The Star Trek badge comes all the way from Star Trek- The Original Series. Its design borrows heavily from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA) logos that were in use during the 20th and 21st Centuries.
These were Earth’s inaugural space agencies. It was worn by the pioneer space explorers of the Star Trek universe. It became a symbol of the Starfleet that has been maintained throughout their space excursions.
Costume designer William (Bill) Theiss simply referred to it as the Arrowhead when he came up with it during the making of The Original Series. In the Star Trek universe, the arrow-shaped pennant is called the Delta, and it is the identifying emblem of The Starfleet. It is worn on the left breast of the uniforms of all Starfleet personnel.
Over the years, we have become accustomed to the badges so much we may not have realized some subtle changes taking place and small but significant differences across badges in the Star Trek universe.
Below are 4 interesting facts about the Delta that makes it both unique and consistent.
1. They are Universal Standard Issue Starfleet Badges
The badges were meant to be similar in all vessels belonging to the Starfleet throughout Star Trek. Producer Robert H. Justman even wrote the now-famous memo to costume designer William Ware Theiss regarding a disparity in the emblems in December 1967, during the Original Series filming. He noted the captain of another starship was wearing an unfamiliar emblem, different from those of the USS Enterprise crew.
The memo was written about the 23rd episode of the 2nd season of the Series. The Enterprise finds the deserted USS Exeter orbiting the planet Omega IV. When they finally locate its captain Ron Tracey, we can see his badge, and that of his Chief Medical Officer is different from the USS Enterprise. This unintentional mishap left fans conflicted about the universality of Starfleet crew badges in the Star Trek Universe. This anomaly was never repeated in subsequent episodes.
2. The Delta is Exclusive to Starfleet Crew
In the same memo, Robert acknowledges the error may have alluded to a different emblem being used the previous season on the Antares in the second episode of the first season dubbed ‘Charlie X.’
He explains that since the Antares was a merchant ship, the ship’s personnel are the equivalent of merchant marine or freighter personnel and are therefore not qualified to wear the pride of the Starfleet on their breasts. The badge asserts that the wearer has achieved the level of service aboard a starship and set sail across the stars.
There are other insignia besides the delta that are dedicated to other stations or non-fleet personnel that have been used throughout the Original Series, which should be distinguished from it:
- Spacecraft Duty Insignia: Like the Antares, the subject of the memo, these are worn by merchant marines and auxiliary fleet personnel.
- Outpost Duty Insignia: It is a gold spikelet on a black background for personnel in colonies and outposts on the Federation’s edges.
- Starbase Duty Insignia: This emblem does not have any unique departmental feature. It is a replica of the evening sunflower, a plant that flourished on the earth’s Western Hemisphere. It is worn by personnel stationed at the headquarters, dry docks, space stations, and ground installation.
- Cadet Duty Insignia: This is a gray-colored smaller version of the evening sunflower used in the Starbase duty insignia. Starfleet Academy students wear it.
- Fleet Command Insignia: These had to be unique to emphasize the ranks for senior field commanders while out in the field
3. It Conveys Information About the Wearers Duty On the Ship
The Deltas have symbols representing the division where the wearer is posted.
- An elongated star means someone is assigned to the command division aboard the ship.
- The planet symbol represents the sciences division
- stylized letter ‘e’ stands for engineering, which was later converted to operations
- The red ‘Swiss Cross’ is worn by crew assigned to the nursing corps
4. It Was Modified to Function as a Communicator Badge (Combadge)
From the time of The Next Generation (2364 to 2370), Starfleet officers and enlisted personnel adopted modern communicator badges, which they wore on their left breasts.
These badges retained the shape of their traditional insignia but were more functional. They enabled communication between individuals in the ship when its communication system was not practical. They are also equipped with a universal translator with which they can instantly communicate to different species from all over the galaxy.
Later episodes and movies show the Starfleet personnel embraced the enhanced badges used throughout the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and throughout the Voyager. A combadge constituted standard equipment for all starship personnel. Taking it off was akin to taking off the uniform.
They employ the latest technology; their signal could bypass electromagnetic interference. The first combadges were made by Section 31 as early as 2256 and deployed to its members in Starfleet Delta.
We discover they are made out of silicon, the rare Beryllium, gold, and carbon 70 in the 126th and 127th episodes of The Next Generation, Time’s Arrow. The crew of the Enterprise has to travel back in time to save Lieutenant Commander Data. Data describes what the badge is made of at a poker game.
Confusion aside, the Delta is probably the most consistent element in the Star Trek universe from the beginning to where we are at the moment. Although some specific details may vary, there is no gainsaying the important role the insignia plays in identifying the crew members, their roles, and the time period from which they came.
Knowing how to distinguish between the Star Trek badges can be considered a Trekkie’s secret map through their universe.