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The question says it all - from my experience watching the shows, but not reading any books or other media, all "captains" are captains of ships. Is it possible for a starfleet officer to be promoted to captain and then admiral without being in command of a ship or base?

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Montgomery Scott achieved the rank of Captain without serving as a ship's captain. He was referred to as a Captain of Engineering while serving on the Excelsior as chief engineer while holding the rank of Captain.

Likewise, McCoy became an admiral by the time of TNG without any indication of command experience.

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    I'm not sure we can say for certain that McCoy never had any command experience? He could conceivably have been captain of a hospital ship or something similar between ST6 and TNG. Something like Crusher's ship in the All Good Things future timeline.
    – Idran
    Feb 9 at 17:11
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    Scotty is definitely a good example, thanks! Feb 9 at 17:18
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    I had a weird nightmare about a cadet getting promoted to Captain just because his action figure was already trademarked with that rank! Feb 9 at 17:25
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    In real life militaries doctors are often promoted to high rank without any command responsibilities (except over other medical staff). Doctors don't command ships - they are too valuable to waste their time doing that. Feb 9 at 19:28
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    @DJClayworth Not only no command responsibilities, but also no command rights. Doctors are staff officers. If the CO, XO, and other senior officers are lost, command responsibility follows the unrestricted line down to the last ensign, rather than pass to high-ranking restricted or staff officers.
    – Therac
    Feb 10 at 3:20
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Philippa Louvois, the Judge Advocate who presided over Data's trial on whether or not he is property held the rank of captain.

There should likely be MORE Captains in specialties (medical, legal, engineering, various sciences, Logistics, etc) than those who command a starship just like their are plenty of Colonels who never were commanders in the Army for example.

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  • You can add memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Krasnovsky to this list of non-command captains.
    – Valorum
    Feb 10 at 20:44
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    @Valorum According to the Memory Alpha article you linked, Krasnovsky was introduced as a "Star Ship Captain": "He was to have been introduced, in dialogue from the final draft script, as a 'Star Command Captain', though this was changed to 'Star Ship Captain' in the revised final draft." Wouldn't that mean that he actually was Captain of a Starship? Feb 10 at 20:59

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