"Chain of Command,
Part Two"

Season Six, Episode 11
Written by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Les Landau
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:
David Warner as Gul Madred
Ronny Cox as Captain Edward Jellico
John Durbin as Gul Lemec
Heather Lauren Olson as Jil'Orra


Picard is interrogated by the ruthless Gul Madred, and under the effects of a truth drug, is forced to reveal Starfleet's strategic plans for the sector. Madred isn't satisfied, however. Using horrendous torture, both physical and mental, Madred is determined to break his spirit. The Enterprise, meanwhile, rescues Worf and Crusher, but Captain Jellico refuses to mount a rescue for Picard without evidence he is still alive. Tensions between he and Riker reach breaking point and Riker is relieved of duty. Interpretting the Celtris Three situation as a prelude to war, Jellico readies the ship for a strike against the Cardassians. The crew reluctantly comply.

On Celtris Three, it's a battle of wills between torturer and captive. Ever more determined to break Picard's will, Madred resorts to every trick in the book to achieve this. But Picard is resolute -- Madred can torture him, but he can never break him. Meanwhile, needing the ship's most experienced pilot, Jellico swallows his pride by asking Riker to lead a mission laying mines along the Cardassian border. Mission successful, Jellico uses the mines to blackmail the Cardassians into backing down while also securing Picard's release. Jellico steps down as Captain and Picard resumes command. Picard confides to Counsellor Troi that, although Madred didn't succeed in breaking him -- he came damn close. This horrific experience has clearly scarred him deeply.


Where should I begin? Ouch. That was one hell of a painful episode to watch -- and I mean that in the best possibel way way. From the chilling teaser featuring a drugged and delirious Picard at the mercy of the deadly Gul Madred right through to the nerve-wracking ending, this is an absolutely superb episode; a gripping, harrowing and electrifying psychological drama, one of the best of which I've ever seen.

First of all, praise must go to Frank Abatemarco, who turns in what must be one of TNG's very best scripts. It's a beautifully observed, masterfully-written look into the mind of a torturer and the battle of wills that is waged between torturer and victim is fascinating. The actors bring this script to life tremendously, with David Warner and Patrick Stewart delivering two of the best performances ever seen on TNG.

Warner is downright chilling as the evil, sadistic Madred. A word I could have used to describe him would be "inhuman"...but I can't, can I? For Madred is, disturbingly enough, a very human character. I mean, we can see into his mind and it's a truly terrifying revealation that Madred is a frighteningly real character -- people like him do exist. Whilst mercifully they are very few and far between, these people are still a part of the human race however much we try to deny it with use of adjectives such as "inhuman". We learn a great deal about Madred's miserable past and, as is often the case, his awful childhood has had an all-too-real effect on the person he's become. "It must be rewarding to repay others for all those years of misery," Picard tells him. We can so easily hate Gul Madred, despise his horrendous sadism and cruelty -- but the scary truth is, we can't deny how human the character actually is.

As excellent as Warner is, Patrick Stewart is even better, delivering possibly the single best perfomance of his seven years aboard the Enterprise. He is truly, absolutely superb. Written under the supervision of Amnesty International, the scenes in Madred's torture chamber are genuinely disturbing and harrowing and emotionally wrenching. The battle of wills between Madred and Picard makes for outstanding drama. Despite the horrors inflicted upon him, Picard remains resolutely unbroken in spirit, even though he came damned close to breaking point, as he later tells Troi. It's only a shame we never got to see any follow-up to this, but given TNG's track-record, you'd have been foolish to expect such a thing.

What tends to lessen the tremendous impact of the prison scenes is the cutting back to the Enterprise for the Jellico sub-plot. Whilst the shipboard story definitely has merit -- including a continuing look at how the crew are coping under Jellico's iron-fisted command and a tense showdown with the Cardassians -- it's not half as powerful as the Picard/Madred interaction. Thus, the constant cutting back to the Enterprise almost dilutes what could have been an even stronger episode. I also found the resolution to the conflict something of a disappointment and quite bereft dramatically -- but it's a very minor problem. For "Chain of Command, Part Two" packs a huge emotional wallop and if it isn't one of TNG's most powerful, intense and beautifully-performed character dramas then I don't know what is. 

Rating: 10

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