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I was always wondering whether the color of the uniform has still a meaning in Star Trek Voyager.

I used to believe this:

  • Red: Commanders
  • Yellow: Security and Engineers
  • Teal: Medicine and Science

However, this seems either not to be true or there are too many badly directed episodes.

For instance in Course: Oblivion you can see at least 4 people (except Janeway and Chakotay) wearing red uniforms. (Also in Someone to watch over me, Equinox, Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy...)

If all people (and they appear a lot) wearing teal uniforms are scientist why are none of them better suited to help the Doctor than Paris? And why is Paris wearing a red uniform? And Harry Kim is some kind of science officer - so why is he wearing yellow?

In the episode Relativity Seven is wearing a teal uniform and is working on the bridge where Janeway meets her. Then, she is working in a machine room where she is asked by Carey what she is doing. She responds that she is recalibrating some relays. Both, Janeway and Carey, are not surprised that a scientist is doing engineering work.

  • As for the last part regarding Seven, I think she was posing as a computer/programming specialist, which would indeed put her in Sciences blue. But it's definitely blue in that episode, so you might be slightly color-blind... or you might need to adjust the color on your TV. My son is color-blind, and when he looks at plain ol' green camo patterns he sees blue. Maybe you're the opposite? – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 18:47
  • @Omegacron Probably I'm color blind but to me this looks very greenish and not like deep blue: vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/images/c/c5/… – idmean May 20 '15 at 18:51
  • There actually is a slight difference between the two shades of blue used, so I added that to my answer along with a picture that compares the two. In darker lighting, the teal shade can appear more green than it actually is. – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 19:18
  • @Omegacron It is just people have other impression concerning colors. You know that dress, don't you? And I see blue and black. Probably you don't, but that doesn't mean that anyone of us is color blind. And to me teal does look more like green than blue. But it's somewhere between, I will change it to "teal" in my question. – idmean May 20 '15 at 19:28
  • yep sorry, didn't mean anything by it. It just brought to mind my son, cuz he will swear up and down that obviously green colors are actually blue. But, yes, if you mean TEAL instead of GREEN, then you're absolutely right - the uniforms do fluctuate back & forth on Voyager. They're close to the same color, but different enough to tell. – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 19:31
36

TL;DR: Uniform color in Star Trek indicates a person's primary role, but not necessarily their entire skillset. Many officers can fill alternate roles, despite what color they're wearing.


The uniforms typically seen in Star Trek: Voyager are the Standard Duty Uniform style that was introduced in 2369 - nearly two years before Voyager found itself stranded in the Delta Quadrant.

As with other TNG-era uniforms, there are three division colors used on the uniforms:

  • Red/Maroon - this denotes the COMMAND division. Examples are anyone on the command track, including helmsmen, administrators, and commanding officers.
  • Yellow/Gold - this denotes the OPERATIONS division. Examples are anyone responsible for the daily operation of a starship or base, including engineers, security officers, tactical officers, and non-Engineering support personnel.
  • Blue/Teal - this denotes the SCIENCES division. Examples are scientists/researchers, medical staff, and non-Operations technical specialists.

Although the SDU seen in Voyager was retired in 2371, the crew of Voyager continued to wear it throughout the entire run of the show. This was due to their isolation from Starfleet. Note that the SDU style used the same colors seen on the 2-piece style from TNG, but the color/black combination was inverted to show minimal color on the shoulders. The color was further minimized in the Dominion War-era jumpsuit style that followed the SDU (introduced in Star Trek: First Contact and seen in seasons 5-7 of DS9).

enter image description here

Note: The Sciences blue color is normally a deep sapphire blue, but the teal variation can appear green to some viewers.

Dual Roles/Associations:

In several cases, the uniform color worn by an individual may not represent the full extent of their duties. In fact, the color of uniform merely indicates which division the person is assigned to AS PER THEIR PRIMARY ROLE. For example, a computer technician or warp specialist could easily be assigned to the Sciences division, yet often work in Engineering. They wear blue because their primary role belongs to the Sciences Division, regardless of what they actually do on the ship.

In a unique case like Voyager's where there is limited crew, it becomes doubly important for each person to wear multiple hats. Tom Paris, for instance, is officially the ship's helmsman (thus wearing a red uniform), but is also considered an expert in the subjects of aerodynamics & warp field theory. Kathryn Janeway is another good example - she wears red because of her role as Captain, yet the majority of her experience is that of a physicist and scientist. In fact, prior to becoming XO of the USS Billings, she was the ship's Science Officer.

