In the Star Trek TOS episode "Space Seed", Khan gets a "welcome to our century" dinner. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scott turn out "formal dress" uniform, where everyone else appears to be in their regular duty uniforms.

Does this have an in-universe explanation, or is it a production economy we're not supposed to notice (dress uniforms only prepared for the core cast).

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  • 1
    I'd say it's just a production thing, especially when you notice that all the non-formal wear people are with their back to the camera. It was probably hoped that you wouldn't see and determine this, but instead think they were wearing formal wear.
    – Durakken
    Sep 11, 2016 at 6:54
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    From personal experience I'd say the dress uniform expressed to Khan who was important around the table in terms of rank. In UK military for example, the dress uniform of the lower ranks is little different to the standard, you keep it perfectly clean, pressed, badges polished boots bulled. Only the higher brass have a 'special' dress uniform often regimental with braids and distinctions. I don't think Star Trek production were so hard up that they couldn't make 5 more uniforms and its hard to miss the girls handing out drinks in full shot if they thought the viewers wouldn't notice. Sep 11, 2016 at 12:19
  • Just adding to what Applefanboy said, it would seem that only those with distinctions and awards would have a special uniform on which to pin them.
    – user52688
    Sep 17, 2016 at 5:43
  • In UK terms I would add that it can depend on the regiment, for example, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards there is a dress uniform (for every soldier) which includes a kilt and bearskin (hat). This is because they are dual purpose - tank cavalry soldiers and a regimental band. Generally I would stick with its recognition of higher rank. Oct 5, 2016 at 13:59
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    @Applefanboy the producers were that strapped for cash, and usually on an unreasonably tight schedule as well. Ignoring details of costuming so that they could use what they already had on hand was definitely something that happened :)
    – hobbs
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


At startrek.com, there is an article "The Evolution of 'Space Seed,' Part 5" which goes into great detail about the costuming for Ricardo Montalban in that episode.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan’s director and writer, Nicholas Meyer, proffers a thesis that art thrives on limitations: that time, budgetary and technological issues, and even censorship may spur a kind of creativity in artists to find ways around these problems and yet still tell their stories or create their designs. Perhaps there is no better example of this in popular culture than Star Trek itself. Filming for “Space Seed” was set to begin on December 15, 1966, based on the 59 7/8 page script written by Gene Coon and Gene Roddenberry and from the inventive premise by Carey Wilber. Before the cameras could roll on the planned 120 scenes, however, several key factors needed to be in place. One of these was the design and creation of the costumes. Interestingly, the character of Khan would have more wardrobe changes than any other male guest star on the original Star Trek, yet the last-minute casting of the superb Ricardo Montalban meant that the costume designers had even more time limitations than normal to make more costumes than usual!

(emphasis mine)

The costume designer, William Ware Theiss, noted “1) I am limited by fabrics and materials. 2) I must try to find design devices which spell out the future for us here and now and 3) I have the same problems of expediency – time and money – that everyone else in the Star Trek company has.”

The article says that Montalban went through 5 costume changes, which is a pretty large number for a single Star Trek episode. Montalban's casting happened in Later November or early December 1966, and filming began on December 15, 1966, so time was very limited.

So although it doesn't address your question directly, there is a strong sense that the budget and time were quite limited for anyone's costumes except Ricardo Montalban - lending support to your supposition that "it's a production economy we're not supposed to notice".

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