First up: are those blue, red and gold plaques on Imperial officer's chests actually indicators of rank?
The answer is, unambiguously, yes:Galvatron wrote:Has anyone ever speculated that the badges may not denote rank either and may have been intended to be the equivalent of service ribbons instead?
SOURCE: Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide
They may or may not have a secondary purpose for showing decorations, as described by Dr. Saxton on his SWTC site:
But they're definitely rank indicator plaques in the new canon.NecronLord wrote:Yes. Curtis covers this idea on his page, as well as the idea that gold pins specifically may not represent rank, but rather overwrite blue ones, and represent ideological purity or governate responsibilities. His page is well worth a read.
I like that take.Medals and ribbons are awared, as seen in the TIE Fighter computer game, but they are almost never worn by officers on duty. Admiral Giel was an exception, but he was probably following a stubborn and deeply-rooted personal preference. Instead, a piece of insignia known as a rank plaque (as it is named in A New Hope concept art) sits on the breast where ribbons would be kept under any other convention. This badge consists of a rectangular piece of metal fitted with a combination of red, blue or yellow rectangular plastic buttons. Perhaps there is a deliberate implication behind this: rank is symbolically equated with the acculuation of unitary markers of merit. Decoration implies promotion, and promotion implies decoration.
Speaking of the SWTC, for reference I will post his interpretation of the three rank styles he devised, for ease of reference (and a much cleaned up version of what I posted in the Rogue One thread!):
(Fortunately, I had the sense to post this on my Dropbox instead of Imgur, so I can update it as necessary)
Finally, for purposes of my OP, there is the question of, "Did the Empire change rank insignia schemes between Episode IV and Episode V?"
FWIW, Dr. Saxton never really theorized it was a change so much as a difference between regional commands:applejack wrote:I don't know if this is even still an issue, but this pretty much puts to rest the idea that the Empire switched over from one badge-rank system to another between ANH and ESB, doesn't it? The ISB Marshal in RO has the same rank scheme as Death Squadron, and would appear to be concurrent with the regional rank system used under Grand Moff Tarkin.
EDIT: Oops... missed Necronlord's post just above... LOL! But, no really, is it still a contentious issue? Because I remember reading about it on Saxton's site and largely agreeing with his assessment.
Again, for reference, I'll post his theories on the three styles shown in the table above:STAR WARS: Imperial Insignia: Officers wrote:Some commentators assume that the different aesthetics reflect a radical change of insignia system at particular time in the history of the Empire. However any move that retained the physical parts comprising the insigia -- the squares and cylinders -- whilst changing their significance would cause widespread confusion amongst personnel. It seems more plausible that the meanings of the basic parts remained the same galaxywide, but the aesthetics of the combination of the parts depended on the regulations of the various regional or central units. Thus Tarkin's leftover forces would have continued with the same insignia as those shown in A New Hope, and the forces brought together in Lord Vader's taskforce probably had the same aesthetic scheme throughout Palpatine's rule. This contention is supported in Vader's Quest, which depicts Coruscant-based officers with insignia in the style that was most common in The Empire Strikes Back even though the comic seems to occur before STAR WARS Holiday Special.
Finally, we have the question of the code cylinders. Are they significant in determining rank?STAR WARS: Imperial Insignia: Officers wrote:Aesthetic 1:
- Includes insignia used within Lord Vader's taskforce. There are no gold squares, and every red square is automatically matched by a blue. Instead of using blue-red-yellow substitutions to spearate adjacent ranks, the number of cylinders is varied.
- The format of the Grand Admirals explicitly couples gold and red squares. Only one example is known to date, but it may be representative of a more general scheme for the officers associated with central Imperial forces. The second remarkable feature of Thrawn's style of insignia is the absence of cylinders on display.
- The aesthetic scheme used in regional forces, like Grand Moff Tarkin's. Except for the high joint-service officers, rank plaques have no more than six squares, arranged in only one row. The number of cylinders is fixed depending on broad bands of rank: Junior and middle-ranking officers have two cylinders. Those who in terrestrial terms would be called "star" officers have three cylinders. The cross-service regional military governors have four cylinders; in particular they are the Moffs, Grand Moffs and Supreme Moffs.
On this point, AFAIK nothing in the new canon has given us a definitive answer. Nevertheless, consistent with Dr. Saxton's analysis (which AFAICT was based on the movies anyway), NecronLord has this to say:Galvatron wrote:You know, it's altogether possible that the code cylinders have nothing at all to do with rank.Elheru Aran wrote:Hm. It's got the same colours and number of plaques as Tarkin's, but oriented differently. No cylinders that I can see. I wonder why. Maybe he just didn't wear them that day.
Which is certainly plausible.NecronLord wrote:In the ANH style it's possible I think - but in ESB there are multiple officers who are differentiated by cylinders.
I suspect content creators don't know this, though.
So, let's discuss the Imperial rank plaques and what they mean!