Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Chain of Command, Part I"


Air date: 12/14/1992
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Ever-terse, no-BS Admiral Nechayev (Natalija Nogulich) comes to the Enterprise and relieves Picard of command, putting him, Worf, and Crusher on an urgent mission of the utmost secrecy. Nechayev gives even-more-terse and even-less-BS Captain Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox) command of the Enterprise over Riker, on the basis that Jellico has long experience dealing with the Cardassians, who are figuring into a crisis that looks to be edging to the precipice of war. Jellico has his own ideas on how the Enterprise should be run, and wastes no time in seeing his changes implemented.

"Chain of Command, Part I" takes the TNG status quo and shakes it up in a way few TNG outings have attempted (among them "The Best of Both Worlds" and "Redemption," both of which also dealt with major military crises and personnel shifts). Jellico takes over and immediately has a laundry list of changes, like going from a three-shift duty rotation to four with less than a day's notice. Riker and Geordi are understandably frustrated, but Jellico will have none of it; he replaces the tenor and inclusiveness of Picard's "Make it so" with the rather simplistic and inflexible "Get it done." Jellico isn't incompetent or an idiot, which is a crucial point here (indeed, his battle-ready no-nonsense persona might be necessary if the Enterprise has to be on the front lines of a new war, and his "good cop, bad cop" maneuvers with the Cardassians offers a line into his thinking). But he's definitely not a people person, and he's especially skeptical of Riker as a first officer.

For me, the true fascination of this episode is just watching how Jellico operates and how the crew responds to it. After years of being accustomed to Picard's command style of consensus, Jellico represents a hostile takeover. My favorite scene might be the one where Troi tries to play psychologist and soft-pedal Jellico into taking a more morale-centric position with the crew. Jellico instead assigns her the job of taking charge of the "morale situation" herself, then deals the parting blow: "By the way, I prefer a certain formality on the bridge. I'd appreciate if you wore a standard uniform when on duty."

And I love how quickly Data becomes Jellico's go-to guy amid all this. Why? Because Data will give him, without hesitation or hedging, the facts of what is and is not possible, without pesky things like human fatigue and previously expected workday routines getting in the way.

Because the episode spans two parts, the story has the necessary room to breathe and explore the character dynamics before the meat of Picard's mission is unveiled. (I appreciated the scene where Riker considers taking his troubles with Jellico to Picard, but then decides against it when he sees how exhausted Picard is from the grueling training for the secret mission.) The mission involves Picard, Crusher, and Worf being sent to infiltrate what's believed to be a secret Cardassian facility manufacturing a terrible weapon of mass destruction. (A dialogue scene explains the stakes, and announces the Cardassians as major players in the Trek universe. On the other hand, I really could've done without the Ferengi middleman, who comes across as unfortunate — and implausible — padding.)

The would-be Cardassian WMD facility turns out to be a trap designed to lure Picard into capture, which is the subject of part two. But part one shows how energizing to the storytelling a command shakeup can be.

Previous episode: The Quality of Life
Next episode: Chain of Command, Part II

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31 comments on this review

Latex Zebra - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 2:43am (USA Central)
Troi looks lovely in Uniform.

