In "Family", Worf's adoptive father, Sergey Rozhenko beams aboard and is instantly buddies with Chief O'Brien (from his point of view).

WORF: They still have not signalled?

O'BRIEN: No sir.


FEMALE [OC]: Enterprise, this is Earth Station Bobruisk. Two to transport aboard.

O'BRIEN: Energising.
(A big, stocky silver-haired man, and a mature woman with lots of brown hair appear)

WORF: Mother. Father.


SERGEY: You look good, son. Put on a little weight, huh?


SERGEY: Sure you have. Looks good on you. Still working out with those Holodeck monsters, I bet.

WORF: Let me take you to

SERGEY: Always good to meet another Chief Petty Officer. Sergey Rozhenko, formerly of the USS Intrepid.
[shakes hands]

O'BRIEN: Miles Edward O'Brien, sir. Good to meet you.

SERGEY: Don't call me sir. I used to work for a living.


How does he know O'Brien is not an officer and know his rank? None of the possibilities I can think of ring true for the script:

  • Sergey knew ahead of time who would be operating the transporter or at least heard his rank at the origin (doubtful -- there is no previous dialog and why would passengers know this ahead of time)

  • Sergey already knew of Chief O'Brien and knew enough to recognize him (doubtful)

  • Something on O'Brien's uniform or appearance (I don't think so)

  • Transporter is always operated by a CPO (Very doubtful and there's probably a counter example)

  • Script was edited and previously Chief O'Brien was introduced to him (awkward and out of place -- why?)

  • I am rolling back that edit to the script because the purpose of including it is to show that there are no other interactions prior to the highlighted line. It is not irrelevant. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 15:41

4 Answers 4


TL;DR: O'Brien's visible rank in "Family" is a continuity error, but he is assumed to have been wearing the proper rank insignia despite what we see on-screen.

Your confusion is understandable. Up to (and including) TNG S04E02 "Family", O'Brien was often seen wearing two solid pips on his collar. However, we know this to be the rank of Lieutenant. But O'Brien is not an officer, and says as much on numerous occasions. But how do we reconcile this with his actual rank, and how did Sergey know his proper rank just by seeing him?

enter image description here

This is actually a production/continuity error. Miles O'Brien is the only Chief Petty Officer we see in uniform on the show, and he usually appeared as a background or minor character. Once O'Brien became a main character in DS9, the rank insignia for a Chief Petty Officer was ret-conned into a single hollow pip:

enter image description here

So although we see O'Brien wearing Lieutenant pips when he beams the Rozhenkos aboard, he is assumed to be wearing the correct pips despite what we clearly see on-screen. As a former CPO himself, Sergey would of course recognize the rank.

Note: Non-commissioned officers below the rank of Petty Officer simply wear no pips. For an example, see Crewman Simon Tarses in TNG S04E21 "The Drumhead".

  • okay I sort of concluded that in my comment on the other answer. BUT, if it's just the prop error, and this chart is right, then you couldn't tell the difference between different NCOs, so Sergey couldn't know he was a CPO. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:28
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    @ThePopMachine - IIRC, crewmen don't have a pip at all, just a uniform with no rank. Simon Tarses in "Drumhead" says he is a Crewman, 1st Class and he has no pips on his collar.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:51
  • Okay, good answer after all the discussion and edits. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 18:40

Based on the contextual clues from the script, it seems quite plausible that his father (an unabashed Galaxy starship nerd) has learned the rank and names of every crewman on the Enterprise.

We know from TNG: Legacy that the crew roster is publicly accessible, including by people who aren't members of the Federation. Even if Sergey has just glanced through the crew complement, another CPO would have immediately stood out to him:

SERGEY: I want to see everything... the whole ship... I've got all the specs and diagrams of the Galaxy-class starships at home...

WORF: We are in the midst of repair. I will not be able to give you a complete tour.

The fact that the guy has a single pip and is operating the transporter is just the icing on the cake.

