Why does Riker not have to be Admiral to command a fleet in the last episode of Picard?

I would have expected that he gets a field commission and is, during having this, addressed as Admiral.

  • @Valorum I know, but this is what he did in a hurry on his own and for whatever reason the captains followed him. But Riker did not do this on his own, but was temporarily put back in duty for this. Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 22:18
  • If it's anything like the actual military, then 'appointment supersedes rank'. His highest rank (ST: Nemesis, prior to ST: Picard) was Captain, so likely they'd pull him out of retirement at his rank, but appoint him as Admiral. I don't think it was explicit that he was the Captain of the Zheng He as much as commanding the fleet..?
    – wcullen
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 5:21
  • Well, I think the actual question here is how you send such a fleet in such a supposedly serious situation with a commander just called back from the reserves; but, honestly, I was so happy to see Riker again in such a context that I didn't bother (still don't).
    – desertnaut
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 23:48

2 Answers 2


Being a Starfleet Admiral doesn't appear to be a pre-requisite for being granted command of a fleet of ships.

In DS9: Sacrifice of Angels, Captain Sisko is appointed to lead the fleet (comprising elements of the Second, Fifth and Ninth fleets) conducting "Operation Return", retaking Deep Space Nine and the Bajoran wormhole. This fleet is one of the Federation's largest ever engagements.

SISKO: By putting together a task force comprised of elements from the Second, Fifth and Ninth fleets, I believe that we can retake Deep Space Nine, the most important piece of real estate in the quadrant.

In TNG: Redemption, Part 2, Captain Picard is given direct control of a sizeable fleet of ships. Again, there's no mention of him receiving any sort of temporary promotion.

SHANTHI: I'll have to clear this with the Federation Council. In the meantime, assemble your fleet, Captain.

There are other examples, but these seem most relevant.

  • 2
    There is a Fleet Captain rank in Starfleet.
    – user62584
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 3:07
  • @Jeeped - Yes, a sort of pseudo-Commodore rank. Rarely used and then inconsistently. I much prefer the new system.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 7:53
  • 2
    Here is a link to the order of battle at the battle of Jutland in 1926. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_battle_at_Jutland The British fleet had 28 battleships, 37 total major warships, & 150 total warships & 17 admirals. The German fleet had 24 battleships, 27 major war ships, & 99 total warships & 8 admirals. It is very inconsistent with modern practice to put a captain in command of either 23 or 600 space warships. So I would love for new Star Trek to always have admirals in command of fleets. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 18:06
  • 1
    @M.A.Golding - Starfleet Admirals are too busy twirling their metaphorical moustaches and plotting to take over the Federation to command fleets
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 18:17
  • 1
    My first thought along the lines of this answer were from "Star Trek: First Contact". The Enterprise-E arrives to find a fleet battling a Borg cube. After assessing the situation, Picard announces "This is Captain Picard of the Enterprise. I'm taking command of the fleet." And...he gets absolutely zero backsass from any other skipper.
    – Blaze
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 16:09

The problem here is a matter of POSITION, vs. a matter of RANK.

One can command a fleet, or in current wet navy parlance, a "task group" or "task force". That is a position.

One can be the rank of a captain, or admiral, or whatever. That is a RANK.

The two are NOT THE SAME.

In current US navy, TF-55 (aka DESRON destroyer squadron 50) is commanded by Captain Adan Cruz (as of April 2020). But TF-55 also has patrol boats and other coastal patrol vessels and basically guards the Persian gulf area.


So, no, you do not have to be an admiral to command a fleet of ships.

Of course, the idea that a RETIRED captain (or low-ranking admiral) can just jump back and command "Federation's newest" starships and zoom, just show up like that, is a bit... WTF

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