Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Chain of Command, Part II"
Air date: 12/21/1992
Written by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Les Landau
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Picard is held captive by the Cardassians and interrogated for information by Gul Madred (the great David Warner), who starts with truth serum and mind games before quickly moving on to torture. Meanwhile, the Enterprise learns of Picard's capture in the middle of their negotiations with Cardassian Gul Lemec (John Durbin), who now intends to use Picard's capture as leverage in the situation. It doesn't help that Picard's raid on the supposed Cardassian facility was a covert operation that violates the treaty and would be considered an act of war. In an example of outrageously false theatricality, Lemec claims Picard's operation resulted in the deaths of more than 50 men, women, and children.
Deep Space Nine was well into production by the time "Chain of Command, Part II" was made, but it wouldn't premiere for two weeks after this episode aired. One wonders if the TNG writers, knowing what the Cardassians would be to DS9, decided ahead of its sister series' launch that they wanted to establish some real meat behind the society that would be the new show's primary nemesis. "Chain of Command, Part II" provides a meaty entry point into the Cardassian mindset through the dark and intense scenes between Picard and Madred. These scenes are all the more believable because we come to see Madred not simply as a generic antagonist, but a specific, even understandable, product of a military government-state that pulled itself out of poverty and starvation by lashing out and conquering its interstellar neighbors (like the Bajorans).
There's no doubt the Cardassians are designed as an Orwellian society. The entire Picard/Madred subplot isn't simply inspired by 1984; it's directly transplanted — from the nature of the electronic torture device to the interrogator's desire to gain not just information but dominion over his victim's mind, to the whole business of the five lights versus the four. (In 1984, it's five fingers instead of four.) Patrick Stewart and David Warner are masterful in scenes of psychological and physical intensity, taking place in a room with production design that oozes dank and dim.
But what also stands out here are the nuances of character and society. Madred has a quiet scene with his daughter whom he clearly loves, and he talks with Picard about his time as a starving young boy on the streets of Cardassia, and how Cardassia made itself strong again through its military agenda. These are terrific, observant scenes of well-written dialogue. In a way, this insight allows Picard to understand Madred — even pity him — in what is, from Madred's point of view, his own strategic miscalculation. What Madred does to Picard is horrible, yes, but what the story does is pretty great — allowing us a portal into the Cardassian psyche via exposition that arises organically from the drama. By the time the episode is over, a major piece of TNG-era mythos has been established.
Back on the Enterprise, the situation with the negotiations, Jellico, and Riker continues to deteriorate, and ultimately Jellico relieves Riker of duty (and puts Data in command) after Riker questions Jellico's initial plan to sacrifice Picard as a negotiation tactic. The plot in this story is all-around solid and engaging, but it's elevated by the tension Jellico brings to the table and the fact that it all ties back into Picard's fate. Ultimately, Jellico and Riker must come to the most grudging of understandings — but not before a classic exchange where the two drop rank and tell each other exactly what they think of each other. (Jellico goes first, and then Riker's response is deliciously brutal.)
And who can forget, once all the cards have been played and the negotiations for Picard's release have been made: "There! Are! Four! Lights!" It's a moment of victory that Picard gets over Madred — but the episode wisely knows that it was a hollow one made possible only by the eleventh-hour agreement that secured his release. Picard confesses to Troi that not only was he going to say whatever Madred wanted him to, but that he could actually see five lights. When given the choice in front of Picard, it's easy to see how pride would be so small a price to pay, and how you could convince yourself a lie was the truth.
Previous episode: Chain of Command, Part I
Next episode: Ship in a Bottle
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135 comments on this post
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:14am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 2:39am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 3:02am (UTC -5)
He was just as dependent on having a victim to give him purpose on his backwater planet.
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 4:13am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
In terms of serious villainy it went from Armus the Evil Oil Slick to Gul Madred. (Q notwithstanding).
I challenge anyone to watch "Skin of Evil" and "Chain of Command, part II" back to back and see if your head doesn't explode from knowing they're both from the same show.
Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 12:33am (UTC -5)
"THERE ARE FIVE STARS! HOW MANY DO YOU SEE NOW?"
Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
Despite that though, there are two instances I've seen where Torture added a bunch to an episode, and that's here and DS9's die is cast. It's one thing to torture someone, but what I want to see is how this affects the torturer and the victim on a psychological level. If movies/series/episodes manage that, than the torture scene works.
Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
Someone else pointed out that during the last 3 years of its run, nearly every great episode of TNG was a story about Picard in some sort of box with or without other good actors with minimal periphery scenes with the rest of the cast.
I don't need to add much to the review (or Nic's article) of the torture scenes and how exquisite they are. It occurred to me that, had I directed the episode, the final shot of Picard leaving the chambre would have shown HIS perspective of the lights. A camera shot of Madred roofed by blinding and glaring lights which is just long enough to let you realise, if you pay attention, that there are five lights shining into your eyes. Then would come the line "THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!". Not necessary as the episode is a gem as it is, but just a thought.
I'd like to point out the richness of the dialogue and the intellectual calibre of the discussions between Madred and Picard--this was the kind of text which did not survive the TOS era very much. There were still good ideas in the TNG era (and even in ENT) to be explored, but very rare are the episodes past TNG season 4 which don't pander their language to a less intellectual audience.
Fri, Jun 29, 2012, 8:01am (UTC -5)
I doubt in a real torture experience that the torturer would open themselves up like that, and to be honest only a stupid prisoner would open themselves up to further torture by goading them, but in a scripted Sci Fi series with two quality actors this is a great piece of television.
Fri, Jul 6, 2012, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Still, something happened in the later seasons of TNG (which I think carried over to Voyager): It became almost a little too thoughtful or too reasonable or comfortable, maybe. I'm not counting this two-parter (which is excellent) but there are a lot of episodes that are just kind of boring or too sedate.
To be sure, there are some excellent TNG episodes in the final two years (Tapestry, the Chase, Parallels). But there are a lot of high-concept/low-energy outings, too. Thine Own Self, Masks and several others just feel kind of flat.
I've noted this elsewhere, but this was, in part, due to a changed character dynamic. The final two seasons do far less with Riker and Geordi and much more with Troi and Worf. Picard and Data are, obviously, the main characters. But Troi and Worf (even before their romance) supplant Riker and Geordi as the next tier.
Marina Sirtis is clearly the worst actor in the cast (possibly in all of Trek). Michael Dorn was one of the better characters, but attempts to humanize him (particularly in season 7) were just kind of lame. So, when the creators decided to devote much of the final two years on Troi and Worf (individually and together), it hurt the series, IMO.
There are also a lot more ship-bound shows, which was one of my complaints about Voyager (which, to me, is the worst Trek series by a wide margin).
Certainly, TNG evolved from pulpier scifi to something more thoughtful. But I think it also lost some spark after a time.
Wed, Jul 11, 2012, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 28, 2012, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Hell yeah, in fact every female Trek fan I've ever known (and a few of the boys as well, as you mention) has expressed a preference for Picard over Riker. I don't think Team Riker even exists!
Fri, Aug 3, 2012, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 25, 2012, 3:51am (UTC -5)
There are 4 lights. I'm watching the episode now on netflix. At time stamp 22:43 you can pause it to see that the small blue light you saw is not present as the lights are coming on. Rather, what you saw as the 5th light was a reflection of the production lights on the canisters of the prop lights. I'm taking time to respond because the idea was so interesting and shocking that I had to check it out.
That would have been seriously devious and extremely dark. Nice observation, in real time it does appear to be another light, but I for one am thankful that "THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!"
Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 16, 2013, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
Must add Madred to my favourite villains list.
As far as Picard the beefcake, I think his best look was when he had recently arrived to the planet in "The inner light"... those are some well-toned arms!
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 7:44am (UTC -5)
It was a great moment when Picard exuberantly proclaimed 'There are four lights!' His later admission was deflating and unnecessary.
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
I don't understand how seeing Picard as a real human being "ruins" the show. I can identify completely with his emotional journey and his sense of loss and confusion after this terrible experience. He isn't Superman or a god. His victory over Madred isn't because he is unbreakable, it cost him a great deal. Heroism isn't found in being tougher than everyone else. A heroic effort is when the character understands their own weakness but exceeds those perceived limits to achieve their goal.
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 9:20am (UTC -5)
Seasons 3-6 are, obviously, quite good -- but even some of the episodes in those seasons seem trivial compared with the darker and more serialized television that is now common ("Breaking Bad", "Sons of Anarchy").
But this two-parter is really exceptional.
It's probably Patrick Stewart's best performance as Picard, and that's saying something. His interchanges with Madred are really excellent, particularly the scene with Madred's daughter. But this episode is also one of the best uses of the ensemble. Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes, neither of whom are really very good actors, deliver here -- particularly Frakes in part 2. LeVar Burton and Gates McFadden come up big, too. Michael Dorn certainly does the Worf thing well -- I like the nice touch when Worf pushes Picard aside to help Crusher in part 1. The only major character who doesn't really shine is Data, though Spiner is good in limited action.
Throw in good guest stars across the board (even the guy playing LeMec is quite good) and you've got the makings for a classic.
This two-parter isn't compared with "BOBW" in the history of Trek, but maybe it should be. It holds up just as well and it's importance in setting the Cardassians up as more than villains of the week -- as they were in seasons 4 and 5 -- is pretty instrumental to the franchise.
My only complaint has to do with the operation in the nebula. Jelico orders the Enterprise there without explaining the departure to the Reklar. Then, once Riker and Geordi complete their mission, Jelico hails the Reklar, and LeMec answers. But ... how did the Reklar get there -- and how did Jelico KNOW it was there?
All of that could have been fixed with a few lines of dialog or different sequencing (LeMec hails the Enterprise, etc.). Still, one of TNG's best outings.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 11:56am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
But 'shuddering at the comparison'? That's a bit much.
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
Subplot with Jellico didn't work. Fun idea to shake things up with the staff...but Jellico came off as annoying and naggy. Discordant and a token conflict character. Writers need to realize that CONTRAST and not just conflict can tell stories.
