It's quite noticeable in Star Trek TOS and TNG that superior officers tend to call officers of lower ranks 'Mister': for example, Kirk would regularly refer to his officers as 'Mister Sulu' or 'Mister Scott'. Picard often refers to his officers in a similar way (e.g. 'Mr LaForge' or 'Mr Worf'). This isn't limited just to captains, but to higher-ranking officers generally; even Riker has referred to Worf as 'Mister Worf' on several occasions I seem to recall. Yet, when referring to female officers, they are typically addressed either by their first name (informally) or, more formally in the format [Rank] [surname] e.g. 'Lieutenant Uhura'. I'm just wondering whether there is any reason (in or out of universe) why male officers are referred to as 'mister [surname]' regularly but female officers aren't referred to as 'miss/mrs [surname]'.

  • 21
    Mr. Saavik might want a word.
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 0:35
  • I do recall at least a couple of instances of "Miss Uhura" as well. Spock's mother (yes, not an officer) was "Mrs. Sarek" at least once. While it isn't an exclusive thing, it does seem like the "Misters" were most commonly used with one named officers - Spock, Saavik, Worf, Data, Tuvok. Valeris seems like the main exception, but who cares about Valeris anyway?
    – Politank-Z
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 0:51
  • 1
    I just find this observation interesting considering the idealist (i.e. non-sexist) scenario that Star Trek aimed to be Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 1:26
  • 4
    I don't think it's a good idea to call female officers "Mister"
    – Petersaber
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 8:26
  • 1
    @Petersaber good point, I'll reword the title to make that a little less ambiguous lol Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 8:35

4 Answers 4


Memory Alpha has an article detailing occasions in various series (including ST:TOS and ST:TNG) and movies (notably Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan) where men and women are addressed as "Mister," including in and out of Starfleet. The term "Mister" could be used to denote respect, when coupled with the addressee's given name, or disrespect when used without a name.

Notable women Starfleet personnel addressed as such include "Mr. Saavik" (Wrath of Khan), "Mr. Martine" (ST:TOS "Balance of Terror").

Starfleet Captains are generally not addressed as "Mister," although subordinates may otherwise be so addressed on board a Starfleet vessel. As an example of non-Starfleet uses of the term of address include the Federation President, who is addressed as "Mister President" in Star Trek: The Voyage Home.

Compare with Starfleet regulations designating superior officers be addressed as "Sir" regardless of gender (e.g. in ST:TNG, "The First Duty" Wesley Crusher addresses femal Rear Admiral Brand as "Sir"; in ST:VOY, "Caretaker" Captain Janeway expresses dislike for being addressed as "Sir" (among other things) and prefers "Captain").

  • 7
    To be fair, Janeway also expresses equal dislike for being addressed as "Ma'am," although that never seems to stop Tom Paris, little scamp that he is (especially after Threshold). Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 6:34
  • 1
    @dodgethesteamroller Presumably she doesn't like to be called "Puddintane" or "Late for Dinner" either, but since the question was specifically about a (currently) masculine form of address applied to women, I'll leave it as is. ;)
    – Lexible
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 7:18
  • 3
    I stand corrected on the use of "Mister" regarding female subordinate officers in the various series, perhaps the writers felt using the term in a gender-neutral way would add to the futuristic setting (differing from the present era where Miss or Ms. is used for female officers).
    – user22478
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 8:38
  • @Nathan Yeah... that is how I read it, and, in the early to mid 90s I was enthusiastically "Hell yes! Sisters representin' on par with the fellas!" But now I am more likely to ask why aren't "Ms" or "Ma'am" acceptable? Anywho... There aren't that many examples of "Mister" used for women in the franchise (far more in the fan films :).
    – Lexible
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 13:54
  • 1
    Angela Martine isn't addressed as "Mister Martine" at any point in Balance Of Terror; her fiancé and superior officer says "get with it, Mister" in response to her addressing him as "Mister"; to a 1966 audience, I think that reads as him deliberately misgendering her in a teasing way. chakoteya.net/StarTrek/9.htm Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 20:07

The practice is an armed forces (mainly naval) one, where a senior officer will refer to a subordinate officer as "Mister " rather than by their rank. Presumably in Starfleet they have carried on this tradition in some form. Referring to female officers as "Mister" would sound a bit odd even in the future so perhaps there is a female equivalent that was never shown or perhaps they only use the "Mister" tradition for male officers (and androids).