Yep, thats reads as pervy as it sounded in my head.
Josh G. - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 9:51am (USA Central)
I've always found Jellico a refreshing change for the Enterprise, but the whining of Riker and (especially) Geordi about the changes always seemed unprofessional.
AeC - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 7:41pm (USA Central)
I have to concur with Latex Zebra (and I'm too old to care if I sound "pervy"); the Starfleet uniform was the most flattering thing Troi wore in the show's seven seasons. Marina Sirtis had a somewhat boxy figure that the uniform camouflaged well, and, well, c'mon, if you're seeing a therapist, how seriously are you going to take her or anything she has to say if she's in a skintight bunny suit? This move was long overdue.
Trek Fan - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 1:01pm (USA Central)
Agree with Latex Zebra and Aec. Definitely Captain Jellico's greatest contribution to the show.
Elliott - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 7:40pm (USA Central)
The fact that part II is such a masterpiece of television justifies part I, certainly, but it's no more than a 3 star affair on its own, I'm afraid. While, it's nice to have a change of pace, I agree, TNG's characters are renown for coping with the most strenuous and tedious of obstacles, I find it ridiculous that the crew would complain about things like shift rotation changes. There is the INSINUATION of a deeper and more interesting conflict between Jellico and the Enterprisers given his militaristic bent in command. The Enterprise is a ship of exploration and, under Picard, whatever the circumstances, this fact permeated the ranks and operations of the ship. It would seem to the audience that Nechayev's motivations for replacing him stem from the fact that she feels Starfleet needs its flagship in "war mode" to deal with the Cardassians--a change which all but rolls out the carpet for DS9. It seems like a cheat, then, to basically ignore this problem and then come to realise that her motivations are more about getting Picard (who is suddenly an expert in radiation or whatever) to do scooby-doo ops. I can almost, almost buy that they would need to send Picard on the mission and I suppose there's something to be said for saddling an ageing captain with the security officer whom he knows best, but Crusher...a special ops rolling around caves? Most ridiculous..until I saw her take on the Bond-bimbo rĂ´le of cooing that Ferengi...laughable.

I was impressed with the tone and efficiency of the episode and agree with the change in Troi's uniform being for the best--why, oh why couldn't they have given us a reason, any reason for it's being removed from episode 2 until now?

2.5-3 stars from me.
grumpy_otter - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 6:29am (USA Central)
I'm with Josh--Jellico is an awesome captain. I always thought this episode showed how lax Picard was in requiring efficiency and how sloppy the crew had gotten.

And as much as I like Deanna, she should have been fired for revealing that Jellico wasn't really confident with the negotiations (though that's part II I think). So unprofessional to subvert a delicate situation by announcing your leader is nervous! Empath bitch!

And I'm with Elliott, too--Beverly on this mission is a stupid joke. There's no Tasha-like crew member who could go?
Nick M - Fri, Jul 6, 2012 - 9:00am (USA Central)
I am a huge Jellico fan from the moment I saw this episode. I also lost respect for Riker in this one. The writers made him a whiner (and the look on his face when he found out Jellico was going to be commander started the pity party) who was not pushing back because Jellico was wrong, but because Riker and the crew were not used to it.
I've been in the Army for 25 years, you know what happens when you get a new commander? You do it his way (unless it is unsafe or illegal, none of which Jellico was). But because you miss the old CO? No. Get your orders, salute and do your damn job.
I would serve with jellico any day.
Tom C - Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - 11:09am (USA Central)
In late July 1914, Admiral John Jellicoe was ordered by the British Admiralty to replace Admiral George Callaghan as commander of the Grand Fleet, several months ahead of schedule--and without informing Callaghan in advance. Jellicoe was expected to shake things up in the Grand Fleet in expectation of war, which came promptly.

Somebody at TNG seems to have taken a cue from naval history.
Shamik - Sun, Sep 2, 2012 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
@Tom C The teleplay was written by Ronald D Moore, an avid naval historian. Unsurprising he named the character Jellicoe in light of the history of the Grand Fleet.
xaaos - Fri, Feb 8, 2013 - 6:27am (USA Central)
So, no more cleavage by Ms. Troi? Pity...
mike - Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - 10:26am (USA Central)
anyone who has been in the military has met a man like Jellico. I found it refreshing and surprising the TNG writers could create such an authentic character. No, he's not likeable but Jellico is necessary. What would be even better if he told Riker (referring to Wesley) "oh, by the way, the Enterprise isn't running an internship. I want that boy off the bridge".
William B - Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - 10:54am (USA Central)
@mike, well, Wesley is no longer on the ship at this time, and it'd be hard to keep him around for two extra years just for that line. :) I guess he does have the "...and get that fish out of my ready room!" line, which is the closest equivalent.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 3:12pm (USA Central)
Interesting contrast Picard/Jellicoe and crew reactions. Also amusing to see Data as the parrot repeating Jellicoe's orders. Jellicoe is believable... if he'd stayed we'd have had a totally different TNG... perhaps he'd have made a good Captain Archer on ENT.

I thought it was good to have Troi finally in uniform, and as others have said, allowed her character to grow more.