Alternate Associations:

Note that the colors for Command & Operations were reversed in the Original Series - uniforms from that era also included an alternate Captain's Tunic variant which DID appear to be a light green (avocado) color with gold piping on the sleeves:

enter image description here

In addition, there have been cases (such as alternate timelines) where a character wears a color other than that normally associated with them. This most notably occurred in Parallels, where Worf is seen wearing red and gold across all realities, and Tapestry, where Picard is seen wearing Sciences blue. Another example of this would be any time that Voyager's Doctor activates his ECH subroutines, during which his normal blue uniform transforms to a red command uniform instead.

Color Inconsistency (Blue vs. Green):

Lastly, when discussing the difference in TNG-era costumes, it's important to note that the actual shades used in the uniforms on-screen are inconsistent. Although Sciences blue is generally depicted as a deep blue, it is also sometimes seen as more of a teal color. The image below compares the two side-by-side. This is most likely due to minor differences in the fabric/dye used for the costume, but individuals with blue-yellow tritanopia may have difficulty with the two different shades of blue. It doesn't help that darker lighting in certain scenes can make the teal version appear greener than it actually is.

enter image description here

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    Teal is one of those funky border colors that some people see as green and some see as blue, even in the same lighting – Izkata May 20 '15 at 17:00
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    "What color is the Star Trek dress/uniform?" – smci May 20 '15 at 21:30
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    "in Parallels, where Worf is seen wearing all three colors" - I don't think he was seen wearing blue in that episode. Can you point out a particular scene/screencap where that is supposed to happen? – O. R. Mapper May 21 '15 at 6:55
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    Worf has never worn sciences blue. Never. (bonus image) – Lightness Races in Orbit May 21 '15 at 11:45
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I stand corrected. Answer fixed. – Omegacron May 21 '15 at 14:30
6

Harry Kim's assignment aboard Voyager is "Operations Officer" according to startrek.com, which gives him both the gold Operations-branch uniform and the right to be on the bridge. This is the same post held by Lt. Cdr. Data aboard the Enterprise-D, who also wore Operations gold.

5

While the answers already provided cover the colour schemes for uniforms used in Star Trek, they don't really address your deeper questions.

If all people (and they appear a lot) wearing teal uniforms are scientist why are none of them better suited to help the Doctor than Paris?

It's established that Paris has emergency medical training prior to embarking on Voyager. Would an astrophysicist be better? Granted, we do eventually see some life sciences officers through the series (particularly xenobiologist Ensign Wildman) - but being able to identify a Klingon spleen still doesn't necessarily mean you can splint a broken leg.

And why is Paris wearing a red uniform? And Harry Kim is some kind of science officer - so why is he wearing yellow?

Paris' primary role on the ship is Helmsman/Pilot - this is established in almost all other canon post-TNG as "red".

Harry Kim's primary role appears to be Operations officer - again, this is established as "yellow". The best example is Lt Cdr Data - who is second officer and Operations officer of the Enterprise. When he is given an (apparently) permanent promotion to First Officer (under Jellico), Data gets a redshirt as his primary role is command not Ops.

For instance in Course: Oblivion you can see at least 4 people (except Janeway and Chakotay) wearing red uniforms. (Also in Someone to watch over me, Equinox, Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy...)

Looking at other Star Trek series (TNG and DS9) - we see quite a few low rank redshirts - so it wouldn't be unusual even with a small complement like Voyager's to have a few low ranking reds around.

In the episode Relativity Seven is wearing a teal uniform and is working on the bridge where Janeway meets her. Then, she is working in a machine room where she is asked by Carey what she is doing. She responds that she is recalibrating some relays. Both, Janeway and Carey, are not surprised that a scientist is doing engineering work.

Cross-skilling?

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    Concerning Ops, it should be noted that the purpose of the station itself is pretty interdisciplinary - it serves as a hub for managing starship operations (command/management duties), but is also seen as a communications station (primarily Voyager), and as a science station (primarily TNG). On the other hand, both Data and Harry Kim had quite a strong engineering background, so those Ops officers wearing yellow might also be a result of these particular characters' careers rather than the specifics of Ops duty. – O. R. Mapper May 21 '15 at 7:09
  • +1 from me, since it tries to answer the current question. The original question was asking what the "green" uniform meant, but it's evolved a bit since then. – Omegacron May 21 '15 at 14:58
  • @Omegacron Just to make that clear: The question was never about green (or teal or blue). I have just added one more example that confused me, which I first had forgotten to include. – idmean May 21 '15 at 18:15
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You're not wrong on any of these counts, except for an assumption that redshirts are top commanders. It's broader than that. I agree that Seven running around in a Science uniform doing Engineering-type things was a bit odd, and it's also a little odd that there were no more qualified medics in the sciences division than Tom Paris. Still, we're to believe that the entire medical staff were killed in the pilot, so it may not be that much of a stretch.

