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Commanding Coolness

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"Bond, Commander James Bond."

"No matter what scars you bear
Whatever uniform you wear
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 is usually the first officer (i.e. the Number Two) of a large ship, but can also be the commanding officer (a.k.a. The Captain) of a smaller ship. There is also a "Lieutenant Commander" rank directly below, who will be either an assistant to these officers or the captain of a smaller ship. Some air forces have a "Wing Commander" rank that is equivalent to a naval commander. In an army, the equivalent is either major or lieutenant colonel, depending on the country. When it's not used as a rank, it may still be used in a role title (e.g. "unit commander", "mission commander").

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. Outside of militaries, some large police forces have a commander rank for officers (e.g. London, Los Angeles and Chicago). This rank sits between the assistants of the chief and the local police station managers.

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.


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    Anime & 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 Bleach, we have Captain-Commander Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryusai.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise: Batou held the rank of Commander (of his unit) coming out of the Kuzan civil war.
  • 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.
  • In Naruto, we have Shikaku Nara, the Jounin Commander of Konoha, who acts as a right-hand man to Tsunade.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross has Lt. Commander Roy Focker, the commander of the air wing for the Macross, at least until he falls to the guns of Miria Fallyna.note 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Chronicles of the Siren War: Commander Thorson is the main character of the story and leads the Azur Lane forces. The kansen generally refer to Thorson by whatever variation of the title they use in their respective home nations.
    • "Commander (Eagle Union)"
    • "Shikikan (Sakura Empire)"
    • "Knight Commander (Royal Navy)"
    • "Kommandant (Iron Blood)"
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • The changelings' military leaders and hive second-in-commands are referred to as "Commander", with Pharynx being the most prominent one seen in-story.
    • Princess Luna is Commander in Chief of all branches of the Equestrian Military and out-ranks everyone in them as a result. This also puts her in functional control of the country while they're at war, with everyone (even Celestia) referring to her as "Commander" for the duration, as happens when a declaration of war is made against the Storm King and his armies in chapter 5 of the second story.
  • Rainbow Dash's CO in Legionnaire is not only one cool SoB, but he's also clever enough to keep up with masterminds like Diplomatic Incident and Prophet.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Commander William Harper in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Given how proficient he is in a firefight, it's likely he was a Navy SEAL.
  • Commander James Bond, at your service.
  • 2015's 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.
  • In Morning Departure, The Captain of the wrecked submarine HMS Trojan is the exceedingly cool under pressure Lieutenant Commander Peter Armstrong.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars
    • 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. Perhaps the most noteworthy individual one is Commander Jir in A New Hope who acts an Honest Advisor to Vader who apparently respects his opinion. Although there is an argument that 'Commander' is just an honorific applicable to all officers rather than a reference to a specific rank.
    • In The Force Awakens, Poe Dameron is a commander of the Resistance, making him one of the highest ranking officers (after General Leia Organa and the admirals).

  • Lieutenant Jack Aubrey receiving his promotion to the rank of Master and Commander is very almost the first thing that happens in the Aubrey-Maturin series. As the second type of Commander mentioned above, namely one with command of his own ship, he is always referred to as "Captain Aubrey" as with all officers who command naval vessels, but does not receive promotion to full Post-captain until later in the series, making him this trope to begin with.
  • Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in Discworld - promoted from Captain at the end of Men at Arms.
  • 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.
  • James Bond held the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy before he joined MI6, as also noted in Film above.
  • 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 Pentagon War: 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Wars of the Realm: Warrior angels can hold the ranks of Regional Commander (with authority over a region, such as the American Midwest) and Primus Commander (with authority over an entire continent), among others. Validus, the series' angel deuteragonist, serves as Primus Commander of North America for a while.
  • The highest rank in the Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time is "Lord Captain Commander".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 had Commander Lexa, military leader and ruler of the twelve clans.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In season one 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 William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica. Enough said.
  • 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.
  • Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. in JAG.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel is the Commander of the Northern Armies. She is often addressed as such by other characters.
  • 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.
  • John Koenig, Commander of Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999. Although, as Alpha is a civilian, scientific installation, it's not a military rank.
  • Supreme Commander Thor, leader of the Asgard in Stargate SG-1.
  • In Season 2 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.
  • 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 Taylor, leader of Terra Nova. Hell, he uses a crossbow as a fishing tool!
  • Commander Straker in UFO (1970). This seems, on the surface, an odd rank for him to have as, although SHADO is actually a military organisation, with Captains, Lieutenants and the like, it does not have a naval structure. The explanation may be that Straker was a Colonel in his Air Force days, but he has at least two Colonels as subordinates and a General, the next rank up, in (nominal) command of him so the title may be a way of emphasising his unique position as the man in absolute charge of Earth's defences.


    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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, the leader of the entire Imperial conventional Guard and Stormtroopers, 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. There is also, so long as a Primarch or their successor present to take the role, the Lord Commander of the Imperium, who is usually Primarch Roboute Guilliman, though this rank was disbanded after the coup called The Beheading. Guilliman reinstated it later, and holds it in the 'present time' of the 40K timeline.
    • A Space Marine "Commander" is simply the highest ranked Space Marine in a force. If a Space Marine battlegroup takes 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, to demonstrate leadership skills.

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops: Seal Team Six Commander and son of Alex Mason, David Mason has to apply from what we've seen of him.
  • In the Command & Conquer games, the player is called 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?!
  • The Space Marine's leader in Dawn of War of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is called Force Commander. '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 force, having authority over the other companies and their captains present.
  • Although the three members of Detectives United are all of equal rank and don't have a defined leader, their Alternate Dimension counterpart organization is apparently run by "Commander Brown," according to a document found in the third game.
  • Dragon Age
    • The highest-ranking Grey Warden in a nation is known as the Warden-Commander, with 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; they basically inherited the post from Duncan, who recruited them during their origin story, although he was never actually identified by his rank during his time in the game.
    • Similarly, the highest-ranking Templar at a Circle of Magi 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 anymore. Or his sword.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Cullen's title as head of the Inquisition's military force is simply "Commander." This is probably due at least in part to his previous role as Kirkwall's provisional Knight-Commander after the events of the second game; it made the transition easier on those who knew him there.
  • 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.
  • Galaxy Angel: Tact Mayers starts out officially with the rank of Captain, but he's referred to as Commander of the Elsior throughout the entire trilogy. Even at the end of Eternal Lovers, when he's given to lead the entire Transbaal Navy, he's named Supreme Commander rather than say, Admiral.
  • Guild Wars 2: Partway through the personal story, the player character helps organize the Pact and is given the rank of Commander. The title becomes the default way NPCs refer to/about you, even after stepping down from an active role in the Pact to organize Dragon's Watch''.
  • 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).
  • 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 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 RĂ©sistance, 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.
  • Warhammer: Dark Omen: Morgan Bernhardt, leader of the Grudgebringers, insists on "Commander" rather than going by "Captain" like most mercenary company leaders do. A lot of people he meets seem to consider his choice of title rather grandiose, though the Grudgebringers are large and well-equipped enough that not settling for "Captain" may be justified.
  • In World of Warcraft' expansion, Warlords of Draenor, this is the title given to the player character when they takes command of their garrison.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3 commander is the rank given to the leading officers of each colony.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation