In Strange New Worlds s2e7 Boimler travels back to the Enterprise. He is addressed as Ensign and he himself is deferential to Pike.

When a Starfleet Officer travels in time, do they retain the privileges of their rank, or do they just automatically become an observer?

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    Perhaps a corollary question concerns provenance. At what point might they have created a procedure to determine if a purported time traveler is who they say they are? Commented Apr 25 at 19:38
  • Sort of related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/174992/…
    – MJ713
    Commented Apr 25 at 19:43
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    Why shouldn't they retain their privileges? Their rank reflects their experience, and that hasn't gone away.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 26 at 15:02
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    I think it should depend on whether you're travelling back in time or forward. If you go forward a significant amount, the tech would be all new to you and you wouldn't know how anything works. Though they did exactly that between seasons 2 and 3 of Discovery, and they all kept their ranks in the process, or in some cases were even promoted, so I guess it doesn't matter? They're still on their old ship though, with just a few upgrades. Maybe they wouldn't be eligible for their ranks on a more modern ship? Commented Apr 26 at 21:42
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    @DarrelHoffman But if you go forward in time, then you have records showing your rank. There really isn't any difference between going forward in time and just being in stasis. Like, sure, in Relics, Scotty doesn't know how the new tech works, but you're surprised they didn't demote him because of that? Seriously? Commented Apr 26 at 22:43

2 Answers 2


Yes, apparently.

In Yesterday's Enterprise, for example, Captains Picard and Garrett treat each other as colleagues of equal rank, not as (Picard to Garrett), a relic of decades earlier, or as (Garrett to Picard) a fellow who was still in the academy. And this is during wartime, when polite courtesies would probably not apply.

Similarly in Cause and Effect, Picard treats the even more ancient Bateson as a legitimate captain - and in a Star Trek novel (Ship of the Line) Bateson is given command of the newest Star Fleet vessel for the following reason:

a provision was incorporated allowing any Starfleet personnel to retain seniority as accrued from the date of commission despite passage backward in time. "However," he added, “in your case, Mr. Riker is quite right. There's nothing about moving forward in time. Your commission date still stands, making you in fact the most senior captain currently on duty.

The relationship between Admiral and Captain Janeway appears to be an exception - but note that the Admiral was explicitly trying to alter the timeline, making her orders illegal even if her authority was legitimate.


Admiral Janeway travels to the past in VOY: Endgame. She's very much of the opinion that she outranks Captain Janeway and is to be obeyed. Captain Janeway defers to her (reluctantly) for most of the episode, but finally things come to a head and she starts ignoring her orders.

ADMIRAL: I'll answer all your questions once we're back in the Alpha Quadrant.

JANEWAY: Take us out of the nebula.

PARIS: Captain?

JANEWAY: You heard me.

ADMIRAL: I gave you an order, Lieutenant. Proceed to the aperture.

JANEWAY: This is my bridge, Admiral, and I'll have you removed if necessary. Take us out.

PARIS: Aye, Captain.

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    That's not just about rank. Traditionally the captain of a ship has the right to command its crew, even if a superior officer is present, and crew obeys the captain. There have been other examples of Captains disobeying orders from real live untimetravelled Admirals and crews following their captains. Commented Apr 25 at 19:42
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    Under Starfleet protocol, Admiral Janeway shouldn't have traveled back in time in the first place, which I think makes the question of her relative rank a moot point.
    – MJ713
    Commented Apr 25 at 19:42
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    And while that's true, Admiral Janeway pulls rank (or at least tries to) on multiple occasions
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 25 at 20:16
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    That, @Valorum, seems to be a feature more of "Janeway" than "Captain" or "Admiral". I'd suspect she did that all throughout her career.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 26 at 13:18
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    Rank aside, it's also fair to say that Janeway, in either timeline, is rather driven, often to the point of stubborn intransigence, and that sort of personality doesn't often get along well with other people of similar personalities. Even, it seems, when the other person is technically themself (or perhaps especially then). Add in the fact that past Janeway knows future Janeway's orders to be illegal (changing the timeline), and that future Janeway knows what happens if past Janeway doesn't cooperate, and both are even less likely to budge. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object... Commented Apr 26 at 13:19

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