In the middle of "Starship Mine"

Captain Picard pretends that he is Mr. Mot, a barber. When terrorists finds his comm-badge, they say to each other that he certainly isn't a barber, he must be a Starfleet officer.

I'm surprised to find out that non-officers don't have their own comm-badges. How do they communicate with each other in all these situations, where officers use their communicators?

  • 6
    I know that we've seen civilians or guests use a comm panel (i.e. - the black panels along the hallways), but anyone in Starfleet - noncomms as well as officers - can be seen wearing comm-badges. Perhaps they meant "officer" in the generic way.
    – Omegacron
    Jan 23, 2015 at 18:10
  • 2
    Maybe a better (though perhaps laughable) analogy would be that contemporary civilians can wear BDU/ACUs with no problem if there's no rank or affiliation. 24th century clothing styles...whatever.
    – Nick T
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:51
  • 4
    @Omegacron... so they have communicators they can use wirelessly from planet-to-ship, but no wireless on the ship? Was the Enterprise designed by AT&T?
    – smci
    Jan 24, 2015 at 1:30
  • 1
    @NickT: Sorry, you lost me there for a moment. While I could find probable meanings via Google (or at least I'm quite sure the U stands for uniform), could you please spell out uncommon abbreviations such as "BDU" or "ACU"? That makes texts more comprehensible. Thank you :) Jan 24, 2015 at 15:26
  • 3
    BDU = Battle Dress Uniform. ACU = Army Combat Uniform. Both are names for the typical military camo uniforms. Anyone (U.S.A.) can wear them so long as they don't have rank insignia and/or other official patches/badges. If you do have rank insignia or whatnot, you can be charged with a crime.
    – Doc
    Jan 24, 2015 at 19:56

4 Answers 4


In TNG "The Neutral Zone" we learn that civilians can use a comm panel. In that episode the crew finds a satellite drifting in space. On board are cryogenic frozen humans from the 20th century. While in the guest lounge, one of them watches Riker using the a comm panel to talk to Picard. He later uses this knowledge to call Picard for every thought he wishes to share with him.

[Ready room] RALPH [OC]: Captain Picard?

PICARD: This is Captain Picard. To whom am I speaking?

RALPH [OC]: Ralph Offenhouse.

[Guest lounge]

RALPH: I need to talk to you.

[Ready room]

PICARD: What is going on here, Number One? Did you give him permission to contact me?

RIKER: Of course not. He must have seen me use the comm panel.

  • 1
    Also I feel I recall Troi using such a panel embedded in her desk and Picard using a button on the computer-terminal behind Worf's station - but that memory is too vague to be googleble.
    – Einer
    Jan 23, 2015 at 14:11
  • 2
    Guinan also has a Comm panel like that. She uses it in "Q Who?"
    – Zibbobz
    Jan 23, 2015 at 15:21
  • 1
    While it does answer the question, I feel this scene is a somewhat "bad" example (in that it comes across as quite silly/unrealistic). Based on Riker's words, it looks like either using the com panels is meant to be a secret art (which also means that the guests wouldn't be allowed to communicate with anyone on the ship, such as the barber), or the on-board communication system genuinely does not have any feature to ban specific people from using it (unlikely, given what we see in other episodes), or from cancelling specific incoming calls (simply absurd). Jan 24, 2015 at 15:29
  • @O.R.Mapper In the specified episode, Ralph and the other "guests" were rescued from a drifting ship where they had been in cryogenic sleep for centuries. It was unexpected that they would know how to use a comm. panel simply because it was a piece of technology that they would have been unfamiliar with. I'm sure there are regulations stating that general personnel can't attempt to contact the captain except in times of emergency or w/ special permission, thus the question of whether they had permission.
    – Doc
    Jan 24, 2015 at 20:00

I don't think you can deduce from that one conversation that Star Fleet's enlisted personnel don't have comm badges. Indeed we know that they do, since Chief O'Brien is not an officer but has a comm badge. So the terrorists are perhaps not entirely familiar with Star Fleet's ranks and just refer to anyone from Star Fleet as an officer. Or they deduced from Picard's age and personality that he's more likely to be an officer than an enlisted man.

  • 3
    Well sure, but how do barbers communicate then? Jan 23, 2015 at 12:59
  • 2
    Ahem Jan 23, 2015 at 13:22
  • 6
    In the US Navy, members of the ship from any technical background can be selected or volunteer for the role of barber. I have had my hair clipped by a cook, a storekeeper and a hull technician (welder), to name a few.
    – Firebat
    Jan 23, 2015 at 14:01
  • 17
    How do barbers communicate? In my experience, mostly through gossip. Jan 23, 2015 at 14:43
  • 6
    Two things, one, officer in common language refers to both commissioned officers, but can also be used as a general term for any member of an armed force. Two, the enterprise is not like a Navy ship, in that a significant portion of the pop is civilian. The Enterprise does employee civie barbers, and bartenders.
    – user16696
    Jan 23, 2015 at 16:09

First we need to take into account that com badges are not just communication devices. They are not simple phone analogies. They allow (probably encrypted) subspace communication over 40000 km, are used as transporter location and boosting beacons, allow remote access to ship computers, have embedded universal translators, etc. They are highly advanced and important technology. These are akin to current day encrypted military satellite phones.

They also signify Starfleet commission. They are badges in the same way modern day police have badges. They can denote rank and position. So non starfleet officers (i.e. personnel) will not have them.

The Enterprise does have an internal communication system as well. This is accessed by general computer terminals. Communication over this can be secured or unsecured, and the com badges can be linked into it. As we rarely get glimpse of civilians at work or personal in the show, we can only make general assumptions. The Enterprise is a mixed population ship, fairly large, so any design would recognize the need to have some capacity for civilian inter ship and ship to planet communication. DS9 shows Jake and Nog can communicate and receive personal live communications. Voyager shows that personal communication is restricted when bandwidth was limited.

But in TNG two instances of Civilian to Officer communication does happen over com badges, for personal matters. Both involve the on board school. Worf and Data are notified that their kids aren't fitting in and that they need to go pick then up.

essentially, civilians use the same ship communication system, but just don't activate it through the com badges they lack.

  • 2
    “They allow (probably encrypted) subspace communication over 40000 km, are used as transporter location and boosting beacons, allow remote access to ship computers, have embedded universal translators, etc. They are highly advanced and important technology.” They like an Apple Watch, is what you’re saying. Jan 23, 2015 at 17:28
  • 1
    What do you think inspired it ;-)
    – user16696
    Jan 23, 2015 at 17:30
  • 2
    Wasn't O'Brian a non-com?
    – Nick T
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:53
  • 1
    @NickT true, he was a NCO Petty Chief Officer as of Farpoint, but I also found en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Simon_Tarses officially stated as being a Crewman, so a lowest level, non-officer enlisted personal. Memory Alpha has a screenshot, plainly wearing a combadge.
    – user16696
    Jan 23, 2015 at 23:29
  • 3
    @PaulD.Waite I bet the com badges at least last a little more than 2.5 to 4 hours ;)
    – BlueBuddy
    Jan 23, 2015 at 23:47

All starfleet personnel have combadges for communications. Not to mention; The ship has an entire network of internal communications array. One does not need a combadge to talk. Thoughout the ship there are screens integrated to permit non personnel to have library/computer and communications access. According to the TNG" Technical manual, hardware configurations for dedicated intraship communications involves dataline sets and terminal node devices distributed throughout the ship. So they have an assortment of communications means. Their own personal communicators, PADD's, Desktop viewers.

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