Did think it was odd too that Bev was on the mission, but it gave the team a different dynamic.

Oops, forgot to add Nechayev to my list of favourite Star Trek villains, haha!
Adara - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 9:32pm (USA Central)
I love this comment board. I come here to read reviews and get a cool piece of historic trivia to boot. It's nice that there are a few places left where the comments are smart and the debates (when there are any) are civil. Regarding the episode, I tend to side more with Riker, but that's just me. You get more flies with honey - yada yada. I've just noticed in my own life that it's always more productive to praise what people do right than to criticize what they do wrong. Morale is very important.
Jason Luthor - Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
Why's everyone talking about the Enterprise and the Federation like a military vessel and organization? That's not the primary duty of either the organization or the ship. They can serve military functions, but they're primarily exploratory, science and diplomacy oriented vessels.
William B - Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
First of all, Jellico is one of the great TNG one-off characters (well, two-off, I guess, given that it's a two-parter), and he is written and played to perfection. And he is topped by Madred, though of course he dominates part 2 and not part 1. I love that Jellico's total disregard for difficulties his crew might have and his love of formality is complemented by a casual, offputting familiarity with the crew. I also love that despite his line to Troi about changing her uniform, he does seem to respect and trust her implicitly to get what he's doing with the Cardassians, and seems more amused than bothered by her arguing about his "negotiation" tactics. And yes, that he immediately latches onto Data is just perfect. (I like that although we don't actually get into Data's POV very much, Data keeps throwing looks at Riker and Geordi as if to say, "Should I not be being a good officer for Jellico? Does this make you uncomfortable? Well, gotta run, duty calls.")

His discussion with Troi about timberwolves represents not just his approach to Cardassians but his approach to the crew. That he requires formality from his officers but refers to them in familiar ways -- Data must say "captain on the bridge" but he uses first names for all officers -- is designed to establish dominance all the way through. And crucially, I think the reason that Riker and Geordi whine so much (and they do whine, more on that in a bit) is that they recognize that Jellico is doing a lot of what he's doing almost for the hell of it, in order to assert and maintain control over the crew. Why does Jellico think they need a four shift rotation? Because a) he's used to it, and b) he needs to make sure that the crew will do whatever he says at any time.

The question then is whether this is what's actually needed to deal with the Cardassians. The shift in tone really *does* set up Deep Space Nine's take on the franchise, and this is the most explicit that the TNG vs. DS9 ethos gets played out, in the conflict between Jellico and Riker, Jellico standing in for strict authoritarianism and militarism (in a somewhat DS9 vein) and Riker for individualism (in TNG vein). Troi points out the problem with Jellico's approach, and the tables turning on Jellico at the end of his negotiation with the Cardassians follows that up: Jellico's belligerence, founded on the assumption that the Cardassians cannot respond to anything else, effectively makes it impossible to switch tactics once the Federation incursion into Cardassian space has been revealed.

Unfortunately, as others have pointed out above (particularly Elliott and Nick M), the Riker/Jellico conflict, at least at this juncture, does not start out as a genuine ideological conflict but as Riker not being willing to follow orders that are difficult and, admittedly, pointless. That Jellico transfers a third of Geordi's staff to security, changes the various science stations to battle readiness/damage control ones, and is fine with shutting down exobiology, geology etc. really does go to the heart of the change in the Enterprise's primary mission from one of science and exploration, with military elements, to one of pure military; however, within the episode, these are more directly gestured at. And even there, part of the problem is that, if war is about to break out with the Cardassians, then probably the exobiology etc. stations should be taken offline. Part of the reason everyone is hit hard, though, is because it's uncertain how long Jellico will be aboard and what that will mean, and Jellico doesn't offer any assurances that should he stay in command of the Enterprise even after the Cardassian incident dissipates, that he will return the ship to its primary mission.

