Captain is a military rank, with an equivalent in many service organizations in many planets. The rank of captain is often used by the commanding officer of a naval or space vessel, or as an infantry rank subordinate to Major and above First lieutenant.
In the Middle Ages the rank of captain was used for a nobleman commissioned to command a company of soldiers. This was mentioned in one of William Shakespeare’s plays, Henry V, with the quote “Under what captain do you serve?” when the character was approached while on guard duty.
By the 20th century the rank of captain was used by all branches of the United States military. The insignia for an officer in the Air Force, Army, and the Marines was two silver bars connected by two very small bars, while an officer in the Navy would have an eagle due to him being of a different paygrade. In 2364, Q appeared as a Marine captain while confronting Captain Jean-luc Picard saying “All it takes are a Few Good Men”.
The rank of captain was also used by Germany in World War II. In the German army it was translated as Hauptmann (headman) or in the SS as Hauptsturmführer (head storm leader). The rank insignia was a black square bordered in white, with three silver pips going diagonally and two stripes underneath.
In a holodeck simulation of a Nazi campaign in France, the Hirogen put the crew of the USS Voyager against holographic 1940s Germans. In the program Chakotay was assigned the role of a US Army captain by the name of Miller. There was also a SS Hauptsturmführer in the program.
By the 22nd century it had become the senior line officer rank of most space services, and was generally given to the commanding officer of a starship. It is equivalent to the rank of colonel in the infantry, the rank of commander in the Romulan Star Empire, the rank of gul in the Cardassian Union, and the rank of DaiMon in the Ferengi Alliance. The rank of captain is also used in the Klingon Empire and in the Mirror Universe’s Terran Starfleet.
Due to there usually being 100 of light years from the higher ups in the chain of command, a starship captain must be able to make independent decisions which could affect the policies and citizens of the Federation. Therefore few officers ever gain this rank.
A senior captain with a lot of responsibility and who has been assigned extra duties and responsibilities is sometimes given the rank/title of Fleet Captain.
The rank of captain can also be held by non-command personnel. This allows for more than one captain to serve on the same starship at the same time especially when it has a large number of veteran senior officers. An example of this was on the USS Enterprise-A where the senior staff was made up of three captains: the Commanding officer (James T. Kirk), the Executive officer (Spock), and the Chief Engineer (Montgomery Scott). Captain Scott had previously been assigned to the USS Excelsior, where he was known as the “Captain of Engineering”.
It is also possible for a staff officer to hold the rank of captain, as shown by JAG officer Phillipa Louvois, who was a sector JAG officer in 2365. Reaching the rank of captain in other non-command branches is generally considered hard, as noted by one security guard “you don’t make captain by wearing a gold shirt”. However, it is possible for someone in the Sciences division to attain the rank captain, shown by Captain Krasnovsky holding the rank in 2267.
Other Uses of Captain
The title of captain can also be held by the commanding officer of a merchant or service vessel. In 2367, Wesley Crusher expessed his disbelief that Dirgo was claiming to have the rank of captain, when the vessel he commanded was a mining shuttle. Dirgo then responded that he was a captain as compared to Crusher’s rank of ensign.
It is proper to address a person with a rank lower than captain, but in command of a vessel, as captain.
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