would - in my eyes - step up the level of military usage of space by all the Space faring nations.
    I was hoping to keep space neutral...
    Reply
  • bolide
    I think they should follow Navy convention. A space force is more like a navy than it is like an air force. A navy, unlike other military forces, is based and operates in a vast hostile natural environment in which exposed humans cannot live or operate, which therefore requires its personnel to be based on (not merely operate in) enclosed protective mobile bases, called ships. In particular, a space force is like the submarine service; the biggest difference is that the pressure hull keeps pressure in, rather than out.

    As for the need for a space force--necessity will rule. We need to be prepared for the necessity, but not contribute to creating it.
    Reply