William Shatner rails against Space Force officer ranks in op-ed
TV’s most outspoken space explorer has a question for the minds behind the U.S. military’s newest branch: “What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?”
In a Military Times op-ed published Wednesday, actor William Shatner railed against the U.S. Space Force for choosing the Air Force’s officer rank structure over the Navy’s, contravening decades of science fiction conventions.
“Do you know your entertainment space history? Let me show you what I mean,” wrote Shatner, who played Captain, later admiral, James T. Kirk on “Star Trek.”
“Throughout entertainment history, which precedes actual space flight history by decades, we had captains,” he wrote, providing examples of Navy ranks adopted for fictional space exploration dating back to the early 20th century.
Shatner invoked the heroic exploits of fictional space captains, while poking fun at TV space colonels.
“We cannot forget [U.S. Air Force] Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut who crashed his ship and severely injured himself that cost taxpayers $6 million to put him back together, who was portrayed by my dear friend, Lee Majors,” wrote Shatner, referring to the 1970s TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man.”
A Navy captain holds a rank equivalent to an Air Force, Marine Corps or Army colonel.
The Air Force inherited its ranking structure as an offshoot of the Army in 1947, when the U.S. Army Air Forces became a standalone branch.
Space Force kept the same structure when the Air Force Space Command split from the Air Force in December.
In his op-ed, Shatner suggested borrowing the rank structure made famous in “Star Trek,” following in the footsteps of creator Gene Roddenberry, who chose the Navy ranks for his Starfleet despite having been an officer in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
“They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship,” explained Shatner.
It may not be too late for lawmakers to see things Shatner’s way. Space Force’s rank structure is not yet set in legislative stone.
The House version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision that the Space Force must adopt the Navy’s rank structure.
The amendment, proposed by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a former Navy SEAL, would bring back the space captain and ditch the space colonel.
Although the Senate version of the NDAA does not include a similar provision, the two bills are slated for bicameral negotiations this fall.