Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Chain of Command, Part II"

4 stars

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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139 comments on this post

Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:14am (UTC -5)
By the end of the episode, I swore I saw five lights.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 2:39am (UTC -5)
There is no fun watching people being tortured (never understood those that enjoy watching stuff like Hostel) but it is the exchanges between Picard and Madred that make this episode stand out. I actually like Jelico, wouldn't want to serve under him.
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 3:02am (UTC -5)
To me the best part is Madred's plea of "Help me!" as Lemec comes in to free Picard. All the more important by how he's marginalized the moment Lemec enters the room. His plea pathetically comes from off-screen.

He was just as dependent on having a victim to give him purpose on his backwater planet.
Keith R.A. DeCandido
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 4:13am (UTC -5)
In fact, "Chain of Command" was intended to be more of a lead-in to DS9, insofar as the Ferengi middleman in Part 1 was supposed to be Quark on the Cardassian station Terok Nor, but because they weren't premiering DS9 until a month after this one aired, they changed it to a generic Ferengi. The scene was filmed on DS9's replimat set.
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
I don't think any other Star Trek show changed so radically over its entire run than TNG.

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 four stars!"
Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Here's a great article that compares this episode with the torture scene in the new Star Trek movie:
Greg M
Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
I typically don't like the way Torture is done on TV because I feel like a lot of it is just hollow and does nothing to add to the characters. One show that comes to mind as an example is 24. It seemed like torture was used only as a device and when it happened every week, it borders on more annoying than actually useful.

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)
@ Nic : thanks for that article! I think similar ones could be written regarding every aspect of that brain-dead movie.

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.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Jun 29, 2012, 8:01am (UTC -5)
I think the standout moment of this episode is Picard's little victory when discussing Madred as a boy and Picard's line about him being pitiful, and then pulling him for calling him Picard.
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)
Interesting point about early TNG (Skin of Evil) versus this two-parter. The series certainly did mature. As Jammer capably pointed out, a lot of early TNG is like bad TOS (Skin of Evil, Code of Honor, etc.).

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)
I'm amused no one mentioned how this was Patrick Stewart's major beefcake moment on TNG. His partial nudity is semi-legendary in these parts (San Francisco) and entrenched him as a sex symbol. (Forget Riker, dude ...)
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)
There are and were five lights. Watch carefully each time and you will see a little blue light on the top left side of the fourth light on the left side of the screen. Being in such close proximity to one of the four glaring ones however, it is understandable that a person would then be tricked into thinking there are four lights. Despite the deviousness of the act, I believe it would have provided a strong psychological shock to a person to discover they were indeed wrong after all of that when the four bright lights are turned off and the fifth light revealed.
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)
I thought that Madred was implying that HE was the fifth light
Sun, Jun 16, 2013, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
I thought that the red uniform went well with Data's complexion!

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)
Picard's admission destroyed it for me in the end. It was interesting to see Picard 'broken' (assimilated) by the Borg. Having him broken by the Cardassians as well just seemed redundant to me.
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)
When Picard finally leaves Madred's office after his final act of defiance I notice that Madred's expression is not embarrassment or anger at being bested. He has a small grin. Is it because he respects Picard as a worthy opponent or even a peer?

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.
William B
Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Unfortunately, I always find the great episodes a little harder to talk about than the less-great ones, so I don't have much to say right now, though I might later. One thing I think is worth noting: the Riker-Jellico stuff is clearly the less significant material, in comparison to the tour de force of the Picard-Madred scenes. But I think that it has a lot in common with the Picard-Madred thing thematically, except that while Picard-Madred shows individualism-authoritarianism as good and evil, Riker and Jellico represent less extreme versions of the same individualism-authoritarian axis, in which it`s less clear who is right and who is wrong. Like Madred, Jellico's anger at Riker is fueled by the fact that Riker refuses to be controlled and to play the role that Jellico wants him to play, and Riker's minor victory in the scene in Riker's quarters, in which Jellico leaves angry and annoyed and Riker sits smugly victorious that Jellico acknowledged his worth as a pilot (if not as a first officer) foreshadows that ultimately Picard will "win" against Madred, refuse to bow down before him and play by Madred's rules, even if it could easily have gone the other way. I am not at all comparing the Riker/Jellico dynamic to Picard/Madred morally, except that they are in slightly similar thematic territory. Unlike Madred, whose work is shown to be completely ineffective as well as morally unconscionable, Jellico's methods, while a little dubious, are what is needed to quell the Cardassians and to rescue Picard.
Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 9:20am (UTC -5)
It's interesting watching TNG now, 20 years later. A lot of it really doesn't hold up. The early seasons have far too many examples of bad-TOS storytelling and season 7 really goes off the rails ("Genesis", "Sub Rosa") is really sedate ("Force of Nature", "Eye of the Beholder") or both ("Emergence").

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)
Paul, SOA has been downhill since the third season and hasn't peaked since. TNG had several solid seasons and even its weaker seasons had a few triumphs. I'm shuddering a little at your comparison, not because of the genre difference (which makes them tough to compare), but the idea that a misogynistic BOOM! BOOM! fest has anything over TNG, which has never relied on musical montages and adolescent narration to build character.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
@Kristen: Well, I agree with you that SOA has far too many musical montages. And I can agree that SOA and TNG are two very different shows.

But 'shuddering at the comparison'? That's a bit much.
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
Weak episode with little variation. The scene with the Cardassian and Picard is simplistic with no twists nor growth. Just simple torture/control issues in a dark horror like set which is not fun to watch. Felt like ground-hog day. The stories that were supposed to make the Cardassian torturer personable came off as drival and one dimensional.

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)
@Smith, Actually, it is a homage to Orwellian themes that should be repetitive to be scary. George Orwell's entire premise for 1984 was that a lie told many times over and over and over and over and over again will be the truth to you.

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 love this episode for all the reasons said above. The Picard scenes are among the best in Trek

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)
These two episodes are truly masterpieces. To me, they are perfect in each and every detail. And so ahead of their time as well!
Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
One plausibility question: Wouldn't this sort of raid fall under the jurisdiction of the 24th century equivalent of a SWAT team or MACOs, instead of risking a starship captain and their top officers however much their expertise?

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)
I'm afraid I disagree. I thought Part I was great, but Part II was a pretty big letdown. Both of the plots were not handled as well as they could be.

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.
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
@SkepticalMI, you raise some good points. A few quick thoughts:

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).
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
Haha, "quick" thoughts. I crack me up.
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Fair enough. It's been awhile since I read 1984, but I seem to recall that they didn't care about the Proles either. Yes, the government was about cruelty, but more as a tool than as a desired state. But that's neither here nor there.

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.
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
Well, you're not *clearly* wrong. Madred losing his cool is unprofessional, and may not have been fully justified by the characterization in general. It's always worked for me -- but I can't really remember a time before I watched this episode, and your points do make sense to me.
William B
Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
"You're not *clearly* wrong" looks way more condescending than I meant it. I meant to say something more like, "I think I'm right that Madred's characterization is justified, but it's not at all clear to me that your arguments are flawed, or that this portrayal of a torturer has holes in it."

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)
This pair of episodes arguably throw an interesting light on Star Fleet Command's view of Jean Luc Picard by this stage in his career.

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)
Just rewatched this, and though it holds up as well as ever as one of the classic TNG two-parters, I remain bothered by what part two did to Riker's character. Although it was refreshing to see the chummy TNG crew having to deal with a more by the book military-style captain (and I loved both Data as first officer and Troi finally having to wear a uniform), Riker being forced by the writer's contrivance to sit back and watch as Jellico left Picard to be tortured and possibly killed just didn't work for me.

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.

Mike N
Wed, May 27, 2015, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
I don't know if this qualifies as an "error" but when Picard and Madred are taking prior to the torture, they are discussing ancient burial ground ruins on Cardassia. Madred says they were first "unearthed". Would a cardassian really use the word unearthed?
Thu, May 28, 2015, 7:15am (UTC -5)
I always assume things like that are universal translator oddities/localizations and that the Cardassian is not speaking English. The English word is unearthed. I doubt that astronauts would say they unmarsed something on Mars.
Sat, Aug 22, 2015, 5:32am (UTC -5)
Great episode. The authoritative captain handing the keys to Riker; who rolls out of bed and drops off mines under cover of the nebula is the stuff I fantasize about. It's pure fun. It makes me feel young again.
Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
1. Nobody sends a seasoned ship captain on an undercover mission, because he has "experience with radiation".

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)
In "Chain of Command, Part I," the strong plot-line was the one aboard the Enterprise while the weak link was the Picard B-plot. Here, in Part II, the situation completely flips. The Picard/Madred A-plot is hands down the most intriguing (if flawed) part of the episode while the Enterprise B-plot is the weak link.

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)
@Luke :

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)
Also, "So, spirituality (a.k.a. religion) can have a positive impact on society?"

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)
@Elliott - 100% agree. If Picard is not only willing to say there are five lights but also genuinely believes it... well everything that comes out of his mouth afterwards is pointless. Once he's willing to lie to make the torture stop and even stops being sure what things are lies... what good is anything he says. Torture is amazingly effective at breaking someone, but once you break them, what do you need them for?
William B
Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
@Luke, in addition to the points made by Elliott, I'll add that I disagree that the audience is asked to side with Riker over Jellico or not to see Jellico as having a point. The whole Riker/Jellico scene was constructed by symmetry -- Jellico gives his speech about why Riker is a bad first officer, Riker gives his speech about why Jellico is a bad captain. Jellico does not defend himself, but, notably, neither does Riker -- Riker may get the last word in the scene, but he does not for a moment defend himself against Jellico's criticisms of Riker; they both let fly their opinion of why the other is an untenably bad officer. Riker gets the last word in the scene, but it is Jellico who gets the last word of the episode -- and who saves Picard his own way, with his own plan, with Riker as a necessary participant maybe. I really thought that the symmetry -- Jellico gives a speech, Riker gives a speech -- was about as clear as a signal as possible that we were asked to make our mind up about who was right in the Jellico/Riker conflict.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Oct 3, 2015, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
OK, up front the acting during the Picard/Madred scenes are a veritable tour de force. As the scenes play out, Madred doesn't seem to be too impressive an interrogator. Given what seems to be a realistic presentation of torture as a technique you have to wonder whether that was a writing choice, and what that means in terms of Picard's resistance and ultimate capitulation.

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)
I have commented on Part I before, but never Part II. And then I come here and find that I hadn't read this thread of comments before -- and Holy Cow! I started making a list of comments I wanted to make in response to what all my esteemed Trekker colleagues have made and realized pretty quickly that I would have a list of more than 10 "call outs" to everybody above me.

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?
The Man
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)
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."

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)
Which brings me to another of your points, Luke, that I DO agree with. There is a definite set up going on - another loading of the dice - in that the writers are clearly trying to show Jellico's style of command and personality as bad. It's clear that this episode is being used as an anti-authoritarian message - which is sad. Instead of showing Jellico as being cool headed as well as harsh, it shows him as a hot head that goes out of his way to be unlikable. It's done deliberately to portray Picard's "Diplomacy is king" attitude is superior. It's another leftie episode in that regard.

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)
I'm going to go with Robert and William B on this one. Despite all the attempts the writers make to show Jellico doesn't mesh with a Picard-run crew, Jellico still comes off as an incredibly capable CO. And for all the doubts the crew had in Jellico, Jellico got to have the last laugh when he outmaneuvered the Cardassians AND saved Picard just by doing things his way. If the writers were really Pro-Riker (Which is apparently code speak in this section for liberal?), they would've had Jellico fail and be forced to apologize for being such an authoritarian.

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.
William B
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 12:29am (UTC -5)
I think the one way this ep (part 2 in particular) stacks the deck against Jellico is in the way Riker ends up getting to smile and be smug at the end of their scene together, making Jellico look like he is the more emotionally insecure of the two. But yeah, Jellico gets the real victory of the episode and he gets to gloat against the Cardassians. He gets the last laugh. I think the Jellico v Riker conflict is mostly well balanced, but overall I think CoC ends up supporting Jellico slightly more than it supports Riker; while I doubt Jellico would have done as well as Riker in BOBW (or as Picard in The Defector, AGT, Darmok, etc), mostly Jellico is the appropriate commander for this incident. Riker finds Jellico's authoritarianism a problem, and he's not entirely wrong, but Riker has issues with authority (alternating between idealizing and rebelling against) and ultimately everyone else on the ship managed to get along with Jellico.
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:12am (UTC -5)
When I first watched this ep as a teenager I hated Jellico and thought it was quite clear he was being portrayed as an arrogant, rude a**hole. When Troi tells Will that he isn't as confident as he lets on this seemed like it was a green light for us to accept that our gut reaction was right - this guy sucks. When Jellico and Riker dress each other down in Riker's quarters I was virtually cheering for Riker to take this guy down a notch, and wishing for Picard to be there to put him in his place about insulting such a noble crew. I kept feeling what Riker was feeling - I wish Picard were here to fix this; the reasonable man to go toe to toe with this utterly unreasonable man.

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.
William B
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -5)
Along those lines, I like that while Riker is predisposed to dislike Jellico beforehand, the thing that pushes them into conflict which can only end with Jellico relieving Riker of duty is, not just not attempting to rescue Picard, but Jellico and thus Starfleet refusing to admit that Picard acted on Starfleet orders and thus admit him POW rights. It's not just about Picard but about fairness: the Federation should own up to what secret missions it puts people in, so that loyal officers do not have to suffer mistreatment. It's a Federation attitude which is opposed to the attitude Jellico takes -- more pragmatic. And in a sense maybe that works out. As a tactician in *battle* Riker is excellent, and he is a good diplomat and good at managing people. But he actually doesn't *want* to be in the position Jellico is in. It's appropriate that he ends up agreeing to the shuttle mission, because he can navigate those murky areas, but not really the larger interstellar ones when he might have to betray both people he cares about and principles of fairness. What prevents Riker, IMO, from coming across as too badly is that he shows in the end that he is willing to do jobs for Jellico that don't run against his code. I think it's appropriately individualistic of Riker that he is willing to pilot a mission but not act as XO to someone he disagrees with so strongly. It does indicate that Riker maybe does not *want* command, but is trying to carve out a place near Picard. The Pegasus further implies, to me, what makes Riker stay "in Picard's shadow" as much as he does; with his dead mother and absent father, Riker latched on to Starfleet, and followed Pressman unquestioningly. It seems that the opportunity to work under Picard, who is clear that there are more important things than the chain of command, is part of what leads him to reevaluate his past actions. Jellico is the first officer Riker has seriously served under since Picard, and Riker is not ready to go back to a heavy chain of command model and is certainly not going to keep his mouth shut about what he sees as violations of principle...but it does make him worse in the crisis.
William B
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:48am (UTC -5)
I should add that while part 1 spends time making Jellico unlikeable to the audience, I think this is mostly to set up his success in part 2. He even bonds with Geordi about Titan's Turn or whatever it is.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 2:25am (UTC -5)
Okay, I've gotta vent about something I'm noticing more and more on this site, and the in the world in general. I may be completely wrong, but it's perked my ears up enough time I have to let it out.

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)
If Trek doesn't want singling out for biased episodes, then it shouldn't create them. There is a definite and deliberate liberal left bias with Star Trek and always has been. Get over it.
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."
William B
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)
Picard's first action back on board the Enterprise should've been to aim that sucker at Madred's compund and say:


