Shortly after the events of TOS, Captain Kirk was promoted to admiralty and assigned as Chief of Starfleet Operations. In most versions of Star Trek that I'm aware of, operations is something usually denoted by the colors worn by operations officers - usually red or gold.

However as far as I can tell, the admiralty uniforms of TMP have no clear division colors. Am I missing something really obvious, or are there really just no identifying colors? Is there at least concept art that fleshes this out?

  • "By the time Kirk had recovered from the physical and emotional exhaustion of his five-year mission, he was already an Admiral, a member of the Commanding Admiral’s staff, and was convinced that he had simply followed the path of responsibility and duty." sayeth the novelisation
    – Valorum
    Feb 14, 2021 at 3:05
  • My money’s on a weird transitional time in uniforms that Starfleet was in before they settled on the red-jacket design we see in the later films. Feb 14, 2021 at 4:40
  • 1
    Short time after the 5 year mission Starfleet decided it would be important to finally implement the "uni" in uniform. An initial test run of pastell colors didn't run as expected. This led to the completely red/white designs of later movies, but was ultimately changed to get away from the Red Shirt Stigmata - crew deaths spiked to 90+% wearing red! This stayed in place until Admirality opted for a "back to the roots" color scheme, including special fabrics conveniently swapping colors in the red/yellow hues for the human eyes to proof concerns being unnecessary.
    – Mario
    Feb 14, 2021 at 6:50

1 Answer 1


According to this page from Star Trek Vol 1 #10, the Starfleet division colours in Star Trek: The Motion picture were denoted by the background colour of the insignia on the chest, and/or the colour of the shoulder tabs. It's also clearly stated here that Kirk belonged to the command division.

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  • COMMAND - White (Kirk);
  • SCIENCE - Orange (Spock);
  • ENGINEERING - Red (Scott, Rand, Cleary);
  • OPERATIONS - Pale Gold (Sulu, Uhura, DiFalco);
  • SECURITY - Grey (Chekov);
  • MEDICAL - Green (McCoy, Chapel).

This is consistent with what we see in the actual film, as Kirk is shown with white shoulder tabs and/or insignia, whereas Spock is shown with orange, McCoy green, Scotty red, Sulu and Uhura pale gold, etc.

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Note that the various uniforms differed in respect to whether they had the coloured insignia background, shoulder tabs, or both. In the case of Kirk's admiralty uniform specifically, his Starfleet Insignia was a metal badge with no background colour, but this uniform still had the white shoulder tabs, indicating that he belonged to the command division.

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  • So apparently, being Chief of Starfleet Operations is not equivalent in terms of division to being Chief of Operations on a space station, like Miles O'Brien. Similarly, Sisko was appointed acting Chief of Starfleet Security in the DS9 episode Homefront, but retained his red, command division colours, rather than switching to gold for operations. Feb 14, 2021 at 9:53
  • Ah, thank you for your breakdown of the field officer's uniforms! Very informative! I was however looking for information regarding Kirk's admiralty uniform and by extension all flag officer uniforms. For most of the movie he's actually ranked as a captain, with his division color being identified on his fabric Starfleet patch. The admiralty uniform he wears instead uses a metal pin and a monochrome uniform. Maybe admirals of other divisions would wear the same thing but in other colors than white?
    – rr_cola
    Feb 15, 2021 at 1:02
  • It just occured to me I might be misunderstanding you. Were you saying an flag officer's division colors might go on their shoulderboards?
    – rr_cola
    Feb 15, 2021 at 1:03
  • Yes, that's why I said the colour of the insignia and/or the shoulder tabs. In the case of Kirk's admiral uniform, the insignia was a metal pin with no background colour, but he still had the white shoulder tabs. In the case of Scotty, his uniform didn't have shoulder tabs, but he did have the insignia with the red background. In the case of officers like Sulu and Uhura, their uniforms had both the insignia background and the shoulder tabs, and the colours always matched. So the white shoulder tabs on Kirk's admiral uniform indicate that he was still within the command division. Feb 15, 2021 at 1:34
  • Ah, thank you so much! I'm sorry about that, I totally misinterpreted what you were saying until right after I posted a response. I like this explanation!
    – rr_cola
    Feb 15, 2021 at 3:14

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