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Good stories need tension and psychological frames of perception.
The depth in this episode is subtle and make the Cardassian society that we fear.
If you watched DS9, remember what Garak said about the Cardassian concept of the "Repetitive epic" in the episode "the Wire"; this is how their society functions. Propagenda to the point of truth.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 6:47pm (UTC -5)
I have to say though that there is a major floor in the fact that Riker is apparently the best shuttle pilot on The Enterprise. It's obviously Data as he is programmed to be the best!!
If you have to be extremely precise in dropping mines who you gonna call...... It's not going to be the imperfect human is it.
Sun, Jun 1, 2014, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
However, what we get once Picard has been captured makes it all worthwhile. The ends clearly justify the plot stretching necessary to set it up. Classic Trek, and very ahead of its time. "THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!" Come on, you can't beat that.
I also loved the moment when Riker told Jellico just what he thought of him. A great release of tension.
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
First of all, let's deal with Riker/Jellico. For all the buildup in Part I, the two still remained professional. Riker's purpose as first officer is to give his opinion and to point out where he thinks his captain is incorrect. So he does that. And he has a point; switching to a four shift rotation may end up taking a great deal of effort. Riker didn't know it needed to be done so soon. So its forgivable that he didn't have it done immediately, and it's understandable that he'd be miffed by Jellico's blunt demands to change it immediately.
But besides that and besides Jellico's resistance to Riker, the two still worked together. When Jellico demanded they reroute the power through the whatever, Riker commented on it, but still was perfectly willing to obey. And Jellico still trusted him to be a part of the negotiations (he didn't necessarily have to be, after all).
In short, they were still professionals.
So what do we get in the second half? Riker blows up at Jellico, Jellico blows up at Riker, relieves him of duty, then has to come crawling back to Riker at the end despite getting into another pissing match. So much for professional, mature officers. The whole "conflict is drama" thing is way overused; you can still create interesting drama without epic standoffs between people. You can still show the two butting heads without going over the top!
Would Jellico really have releaved Riker there? There was a possibillity of war. Yes, Riker was understandably enraged that Jellico was leaving Picard to die. But Jellico had his reasons. And if Riker had been written reasonably, he would have eventually calmed down (after all, Riker did the same thing to Picard back in BOBW). So explain himself, yes. Watch Riker closer, yes. But cut him out? Threaten the efficiency of his ship potentially just before a war breaks out? Why would he do something like that? Jellico was portrayed as a competent and composed captain up through this point; does this action strike you as the action of someone competent and composed?
And, of course, the cliche of needing his help at the end. By my count, we're now up to three "best pilot ever" officers on the Enterprise: Data (Most Toys), Picard (Booby Trap), and now Riker. All for the "you don't like me and I don't like you but we need to work together" trope. Yawn.
And as for the torture scenes...
I'm afraid we're supposed to think it's powerful because the producers said so. It's like making a holocaust movie in order to win an Oscar; dark unpleasant things means Serious Drama. But why? It can't be because of its value as a moral lesson. OK, torture is bad, glad I needed Hollywood to tell me that... Is it just because it breaks a character we love? That seems rather cynical, and I for one don't agree that that always makes for a good show. Is it because of the acting? Well, yes, it was very well acted, but so are plenty of other scenes in otherwise dull episodes. So what?
Because I wasn't getting the point of it. The show did wonders for making the torture accurate in terms of being, well, a professional method of torturing someone. So why was Madred so unprofessional? Why was there no real point to the torture?
We know the whole thing was set up to capture Picard. We know they have drugs to get all the information they need out of him; they did that first. So at this point, they don't think he has anything else of value. So why try to break him? What was the point? Is it just because the Cardassians are Orwellian fascists? That doesn't work, because Picard is not Cardassian. In 1984, Oceania subjected their dissidents to such torture because they had the goal of completely stamping out anything but loyalty to the cause. But did they do that to the Eastasian or Eurasian POWs? I find that highly unlikely. So why do it to Picard here?
There's no need for information. There's no need to suppress dissent. There's no need for anything. The best I can think of is that they wanted practice. Maybe Picard was the highest ranked Starfleet Officer captured. Might as well see what it takes to break him.
But that leads to my other major complaint. If Picard was so important a prisoner, why give him to a torturer who doesn't know what he's doing? I mean, I don't even like swatting flies, but I think I'd do a better job at torturing than Gul Madred. He made two serious mistakes.
For starters, he already won a major victory, but didn't follow up on it. I'm referring to the scene where he let Picard go telling him that he'll start on Beverly next. Of course, Picard stayed. Here's how it played out:
Madred: "Well, you're too hard to break. You're free. Guess we'll just torture the doctor instead."
Picard: "No, not that! Anything but that! Torture me instead! ...But I'm still not gonna break."
Madred: "Ummm, didn't we just tell you that the whole reason we're going to torture the doctor is because you won't break?"
And yet Madred doesn't seem to recognize this. He doesn't follow up on it. He doesn't point out the illogic to Picard who is getting tortured to save Beverly while simultaneously refusing to break (which is why he had to save Beverly in the first place). Why did Madred not follow up on this? Yes, it would have been easier if Crusher was captured too, but still. He got the first real piece of Picard's submission there. Why no follow up?
But even worse, he allowed Picard to get under his skin... twice! What kind of cockamamie torturer can't keep his temper under control when torturing someone? This was supposed to be Picard's big triumphant moment, the triumph of the human spirit, and all I was thinking was that it was just too unrealistic. If you're going to be making the Cardassian government out to be pure evil, then do that. Don't be making them pathetic as well.
The only thing I can think of is that it all relates back to a comment Jellico made in part I. That Cardassians are always trying to assert dominance over the other. And it's always a game of "alpha dog" with them. They are the ultimate bruised ego race.
But apparantly everyone else thinks this is the greatest episode ever, so maybe it is just me. I'd rate it as good. It was engaging, after all, but it didn't blow me away by any stretch of the imagination.
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
1) Re: 1984, this isn't necessarily relevant to this episode (though I think parts of it are), but I think Oceania would torture and break POWs, for three reasons:
i) O'Brien says that the purpose of power is power, the purpose of cruelty is cruelty. One of the 'perks' of being higher in the party is the ability to be slightly crueler to people lower in the Party than the people above them are to them. And the doublethink ideology basically means that O'Brien, for one, both does and doesn't recognize that the torture is "pointless" -- in Winston's case, they break Winston *even though* they have no plans to use Winston as part of their society, in order to prove that they can break anyone. There's no, or at least very little, lesson there; it is its own point.
ii) Ultimately, it's pointed out that Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia are essentially the same -- that whatever superficial differences exist between the countries which are important in order to inflame public hatred of them, they are really the same hydra with different heads. In that sense, it hardly would matter whether a prisoner would brought in from a different country or the same country -- as long as that prisoner had some semblance of an idea of freedom, it would be important to crush it for the continued functioning of the world overall. No *real* dissidents, of any country, can be allowed to exist.
iii) On a pragmatic level, "broken" prisoners can be re-trained to be useful, as sleeper agents or whatever. I don't know whether they would actually do this in Oceania, unless there was an equilibrium of prisoners being exchanged between the countries to match the other war equilibrium that is established between the countries. If there is, then it would serve their purposes to "break" them.
That doesn't mean they *would* torture enemy POWs in Oceania -- they might just kill them outright. However, I am not convinced they wouldn't.
2) How this relates to "Chain of Command" is that I think we're led to see that Cardassians believe their own contradictory press. This episode doesn't introduce many of the elements we'll come to see in DS9 -- like the Cardassians' justice system, which they *know* is rigged and yet view as justice anyway -- but I think the contradiction is there. Cardassians are "strong," and they value "strength," and their belief in their own strength and superiority is actually what allowed them to survive harsh times. This is, I think (unless there's something in "The Wounded" or "Ensign Ro" I'm forgetting) the first time in which the fact that Cardassia as a planet was so poor people could barely eat before the military took over is revealed and discussed. Cardassia's ancient culture, (pardon the term) humanistic values, appreciation for art and science-for-its-own-sake, got it nowhere. The only thing that apparently got them out was power.
That power comes with an entitlement: Cardassians survived because they deserved to, and they exploit the Bajorans and other races because they are superior. At the same time, people like Madred who lived before the transformation of Cardassian values know this is not the only way to live -- and in his case even seems to have some genuine appreciation for the culture that Cardassia had before before its militarism overtook other concerns. I think Madred, then, is smart enough to know "deep down" that "the weak" don't deserve to be exploited and hurt anymore than he deserved to suffer as a child, and that there are things in this weak Cardassia which were worth preserving. I think that's the source of the weak Cardassian ego, and the constant need to prove themselves through acts of dominance -- their sense of entitlement, related to their strength, requires constantly proving that strength, to demonstrate that their strength is some intrinsic quality -- and that their militaristic, tyrannical philosophy is the *only* "real" philosophy which can lead to survival and prosperity.
That is the source of Madred's need to break Picard, IMO -- Picard represents everything the Cardassians have left behind, and he *must* be broken on a personal level to prove that militaristic, dominating strength wins. On a national level, this must also be true, and no doubt torturers are inducted into this belief, and people like Madred who are clearly intelligent would be able to see through it consciously if they weren't so strongly inducted into this belief that their minds could simply not take it if it were stripped from them. I suspect that it's important for Madred to prove his value to his superiors by torturing, and by believing hard in what he's doing.
I suspect that on a practical level, the Cardassians really did hope they could compel Picard to be so broken that he becomes a tool for them to use -- he could give a false confession about Minos Korva, or give false reports about what the Federation were doing with their black ops team, or otherwise be useful to the cause. And while threatening Picard with Crusher's life can allow Picard to sacrifice *himself*, everyone knows that that's not really going to be sufficient in the long-run: Picard will not actually lie about the Federation and hurt them in order to protect one of his crewmates, even if he'll obviously sacrifice himself. It's a tool to be used by Madred in order to force Picard to submit to more "breaking," in the hopes that eventually Picard will be fully a tool of the Cardassians.
