Months ago now, when the United States Space Force first unveiled their official logo, the internet became aflutter with witty quips about how the new military branch had clearly ripped off the design of another famous space-fairing organization (fictional as it may be), Star Trek’s Starfleet Command.
The new Space Force design includes a Delta, surrounded by a zooming star (or spacecraft) all housed within a larger circle.
— Jackson Grimm (@JackCameraman) January 24, 2020
As a lifelong Star Trek fan and a veteran, I took issue with the internet’s desire to dismiss the Space Force’s new Delta-centric logo as a “rip-off” of Gene Roddenberry’s fictional space agency’s own design. After all, Star Trek pulled heavily from elements of America’s real space programs and, of course, its Navy, where Starfleet seems to draw its basic rank structure from.
In a real way, Star Trek was always meant as a positive slant on the future we could one day attain… and as such, Roddenberry and company often based elements of their show on historical and contemporary elements of the world they lived in. The iconic Delta in Starfleet’s logo, which remained present through the Next Generation and beyond, was no exception: The Delta itself was lifted directly from the U.S. military.
“The delta symbol, the central design element in the seal, was first used as early as 1942 by the U.S. Army Air Forces; and was used in early Air Force space organization emblems dating back to 1961. Since then, the delta symbol has been a prominent feature in military space community emblems.” The Space Force posted to Facebook.
They’re not kidding. The Delta was even present in the U.S. Air Force Space Command logo dating back decades (but never accused of borrowing from Kirk’s uniform).
Here at Sandboxx News, we published a story outlining this and shared it on social media, where we were met with fist-clenching nerds that refused to accept the idea that maybe, just maybe, Star Trek had borrowed from the military first.
Earlier this week, William Shatner, who famously played Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series and a slew of follow-on movies, penned an op-ed for the Military Times calling on the Space Force to adopt the Navy rank structure — as opposed to the Air Force ranking system it currently employs. To Shatner, it all comes down to what we call the guy in charge of a space ship.
Under the Air Force rank structure, there never would have been a Captain Kirk. He would have instead been Colonel Kirk.
“There was no Colonel Kirk; not even in the mirror universe (which is what 2020 feels like at times.)” Shatner explains.
Now, I’ll be honest – I agree with the good captain on this one, but that wasn’t the part of his op-ed that got me excited. What piqued my interest was a throwaway line near the end of Shatner’s piece, where he brings up the infamous Delta in passing.
“Star Trek has borrowed so much of its iconic rank symbols from the U.S. military and NASA. When you unveiled the Space Force logo, many immediately saw it as an homage to ‘Star Trek’ (even though our Delta was an homage to the previous military space insignias). “
“Why not borrow back from ‘Star Trek’ and adopt our ranks as well? We took them from the Navy for good reason, even though Gene Roddenberry was a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They made better sense when talking about a (space) ship.”
Now, I realize that I’m on record as saying that Captain Picard is the hero we need in the 21st Century (as well as the 24th), but let there be no confusion about my position on Kirk: The world needs men of action as much as it needs men of diplomacy, and Kirk is undoubtedly a man of action. His leadership aboard the enterprise may have been fictional, but the impression he left in the hearts and minds of countless young men and women was as real as it gets.
Star Trek offers us a glimpse into an aspirational future for mankind, but its logo, like its ranks, were not about reaching toward the future, but rather pulling from the past. The Space Force may be a long way off from launching an Enterprise of its own, but for now, the Delta logo that has always prompted us to look to the stars seems as appropriate on America’s service members as it did on Kirk.
Modified feature photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr