"You can fight like a krogan...
Run like a leopard...
But you'll never be better than Commander Shepard!"Maybe because it sounds really cool, but Commander is a very popular rank in fiction. In real life navies, commander is the second-most senior field rank, right below the rank of Captain. A commander can be the commanding officer of a ship (a.k.a. The Captain), but generally he is the first officer, or as TV Tropes puts it: the Number Two. The army equivalent is either major or lieutenant colonel, depending on the country; while there is no commander rank in any army, it is used as a title. Someone who qualifies as commanding coolness can also be of the rank Lieutenant Commander. In the old days, lieutenants would be given command of ships that didn't necessitate the presence of a Captain or Commander. The rank itself was initially called "Lieutenant Commanding" or "Lieutenant in Command" before it was officially named by the US Navy in the 19th Century. This practice is continued today, with smaller ships like minesweepers and submarines being captained by Lieutenant Commanders. In science fiction, commanders usually have their traditional position as executive officer. Some works will have commander as the highest senior rank on a starship or a general staff rank, along with the title or rank (or both) of the supreme leader of military forces. A commander who is decidedly uncool may be a Commander Contrarian. When using Common Ranks, is subordinate to Colonel Badassnote and superior to Majorly Awesome. When used as a General Staff Rank, is usually superior to The Brigadier and subordinate only to the Four-Star Badass.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Berserk, Griffith's trusted female lieutenant Casca is addressed as Commander. As the Band of the Hawk was a mercenary unit, not a lot of attention was paid to ranks in the band.
- In Naruto, we have Shikaku Nara, the Jounin Commander of Konoha, who acts as a right-hand man to Tsunade.
- Captain-Commander Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryusai.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED & Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Due to it's status as a former militia, most of ZAFT's officers are addressed as "Commander". This includes the very cool Andrew Waldfeld and Rau Le Creuset in the first series, and former Ace Pilot turned ship captain, Yzak Joule in the sequel.
- Batou's rank in his military days, long a subject of debate in the GitS fandom, was finally stated in the Ghost in the Shell: Arise to be Commander,note though how it translates into the franchise as a whole is unclear.
- In the Star Wars films, this is perhaps the most common rank. By Return of the Jedi, all the Imperial officers were commanders (even Admiral Piett) due to a costuming goof.
- Commander Rourke in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
- Commander James Bond, at your service. He's addressed as such in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Spy Who Loved Me, and seen in uniform in You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Tomorrow Never Dies.
- Mentioned while he banters with Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye.
- Even more so in the Casino Royale (2006) continuity. In the original, he was a member of the Royal Navy Reserve. Daniel Craig's Bond was a member of the Special Boat Service, which is the British equivalent of the Navy SEALs. No wonder he's so brutal in hand-to-hand combat these days.
- While the Special Boat Service is a Royal Marines unit, Bond's service record has him being one of those occasional Royal Navy officers who are deployed as Swimmer Canoeists.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation films have Riker. He logs plenty of command time while Picard is busy with the main plot. (Spock, a commander in the original TV series, was promoted to the rank of Captain for the movies, though he still acted as Kirk's Number Two.)
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, Kirk is briefly demoted to commander. He spends that time trying to shoot down a jumpship with a phaser rifle, before managing to bring it down by throwing the rifle (with a firehose tied around it) into its air intake.
- Jack Harper from Oblivion (2013) is this. The real one, in any case. He was commander of the "Odyssey" mission. Beech takes some particular delight in saying "Welcome Back, Commander" when he decides to help them.
- Commander William Harper in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Given how proficient he is in a firefight, it's likely he was a Navy SEAL.
- The 2015 film adaption of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. mentions that (soon to be Chief of U.N.C.L.E.) Alexander Waverly is a Commander in British Naval Intelligence. This may be a direct Shout-Out to the James Bond movie series, since the original TV series has described been described as "James Bond on television" by its lead actor, Robert Vaughn.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Luke Skywalker ends up a commander in the Rebellion not long after A New Hope.