So yeah, the episode's main flaw is that the Riker side of the Riker/Jellico conflict is weak, at least in this part (I have higher hopes for part two). Still, it does fit with Riker's flaws that he leans toward insubordination when he has Strong Feelings about how something should be done. It's not so much that Riker (or Geordi) are lazy, as that Riker is headstrong and prefers an atmosphere in which all officers can contribute clearly and quickly; his command style, in "Peak Performance," "The Best of Both Worlds" etc. depends on his own lateral thinking and the same from his crew. And in that sense, Riker has a point about all this. Jellico, by moulding the entire crew into what he wants them to be even on issues that don't seem like they should matter (i.e. the shift rotation) reduces the ability of the crew to contribute their own talents, because they are wasting energy catching up to what Jellico has proposed.

The Picard mission is actually effectively written and directed, but it is ridiculous for Crusher to be on this mission, and ultimately pointless, too. That the whole thing was a lure for Picard specifically makes some of the silliness excusable, because even if it's difficult to buy that there is enough justification, at least everyone in universe buys that Picard should be on this mission, and so somehow it makes it easier to accept. Still, Crusher? The Enterprise loses its security chief? And all so that Picard can have companions on for the mission scenes, which are all just a setup to get to the episode's end.

Anyway, I think this is a very high 3; 3.5 is not at all unreasonable, and it was my first thought upon finishing the episode, but ultimately, yeah, I think that the Picard mission and Riker's side of the Jellico/Riker conflict should have been stronger.
mephyve - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 6:30am (USA Central)
I don't usually comment on a part1 of 2, but if I am remembering correctly, I didn't like part 2 very much.
Anyway the best moment for me here was when Deanna came in trying to charm her way into another easy day at the office and Jellico bluntly tells her to quit whining and do her job, and by the way, change your clothes while your at it. This is a starship, not a brothel!
Good stuff indeed. That scene was worth 5 stars by itself.
Nissa - Sat, Jan 4, 2014 - 1:48am (USA Central)
I knew I loved Jellico the instant I saw him. That man is all business, and he knows what the deal is. Man, I love that mess.
Smith - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
Not a fan of this episode. It had an intriguing "what if" idea of how the crew would react to a different captain, but devolved into simplistic ankle biting and cheesy starfleet career politics. Some like this...I prefer the more "twilight zone" type episodes myself.

This type of story was the vanguard of the "character conflict" zealots who did not understood the purpose Gene's vision of humans progressing technologically AND socially. Just as it is fun to watch new technological ideas, it was great to see humans behave in new and more cooperative ways. Character conflict is so cliche in other science fiction series and the lack of it with the main characters (as Gene demanded) was big reason why TNG worked whereas so many other series failed.
Patrick D - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 9:20pm (USA Central)

"This type of story was the vanguard of the "character conflict" zealots who did not understood the purpose Gene's vision of humans progressing technologically AND socially. Just as it is fun to watch new technological ideas, it was great to see humans behave in new and more cooperative ways. Character conflict is so cliche in other science fiction series and the lack of it with the main characters (as Gene demanded) was big reason why TNG worked whereas so many other series failed."

Preeeeecisely. What you're saying hits the nail so far on the head that it's cracked the fabric of reality and created a singularity. It will also fall on a lot of deaf ears.

Detractors of TNG, are often puzzled by it's continued popularity. "The characters are honorable and well balanced and they solve their problems with creativity and intelligence (and tachyons at times), who wants to see that? Why aren't they assholes and borderline (or full) sociopaths screwing each other over and stealing and killing at the drop of a hat? Why can't it be more like Babylon 5, NuBSG, Firefly, ect? What's the appeal?"

If they have to ask, they'll never understand...
Josh - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 11:13pm (USA Central)
@Smith and Patrick D:

If Star Trek were about solving problems with technology, I would haven't watched it, even if it involved "creativity" and "intelligence" mediated through technobabble. It's still all just white noise, and there are few if any Trek episodes of any series that qualify as "hard" scifi. Anyway TNG had lots of characters that were less than honourable or well balanced, though these did often take the form of guest or recurring characters.

Conflict is the essence of storytelling, and the notion that Roddenberry's vision really entailed vanilla characters solving technical problems around the galaxy is ridiculous. Next we'll be hearing how un-Trek Wrath of Khan is for deigning to include an antagonist like Khan or the uneasy relationahip Kirk has with David Marcus.

