"Chain of Command,
Part One"

Season Six, Episode 10
Teleplay by Ronald D Moore
Story by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Ronny Cox as Captain Edward Jellico
Natalija Nogulich as Admiral Nechayev
John Durbin as Gul Lemec
Lou Wagner as DaiMon Solok
David Warner as Gul Madred

Admiral Nechayev arrives aboard the Enterprise with a dangerous new reassignment for Picard, Crusher and Worf. As they train for their secret mission, Captain Edward Jellico assumes command of the Enterprise to conduct diplomatic negotiations with the Cardassians. The crew, and Riker in particular, have a hard time adjusting to Jellico's more aggressive style of command.

Picard, Crusher and Worf obtain transport to Celtris Three, where Starfleet believes the Cardassians may be developing metagenic weapons. Their mission is to search for the technology and destroy it at all costs. But there are no metagenic weapons -- it was all a trap, and they walked straight into it. Worf and Crusher manage to escape the Cardassians, but Picard is captured and brought before a ruthless interrogator, who promises that unless Picard provides him with answers, he will be killed.


Well, here's a turn-up for the books -- a two-parter that breaks the mould. Most of TNG's two-part stories start off exceptionally well, building up to a suitably effective cliff-hanger only to let down by a weak, by-the-numbers resolution. It's almost as though the writers put so much effort into making a memorable cliff-hanger that they gave little or no thought as to how they were going to resolve it. "Chain of a Command" is a rare exception -- the first part is merely a prelude to the second, the latter of which which provides the real meat. At times the episode cried "set-up" a little too blatantly and there were definitely some questionable moments, but on the whole it's a solid, gripping hour which grabs the viewer's attention from the word go.

We learn that the Cardassians have now withdrawn their Occupation forces from Bajor (a prelude to the pilot of DS9, which aired shortly after "Chain of Command") and Starfleet is worried that they are going to annex worlds belonging to the Federation along their border. Captain Jellico takes command of the Enterprise and will lead a diplomatic mission to avert a war whilst Picard, Worf and Crusher are sent off on a secret mission. The main problem I have with this episode is that it was a downright idiotic decision on the part of Starfleet to assign these particular officers to such a dangerous mission which clearly falls well beyond their areas of expertise. Isn't that what Starfleet Intelligence operatives are for?! Aren't they specially trained for such undercover missions? I'm sure Starfleet would even be able to surgically alter their operatives to look Cardassian. It doesn't make sense; I didn't buy it for a second.

Still, I guess this calls for dramatic license, for if it hadn't been "our" characters that were on the mission there would be little point in telling the story. The scenes of Picard, Worf and Crusher infiltrating Celtrus III were somewhat tedious, coming across pretty blatantly as filler. But it does lead up to a genuinely nerve-wracking ending where they realise they've fallen into a trap and Picard is captured. Basically it's all set-up for "Part Two", and as such it works fairly well.

The real juice of the story comes from watching Edward Jellico ("the Captain from hell," as someone put it) assume command of the Enterprise. Ronny Cox does a super job, giving us a very good feel for Jellico, a forthright, militant hot-head whose style of command makes Picard look positively laid-back (contrast his "get it done" motto with Picard's "make it so"). Acting like something of a bossy, authoritorian old school master, Jellico ruffles just about everyone's feathers as he starts re-organising and re-arranging the ship. The resulting conflict is well-played and absorbing, not to mention something of a rarity for TNG -- watching the comfy, cosy little ship being shaken up is actually very refreshing. Ron Moore's script is quite taut, although he really needed to do more with the espionage storyline than having Beverly chat up a Ferengi (eww!) and endless, repetitive scenes of them walking through caves. The performances are uniformly strong and Robert Scheerer does a creditable job behind the camera, keeping the pace nice and tight. As I said, this is mainly just set-up -- but it's good set-up. 

Rating: 7.5

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