Gene Roddenberry might have dreamed of a perfect future when he first created Star Trek, but parts of his vision were deeply rooted in the real world, particularly in the physical makeup of the crew of the Enterprise itself.
Roddenberry, as well as the show’s producers, decided to take several cues from the US Navy when crafting the official ranks on the show, like a captain overseeing a crew made up of a commander, lieutenants, a few lieutenant commanders, and many subordinate roles. But it’s the various colors of the Starfleet uniforms that truly tell the story of how the Enterprise works.
Fans understand the basics: an array of red, blue, and gold shirts line the bridge of the ship each episode. Those colors weren’t just aimlessly picked for the sake of diversity. They accurately correspond to the ship’s many service roles.
The gold shirts are donned by the command division, which is Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Sulu, and Pavel Chekov. Red uniforms are for the engineering/communications division that is chief engineer Scotty and communications officer Uhura. The blue shirts are donned by the science/medical staff like Spock and McCoy.
There’s More (No Surprise There)
As with all things in Star Trek, it’s a little more complicated than all of that. Besides the red shirts worn by communications personnel and engineers, they are also worn by individuals in the security division.
What’s the point of the security division on the Enterprise? Well, they’re typically supporting characters who are instantly killed whenever the crew comes into contact with a new enemy. This is sort of a running gag for Trek fans. Whenever one sees someone wearing a red shirt in an episode, you know they won’t be alive when the episode is over.