- In most of the X-Wing Series, Rogue and Wraith Squadrons are headed by Commander Antilles. Then he accepts a promotion to General.
- The short story Blade Squadron has Rebel Wing Commander Adon Fox, leader of Blade Squadron.
- In the Human-Centauri Defense Force, Commander is short for "Battle Commander", and is a temporary title bestowed on a spacecraft's C.O. for only as long as a Red Alert situation exists.
- James Bond held the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy before he joined MI6, as also noted in Film above.
- Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in Discworld - promoted from Captain at the end of Men at Arms.
- A Song of Ice and Fire takes the coolness to the next level with the rank of Lord Commander, which seems to be the highest military rank in Westeros, as evidenced by the Kingsguard, the City Watch, and the Night Watch. (The commander of the Golden Company, widely regarded as the world's best mercenaries, goes by Captain-General, but part of the point of the Golden Company is that they tend to stay away from Westeros.)
- Commander Peter Raeder and Lieutenant Commander Sarah James, Commonwealth Space Command, from The Flight Engineer.
- The first Honor Harrington book features Commander Harrington, of the HMS Fearless, a heavily-modified Light Cruiser. She would be promoted to Captain by the next book, and would eventually become an Admiral (in multiple navies), with such titles as Commander, Protector's Own Squadron, Commander, Eighth Fleet, and later Commander, Home Fleet.
- The Lost Fleet has a number of commanders in command of ships. Most of them are fairly young due to the heavy attrition of the Forever War. In particular, Commander Jaylen Cresida (later promoted to Captain) of The Alliance battlecruiser Furious is a young but brilliant commander whose knowledge of hypernet gates saves not only the fleet but humanity as a whole. She's also a capable ship commander.
- The highest rank in the Children of the Light in Wheel of Time is "Lord Captain Commander".
Live Action TV
- Commander William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica. Enough said.
- Comes up all the time in Star Trek
- Benjamin Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started off as a commander, as he was in charge of a station instead of a starship. He actually got his own ship at the beginning of season 3, but wasn't fully promoted until the end of the season. Lampshaded in-series when several of his crew remark that "it's about damn time", though he plays it cool and points out that the formal promotion doesn't change anything on a day-to-day level (he already had the command post and the ship that he wanted).
- Also on DS9, Kira Nerys, who was already a Colonel Badass in Season 7, became a Commander in Starfleet to help anti-Dominion rebels.
- The first officers of every other Star Trek series have been of this rank.
- Commander Shran of the Andorian Imperial Guard on Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Also with quite a few of the Lieutenant Commanders, especially Worf and Tuvok.
- Many of the villainous alien captains (Romulans, Klingons, Tholians, etc) are given the "Commander" title, presumably to avoid The Good Captain trope while keeping the coolness. One notable aversion would be Koloth from the Original Series, whose rank was Captain.
- Commander seems to be the Romulan equivalent to The Captain.
- Their equivalent of the Starfleet rank of Commander would be Sub-Commander. This also applies to pre-Federation Vulcans (e.g. Sub-Commander T'pol).
- Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. in JAG.
- Commander Taylor, leader of Terra Nova. Hell, he uses a crossbow as a fishing tool!
- Commander Anubis Cruger, of Power Rangers S.P.D.; head of Earth's branch of the Space Police. A later Reunion Show reveals that he eventually gets promoted to Supreme Commander of the entire organization.
- In season one of Babylon 5, Commander Sinclair is in charge of the station with Lt. Commander Ivanova as his Number Two.
- Ivanova is promoted to full Commander at the start of season two when Captain Sheridan takes over.
- This is probably because Sinclair was never in command of a ship. The most he ever flew was a Starfury during the Battle of the Line. Sheridan actually had his own ship by the time he was re-assigned to B5.
- Commander John Crichton of Farscape. "Commander" is apparently the rank he achieved as an astronaut for IASA (international expy of NASA); his crew members continue to use this title for him throughout the show. Even though it's not really a military rank, it sometimes comes in handy during their many, many encounters with hostile military forces.