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    You're right about Seven - she was normally associated with Ship's Operations, so I always wondered why she got blue on those rare occasions. Maybe they decided the actress didn't look good in gold? Honestly, I can't imagine her looking BAD in any color but who knows... – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 18:41
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    @Omegacron: Re: "she was normally associated with Ship's Operations": I don't know if that's true. Astrometrics seems science-y to me. – ruakh May 20 '15 at 22:27
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    @Omegacron: I wouldn't put too much stock in her uniform on that occasion having any relation to her day-to-day life: she was in disguise at the time. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 21 '15 at 1:22
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From what we see on screen, it's a matter of primary assignment.

Yellow is assigned to security and engineering. Kim is in this one because he often coordinates repair people, which seems to be half the job of the ops person.

Blue and Teal go to Science and Medical, though it's probable that they're actually the same color, and the ship's lighting and excessive usage of grey reflective surfaces tints the color a little. I think 7 of 9 had this color in her "Human Error" fantasy because, in her mind, her main job is in astrometrics, which is a scientific department.

Red seems to be "well, you ain't science, medical, security, or engineering; so welcome the color of miscellaneous!" On the rare occasions we saw a backup pilot in that era, they usually wore red, as did Paris, Voyager's main pilot. Being upper management and/or pilots doesn't really fall into the other colors, so naturally they fell into red.

  • Where's that first quote from? – Lightness Races in Orbit May 25 '15 at 15:38
  • To which "fantasy" do you refer? – Lightness Races in Orbit May 25 '15 at 15:39
  • The first quote comes from nowhere. It's just me being sarcastic about what the job is. The fantasy is the episode "Human Error". – Nate Watson May 26 '15 at 16:54
  • Good point forgot about "Human Error" – Lightness Races in Orbit May 26 '15 at 17:04
  • She also wore that color in "Relativity", which reinforces the reason. – Nate Watson May 28 '15 at 4:18
1

Omegacron's answer is pretty much correct, but a military friend of mine suggested a different wording that incorporates conventional military distinctions:

  • Red (in TNG and Voyager) is worn by commissioned officers, who are evaluated primarily on their leadership skills.
  • Yellow is worn by warrant officers, who are evaluated primarily on their technical expertise.
  • Blue/green is worn by science officers, which (to my understanding) is not a distinction in any existing military. Presumably this is intended to reflect Rodenberry's vision of the increasing role that science would play in shaping decisions on every level in society, and to help emphasize the Star Fleet is primarily an organization of research and exploration, not just a military.

While in the US military only commissioned officers have ranks (above Sergeant or Petty Officer) it appears that all officers in Star Fleet can have ranks regardless of their role. That suggests that the while ranks do still reflect leadership responsibilities, they do not have any bearings on the technical or scientific responsibilities carried by that individual. Those additional responsibilities are denoted by specific roles (Chief Engineer, Chief Medical Officer, etc.). That is why anyone from an Ensign to a Lt. Commander can be the Operations Officer.

The only exception might be that any officer who acts as a leader within a technical or scientific discipline will need to be the same rank or higher as their subordinate officers. For example, Lt. Torres (B'ellana), as Chief Engineer, has at least one other Lieutenant working under her, but no one of higher rank. I would wager that, aside from the "Chief" roles, rank has relatively little bearing on how warrant and science officers interact. They are much more likely to delegate to expertise or drive consensus through debate. Only when absolutely necessary would they delegate to authority.

  • Starfleet doesn't really have warrant officers as we currently understand them. The closest it comes (on the modern TV shows, at least) is Wesley Crusher, when he was made helmsman and given a uniform before going through the Academy. Modern-era Trek has largely been 'time of peace', where the distinction between officer and enlisted is huge. – Jeff May 20 '15 at 20:08
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    @Jeff : Chief O'Brien is a warrant officer, isn't he? Otherwise, I think you're right - we only see officers & enlisted grunts. – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 20:22
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    @Omegacron - in DS9 O'Brien is a Senior Chief Pretty Officer. Starfleet enlisted ranks cap out at Master Chief Petty Officer, so O'Brien is 2nd from the top. – Compro01 May 20 '15 at 22:58
  • @Jeff That doesn't really work here. Wesley was given the rank of "Acting Ensign" with command clearance to work on the bridge while studying for the academy at the same time. His rank would be 'acting' officer, not warrant officer. – Thomas Ward May 20 '15 at 23:36
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    We see many Lieutenants, Lieutenant Commanders, and Commanders (all commissioned ranks) wear yellow - in fact, we only really see three non-commissioned ranks named throughout the series - Crewman, Chief, and Cadet. – HorusKol May 21 '15 at 0:47
1

You're mostly correct with the colour scheme :

As of TNG and onward - Red is mostly used for Command/Tactical, Yellow is used for Security, Engineering etc. Blue is used for Science and Medicine.