But, ultimately, I think the tool part is secondary. The Cardassian superiors no doubt expect that Picard will be useful to them in some way -- if nothing else, to reveal information about Minos Korva -- but Madred wants to break Picard to prove the dominance of Cardassian philosophy over Federation philosophy, and I think that is probably the ultimate thing that Cardassian torturers are trained to do, which is in the short-term, maybe even for a generation or two, a strategy leading to dominance, but is self-defeating in the long term (as DS9 shows). I think this is part of why Madred does open up his flank the way you suggest, because he actually genuinely *does* feel some connection to Picard and wants to convince him of his superiority (and the superiority of his philosophy) and demonstrating that he once thought as Picard did about the world, at least on some level, is initially meant as a way both to instill sympathy in Picard and to lead Picard to "understand" how his Federation values of peace, seeking of knowledge and beauty for its own sake, etc., will lead to ruin in the wrong circumstances.
3) Re: Jellico and Riker, I see your point and I do think both men are unprofessional here. I mostly like that, though, not purely because conflict is good!, but because I think it reflects in interesting ways on the Picard/Madred plotline.
Riker and Jellico are basically a mirror of Picard and Madred, but much, *much* less extreme. Jellico believes in dominance, has trained himself to think like a Cardassian, and, like Madred, is frustrated and angry (and ego-bruised) when his way doesn't get immediate results. Unlike Madred, Jellico is not a sadist, nor is he a torturer, and he does, I think, believe pretty genuinely in Federation values. He is just slightly to the domination side of the individualist-authoritarian spectrum, where Madred is very far over. And what we find, in this episode, is that Jellico possesses some of the same flaws as Madred in smaller quantities, as Riker points out (Troi's statement in part 1 that Jellico isn't too sure about himself prefigures Madred's breakdown), but he is also useful to some degree. Jellico's ability to think like Cardassians saves the day, and he is useful in a crisis or war. I think he's a way of complicating the episode's message -- dominance and militarism taken to extremes are obviously wrong, and even in moderation they can be unpleasant, but it may be a useful strategy among others.
With regard to Riker, I think there's a subtle character arc in Riker's story throughout the series which may not have been intended but which is interesting if teased out, having to do with Riker & authority. The first thing we learn about him, basically, is that he's suspicious of the Zorn guy on Farpoint, and that he refused to let his captain beam down because his captain's life means more to him than the captain's orders. Therein is a kind of contradiction that stays with Riker throughout the series, and is highlighted in his relationship with his father, in his relationship with Picard (especially in BOBW), in these episodes, in "The Pegasus," and to a lesser extent even in the "Riker in an illusion" episodes ("Future Imperfect," "Frame of Mind") and in episodes in which Riker's maverick side and love of besting his captain comes up ("A Matter of Honour," "Peak Performance," "BOBW" again). Riker has a love-hate relationship with authority, which I think can be traced back (if you're particularly Freudian) to his love-hate relationship with his father. He wants to follow in his father's footsteps and also defy him. He wants to protect his captain so much that he will defy his orders. In "BOBW," Guinan suggests that Riker's willingness to *kill* Locutus is part and parcel of Riker's inability to let him go. In "The Pegasus," it's revealed that Riker hero worshipped Pressman and refused to defy his orders when the crew was justly mutinying, and that this has haunted him ever since. (I guess if you want to get more Freudian, his mother's "abandonment" of him through death might explain a lot about his relationships with women, and the weirdness of the fact that his ideal woman in "Future Imperfect" is a fantasy hologram who doesn't exist.)
So the moment he really, *really* goes after Jellico is the moment where his two captain figures are in opposition -- his "good" captain is in danger and his "bad" captain is in the way. This is something of a red flag to a bull for Riker, who has both an unusually fierce loyalty and an unusually intense antiauthoritarian streak. Riker, I think, has a real point as well here: he is not suggesting they give up everything to save Picard, but the Federation *should* own up to what they've been doing so that Picard can get the Geneva Convention-equivalent protections, and, well, for a sense of fairness even otherwise. It's a kind of TNG-esque sense of fairness, or idealism if one would prefer, that depends on the assumption that Starfleet will play fair. Given "The Pegasus," and the way in which one of the defining moments of Riker's life (which we haven't yet heard about) is the a mutiny centred around a secret, rule-breaking Federation mission, I think it makes sense that Riker, even if he doesn't recognize all his reasons, would feel *very* strongly about speaking up for the Federation owning up to its secrets.
I do agree, though, that Riker being the "best pilot!" is a silly contrivance -- one which I think is, on the balance, worth it, because I think the testy reconciliation between Riker and Jellico is ultimately important thematically (to show that there is some way of incorporating some individualist values into authority and some authority into individualist values, in stark contrast to the understandable total opposition that hey have in the Picard/Madred plot).
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
I do think the episode as a whole was an interesting look into the state of mind of the Cardassians (or at least TNG Cardassia; obviously DS9 would run with it a lot more). And I do agree that it seems to be overcompensating for their insecurity. I didn't consider that Jellico was a mirror for that, although that interpretation does make sense. One nice character quirk I liked was that Jellico was always fidgeting with his hands, which seems to suggest he was internally very nervous about everything. I'm not sure if that was the intention or not, but it does fit.
So maybe the Cardassians, and Madred specifically, wanted to break Picard just because. That's fine. But I still can't agree that the execution of everything worked well.
Yes, Picard's not going to spill all of the Federation's secrets to save Beverly. But he clearly wasn't thinking totally rationally at this point in time. After all, if his head was clear he would have realized that the Cardassians wouldn't just let him go like that. But Madred never followed up on it. When Picard sat down, but still looked defiant, Madred should have continued. Made Picard beg Madred to torture him.
And while I can see Madred establishing an intellectual rapport with Picard, I cannot see him losing his temper like that. Given the way he was trying to break Picard down, he should have always considered himself above it all. It was too EASY of a victory for Picard.
Yes, I realize I'm alone in that assessment, but so be it.
As a random aside, my impression from DS9 is that the Cardassian fascism is fairly longstanding (things like Garak's description of classic literature), whereas here it was defined as being relatively new. Madred's description certainly mirrors Nazi Germany more, but doesn't really fit with a lengthy repression of the Bajorans. A slight retcon, but probably a necessary one.
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
It's also a good point that the highers-up didn't care about the proles. I think if proles genuinely *did* start agitating in some way, they would come down hard on them, though; they could afford not to care specifically because the proles were completely de-powered, and the proles' version of sin was so harmless to the Party (like their cheap pornography or whatever).
Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
The fact is that - although the Enterprise was clearly pre-assigned to lead the Federation response in the event of a Cardassian attack in this sector (a fact the Cardassians learnt, leading to the ruse to capture Picard) - Picard was apparently NOT scheduled to be its captain in these circumstances. As a result, he has no knowledge of any contingency plans, which of course disrupts the Cardassian's plans.
Why ? Jeliico's behaviour gives us clues. Jellico assumes that the Enterprise crew has become slack - and the evidence suggests he may be right. Perhaps the crew's lack of edge reflects a going-off-the-boil of its captain ?
Personally, I think Picard's experience in The Inner Light DID have a profound effect on his character and that this change is reflected in (i) the tenor of all subsequent episodes (even the best ones), (ii) a more pronounced "softness" in Picard's character, and (iii) a resulting loss of edge among its crew. Maybe Ryker can sense it too which is why he keeps getting so antsy the whole time.
Whatever the reasons, by this stage Starfleet apparently don't see Picard as the right captain for the Enterprise in a time of war.
A counter-argument to this is that Picard is only relieved of the captaincy so he can run off to do spec-ops making use of his theta band experience (as per the Cardassian plot). This is probably the case but I rather like the idea that all Picard's escapades have lead to some serious re-evaluation at higher levels in Starfleet.
Fri, Dec 26, 2014, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Riker should have been the one to relieve Jellico of duty, not the other way around, when Jellico refused to admit that Picard was under Federation orders, which would have given Picard protection as a prisoner of war. Riker should have--and would have, I think, if he was truly being written in character--taken command of the ship himself in order to save Picard. Worf certainly would have backed him up; so would Troi. Data might have hesitated, but that would have been an interesting situation to put Data in. With Riker taking command and confining Jellico to his quarters, and the rest of the senior officers supporting Riker in an action that was certainly debatable as far as legality, what would Data do? I would have liked to see that play out. Especially since Starfleet's orders to Picard, Worf and Crusher were themselves a violation of a Starfleet treaty and therefore not "legal" in the first place.
Instead what we got was the crew being forced to go along with a captain they clearly disliked, who managed by the end to prove to them that his way of resolving the situation--by leaving Picard to be tortured and perhaps killed--could work out in the end after all. But what was the point of that? Michael Piller always said that this series was supposed to be about "our characters", not the guest star of the week. But the story we got was about the guest star managing to prove that his "my way or the highway" approach could work as long as he ran over all the other characters to do it. I just never understood the point of that. What were the writers trying to say exactly? That "our characters" should just shut up and follow orders?
I think this episode was a missed opportunity. We could have gotten some deep character exploration of Riker and the senior officers as they truly jumped into uncharted waters--having to defy Starfleet and essentially mutiny to save their captain--and instead what we got was a guest character proving that pushing the other characters around could result in him winning his own little personal victory against the Cardassians.
Wed, May 27, 2015, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 28, 2015, 7:15am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 22, 2015, 5:32am (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
2. Nobody would assign Crusher to that mission under any circumstances. She's a medical officer, in her forties, with no combat experience - in short: she's a liability
3. Riker is the best shuttle pilot. Just like Paris was in VOY. What makes anybody a good shuttle pilot? And even if there was such a thing as a particularly good shuttle pilot, without question it had to be Data.
4. With the lack of people skills, I somehow doubt Jellico would have made the captain rank. Not in the 24th century, probably not even in the 21st.
5. The last thing a new CO wants to do is change everything up and unsteady the crew.
6. The Enterprise is an explorer ship with hundreds of civilians aboard. The first thing they would do if they were going into a potential warzone is drop them off at the nearest starbase.
