Why does Kirk order Spock to initialise "Warp factor 1" in Dagger of the Mind? This order should be addressed to the helmsman, not the science officer/first officer, particularly so since Spock doesn't even have the helm the moment the order is given. Instead, he's at his post at the science station.

  • 11
    Perhaps Kirk couldn't remember the name of the helmsman?
    – Valorum
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:53
  • Nice idea; returning from that awful penal colony, his memories had been messed with anyway...:-) But I somehow hope that there's more to it than just that...
    – glahn
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:55
  • 22
    I suspect that it's much like any military ship. The captain airily waves his hand at whoever is in his eye-line and expects his merest whim to become reality
    – Valorum
    Apr 9, 2018 at 14:49
  • When the Captain says "Set sails", he says it to the First Mate, no? "Set sails" - "Set sails" - "Set sails" ...
    – sgf
    Apr 9, 2018 at 23:02

3 Answers 3


The responsibilities of the First Officer (FO) or Executive Officer (XO) include executing or having the personnel of the ship execute whatever orders the captain gives. Hence the captain is always free to either dispatch the orders himself, or to have the XO dispatch them as he/she sees fit.

That should be enough of an answer.

If you want something even further, we could hypothesize that "initializing warp factor one" involves preparations in the engine room (not present) as well as perhaps the helm, so it makes sense for the first officer to carry out the orders by dispatching them to the various parties appropriately.

Just to provide some references, in Wikipedia, First Officer redirects to Executive Officer which is defined as

An executive officer (XO) is generally a person responsible for running an organization [...] . In many militaries, an executive officer is the second-in-command, reporting to the commanding officer. The XO is typically responsible for the management of day-to-day activities, freeing the commander to concentrate on strategy and planning the unit's next move.

and under the U.S. Navy section (on which we know Starfleet is based):

An XO is assigned to all ships, [...] and is responsible to the captain for all ship’s work, drills, exercises, personnel organization, and the policing and inspection of the ship.

(emphasis added)

Just as additional color: We can see how this works in "Chain of Command" where Capt. Jellico takes over command of the Enteprise and then issues high-level orders for the XO (Riker) to execute. When he does not execute them in a timely fashion, Jellico is taken aback since (in his view) the XO's responsibility to get it done:

JELLICO: How many duty watches does the crew stand?
RIKER: We've a standard three shift rotation.
JELLICO: I'd like to change that to four starting tonight. I'd also like to examine the duty roster and the crew evaluations as soon as possible. I want readiness reports from each department head by fourteen hundred hours, and a meeting of the senior staff at fifteen hundred.


JELLICO: Is there a problem with delta shift, Will?
RIKER: There is no delta shift yet, sir. I have spoken to the department heads about changing from three shifts to four, and they assure me it's going to cause us significant personnel problems.
JELLICO: So you have not changed the watch rotation.
RIKER: I was going to explain this to you after the ceremony, sir.
JELLICO: You will tell the department heads that as of now the Enterprise is on a four shift rotation. I don't want to talk about it. Get it done. Now that means delta shift will be due to come on duty in two hours. I expect you to have it fully manned and ready when it does. Is that clear?
RIKER: Yes, sir. If you'll excuse me, sir. Captain.
JELLICO (to PICARD): He was your first officer for five years.

  • 7
    In the second pilot (1st with Kirk, or might be 2nd), going to Warp is shown as being very difficult. There's a bunch of dialogue about time compensaters and other tech jargon. The science officer was heavily involved with this.
    – Tim
    Apr 9, 2018 at 22:07
  • 3
    Yes, @Tim. The ease that traveling at warp speed became disappointed me. Maintaining its difficulty certainly would have limited its accessibility. Apr 10, 2018 at 0:10
  • 6
    @EvilClosetMonkey, at the end of the day the ship always travels at the speed of plot, making a big thing of it doesn't help the plot it just creates a repetitive section in every show that's longer than just giving an order.
    – Separatrix
    Apr 10, 2018 at 6:58
  • 1
    @Separatrix - imo i always felt the speed of plot could hide the process (we don't need to see it always), except when said process was plot worthy. For example - escaping a situation, making sure you don't fly thorough a star, or making sure that asteroid belt is on the star charts. (I accept my punishment for crossing the series) Apr 10, 2018 at 15:21
  • This may be a normal duty for an executive officer, but in general in Star Trek TOS, Kirk gives such orders to the helmsman. So I still have the question -- why was it done differently in this episode? Since I don't believe the helmsman and navigator appear in this episode at all, the reason may have been out-of-universe -- that is, it wasn't worth it to bring in those actors for one line at the end of the show. But then, they probably could have patched in a scene from the end of a different show...
    – Basya
    Nov 6, 2018 at 11:35

The DS9 Episode For the Uniform, implies that there are various communications between the bridge and other departments that happen more or less automatically on a fairly regular basis

O'BRIEN: With most of the bridge control functions offline, all orders to Engineering have to be relayed.

This means that, for example, when Picard orders the helm to set a course at a given speed and engage, orders go to engineering to travel at warp X.

There is also evidence in Chain of Command to suggest that it's not unheard of for Captains to relay orders to lower ranking officers via other command staff.

JELLICO: Data, I want to be at Minos Korva in one hour.

DATA: Aye, sir. Set course three five zero mark two one five and engage at warp eight point five.

In this case, Jellico was on the bridge and within earshot of the helmsman, so he could have easily given the order himself. That said, he may not have known the correct heading or the speed needed to arrive in one hour.

So why does Kirk give the order to Spock instead of doing it himself?

He had been through a lot in that episode. It's possible, he didn't remember (in the moment) what their next mission was or that he just didn't want to deal with all of the associated orders he'd have to give with the speed order. Lucky for Kirk, he has a ship full of underlings to do stuff for him.


Probably because the actors' contracts specify a certain number of lines per episode. Having Spock reply to Kirk's order satisfies that requirement.

  • Welcome to SFF:SE. Can you provide any evidence for this? We like at least some support for answers here.
    – Politank-Z
    Apr 10, 2018 at 17:07
  • This seems like a guess.
    – Valorum
    Apr 10, 2018 at 17:54
  • It is, since their contracts are private. However, other actors have made similar demands, such as Steve McQueen demanding at least the same number of lines as Paul Newman. As an aside, the XO is focused more on the internal affairs of a ship, coordinating large-scale evolutions. S/he would not be relaying orders on the bridge; that would be the job of the Officer of the Deck (source: 24 year naval officer)
    – Alypius
    Apr 10, 2018 at 18:04

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