Star Trek has a long tradition of color-coded uniforms that signify in which divisions Starfleet personnel serve. Perhaps most memorably, on The Original Series command division was gold, science and medical were blue, and operations, engineering and security were red. Naturally, that approach continues on CBS’s franchise revival Star Trek: Discovery, with some notable alterations.
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Set a decade before Kirk, Spock & Co. set off on their five-year mission, the new show eschews the bright colors of The Original Series, and opts instead for uniforms more akin to those of Enterprise, the 2001-2005 drama that took place about a century earlier, during the early days of interstellar travel. The color piping on the blue fitted jumpsuits corresponded with each of the divisions of the beloved 1960s television series, but designated ranks with silver pips displayed on the right chest, rather than on the sleeves.
“We looked at Enterprise,” executive producer Akiva Goldsman recently explained, “we looked at The Original Series, at that point in canon, and we tried to pull across the color palette.”
However, Discovery trades in the Skittles rainbow for something a little more subdued (albeit a lot more metallic), with gold, silver and bronze, a little closer to the divisional designations used in the unaired 1965 pilot “The Cage.”
“We are looking at doing the red, blue and gold shirts,” said costume designer Gersha Phillips. “We’ve come up with a system where we’re doing a foiled compression panel and delta panels that we’re putting in on the jackets that tell that same story of the departments.”
As with The Original Series and its prequel Enterprise, the Starfleet uniforms of Discovery use gold to designate the command division, which traditionally encompasses officers and crewmen in command (of course) and control functions. That includes captains, executive officers, helmsmen and navigators.
On Star Trek: Discovery, First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) notably wear gold accents.
Instead of the blue of The Original Series, silver is used on Discovery to specify the sciences division, which covers Starfleet officers and crewmen in scientific and medical research and control functions. Those can include a wide range of departments and duties, from sensors and research to surgery and medics.
On Discovery, science officers Saru (Doug Jones) and Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and medical officer Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) notably wear silver accents.
The largest division of most any Starfleet crew, operations encompasses such functions as engineering, security, communications and tactical. On The Original Series operations personnel wore red, which gave rise to the term “redshirt,” meaning a stock character who dies soon after being introduced. However, on Discovery, operations officers and crew are designated by bronze accents on their blue uniforms.
On the new series, operations personnel include security officer Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman).
Ranks and Division Badges
The color coding of the Starfleet uniforms on Star Trek: Discovery continues with the metallic badges, which correspond to the gold, silver and bronze of each of the divisions. What’s more, those badges display the division insignia as seen on The Original Series: the stylized star for command, a “ringed planet” for sciences and a spiral for operations.
But there’s a twist, with ranks on Discovery indicated with pips, akin to those of Star Trek: The Next Generation, only here displayed on the badges themselves: four pips for a captain, three for a commander, and so on.
In the United States, Star Trek: Discovery debuts Sunday, Sept. 24, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, before moving to the CBS All Access streaming service for subsequent episodes. In Canada, the series debuts on CTV and Space at 8:30 pm ET, with its second episode set to air immediately after on Space — subsequent episodes will air Sundays through Nov. 5. Internationally, the series will stream on Netflix.
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