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
The greatest strength of "Chain of Command, Part II" is that it is, fundamentally, one of the greatest anti-torture works of fiction that I've ever encountered. This episode (up until the "THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!" declaration) should be required viewing for all those fools out there who want to argue in favor of tortu... I mean "enhanced interrogation tactics." Leaving aside the rather important fact that torture is grossly immoral in and of itself and looking at it from a purely practical viewpoint, this line sums up its problems perfectly - "Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information. It is ultimately self-defeating as a means of control. One wonders that it's still practiced." Exactly. If you're going to use torture to extract information, all you're going to get (aside from maybe the one-off lucky break) is the information you were already looking for, not the truth. People being tortured will only tell you what they think you want to hear, not the truth - anything to make the torture stop. If you're using it as a means of control.... well, just watch Trek's own Levar Burton in "Roots." When his character was tortured as a means to control him and to break his will it didn't work. He gave his torturers the appearance of submission but never really yielded. And here, the episode shows how both of those situations play out - it doesn't give the Cardassians the information they were looking for and it doesn't work as a means of control. Picard actually does tell them the truth about the Federation's defense plans - he doesn't know them - and yet Madred refuses to believe him. So, what was the point of the torture? Picard also refuses to break mentally. So it failed as a means of control. Or did it?
And that brings me to one of my two problems with the A-plot - the final scene between Picard and Troi. What exactly was being said here? Seriously, I'm confused. Were they saying that Picard was, in fact, broken mentally by the torture and that it was only the extremely fortunate arrival of Gul Lemec and his aides that saved him from complete submission? If that's the case, and I think it is, it really undermines the whole "torture as a means of control doesn't work" message. Picard was broken; he could see five lights when there were only four. Therefore, it was an effective means of controlling him. Talk about completely undermining a great plot! But, I could actually see this scene working if they had just included one little bit in the final scene with Madred. After "THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!," they should have panned up to reveal that Madred had secretly installed a fifth light to further mess with Picard's head. That way Picard could think he had been broken (only to be saved at the last minute) once he returned to the Enterprise, but we as the audience would know (through implication) that he really wasn't broken and that torture is ultimately ineffective (even if Picard as a character doesn't realize it).
The only other problem I have with this part is that Madred really doesn't seem like a good interrogator. Torturing.... well, he definitely knows how to inflict pain. But running a good interrogation? Not so much. Seriously, letting Picard get under his skin? Telling a story about being an abused and homeless little boy? I seriously doubt someone like Garak would make mistakes that big. Just saying. The moment he backhands Picard for saying his daughter's spirit will be empty is the moment he loses all control. He seems WAY to thin-skinned and able to be controlled to be a convincing professional in this regard.
But, both of these problems (even the undermining of the message) I can forgive for one simple reason - Stewart and Warner's performances. These two should have won Emmys for this episode. I'll just point to one scene that really stands out for me - the very final shot we see of Madred - that sly, very subdued, smile that crosses his face as Picard definitely strides from the room. It shows that Madred, for all his brutality, deep down admires and maybe even respects Picard for not giving in. It's a wonderful way to subtly give the character a lot of nuance. And I think I have to give Warner full credit for it, because I doubt something like that was in the script.
Now, on to the Enterprise B-plot. It's nowhere near as absurd as the B-plot in Part I, but it has problems that I simply cannot forgive or overlook. The crew (besides Data) continues to act like spoiled children around Jellico. And Riker is the worst of all this time. This line sums up the problems perfectly - "I can't believe you're willing to sacrifice Captain Picard's life as a negotiating tactic!" Good Lord, if Riker would simply remove his lips from Picard's butt-cheeks for a split second, he would see that acknowledging that Picard was on a Federation-sanctioned mission would be a clear-cut act of war. That's a little more important than a simple negotiation tactic! But, apparently, the writers wanted Riker to be borderline insubordinate for no reason, so there we are! But the worst is the scene when Jellico has to come and almost beg Riker to pilot the shuttle mission. The problem is that they are both right - both are acting arrogantly and being close-minded. But, at no point are we, as the audience, asked to agree with Jellico and see that Riker is also in the wrong. Yes, Jellico is being a hard-ass, but (dammit!) what he's doing isn't unreasonable! He clearly needs to learn to put some polish on his actions, but other than that he is in the right. But we're expected to simply agree with Riker 100%. Well, sorry, I don't. The time has come for Riker to just shut up, act like a professional and do his damn job! (Also, Riker is the best pilot on the ship? Since fucking when?! Yes, it's been established that he's a good pilot. But the best? Um, no, that's Data! Of course, this whole plot point is only there to add tension to the ridiculous scene in Riker's quarters.)
So, "Chain of Command, Part II," even with its problems, is easily the best episode of Season Six thus far. However, I'm giving it a +1 bonus to my score for two reasons. 1.) The magnificent world-building (which Jammer so wonderfully pointed out). This was the last TNG episode to air before the premier of DS9 (in fact, the next time we see any TNG character it will be Picard over on "Emissary" giving Sisko his marching orders). If this isn't world-building of the first order, I don't know what is! 2.) Picard's line that the Cardassians were once a peaceful and spiritual people. So, spirituality (a.k.a. religion) can have a positive impact on society? After all the anti-religion messages TNG has pumped out so far, all I can say is - BRAVO! Also, just as Jellico finally made Troi put on a uniform, he also let Data be First Officer and wear a red uniform (which is always a plus - and what's all this talk about red not working with Data's skin tone; he looked great). Though, couldn't Jellico have just went ahead and fully promoted Data to a full Commander. That would have been nice; especially since Data is the only one of the core seven TNG characters to never once get a promotion, or even be offered a permanent promotion.
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
I don't think the message was "torture is an ineffective means of control" at all--more that Torture is an ineffective means of intelligence gathering--it is actually a way to exercise control for the emotionally desperate. Think about the (original) context for this episode--the Cardassians had just ceded control of Bajor to a group of terrorists. That's a huge blow to the Cardassian ego. That Madred would find satisfaction in gaining control of Picard (a Bajoran advocate and a prominent figure in the Federation) is not surprising. Torture is a way to control somebody, and an effective one, but you destroy the thing you are trying to control. That's what that final scene was about and why I think that without it, the story would be less effective.
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 1:35pm (UTC -5)
Spirituality is not the same as religion. The inference here is that the Federation is a spiritual society (just look at the Vulcans), but rejects religion and, in all likelihood, theism in general. Please do not conflate the two ideas.
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 3, 2015, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
You also have to wonder what that last scene is trying to say. That breaking under torture is inevitable? Having been assimilated by the Borg, you have to question what that would do to Picard's psyche. Or is it simply to remove the triumph from the final "there are four lights!"? Picard didn't win his confrontation, quite the opposite - which would raise a question if the intent was to show that ultimately both the victims and the perpetrators are the losers.
On the Enterprise, Jellico proves to have a winning strategy, which would seem to mitigate the asshat argument from Part 1. But I find the confrontation between Jellico and Riker problematic - anecdotal evidence would suggest both are competent officers, yet they just can't stand each other. In such circumstances you'd hope professionalism would win out. Riker's shit-eating grin as he gets the last word suggests not...
If nothing else, this episode succeeds in making the Cardassians more complicated than comic book Nazis. They love their kids, and want to improve the status of their society - they're not fundamentally and inherently evil. Their methods, however...
It's not perfect, this one, but it's not a million miles away. 3.5 stars.
Fri, Oct 30, 2015, 7:05am (UTC -5)
And pretty much every comment of mine would have been to y'all above -- "Brilliant point. I hadn't thought of it that way before."
I mean that seriously--what is above me is some of the best discussion I have ever read. And it supports what I have long believed: Trekkers are the best. They are the most thoughtful, the most reasonable, the most eloquent, the most. . . the MOST!
I will add to the discussion of torture the one thing which means I will never ever support it -- in order to torture, you must find or create someone who is willing to torture. Think about that for a moment. Even if torture were a reliable way to get intel, to get it you have to create a torturer--someone who is able to deliberately and methodically cause pain to another. I will never willingly be complicit in creating someone like that. You would have to disconnect their empathy, and how could you ever get it back?
Sat, Jun 18, 2016, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
It's ironic that accuse Riker's lips of being planted on Picard's butt-cheek since you're clearly butt hurt about Riker. Shut up and do his job? He did his job perfectly as first officer. In fact he did everything Jellico told him. Your comment is stupid because as first officer it is his job to tell a captain when he is disrupting a highly successful ship for no reason. To say someone should shut up and do as they are told without question is beyond stupid. Jellico's way didn't really work anyway, they may have saved Picard but he destroyed the morale of a ship even if you want to falsely call them pampered or not.
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
Let me get this straight... you think a TV show should be up there with science or battlefield experience? Years of research? I am not saying that torture works all the time, or that it should be acceptable (as in cutting off toes variety) - but the very idea that a TV show written by far left writers should be taken as an absolute truth on such a serious subject is very amusing indeed.
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 10:57pm (UTC -5)
Still, I do agree the episode was mostly well written - and definitely made better by some great actors.
Wed, Jul 6, 2016, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Incidentally I hated Jellico when I first watched this as a teenager but later rewatches and time have made me appreciate how he shook things up for the soft Enterprise crew.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 12:29am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:12am (UTC -5)
However 20 years later as I watch the episode again, and just watched it a few months back with my girlfriend, it was amazing to watch how much she thought he was a bastard and to realize how much I admired him. I came in this time having watched all of DS9 several times over, and knowing what the Cardassians are like and how they think. When I watched CoC this time I was fully 100% behind Jellico in every single thing he did, full stop. He's there to take out the trash and he knows how, and Riker is too set in his ways to be able to properly serve that kind of C/O. In fact, I realized that this was an already established weakness in Riker that had been pointed out to him several times by admirals - that he was way too content to live in Picard's shadow and had in some sense lost some respect for the greater chain of command (eh? eh?) in losing his drive to get his own command. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing for Star Trek to show us; it seems to me entirely in the spirit of Trek to give us a Commander who has become more conscious of himself as an individual than as a cog in a military chain of command. If anything that makes him a better person - more like Picard - than would be an unthinking obeyer of orders. But it also makes him a worse commander in a military setting. This is one of the many reasons I think the distinction between the Federation and Starfleet should have been made clearer in the series. Riker is turning into more of a Federation-style officer, as opposed to a Starfleet-style officer, and this can rankle when serving under a very militaristic C/O, and especially so in a potential time of war.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 2:25am (UTC -5)
I LOATHE this whole left/right, liberal/conservative labeling that happens when people speak their opinions on a public forum.
It seems to be mostly based on the USA scale, which has the largest schism between the two in the western world, when those labels are brought out, ignoring other nations whose political spectrum's differ. For example, I'm from Canada, our Liberal party would be considered still as conservative in the US sphere.
It is SUPPOSED to be a scale, where people fall on different points and views can be varied and a bit scattered, but instead it's turned into a right/wrong one side or the other qualifier. "Oh, those ideas are so liberal" I.e, saying their wrong. No, they're just different.
My opinions and worldview are based on MY lifetime experiences, shaped by how I've grown up in the world. Of course ideas that seem to match up with my way of thinking seem right, but then, people whose ideas I disagree with have those ideas based on their life experiences, and they aren't wrong to them. Take micheal in the BSG reviews. He found the growing mysticism and faith in that show to be a disheartening turn, due to his past experiences with religion, yet I reveled in it, being a (somewhat lapsed) Christian. I disagreed, but I could see where he was coming from. Religion has messed up people, it's not the answer for everyone, much as I'd like to think so. Neither one of us was wrong nor right it just depended on which experience was more individually identifiable.
And yet, because humans love to classify things because we seem to think it'll help us to understand it better, we categorize and name those ideas, giving us a handy, easy label to put people in. Of course, by doing that our understanding doesn't really grow, instead we've just managed to simplify the life experiences of someone into a simple word that doesn't get to the root of those ideas. And I don't like that very much. Why should I, or anyone else, have my entire life up until this point reduced to a meaningless word. Every experience, interaction, and thought, rendered moot by a word. Made to be easily discarded.
And why does this happen? Simply because that scale got in the way of the political rhetoricians ability to utilize the 'Us versus Them" paradigm in their attempts to manipulate the feelings of constituents into ones that would gain them voters. So it was simplified. Liberal. Conservative. Left. Right. Us. Them.
Maybe society would stop felling like it was coming down around our ears if we as a species figured out a way to quit shitting on the life-time experiences of those we didn't agree with and actually utilized all those separate, disparate perspectives and ideas of all people to work toward something instead of trying to bury each other in meaningless labels.
Change the record.
(All that said, maybe you disagree, but it would be pointless to tell me I'm being foolish. Perhaps I am, and maybe I'll experience something later in life that'll completely change my view, as several people have noted in regards to Jelico in this episode Why bother labeling people based on their worldview when it's subject to change anyway? That said, if a discussion is sparked, hat's definitely a good thing)
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
"For example, I'm from Canada, our Liberal party would be considered still as conservative in the US sphere."
But of course. Under capitalism, all dissent is absorbed and subsumed and made to serve the system.
In all major nations, what passes as "liberalism" and "left wing parties" are merely right wing, pro capitalist, pro corporate parties. There's no meaningful "left wing" on the planet. The left can influence pop culture, academia and the arts, but outside of these spheres it has been crushed by those with money and power.
"Take micheal in the BSG reviews. He found the growing mysticism and faith in that show to be a disheartening turn, due to his past experiences with religion, yet I reveled in it, being a (somewhat lapsed) Christian. I disagreed, but I could see where he was coming from. Religion has messed up people, it's not the answer for everyone, much as I'd like to think so. Neither one of us was wrong nor right it just depended on which experience was more individually identifiable."
BSG and DS9 handle religion superficially and hokily. It's all nonsense. In the real world, it's usually the atheist artists - Bergman, Antonioni, Pasolini, Kubrick et al - who handle religion well, and actually sympathise properly with the human drive or need for spirituality, because they simultaneously understand the spiritual and so political possiblities of religion, whilst also recognising them as man-made psychoses and delusions.
A religion person gives you warmongering, violent, emotionally blackmailing art like DS9 and The Passion of Christ. An atheist gives you the sublime: "Cries and Whispers", "The Gospel According to St Mathew" or "Red Desert", for example.
"we categorize and name those ideas, giving us a handy, easy label to put people in."
Categorizations are vital and essential if we hope to understand the word. It seems those who complain about being put into boxes don't like what the descriptions attached to their boxes imply. Science hinges on taxonomy.
"So it was simplified. Liberal. Conservative. Left. Right. Us. Them."
Imagine a king telling his little feudal subject in the 1700s that there's no "us and them". Let's just learn to get along! Boxes? There are no stiinkin boxes! Why do you sow divisions and seek to disunite the kingdom!
"if we as a species figured out a way to quit shitting on the life-time experiences of those we didn't agree with"
It's the 21st century people! Hug a bankster!
I prefer Upton Sinclair: "'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his job, salary and place in society depends on his ignorance."
Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
"BSG and DS9 handle religion superficially and hokily. It's all nonsense. In the real world, it's usually the atheist artists - Bergman, Antonioni, Pasolini, Kubrick et al - who handle religion well, and actually sympathise properly with the human drive or need for spirituality, because they simultaneously understand the spiritual and so political possiblities of religion, whilst also recognising them as man-made psychoses and delusions.
"A religion person gives you warmongering, violent, emotionally blackmailing art like DS9 and The Passion of Christ. An atheist gives you the sublime: "Cries and Whispers", "The Gospel According to St Mathew" or "Red Desert", for example."
I agree that the work of Bergman, Antonioni and Kubrick (admittedly have not seen any Pasolini yet) is transcendent, and I am not very satisfied with the religious material in BSG or DS9, though aspects of the way they approach religious believers are often very interesting. However, I think it's a mistake to DS9 (and BSG) as the work of religious people. For example, (TNG/)DS9/BSG scribe Ron Moore has stated: "I was raised Catholic, and I'm a recovering Catholic now. I became interested in various Eastern religions, and now I've sort of settled into somewhat of an agnosticism and sort of a general interest in the subject." (see celebatheists dot com). This is not the atheism of someone like Kubrick but nor is he Mel Gibson. I think that he's an artist who wants to explore his "general interest in the subject," and (arguably) does so sloppily. I think he reads more as "In the Hands of the Prophets"-era "My philosophy is there is room for all philosophies on my station" Sisko, putting the Hand of God into his show because he wants to engage with people he disagrees with; this raises its own set of problems but is still a different cause. I tried to find out about Behr's identification but haven't seen anything in my two-minute cursory research.
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 10:34am (UTC -5)
"THERE ARE FOUR PHOTON TORPEDOES!!!!"
*Shreeeew! Shreeeew! Shreeeew! Shreeeew! *
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 24, 2016, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 1, 2016, 10:27am (UTC -5)
I really like the command of Captain Jellico, and I particularly like the idea of the writers presenting this alternative view of how the command of the Enterprise might be handled. The first time that I saw this episode long ago, I thought that Jellico was a turd... but every time I have seen it since then, I have come to better appreciate his position and his decisions. He understands these Cardassian timber wolves, and he's the right man to represent the Federation's interests.
Plus this episode has all of that awesome dialogue between David Warner and Patrick Stewart. I get such a kick out of Warner's performances, I don't quite know what it is, but it's so great in everything he does... Trek movies, Time Bandits, Babylon 5, Baldur's Gate, Doctor Who... he brings such a special presence to his work.
Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 12:14am (UTC -5)
I don't believe Picard.
In the last scene, of course, he reveals to Troi that he would have told Madred anything, but I don't believe him. He believes himself, because he's back safe and reflecting and thinking about how horrible it was and how there's no way he could have endured further. But Picard is a hero, and heroes have to show virtuous traits, including humilty. And part of that humility is his belief he wasn't strong enough to endure, but he was. He demonstrates that all through the episode, and all through the whole series. When it comes to what is easy and what is principled, Picard always goes with what's principled, even when that may cost him his life. It wouldn't have been any different.
Fortunately, he ran out the clock quite literally, and so got to have one of the most satisfying lines in all of TV history.
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 8:14am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 8:37am (UTC -5)
But I agree that there is usually a tendency to feel like you made it out of something in the nick of time, even if you didn't. How many people have said, after a particularly exhausting all nighter, that they couldn't have lasted another hour? Or after a long walk in the heat that you couldn't have gone not one more minute? Or (something more painful) that you couldn't push during labor not one more time? I don't equate these to torture of course, but once relief from something difficult comes there tends to be a feeling that you JUST made it.
Largely it's because once you are at rest, once the adrenaline stops you literally DON'T have any more oomph to give, but had you not succeeded you might still yet have had more in you. I agree that in retrospect Picard might have felt he was 99% of the way to breaking, but I think he could have gone longer too.
Sat, Jan 28, 2017, 3:02am (UTC -5)
After the Borg incident, where he helped the Borg destroy 11,000 fellow Starfleet Officers, 39 capitol ships and at least 3 smaller defensive vessels around Earth, Starfleet doesn't force him to take an extended leave of absence. No, they act as if a few sessions with Troi will fix everything.
During "Inner Light", he lives an entire lifetime in 24ish minutes, wakes up, clearly is having very difficult time remembering the Enterprise and his life in general, but they don't have him take time off to get his memories back but just keep him in charge.
Then this, where he was tortured and broken at the very last (you even see it in his eyes at the last that he could no longer see just four lights), but they don't send him away to recover. They leave him on the ship and act again as if a couple of heart-to-hearts with Troi will fix everything.
Now, Picard is very capable of rebounding from these bad experiances. Yet, as I watch these types of stories, it boggles my adult mind as to why Starfleet didn't make him take time-off from command of the Enterprise at the very least. Especially when they go so far as to order him to stay away from engaging the Borg in First Contact because they believe him to be an "unstable element".
