Before the Star Trek reboot movie came out, one of the producers (and I think more than just one) said that it was known that Kirk was the youngest person ever to become Captain of a starship and they were going to show us why.

Where, in canon, is it stated that Kirk is the youngest starship Captain in Starfleet? And is it only stated once, or multiple times?

I'm interested in the original timeline, since the situation is so different in the reboot.

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    Why the downvote? This is a good question. – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 6:01
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    @Tango : If being ornery on occasion is your worst flaw, then you're a pretty swell chap in my book, Tango. :-) – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 6:03
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    @Hypnosifl : The statement that he was the youngest captain in Starfleet had been going around for years prior to the reboot films. – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 15:31
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    If the producers did say that, then it seems like their statement is kind of nonsensical, they're basically saying "we know that in the original timeline Kirk was the youngest captain of a starship so we're going to explore that, even though we'll be showing an alternate history where the circumstances leading to him becoming a captain involve events that never took place in the original timeline." Of course, people promoting movies do often talk a lot of nonsense so I guess I shouldn't be surprised! – Hypnosifl Apr 2 '16 at 21:01
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    And there you have a perfect example of the muddled thinking and level of clarity the writers behind the reboot brought to it. They have no problem with breaking respected rules of good writing and certainly don't have the skill to get away with it. – Tango Apr 2 '16 at 22:11

The official Star Trek website is incorrect. Kirk became a starship captain when he was YOUNGER than 34.

According to the official, but not necessarily canon or correct, Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future Kirk is born in 2233 and becomes captain of the Enterprise in 2264, the year he turns 31.

In the SECOND SEASON episode "The Deadly Years" Kirk is rapidly aging and the computer at his competency hearing says that Kirk's biological age is between 60 and 70. And Kirk then says:

KIRK: No, I'm thirty four. I'm thirty four years old.

Nobody says that Kirk's statement is inaccurate and proof of his failing memory. So at that moment Kirk's age must have been between 34 and 35 years of some unspecified type that would be proper to use in such a situation.

In the FIRST SEASON episode "Shore Leave" that probably happened before "The Deadly Years" Kirk hasn't seen Ruth or Finnegan for "fifteen years" (about 14 to 16 years?). Finnegan tormented Kirk in Kirk's first year at Starfleet Academy (possibly also in later years) so Kirk should have graduated from Starfleet Academy about 11 to 13 years before "Shore Leave" and thus when aged about 21 to 24 - or younger allowing for the time between "Shore Leave" and "The Deadly Years" and for Finnegan possibly tormenting Kirk in later years at the Academy and for Kirk possibly graduating earlier than usual.

In the SECOND SEASON episode "Obsession" it is revealed that Lieutenant Kirk served on the Starship Farragut under Captain Garrovik eleven years (11 to 12) earlier, and thus when aged about 22 to 24.

So Kirk became a starship captain when aged somewhere between about 22 and 34.

I believe that Kirk is said to have been the youngest starship captain in the writer's guide for TOS.

A similar statement is made in The Making of Star Trek (1968) Part II: An official Biography of the Ship and its Crew, Chapter 4 "The Ship's Captain", page 216, that says "Kirk has been in command of the Enterprise for more than four years and was the youngest Academy graduate ever to have been assigned as a Starship Command Captain". The page number may vary in later editions.

Note it doesn't say that Kirk was either the youngest person to command a starship or the youngest person to be promoted captain, but "the youngest Academy graduate ever to have been assigned as a starship command captain".

So one's opinion about Kirk's record depends on how canonical one considers those sources to be.

Possible rivals to the title include

1) Garth of Izar who looked rather young in "Whom Gods destroy" to have already been the hero of Starfleet when Kirk was in the Academy. He might have become a starship captain very young.

2) Captain Christopher Pike. In the FIRST SEASON episode "Menagerie", Commodore Mendez, who looked significantly older than Kirk, said that Christoper Pike was about Kirk's age (from Mendez's point of view of course). Pike had been the skipper and commanding officer of Enterprise "thirteen years" (about 12 to 14) before "Menagerie", and thus might have become a starship captain when aged much younger than Kirk was in "Menagerie" and thus might possibly be a rival for Kirk's record.