- Supreme Commander Thor, leader of the Asgard in Stargate SG-1.
- In season two of Stargate Atlantis, Major John Sheppard is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. He is also the Commanding Military Officer throughout the majority of the series, apart from one episode where he doesn't receive the title until the end of the episode.
- The 100 had Commander Lexa, military leader and ruler of the twelve clans.
- John Koenig, Commander of Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999. Although, as Alpha is a civilian, scientific installation, it's not a military rank.
- Commander of The Protomen.
- "Commander" by Kelly Rowland.
- The rank of Lord Commander in Warhammer 40,000. None moreso than Lord Commander Dante, Chapter Master of the Blood Angels.
- For Space Marine Commanders, one presiding over a battlegroup of several chapters for an engagement is referred to by the even cooler "Force Commander"
- Imperial Guard Commanders appear to be junior flag officers, possibly somewhere around brigadier. Lord Commander of the Segmentum is a much higher combined arms rank, the five joint highest in the Imperium answerable directly to the council of High Lords.
- Noteworthy for being used inconsistently. Other sources use the title Commander like the actual NATO navies use it, being the second in command of a large warship. There is also a Lord Commander Militant of the Munitorum, the leader of the entire Imperial conventional military and specific Astartes Chapters, who is a High Lord, and the Lord Commander Solar, who is the Militant Commander's highest-ranking officer and usually also on the Senate of the High Lords.
- A Space Marine "Commander" is simply the highest ranked Space Marine in a force. If a Space Marine battlegroup to really bad casualties, then the senior Battle-Brother would be "Commander". Force Commanders can also be younger Brothers in line for promotion, given command of a few squads or half-squads for the duration of a surgical strike.
- BattleTech, the rank Galaxy Commander is very high rank among the Clans, its should be the equivalent of General in the Inner Sphere, as they command an entire regiment called a galaxy, and they have a big say in the Clans policies and decisions. One of the prerequisites of the rank is to be a real Badass mechwarrior.
- In World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, this is the title given to the player character when he takes command of his garrison.
- As stated above, Mass Effect's protagonist, Commander Shepard, fits this trope.
- In Mass Effect 2, during Tali's loyalty mission, the Quarians refer to Shepard as "Captain". A dialogue option is available to give Shepard's actual rank, but the Quarians (mostly) stick with Captain, as it accurately reflects the cultural role the character is taking by speaking up for Tali, as well as being Commanding Officer of the Normandy, meaning Shepard is The Captain in all-but-name.
- In the Russian version of the game, Shepard is referred to as "Captain". This has to do with the fact that Russian Navy equivalent of a "Commander" is a "Captain, 2nd Rank", the short form of which is just "Captain" (similar to the short form of "Lt. Commander" being "Commander").
- In the third game, assuming she survives the first, Ashley Williams will be promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
- In Dragon Age, the highest-ranking Grey Warden in a nation is known as the Warden-Commander, their only superior being the "First Warden", who manages the order from Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels. The first game's Player Character becomes Warden-Commander of Ferelden in the Awakening expansion (their predecessor Duncan also held this title, although he was never actually referred to as such.)
- Similarly, the highest-ranking Templar in any one place is the local Knight-Commander. Kirkwall's Knight-Commander Meredith is one of the major players in Dragon Age II. She does not officially order around the lord of the city, but nor does he dare do anything that would go against her wishes, making her the actual most powerful person.
- The Dwarf Noble Warden briefly held the title of "Commander of Orzammar's Armies" during their Origin.
- Your companion Sten is an Infantry Platoon Commander of the Qunari. Too bad he doesn't have his men with him any more. Or his sword.
- The Space Marine's leader in Dawn of War of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is called Force Commander. The first game follows the rules for it by having the Blood Ravens work with Grey Knight infantry, but the second game does not involve other chapters, making the Blood Ravens' use of it either unique to their chapter (and likely Rule of Cool).
