This past weekend I suddenly thought about the color coding of uniforms on Star Trek. I understand the reasoning behind them, even modern day naval ships used different color vests to reflect different duties on board. The use of the color coding on Star Trek has been inconsistent however.
It does make sense that the colors would be broken down by three departments (maybe four if security was a separate entity) Command, Operations, and Science/Medical. The original Star Trek did establish those three departments with three symbols to a degree. The following is a breakdown on the different TV series and movies plus Star Trek Online, in the order they aired:
In the first two pilots there were no red uniforms. You had blue for Science and Medical and yellowish gold (I honestly don’t know what to call that color) for Command and helm and Engineering. Interesting to note that in the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (which is the first to feature Kirk as Captain), Sulu is wearing blue because he was originally the ship’s physicist before being made helmsman.
In the regular run of the series we have red for security (probably why the guys in red died a lot) and Engineering. Apparently Communications is considered part of Security because Uhura wears red (except for her first story “Corbomite Maneuver” where she is in the gold like Command.) Gold is for Command like Captain Kirk, for some reason Helm and Communications are also considered Command cause they wear gold and have the Command symbol. Science and Medical are in blue. Medical has two different symbols. Dr. McCoy has the Science symbol while Nurse Chapel has the traditional red cross.
Star Trek The Motion Picture has a completely new uniform only used in this movie. Science/Medical is still blue, but so is Engineering. All of the bridge staff except Spock and Decker are in tan. Spock being blue makes sense, because he is traditionally the Science Officer, but Decker is supposed to be Captain. (Side Note: in the original series each ship had its own symbol with the three department symbols on it. During the movies Enterprise’s symbol became the standard for Starfleet.)
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan introduces a new uniform that is used up until the time of the Enterprise C (though slightly different.) and used through the rest of the TOS movies and in the past events of Star Trek Generations. The uniform is all red, department colors are on the collars and straps on the right shoulder. Red collars seem to be for cadets and ensigns. Command seems to be white since Spock who is a Captain has a white collar. And for unknown reasons Uhura and Chekov’s (Chekov was second in Command aboard the Reliant) collars are blue. Gold are for Helm and Engineering.
With Star Trek The Next Generation we get completely new uniforms and the color schemes are used throughout DS9, Voyager and the TNG movies even though the uniforms change on DS9 and in Star Trek First Contact. Command is now red including who is at Helm but who ever is at Ops is gold (normally Data). Gold is now for Security and Engineering. Blue as usual is Science/Medical.
For the most part the prequel series Enterprise is similar to original series, though they wear blue jumps suits and the colors are on each shoulder. Command & Helm is gold, Security & Engineering is red, and Science & Medical (presumably the Enterprise didn’t have as Starfleet Doctor. Phlox was part of an alien exchange program) is blue. Exception is Hoshi (the communications officer) hers is blue (the only thing I can figure is because there is no universal translator and she is really good at languages.)
In 2009’s Star Trek movie (in what is now known as the Kelvin timeline) the uniforms pretty much conform to the regular series costumes in color and similar design. In the latest movie we see uniforms that are very similar to the ones in Enterprise.
In Star Trek Online, you can technically make your crew color whatever you want. However the game does have it broken down into three groups (mainly defined by what your class is). Red in this case is Tactical and not Command, gold is Engineering, and Blue is Science/Medical
For the most part, Star Trek’s color coding has been consistent (especially Science/Medical), but why was Chekov in gold if he was considered the head of security? Shouldn’t he be red? And I wonder why Uhura was originally gold instead of red, as she would later be. I’m assuming Communications mainly follows under security, (hence the red), but then why was she blue in the movies and Hoshi blue on Enterprise? Presumably, Chekov is gold in the movies to reflect the original series, and he doesn’t seem to deal with security in the Kelvin Timeline.
It seems like it would make more sense if Communications, Helm and Ops would all fall under Operations with engineering. Security is kind of the oddball. It could be considered part of Operations or part of Command. Maybe I am overthinking it…
Now if I could only unlock the Mirror Universe Terran uniforms (see picture at top) in Star Trek Online!