The other people you saw wearing red uniforms are likely part of "Tactical" aboard the ship they're designated to. If you watch episodes of TNG as well you can often see people walking around the Enterprise in red uniforms, this doesn't mean there are several Captains and Commanders aboard the Enterprise, it just means that these people are also part of tactical.

So to answer your questions about Harry and Paris, Paris would be considered part of the tactical team aboard Voyager and Harry was part of operations, which would fall into the Engineering category.

  • So blue changed to green? What do these tactical people do? They just appear as background actors. And Harry was not the Chief Engineer. That guy was called Joe Carey. (en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/B'Elanna_Torres) – idmean May 20 '15 at 14:08
  • Yeah I realized that after, hence the edit :P Harry was the Operations Officer – Ryguy May 20 '15 at 14:12
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    @idmean : your uniform color is determined by the primary role you fill on the ship. Tuvok was indeed a security officer, hence the yellow uniform. He was first and foremost the Chief of Security, then Tactical Officer second to that. In this case, however, either role would have put him in a yellow uniform. A better example would be Deanna Troi, who switched from blue to red after changing to the Command track. Or Worf, who changed from red to yellow when he took over as Enterprise's Chief of Security (he was on the Command track until Tasha Yar died and he assumed her position in Season 1). – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 14:56
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    @idmean : the current wording on the wiki is a little misleading. The Tactical Officer ROLE belongs to Operations, but it is sometimes filled by an officer on the command track. What we've seen on-screen is that the Chief of Security position & the Tactical Officer position on the bridge usually go hand-in-hand. On DS9 and in some of the books, that wasn't the case. – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 15:08
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    @RyanJ : I'm not the down-voter but I do have a couple of nitpicks on your answer. Red wasn't just for tactical, it was any position in the Command track - including Wesley Crusher when he got his promotion to Ensign. Also, in your last line you note that Harry falls into Operations, which is the "Science/Engineering category", but those are two separate things. Sciences is blue, Operations (which includes Engineering) is the gold. – Omegacron May 20 '15 at 18:44
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I know this is an old thread, but I feel compelled to reply because I get so tired of red being referred to as the "command" color. That isn't correct.

There is no such thing as a "command track." Starfleet ranks were based on naval ranks. In the navy there are several different types of individuals who perform any number of functions on the ship. In this case, red would be what a line officer, or officer of the line, would be. Just because you're wearing red doesn't mean you are on track to become a captain. It simply means you are a line officer. Officers who have a special function wear the gold "operations" or blue "science" color where appropriate. Just like in the navy, officers rank is denoted by a series of gold stripes on the cuff, or gold stripes on a shoulderboard. Line officers wear a star above the gold stripes, and "operations" officers wear a distinctive insignia above their gold stripes, showing they are engineers, doctors, chaplains, supply officers, lawyers, or something else.

  • Do you have any evidence to back this up? – AJL Jul 24 '16 at 19:09
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    Sorry, but this simply isn't the case in Star Trek. The red uniform is explictly called out (on several occasions) as being reserved for "command" staff. SISKO: In the old days, operations officers wore red, command officers wore gold - chakoteya.net/DS9/503.htm – Valorum Jul 24 '16 at 19:45
  • Yes, it is the case in Star Trek. On the Enterprise, there were several crewmembers walking around in red uniforms. They were not all in the command staff. Yes, those who were on the command staff wore red, but again, not everybody who wore red were on the command staff. Again, a more appropriate name for those who wear red are line officers. Even on the original series, the "command" gold color is incorrect. Sulu and Checkov wore gold colored uniforms, and they were not commanders on the ship. – Diego Jul 26 '16 at 14:30
  • The evidence is in the show itself. There were about 1000 crewmembers on board the Enterprise D, and many of them wore red uniforms. There's no way there were that many "command" level crewmembers on the ship. – Diego Jul 26 '16 at 14:33
  • @Diego - I understand what you're getting at, but Star Trek doesn't use the terminology like the modern Navy does. The ranks and basic ship terminology are based on naval ones, but that's about it. When Star Trek refers to "command", it doesn't mean an actual command-level officer or command of the ship. It's the "Command Division", which is more like a department within a company. It's basically the StarFleet equivalent of saying "Management". And yes, anyone within the Command Division could potentially be a Captain someday if their service record allows for it. – Omegacron Apr 10 '17 at 13:54
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I agree, red is for command positions, yellow for engineering/tactical/security, blue for science and research. Also i find that a lot of the crewmen wear blue, but that might just be a filming thing as contrast because the leads generally wear red or yellow. I was just thinking though, everyone is saying Tom Paris is in red because he's the helmsman, but he was initially recruited as an observer and wore red. It's not really a command role, but it's also not an engineering role, but might be considered a research role, so should it not be blue at least initially?

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    Can you provide sources to support your answers? Further, if you have another question, please ask it by clicking the Ask Question button. – Edlothiad Apr 18 '17 at 13:45

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