- 'Force Commander' actually refers to the senior Space Marine officer in charge of a campaign, regardless of how many Chapters are present.
- For example: Davian Thule is the Captain of the 4th Company, but in Dark Crusade, he was the Commander of the strike forc, having authority over the other companies and their captains present.
- In the Command & Conquer games, the player is referred to as a "Commander" by subordinates and superiors alike. There are exceptions: in the Generals incarnations, the player holds the title of "General", while in Red Alert's USSR faction, the player is a "Comrade-General".
- Throughout the Soviet campaign in Red Alert 1, you are referred to as "Commander"... right until the very last sentence spoken, which calls you Comrade Chairman.
- The ending of Red Alert 3's Soviet campaign implies that the player character is literally called 'Commander' with the proposal to rename New York in your honor naming the city as 'Kommandersgrad'. How cool is that?!
- Halo has several:
- On the Spartan side, we have Commander Carter-A259 and Lieutenant Commander Catherine-B320 from Halo: Reach.
- On the spaceship commander side, we have Commander Miranda Keyes from the original trilogy and Commander Thomas Lasky from Halo 4 (though he's a Captain in all subsequent appearances).
- The expanded universe also gives us Lieutenant Commander Kurt-051 (he was given the fake last name "Ambrose" as part of the promotion, but Halsey reveals that his real last name is "Trevelyan"), Lieutenant Commander Jameson Locke (before he became a Spartan), and Jacob Keyes (before he became The Captain).
- Seal Team Six Commander and son of Alex Mason, David Mason has to apply from what we've seen of him.
- In The Sims Medieval when your Knight achieves level 10, his or her title is "Commander." And a level 10 Knight, particularly if they've bought or acquired good gear, is quite badass.
- The Terran's Non-Entity General in all Starcraft games is referred to as Commander by all units (including the Battlecruiser, who is supposed to be a Commodore).
- Storywise, in the first game, you start out as a Confederate Magistrate, until you bust Raynor out of his court martial and join La Résistance, at which point you are referred to Commander.
- In the Brood War expansion, you are instead The Captain, serving under the two Admirals sent by the United Earth Directorate.
- When Squall in Final Fantasy VIII is summarily put in charge of SeeD, an official title for the position doesn't actually exist, Balamb Garden having operated more as a school than a military organization up to that point. Squall's friends sit down without him and decide on "Commander," presumably on the basis that it sounds appropriately martial and cool.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things has Commander Badass.
- Commander Heroic in Evil Inc. may be geriatric, but he's still in the superhero business. He certainly used to be hot stuff.
- El Goonish Shive has Commander Jaguar.
- Clearly why Commander Kitty chose that as his nickname. Of course, he hasn't exactly worked out the coolness part yet.
- Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zhao is initially greeted as Captain Zhao by Iroh, but smugly corrects him by pointing out he's been promoted to Commander (presumably promoted; "Captain" usually outranks "Commander" in the Navy, but he was definitely acting like it was a promotion...it's probably because "Commander" sounds cooler, plus that way there's a close equivalence in Fire Navy and Army ranks, with Lieutenants and Captains in both, Colonels and Generals in the Army, and Commanders and Admirals (of which Zhao becomes one of a few appearances later) in the Navy.
- In The Legend of Korra, there's Commander Bumi of the United Forces, Tenzin's brother.
- Commander Nebula in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, who used to masquerade as a bounty hunter to help Zurg's minions escape and even has a laser in his peg leg.
- In Transformers Animated, Ultra Magnus is Supreme Commander of the Autobots at large, with the Prime rank closer to The Captain. In Transformers Prime, he's again subordinate to Optimus but still referred to as "Commander".
- In ThunderCats (2011) Leo, a Reverse Mole and Rebel Leader for La Résistance, is the Lieutenant Commander for an Evil Overlord who holds the rank of Commander himself. Leo and his allies are plotting a revolution to overthrow him.
- In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, many clone officers including Commander Cody.