Sat, Mar 25, 2017, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
Ronny Cox was awesome as the anti-Picard hard-ass Captain Edward Jellico. David Warner his equal as the sadistic Gul Madred and Patrick Stewart took a terrific turn as the suddenly-helpless but bravely defiant captive. Those three lifted this 2-part episode to near cinematic quality. Not coincidentally, all three have been big screen actors.
In fact, I'd have taken this episode over either of the last two TNG movies.
Wed, Jun 28, 2017, 6:13am (UTC -5)
And seriously, is this the first episode where Riker's piloting virtuosity is ever mentioned? If yes, pretty thin.
Anyway, much better than part 1 but I think having this sort of thing in TNG feels a bit forced.
Wed, Jun 28, 2017, 11:12am (UTC -5)
"And seriously, is this the first episode where Riker's piloting virtuosity is ever mentioned? If yes, pretty thin."
It's brought up many times, but perhaps most famously when Picard asks Riker to manually reconnect the saucer and bridge section of the Enterprise in "Encounter at Farpoint".
Thu, Jun 29, 2017, 1:11am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 8:00am (UTC -5)
Just like with Picard being captured by the Borg (etc., etc., etc., etc., etc...!!), what the HELL does this have to do with science fiction, let ALONE Roddenberry's vision of the future??!!
A twisted, sacrilegious episode, written by a warped, depraved little boy in a man's body.
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
Not a chance. Marina is not a talented actress (and she's a dimwitted nutball away from the camera!). But in TNG alone, Denise Crosby, Levar Burton, and Gates McFadden, when at their worst and cheesiest, are all much worse actors than Marina is at *her* worst.
I would vote Denise as the worst actor in all of Trek. MANY of her scenes are cringeworthy. Levar shines frequently, but, oddly, he's also ridiculous and almost unwatchable frequently. He's an enigma.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 8:16am (UTC -5)
I've never had the "bad actor" vibe while watching Gates. Got that vibe when Lavar had his love interest episodes.
Armus was TNG's best villain as it rid them of Crosby and a horribly written female security officer at the same time.
While Denise was not a very good actor, her belowaverageness paled in comparison to Avery Brooks.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -5)
Some of Crosby's stuff was squirm-worthy: ("This so-called Court should go down on its knees!" comes to mind.). But she was actually pretty awesome in "Skin of Evil" when bantering with Worf, and carried "Yesterday's Enterprise" respectably. So I see growth.
Troi was similar: static and one-note in the uber-Troi episodes, she shone when allowed to break out of her character's emoto-chick fetters. ( See "Face of the Enemy")
Of the TNG crew, I'd pick Geordi and Crusher as the worst. I can't think of any episode where they conveyed their characters in a moving or surprising way. They were simply flat, like generic placeholders for "Doctor/mom" and "the engineer". Crusher brought the same hyperventilating worried-mother routine to all her scenes, whether shrilling about some Wesley danger in season one, or some medical/ethical danger later on. And Geordi just plugged away at the two shticks he was ordered to display: smart engineer-guy and dorky smitten schoolboy.
I'd say Crosby improved even in the brief airtime she was given, whereas Gates and Burton were as stilted and boring in the last episode as in the first. Whether that's due to their acting limitations or to the bland material they were given, I can't decide.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 10:53am (UTC -5)
But actually, I'll agree that TNG is full of pretty medium-grade actors. It's really the performances of Spiner and Stewart that really stand out as legendary in my mind. Of course, the guests like Goldberg and DeLancie were epic.
"Armus was TNG's best villain as it rid them of Crosby and a horribly written female security officer at the same time."
This made me spit out my coffee. Though the idiot pilot in "Final Mission" that helps give Wesley the door deserves a medal.
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
This episode is famous for more than just a brutal torture scene -- we get an insight into Madred's childhood and how Picard then takes pity on him. Picard's resolve while being tortured is admirably portrayed -- the power of his mind winds up dominating Madred's...even though he confesses he would have said 5 lights in the end to Troi.
I liked the scene with Madred's daughter -- gives an insight into how a militaristic state would be brainwashing its children. Picard has a great line about how her belly would be full but her spirit empty. No question "Chain of Command, Part II" is one of Picard's best performances -- better than "The Inner Light" for me. He sings a famous French song while being tortured -- all this stuff is top notch.
The Cardassians (Obsidian Order) are well-known for their torture and it all starts here -- the basis for so much DS9.
As for Jellico's plans with the mines -- it works perfectly, which surprised me. I thought he was just planting mines in the nebula but apparently they were right against Cardassian ships -- I guess it can be done given perhaps the uselessness of Cardassian sensors in the nebula? But also, I thought we'd see an epic failure on his part but it turns out he's a capable captain just with a very different (abrasive) style.
4 stars for "Chain of Command, Part II" -- a great deal of effort has been put into building up the Cardassians to go along with the Romulans, Klingons, Ferengi etc. as major alien races in Star Trek. Gul Madred gives a ton of insight into the race (Warner is excellent) but this episode elevates Picard to a legendary status through Stewarts acting here.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 7:41am (UTC -5)
But Madred? He is an enigma. By the start of Part 2 his drugs have already worked. We see that Picard has literally told Madred everything he knows before the torture even begins. The question of whether or not torture "works" seems utterly pointless in this context, because, there is nothing practical Madred is even after by this point in the story.
So what does Madred even want from Picard? Why is he so thin skinned and so willing to show vulnerability? What kind of interrogation is this? Some say it's Madred's incompetence on display, but that presumes some kind of logical goal.
My feeling is that for Madred this whole "interrogation" was personal, not practical. I doubt Central Command (or the Obsidian Order) even knew what he was up to (or cared) once they had confirmed that Picard had no useful tactical knowledge. The Cardassian who comes to retrieve Picard at the end seems taken aback at Picard's condition (what the hell has this guy been up to?!)
Unfortunately, one can only speculate why Madred became so personally invested in Picard. Was this really an interrogation at all, or perhaps a confession? I would love to know what the writers had in mind with this character. I like to think Madred admired something in Picard, or perhaps was envious?
Regarding Jellico, let me add my agreement to Peter G. and others. I felt he was treated rather shabbily by the tone of the episode, despite (in my view) being entirely in the right. Even the arc of the story seems to vindicate Jellico, yet we seem encouraged and coerced into villifying him nonetheless. Yet it's Riker who is the big baby in all this and I wanted to punch him in his smug, unprofessional mouth. I know what Commander Kurn would have done to him!
Funny enough I had a similar feeling watching Galileo 7 (co-incidentally the day before) which also treated a key character rather unfairly (in that case, Spock) for acting entirely appropriately, and in the end saving the day!
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 9:21am (UTC -5)
Good question about Madred. I think one of two things is possible. Either he had *so much* respect for Picard that he legitimately didn't believe Picard had told him the truth yet despite the drugs, or as you say it was personal. I personally never interpreted the episode as Picard having spilled all the beans yet because if he had even if his information on Minos Corva had been limited he'd have had reams of intelligence in other realms to share with them. Think about Picard as Locutus and you'll get the idea. What in the episode made you think Picard had already told them everything he knew?
That being said, I do think there's something tonally present in Madred's delivery that suggests it isn't just another interrogation; it's his chance to break the great Picard, or something to that effect. And maybe also a chance to break a proud, to his mind perhaps pompous individual from a rich society, whereas he knows that Cardassians have it much harder and yet can still challenge the Federation militarily. So maybe there's an 'our culture versus your culture' thing happening as well, where Madred's success will play doubly to him as Cardassia being better than the Federation in one more way. Especially based on what we know about Cardassian upbringing and training (even as of DS9 S1-2) individually someone like Madred would feel superior to Picard and so the interrogation might be a way of venting the dissonance between that superior feeling and the knowledge that overall life in the Federation is much better.
About Riker being a big baby, I've come more and more to understand why his serving as XO on the Enterprise for so long makes sense, even apart from the meta explanation that the actor wanted to stay on the show. Having rewatched S1-2 episodes lately it's clear how much he values Picard as a mentor, and I think that by the time this was cemented as of S3 or so it wasn't really mentioned again overtly in very many episodes. But we do get one more look at it in Best of Both Worlds where Picard is willing to put the entire ship on the line to get Picard back, which to me reads as a questionable strategy just as Locutus suggests. Getting Picard back was personal, and so that finalizes the relationship as being borderline father/son. From that standpoint, having now chosen Picard over his career, I can see how Riker would chaff serving as XO under someone else, especially if it's going to be borderline permanent. Thinking of it in these terms I actually feel bad for Riker who gave up several commands just to serve under a great man, to have the man summarily removed from his post for some arbitrary mission. That's certainly weird, and from Riker's perspective it must have seemed unfair as well, that he should give up so much and end up with neither his command nor his mentor. They were even willing to give up Picard as a bargaining chip, which is fine tactically but think of it as Riker hearing they're going to let his father die. I mean, he went to get him back from the Borg but they're going to back down to a bunch of Cardassians?
So emotionally I get where Riker's coming from. He feels betrayed and let down. Professionally speaking there's no excuse for how he behaves and, yes, Jellico is entirely in the right. But I sympathize more with Riker now than I used to. Geordi, on the other hand, should have shut his yap and done exactly as Jellico asked without complaint. Going to Riker about it was a bad move.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Incidentally, Picard was very much like Jellico in the first few seasons of TNG. For a brusk person, having a popular and very social person like Riker as an XO is a great asset which I think we see in many successful government and business structures.
Wed, Jan 24, 2018, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 20, 2018, 9:21am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 2, 2018, 4:55am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 11, 2018, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 15, 2018, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Why is his uniform a different shade of red?
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:36am (UTC -5)
I believe it was just before Picard is released, and spits out "there are four lights", and was a way of directly showing the audience that Picard's perception was wavering, making his statement more one of clear defiance and victory. However, I believe having the captain admit it as a final reveal is more impactful, and leaves us with much more of a sense of uneasiness. The captain had essentially kept this admission of weakness from us, as well as his torturers, until the very last moment and puts a different tone on the ending.