3) Willard Decker. Actor Stephen Collins was born 1 October 1947. Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture began 7 August 1978 and ended 26 January 1979. Collins was aged almost 31 to 31.25 during filming. If Willard Decker was the same age as Collins, he was a captain age 30 or 31.

4) Jean-Luc Picard who commanded the Stargazer, perhaps with the rank of captain already, 31 years before the first season of STNG (for 22 years according to the TNG writers guide, I think, and ending 9 years before the first season according to "The Battle").

5) Captain Tryla Scott in the STNG "Conspiracy": "It's said you made Captain faster than anyone in Starfleet history, present company included" (possibly due to the alien parasites). Note her ship the Renegade is described as a frigate, thus she may not be a starship captain. And it is not specified if she became captain fastest after birth (and thus youngest), or fastest after entering Starfleet.

Please note the precise wording and the possible meanings of how Kirk's record is described in The Making of Star Trek (1968) and how the other captains are described before trying to reconcile them and decide who has the record.

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  • Do you have chapters or any way to indicate where you found the information in TMOFST? I realize that page numbers may vary from version to version. – Tango Apr 4 '16 at 18:15
  • Tango - it as in Kirk's biography in the section with biographies of characters. – M. A. Golding Jan 30 '17 at 4:46
  • Bio section in what? The series bible or guide? – Tango Jan 30 '17 at 16:32
  • Tango - In the section about the fictional enterprise and the fictional workings of the Star Trek universe there is a section of biographies of the Star Trek characters, including Kirk. My copy of the Making of Star Trek 1968 edition is packed away and unreachable as is any copy of the writers guide I may own. – M. A. Golding Feb 24 '17 at 6:50
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    Tango - I found my copy. The Making of Star Trek (1968) Part II: An official Biography of the Ship and its Crew, Chapter 4 The Ship's Captain, page 216, says that "Kirk has been in command of the Enterprise for more than four years and was the youngest Academy graduate ever to have been assigned as a Starship Command Captain". The page number may vary in later editions. – M. A. Golding Jan 20 '18 at 18:23

According to the database entry on "James T. Kirk" at the official Star Trek web site:

As much as any other figure in Starfleet history, the tall tales about James T. Kirk's exploits over a 40-year career are as numerous as the official record — and probably closer to the truth in some instances. Kirk's renown began by becoming the youngest captain in Starfleet to date at 34 and the first captain to bring his starship back relatively intact after a five-year mission, having also gained a reputation as an independent whose success couldn't be argued even though he often bucked the system. He also has the distinction of being involved in 17 different temporal violations, a career record which still stands.


Note that this entry and corresponding timeline (see the link) are written with respect to the prime timeline, rather than the reboot timeline. In other words, Kirk was the youngest captain in both timelines.

However, I cannot find a specific episode that refers to this fact. The age of 34 is consistent, nonetheless, with Kirk's stated age in the first season episode "The Deadly Years":

KIRK: No, I'm thirty four. I'm thirty four years old.

That being said, I was able to find a reference to this "fact" in the 1986 TOS novel Star Trek: Enterprise — The First Adventure by Vonda McIntyre, who also wrote several of the film novelizations. From the back cover description:

From the moment James T. Kirk steps aboard the Enterprisethe youngest captain in Starfleet's history — things begin to go wrong.

While non-canon, this could very well be the original source of this now accepted piece of Star Trek folklore.

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  • I'm adding a note - yes, I'm interested in the original timeline, as you mention. And thank you for pointing out it's in the DB, but not mentioned in an episode. That's part of the reason I asked. I think it's just accepted, maybe even someone like Roddenberry said it, but where did it come from? – Tango Apr 2 '16 at 6:03
  • @Tango : I'm still on the hunt. :-) – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 6:06
  • Hunt away! I'm taking off. In 6 hours I have to have had some sleep, had breakfast, and be in my tux and ready to look impressive doing waltzes and tangos. – Tango Apr 2 '16 at 6:09
  • @Tango : See update! (And best of luck with the waltzing and tangoing!) :-) – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 6:10
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    @Tango : Not canon, but it could be the source of this "fact" nonetheless (just as select TAS tidbits slowly worked their way into canon over the years). – Praxis Apr 2 '16 at 6:15

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