  • 6
    Arguments from personal incredulity like "would sound a bit odd even in the future" ignore the history of gender switches (a century ago in the US? blue was a woman's color, pink considered too passionate and masculine for women), and imputes your own personal comfort zones onto a (fictitious) society that is at least as far away from you culturally, as you are from the Pilgrims.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 7:21
  • 1
    It's not an argument, merely speculation on the unknown and ultimately unknowable fictional traditions of a fictional organisation in a work of fiction set centuries in the future. I think you are taking this a bit too seriously.
    – user22478
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 8:29
  • 6
    @Nathan Statements of the form "this is fiction, so it's all arbitrary and/or doesn't really matter" are frowned upon on SFFSE. Unless otherwise stated, assume that all questions are asking for in-universe answers. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 9:11
  • 1
    @dodgethesteamroller: this question explicitly calls for "in or out of universe" reasons. I initially read "would sound a bit odd" as an out-of-universe consideration, which is more likely IMO than that there's been a canonical decision that there does exist a female term, we've just never heard it. After all, the script is written in 20/21C English, not future English. It's plausible the script ignores/dodges the issue by not routinely using it for Uhura, which we'd otherwise expect to hear if it was gender-neutral in the future. But it's a speculative answer whatever. Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 12:08
  • 2
    @gbjbaanb It most certainly is set in an imagined future—the 23rd century (ST:TOS and the) and the 24th century (ST:TNG). You are confusing the production which is 20th century (when the intended audience is... although we are now into the next century and trekkin' strong :), and the setting. The strongest far future Sci Fi manages to not, Jetsons'-style, replicate today's social norms and relationships with a wardrobe change.
    – Lexible
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 14:00

Because whilst 'Mr' applies to all men (with the debatable exception of 'Master', which even in the U.K. isn't commonly encountered anymore, and more specific titles such as 'Sir', 'Lord', and whatever else), electing to address a woman with 'Miss' or 'Mrs' requires knowledge of their marital status, which I suppose would be beyond reasonable expectation considering the numbers of female officers involved. As someone else stated, 'Ms' (in my opinion a truly horrid alternative anyway) was not sufficiently commonly used, at least during the time of the Original Series, to do anything other than distract viewers.

  • 2
    I use "Ms" because my marital status is nobody's else's business. Men don't have any cues in their salutation as to their marital status, why should it matter with women?
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 21:59
  • 3
    @JaneS I believe it's because women's last names have (historically) changed. Because men's names do not, they can be identified with the same last name always, whereas by having different salutations for women, you know whether she's from the Jones family (Ms. Jones) or has married into the Smith family (Mrs. Jones), as opposed to being a Smith by birth. Whether that's relevant today is a whole 'nother story, it's a way of tracking identity. Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 23:46

Speaking strictly about Star Trek TOS, remember, this was 1966 and Gene Roddenberry had a tough time even getting the series approved. Referring to women as "Mister" probably wouldn't have gone over too well. I'm not sure if "Ms" was widely accepted back then and they probably thought using Miss or Mrs would be a distraction from the storyline.

I think they did a good job of respectfully including women in roles that were not traditional at the time, in a way that would not appear preachy. And given the number of different script writers they had, they were fairly consistent with the terminology.

  • 1
    Thanks for that. But, this case, the original questions called for "in or out of universe" reasons. An in-universe answer that is consistent across all Star Trek series and movies, would probably require the existence of parallel universes. Oh wait, we already have that, don't we. Mirror, Mirror.
    – dave
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:43
  • You are right -- I missed the mention of "in or out of universe" when I first read the question. My apologies.
    – Null
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 17:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.