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
This is nevertheless better than part one but there were some low points such as Riker showing his inability to manage his new Captain, the rather unlikely saboutaging of the entire Cardassian task force by planting mines , the inexplicable perceived value of Picard's knoweldge of federation tactical plans to defend some planet to the Cardassians ( all the possible tactics would surely be anticipated by a competent military force of equivalent power to the Federation) and the inevitable series re set at the end .
I would think that the silly admiral whose gullibility nearly lost the Federation a valuable officer would at least be chained to a harmless desk job after this near cock up.
Tue, Apr 30, 2019, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
I really wasn't in the mood for torture porn. Why introduce that to TNG at all? But the actor playing the lead Cardassian was superb and then Stewart was superb and I was pulled in.
The scene with Riker and Jellicoe was marvellous and lets face it, they are both arrogant and over emotional for the job.
8.5/10 for the acting . Lost marks with me for being un Trekky and also I wasn't sure how the whole thing resolved. Usually the Romulans ignore the Federation, shout in outrage and maintain the position. After all weren't they still in their own territory when they were mined?
Wed, May 1, 2019, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Jellico, Riker, and Troi exit the conference room. As Jellico heads for the ready room, Riker speaks to Deana.
Riker: Well, he's certainly sure of himself.
(follows Jellico to ready room)
Deana (to Jellico): Captain, Commander Riker says you seem very sure of yourself.
Jellico: But my Betazoid counselor can tell I'm not, right?
Deana: Yes sir. (smiles) Can I assist you?
Jellico: (Deep breath) Later maybe. Right now there's no time. Just knowing that you are there to help if needed is useful. Thank you Counselor.
Deana: Of course, sir.
Jellico: Now let's go kick some Cardassian butt.
They exit the ready room.
Imagine how much better that would have been! It would have revealed Jellico's uncertainty without making his counselor betray his confidences. (Wouldn't a Betazoid therapist be under professional guidelines not to reveal personal things learned through their empathy?)
Tue, Mar 3, 2020, 9:34am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 2:06am (UTC -5)
"Crusher brought the same hyperventilating worried-mother routine to all her scenes"
Okay Tara, you've convinced me: Crusher is the Karen of the 24th century. I can totally see her going to Starfleet Academy and demanding to talk to the cafeteria manager, which is after she demanded to talk to Wesley's particle physics teacher about the B he got on the quiz.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 6:06am (UTC -5)
I found I've been enjoying the episodes more or less the same. 'Rascals' is much more cartoony, but establishes that tone from the start, so that I find no need for nitpicking when it gets super-silly. It's kind of like watching a different show - and episodic fiction can have a certain amount of elasticity to it in that respect. DS9's comedy episodes are more wearying because there is a tighter continuity throughout, reducing that degree of elasticity.
On the other hand, episodes like the 'Chain of Command' two-parter are seriously hampered by their sillinesses. Higher highs, maybe, but lower lows. The contrivance of Picard, Crusher and Worf acting as ninja spies is completely unearned, shreds the drama of their situation in Part 1, and undermines the torture scenes in Part 2.
The use of the Ferengi smuggling route is completely slapdash - Picard doesn't even know the Ferengi in question, or the extent to which he can be trusted not to rat them out. Crusher's turn as a seductress is offensively crass, and her lack of injury from dozens of rocks falling onto her head makes that entire scene pointless.
I agree that the torture scenes are well acted, but these too are undermined by various things. First and foremost, it's a weaker rip-off of the same scene in '1984', but loses much from there being no point to the torture. Picard knows nothing worth extracting, and Madred is a weak man acting out a power fantasy - it says nothing about the effectiveness or otherwise of the Cardassian state, or of any particular ideology.
Secondly, it runs up against the fan/writer hero worship of Picard. As a character, he's an ideal, and that's fine in a fantasy series. But if you're going to tackle torture, you ought to be prepared to be truthful - and the truth is that torture breaks people. Compare this with what happens to Jim Prideaux in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' - an intelligence agent trained to resist torture. He talks matter-of-factly about how he starts off giving them the cover story, is gradually forced to give up everything, and ends up saying absolutely anything he can think of, relevant or otherwise, to get it to stop. He ultimately runs out of things to say.
But we're not allowed to see Picard overpowered in this way - instead, ludicrously, we get him turning the tables on his torturer, and defying him until the end. Equally ludicrously, the Cardassians never carry out any physical mutilations - a time-honoured method of psychologically breaking someone.
Picard is a hero and Star Trek is an optimistic show - we're not meant to see him 'lose' so badly, so hopelessly. But for that reason, this show should not be tackling a subject like torture so brazenly. In doing so, it straight up lies to us. And a lie like this - that 'heroic' people can stand up to torture - is ironically, one of the things that allows people to accept torture in the modern day. The idea that it gives us an advantage over our enemies, because our enemies are weakling villains who will give up the goods more readily, is just pervasive enough to mute what ought to be persistent moral outrage that any nation practises such methods.
(I'm going to go onto another comment for the Jellicoe stuff).
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 6:28am (UTC -5)
I found this to be generally well handled, and the reactions of the crew realistic. It's true that you would expect a military outfit to have more discipline, but Starfleet is only quasi-military and the crew have an established familial relationship. The tension between their roles as friends and officers is well realised.
I also think it was a bold move to let Jellicoe succeed. This is again one of those occasions when the writers get it right by making an issue more nuanced than fans with more rigid expectations would like it to be. I see people here reacting with disappointment that 'our' characters weren't shown to be in the right, saying that it undermines or confuses the message.
On the other hand, I also see the opposite reaction: that these episodes are poorly written because Jellicoe is a straw man militant who we're "supposed" to dislike (Admittedly, this is just one person, and it's the site's resident right-winger).
I disagree strongly with both of these interpretations. The 'message', as far as there is one, is that different approaches can yield results, but the tensions between those different approaches can be unresolveable. We know that in a typical episode, Riker might have been able to rescue Picard in a daring raid. We know that Jellicoe succeeded here by being willing to sacrifice Picard in order to play for time and come up with a broader plan. But it nearly came to the point where neither plan could be brought off, because convictions were equally strong on both sides.
Although it could have been handled better, Troi's line about Jellicoe's uncertainty greatly strengthens this theme. Jellicoe isn't 'arrogant'; he's acting in a way that he thinks he needs to in order to get results. It's a calculated risk - hack people off, including your own officers, in order to force the outcome you need. As he tells Troi, there's simply no time for bedding in, winning trust. But he knows it's a risk.
It makes me think of all those scenes in TNG when the Enterprise is being fired upon, or facing some other immediate threat, and the crew take time to debate different solutions to the problem - or, in more absurd instances, assemble in the meeting room. As much as I want to give these scenes a free pass (because I do fundamentally agree with the philosophy that cooperation and thoughtfulness is the only route to avoiding annihilating ourselves), in most of these situations as written you would fare better with a well-oiled machine: Picard taking charge, commands carried out without thinking. In the time it takes them to have a conflab, most other ships in the series have been blown apart.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 8:56am (UTC -5)
Incidentally, and I admit this is mostly off topic, but I read a book recently that talked about torture and its effectiveness. One of the anecdotes was about waterboarding and how, according to experts, it worked *100%* of the time at breaking people and was absolutely irresistible as a means of torture- except against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He found some way to do this weird thing with his tonsils to empty the water into his mouth such that he was practically immune to it. In fact he realized that they were only permitted to "pour" for up to 60 seconds so he'd mock his torturers by counting down the last seconds on his fingers with every "pour".
Sorry I just found that amazing. Anyway the thesis of the book was that while torture is generally foolproof in "breaking" people the problem is you also render their memory unreliable as you distort their perception. So once Picard was actually seeing five lights instead of four any information you extracted from him was every bit as unreliable as his mind had become due to the torture. Breaking someone is *breaking* them.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 11:11am (UTC -5)
"First and foremost, it's a weaker rip-off of the same scene in '1984', but loses much from there being no point to the torture. Picard knows nothing worth extracting, and Madred is a weak man acting out a power fantasy - it says nothing about the effectiveness or otherwise of the Cardassian state, or of any particular ideology."
I think the homage to 1984 in this episode is more or less fine, as there is no information to extract from Winston either. The point of the torture is to make him betray that which he cares for the most, and in so doing turn him against himself. It's to make him accept doublethink and to love Big Brother. In Chain of Command that main drive of Madred's tortures seems to be to make Picard respect him and his culture, which is perhaps a bit weaker than trying to make him love it, but the main drive is the same: breaking someone towards an ideological goal. The Central Command may have wanted the defense information but I don't think that was Madred's primary interest. He was at odds with the Central Command on that, as we could see in the final scenes.
And there's another parallel too, which is that they offer to let Picard go in exchange for torturing Beverly. So far Picard refuses, but I assume that later on the idea is that he would relent and tell them to take her instead. Mercifully we don't see that happen, but I don't think that's a flaw, all it means is this isn't a cynical and remorseless show and they gave us a different plot (i.e. that the interrogation is ended early due to exterior factors).
Fri, Jun 12, 2020, 1:01am (UTC -5)
I'm not going to start an off-topic flame war by stating (here) what *I* think the truth is, but do want to tip my hat to Picard for recognizing the importance of always speaking "truth to power" (to coin a phrase) .
A very timely episode....
@Picard Maneuver "Dick, your fired!" ROTFLMFAO.
That is *BRILLIANT*
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Just fantastic all around Trek here. Stewart's finest performance I think. Riker was great as well, opposing Jelico. David Warner as Gul Madred is always a treat.
THERE... ARE... FOUR... LIGHTS!!!
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 10:56am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 11:03am (UTC -5)
"I never understood this episode. Was the ending supposed to be a homage to 1984? Shamelessly ripping off a classic book? "
How can something be a shameless ripoff if you need to ask what the ending is supposed to be? Seems pretty questionable that you "never understood the episode" but are still pretty sure it's a shameless ripoff.
The answer, btw, is yes this is pointing towards 1984. But other than the torture scenes it doesn't bear much resemblance. It might therefore be more relevant to suggest that this is a reference to a real phenomenon, which 1984 was describing but which is only meant as an example in that book.
Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
What makes this one quite special is the psychological edge to the tension between Picard and Madred. I don't think I've seen anything as chilling as Picard's captivity in the whole of TNG. I can't imagine the Romulans or even the Borg being so chillingly, creepily sinister in similar circumstances. Madred's calmness, his very civility, underlined by the scene with his daughter - and the space that this two-parter gives the dialogue to breathe - make those scenes very powerful.
And of course so does the lovely homage to 1984, reinforced by Picard's comment at the end that he was ready to believe that there were five lights.
David Warner is excellent in this, and of course his Englishness makes him just that touch more evil, doesn't it? None taken.
It's a great shame then that this story has some rather obvious flaws. Firstly - did we really need the action film aspect to the first part? And if the Federation really needs a three-person elite special forces team to infiltrate a secret base behind enemy lines and destroy stuff, are two of them really going to be Jean-Luc Picard and Beverley Crusher? I didn't buy the excuses, sorry.
Also, not a major point by any means but that bit where Beverley tells the Ferengi that she'd be "very grateful" - what an absolute cringe. That whole business of getting where they need to go on a Ferengi cargo ship - it's not very well thought out.
More importantly - Riker and Geordi overcome an entire fleet of Cardassian war vessels with a shuttlecraft and some magnetic mines? Easy as that, eh? Sloppy writing. The mines are shown as being in the crew compartment; what do they do, just sling them out of the back door?
I enjoyed the tension between Riker and Jelico. Not as intense as Madred vs Picard of course, but nicely done. The cliched version would be that Jelico ends up endangering the lives of the crew and ends up being relieved of his command, but this story is much more subtle. Jelico is not all bad, in fact he's quite effective in some ways. Maybe there should have been a scene where there's at least a moment of grudging respect between Riker and the temporary captain; if that's what we got with Jelico's parting comment it was a little too brief.
Anyway - just for the psychological drama of Picard's captivity, a good one. But I wish they'd put a bit more thought into it.
Thu, Oct 22, 2020, 11:52am (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 13, 2020, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 16, 2020, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 6:47am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 7:22am (UTC -5)
It's not the first instance of Trek plagiarism. When Picard ripped off Shakespeare in Menage a Troi I nearly quit the show in outrage.
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 9:09am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 10:59am (UTC -5)
Haha, I'm pretty sure Jason R. was being facetious, and in so doing was saying something to the effect that cribbing off of Orwell is no more of on offense than cribbing off of Shakespeare; i.e. it's good to refer to the classics. Or at least inoffensive.
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
It's episodes like this that elevate ST above normal TV fare, something DS9 did far more consistently than other iterations and the reason it's respected so much by fans. This isn't just good ST, it's superlative viewing, as cinematically complex as anything on the big screen, indeed superior to much cinema.
Anything involving Cardassians is usually done so well, it manages to avoid that faintly ludicrous tone anything involving Romulans usually has.
It's a interesting duality in ST, for me. These two enemies of the Federation depicted almost as polar opposites.
On the trivial side: the scenes with Picard, Worf and Dr Crusher in the cat burglar outfits training and climbing the caves were a waste of screen time; we all now get why Riker refused his own ship; the coda where Picard confesses to Troi he was about to break is superbly ambiguous; I love it that Jellico put Troi in uniform, wish he had done something about her hair too. And I wish we had more time with all these cool blondes who seem to populate the commander and admiral ranks of Starfleet.
Chain of Command 1&2 stand alone as the absolutely best TNG episodes ever, and among any ST "best" list one would care to compile.
Mon, Jul 19, 2021, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 18, 2021, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Someone please tell me why starfleet keeps sending its most highly valuable senior officers on these kind of dangerous front line missions?! Dont they have a SEAL team or something?? Makes for good television though.
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 9:11am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 28, 2021, 11:14pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 6:28am (UTC -5)
I know it wasn't specifically mentioned but that is the way I always thought about it.
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 10:25am (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
Not unless you count Garak refusing to allow Odo to revert to his gelatinous form, Worf being repeatedly forced to fight the Jem Hadar in death duels in a Prison Camp, every time Rom says "Moogie" or the Allamarane Song from "Move Along Home"
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 11:34pm (UTC -5)
Well when you put it that way...actually I like the Allamarane song! I laugh ever time I watch that scene. At that point in the series Sisko, Dax, and Bashir all take themselves too seriously and I enjoy watching them reduced to playing a kids' game (and Sisko's look of 'oh well' when he does it is awesome). Knowing what we later learn about the nature of the game, it's additionally funny that this is supposed to be part of a fun game sequence for adults to play!
Garak torturing Odo I'll grant you, I hadn't thought of that. I mean, it's not torture in any normal way we can identify, so it does lack the element that we'd be scared to be in that position. But it's emotionally charged for sure. I think Worf fighting the Jem'hadar is supposed to be more glorious than torturous to watch, although it certainly looks like the Vorta is being tortured having to watch all the bouts, so there is that. And as for Rom...wait, who do you think is being tortured there? Is it us, or Moogie, or Grodenchik? It's like a Mexican standoff, where all parties wonder whether it's possible to just stop.
Sat, Oct 2, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 2, 2021, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
Lmao... I got a good laugh outta this xD
Sat, Oct 23, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Apart from that, this is Patrick Stewart’s finest outing on TNG - leaving BOBW far behind. The torture scenes, though lifted directly from 1984, gave him the scope to show his finest acting qualities and prove he was far far more than the guy who spends most of his time on the bridge saying “Make it so..” and “Engage!”
The other main point concerns Jellicoe. We so often get starship captains who turn out to be mavericks merely serving a plot, so it was refreshing to see one who was extremely good, though with a different style from Picard who is a classic delegator (how many times do we see Riker, Geordi, or Data come up with solutions? All the time, compared to Jean-Luc!). Jellicoe is abrasive and more ‘hands on’, but he gets results even though he doesn’t seek to win any popularity contests. Besides, some of his abrasiveness in COC is obviously driven by the nature of the emergency situation - one imagines that on his own ship he is a tad more relaxed. The conflict between him and Riker added to the quality of this episode and delivered added tension; however, I simply don’t believe that Riker - relieved of his post - would sit in his quarters and sulk with a book! He would have prowled around, perhaps dreaming up some way to rescue Picard.
Anyway, 4 stars for COC.
Sat, Oct 23, 2021, 3:00am (UTC -5)
Worf yelling:"There are four lights!!!" Then breaking the chair, jumping on the Cardassian and when the guards rush in to interfere, they find Worf with a half eaten heart in his bloody hands...
Mon, Oct 25, 2021, 2:48am (UTC -5)
But there is one way they could have done it more convincingly; have the Cardassians lay a trap for an away team, capture them and hold them hostage until Picard agreed to beam down.
Still, they’re only writers!
Mon, Oct 25, 2021, 3:01am (UTC -5)
Kidnapping a captain on an official mission is an act of war. Capturing a spy is not.
Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
It would have been extremely interesting to have Madred discuss "methodologies" with Weyoun. His demise at the hands of the Jem'Hadar might have proved interesting, particularly if his daughter eloped with one.
Tue, Mar 8, 2022, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
What's interesting is that as much as we hate Jellico, the ends justify the means because he does end up getting the job done -- the very job he was put there to do. He moved with incredible efficiency.
The parts that really don't make sense... Riker gets sent in a shuttle to retrieve Crusher and Worf. Riker then gets sent out again with Geordie to set mines. Like Gul Lemec wouldn't notice this? Also, where did Gul Lemec go that he ended up in the nebula, susceptible to the mines being blown up? How did Jellico know how to contact him? Wasn't his ship right next to the Enterprise, conducting negotiations?
In terms of the torture scenes... they were very well acted, even if they had a tad too much philosophy. A torturer would not open up that much to their victim. However, unlike posters above, I did not see it as back peddling when Picard, at the end of the episode, confessed to Troi that he would've admitted everything to get the torture to stop. The alternative would've been to portray Picard as unbreakable. This is key in not glorifying the outcome of torture. The reality is that all torture victims break, almost universally.
Over all, I definitely give this episode 4/4 stars. The acting was superb.
Tue, May 24, 2022, 9:43am (UTC -5)
It shows how, with enough conditioning (torture, in this case, but can be simply rampant propaganda or even just subtle messaging), people can eventually be broken and made to believe absurdities. We've seen it countless times throughout man's history and we see it at first hand today, particularly with the ludicrous garbage that directly defies reality being shoved down our throats by the rabid Left, together with the "literally Hitler" slurs being attached to those who demur.
And remember: Those who can be made to believe absurdities can be made to commit atrocities.
Sun, Jun 26, 2022, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 30, 2022, 11:29am (UTC -5)
Some trivia from Memory Alpha:
Warner took over the role of Madred on three days notice...Due to the short time in which he had to prepare, Warner also did not have enough time to memorize his lines. As such, they were written down on cue cards. As he commented; "There was too much technobabble and dialogue that doesn't come naturally to me. So they wrote everything up for me. I don't mind people knowing this. Every line I said, I actually was reading it over Patrick's shoulder or they put it down there for me to do it."
This is a classic TNG episode and Warner gave a great performance.
Sat, Oct 22, 2022, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
1984 v. STNG
In the novel, the prisoner gives in on three levels while Picard only ambiguously (granting his admission to Troi afterwards) gives in on nt.
WInston Smith surrenders his sensory judgment, his logical judgment and moral judgment. He sees the wrong number of fingers under torture (ike Picard's lights) , he also concedes under torture the illogic that two plus two can equal five. and finally under torture and in captivity torment of his phobia he betrays his love, Julia, wishing the torture on her.
Picard only lapses in one area and hid it.
Another interesting acting reversal is to watch the scene in I.Claudius, with Stewart playing the thuggish historic Roman imperial security chief Aelius Sejanus calmly supervises the battering -torture of a dissident Senator "wake him up, we'll start again."
Tue, Dec 13, 2022, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 14, 2022, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Fri, Mar 24, 2023, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
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