  • I think the idea that he knows the enough of the roster, and knows enough to identify O'Brien by sight is a bit of a stretch, though not impossible. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 18:39
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    @ThePopMachine - Ah, but he would be especially looking out for the CPO's, the people he believes are actually responsible for keeping the ship from flying apart at the seams. Also, this begs the question of how famous the crew are back on Earth.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 18:41
  • I'll give it a +1 for the idea, but personally I think Sergey had the specs because he was a former engineer and a bit of a starship hobbyist.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 19:09
  • @Omegacron - I think it's exacerbated by the fact that his son is on board one.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 19:11
  • 1
    You may be right, but note he says "the Galaxy-class starships" and not "the Enterprise". To me, that indicates a broader appeal than just the ship his son is on.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 19:13

The part you quote is the answer:

SERGEY: Always good to meet another Chief Petty Officer. Sergey Rozhenko, formerly of the USS Intrepid. (shakes hands)

O'BRIEN: Miles Edward O'Brien, sir. Good to meet you.

SERGEY: Don't call me sir. I used to work for a living.

Sergey states he is former Star Fleet Officer, of the CPO NCO rank, a working man. Despite any on screen visual that the audience might not pick up (or visual errors) would be noticed by him, just like any real life military personnel is taught to immediately pick up on, uniform wise. Military personnel are expected to recognize rank and salute within a second if the rank merits it.

Further from the script:

SERGEY: Can you imagine an old enlisted man like me raising a boy to be an officer?

SERGEY: Yes, I want to see everything. The whole ship. At home I have all the specs and diagrams of the Galaxy-class starships.

Either due to his own Star Fleet history, or pride for his son's placement, Sergey has studied up on the Galaxy class ships, and likely knows alot about the Enterprise specifically.

SERGEY: Okay. Okay. Enough stories. Well, how about giving us a look at the new engine core. I used to be a warp field specialist on the old Excelsior class.


  • Not an answer because there's no canonical explanation of how he knows O'Brien's exact rank. See the comments on the other answers. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 16:15
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    @ThePopMachine there is no canonical, non-contradicted rank established for O'brien due to visual errors. We have to assume in-universe that O'Brien has not been both a CO and NCO, and that his rank doesn't get pulled and pushed every other episode. JUST BECAUSE YOU CANT TELL HIS RANK DOESNT MEAN ANOTHER NCO CPO WOULDNT
    – user16696
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 16:22
  • I don't disagree, but this isn't what you said. The fact his rank is in question is unrelated because it's absolutely clear in this episode that his rank is CPO in this episode. If the answer were: "It is clear the script writer assumes you can tell the rank from the uniform but this is not possible based on props", I would consider that a correct answer. But it's not clear to me there is evidence of that because there are other possibilities. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 16:50

If he worked on the USS Intrepid he was part of Starfleet. As such, he recognizes the pips on O'Brien's collar and understands the rank signified. Especially with the phrasing "Another Chief Petty Officer" I would take that to imply he reached the rank of Chief Petty Officer himself before retiring.

Two pips: CPO


For contrast, four pips: Captain enter image description here

The pips and their style do in fact provide Mr. Rozhenko with the information that the individual standing before him is a Chief Petty Officer

  • No. The Picard image is reversed. If you do a simple google image search for Picard, you will see the pips should be on the left (his right). (google.com/search?q=picard&tbm=isch) Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:11
  • Fair point, i figured one of them was reversed. Regardless, the point is that O'Brien was wearing something (the pips) that indicated to Worf's adoptive father his rank. I have now noted that Picard's image is reversed in my answer, thank you. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:15
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    No, because his pips look the same as a Lieutenant. If there is something that distinguishes, then that can be the answer, but as it stands now, this answer isn't right. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:19
  • That.....is a good point. Interesting. I will keep looking. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:21
  • 1
    What is the difference between the pips that O'Brien has on his uniform and the pips a Lieutenant would have?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:24

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