I mean... come *on*.
Elliott - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 11:59pm (USA Central)
Where exactly did this "conflict is the essence of storytelling" trope arise? Is that Aristotle? Oh wait, no, the father of poetics actually said, "There are those seem unceasingly angry and look continuously for conflict. Walk away from these people; their battle is not with you but with themselves."
Paul M. - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 5:32am (USA Central)
@Elliott: "Where exactly did this "conflict is the essence of storytelling" trope arise? Is that Aristotle? Oh wait, no, the father of poetics actually said, "There are those seem unceasingly angry and look continuously for conflict. Walk away from these people; their battle is not with you but with themselves.""

You are again being too literal. For a differing view, look to Faulkner's quote about human heart in conflict with itself being the only thing worth writing about.

Drama and conflict is about exploring yourself, trying to find your place in the world, dealing with all the stuff life throws at you. It's not about getting into a brawl with a local drunk, you know.
Patrick D - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 9:55am (USA Central)
@Paul M.

"Drama and conflict is about exploring yourself, trying to find your place in the world, dealing with all the stuff life throws at you. It's not about getting into a brawl with a local drunk, you know."

Very true. I think the canard that TNG had no conflict has become a common slap against the show because the characters were not having love triangles (unless you count the tepid relationship with Troi and Worf), or beating each other up, screaming at each other or basically acting like the denizens of a monkey house. Next Gen's usual conflicts involved things like how can we save this person or person(s)? Is this action right or wrong? As many call it: boring stuff.
Smith - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 12:18pm (USA Central)
"Where exactly did this "conflict is the essence of storytelling" trope arise?"

Mostly Michael Piller (for TNG). Then he brainwashed Berman and the other producers that a soap opera bickering in space = great science fiction.

The choice between conflict and boredom is a false dichotomy. CONTRAST tells stories. Conflict is but a sub-component of contrast. To limit yourself to just conflict, it to severely limit the type of stories you can create.
NCC-1701-Z - Sun, Apr 13, 2014 - 11:59pm (USA Central)
Jellico to Troi: "I'd appreciate it if you wore standard uniform when you're on duty."

Me: "THANK YOU!!!! I've only been asking about that for the last five and a half seasons!"
2piix - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 1:14pm (USA Central)
This is good enough in terms of drama. I find that sending Picard, the captain of the flagship, of all people stretches credibility. Picard is bad ass, but he's also the captain of the Federation flagship, has access to tons of intelligence, and his loss would represent a huge loss to the Federation.

I can see sending Worf. And a couple of other smart red shirt lieutenants. Or even the Section 31 special forces. But Picard? Crusher?
Adam - Thu, Jul 24, 2014 - 9:33pm (USA Central)
Yes, one does wonder if this type of special ops mission would not be better suited to the likes of Section 31? Or the 24th century equivalent to Enterprise's MACOs. I always wondered about the plausibility of sending Worf, Crusher, and Picard on a dangerous grenade throwing mission behind enemy lines.
dlpb - Sat, Aug 2, 2014 - 8:19am (USA Central)
Section 31 did not exist here, because the writers had not conjured them out of thin air. Also, Picard is an old man and never would have been sent on this mission for that reason alone, let alone being captain of the flagship.

On the whole, these 2 episodes are among the best of TNG and Jellico is a believable captain. Well played too.
Liam - Sat, Sep 6, 2014 - 12:58pm (USA Central)
I really like Jellico, I think he is one of Star Trek's best non-recuring Star Fleet characters. I like how is shown as an effective commander who is just very different from Picard. Riker and the rest of the crew are never really vindicated in the end for resisting him. It's a nice shake up of the status quo and some tired Star Trek tropes. The scenes on Celtris III are less effective though, mostly because they take place on the overused and fake looking cave set.
AEMom - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
Jellico talks about liking a certain degree of formaility but I was quick to notice that in every single interaction with the crew, he always calls them by their first names. To me, this was very disrepectful and went a long way to increasing the crew's dislike of him.
But full credit to him for getting Troi back in standard uniform. Too bad they didn't follow suit with Seven in Voyager and put her in a standard science uniform.

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