*Shreeeew! Shreeeew! Shreeeew! Shreeeew! *
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Del Duio: I endorse that suggestion. At the very least it would have been hilarious.
Sat, Sep 24, 2016, 12:01pm (UTC -5)
@Scottian he doesn't say "help me" but "how many".
Intrinsic Random Event
Tue, Nov 1, 2016, 10:27am (UTC -5)
I enjoy this two parter a great deal, there are so many great things going on here. It is TNG being bold and clever in its story concepts, and those are always the best episodes.
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.
Peter G.
Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
Continuing the conversations about this two-parter from elsewhere, I decided to rewatch both parts tonight. What struck me about Riker's insubordination when Jellico decided to sacrifice Picard was that Riker had by this time become somewhat accepting of Jellico's command, at least enough that Riker wasn't going to actively resist his regular command decisions. I think in time it would have been workable between them, although not great. When Riker stood up to Jellico I noticed something which I haven't before, which is that Riker got quite emotional at the idea that Picard's life wasn't worth losing ground against the Cardassians. It occurs to me now that the problem at this moment wasn't that Riker disliked Jellico, but that he liked Picard too much. The status of Picard as perhaps a father figure to Riker (in lieu of Riker's broken relationship with his own father) made the situation too personal for Riker to think clearly about what was the best move. Losing a Captain is certainly a serious matter, and both Nechayev and Jellico showed that this was a great concern to them, but with Riker it was about losing someone he cared about. While that underlines the family-like relationship of the bridge crew, at the same time it means Riker was very much out of line getting in Jellico's face about abandoning Picard. It's not like admitting the Federation sanctioned the mission would have gotten Picard back, and likely the Cardassians would have tortured him anyhow. But what it would have done was give the Federation reason to back down, which in turn would have caused an entire colony to be lost to a Cardassian invasion. Jellico's decision saved the colony, and ultimately Picard as well. Riker rubbing his pilot skills in Jellico's face made him seem juvenile in their encounter, and to be honest I really felt like he didn't have a leg to stand on there. His assessment of Jellico wasn't even particularly accurate, as we had already seen Jellico begin to bond with Geordi a little. The fact of the matter was they were in an emergency situation and there really was no time for a 'honeymoon' with the crew. I maintain my position that Jellico kicked serious butt and was the right man for the job.
Luke S.
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 12:14am (UTC -5)
I always enjoy reading these comment threads for episodes I particularly liked or hated. This thing has been talked to death over the last five years, which awesome, but there's one point I don't think people have talked about.

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)
I see a few commenters are disappointed that Picard was "broken" by admitting to Troi that he saw 5 lights. I have to agree with Luke's last comment here - I don't really believe him. At least not all of it. In having tea with counselor Troi back safe on the Enterprise, he may have the humility to believe he was about to give in to Madred, and perhaps he did see five lights - but he still knew that Madred's goal was to break him - and he refused Madred the satisfaction. Seeing five lights is one thing - that's a survival-instinct response to what he was enduring - but some part of him still comprehended that he was still resisting if he refused to acknowledge it to Madred. And he never did.
Thu, Jan 26, 2017, 8:37am (UTC -5)
I would agree. I think Picard may have seen the 5th light. I'd think anybody in his shoes might be question their sanity. I think the line was also very anti-torture in that Picard admits that some part of him was willing to say anything, true or false, to escape.

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)
One of the things that has always amazed me with TNG (especially as I've gotten older and can understand more of the deeper meanings of the stories being told), is the fact Picard has been given such a free pass by Starfleet Command.

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".
Andy in VA
Sat, Mar 25, 2017, 10:51pm (UTC -5)
Contrived circumstances aside, I really liked this episode for its against-the-grain approach.

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)
Compelling viewing and acting but I have to agree with a couple of the earlier comments about how this is a bit too much of an Orwellian rip-off, rather than homage. Why "break" an alien commander when you have tech that has already excracted the truth from him?

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)
Ok good, I hate last minute skills more than I hate the contrived need for established ones.
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.
Bobby Carly
Wed, Aug 30, 2017, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
@Paul: "Marina Sirtis is clearly the worst actor in the cast (possibly in all of Trek)" - July 6, 2012

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)
Bobby Carly,

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)
Re TNG's acting:

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)
Oh come on, no love for the Reading Rainbow guy? :)

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)
Classic TNG here -- the scenes with Madred and Picard as so well written and acted. The confrontation between Riker and Jellico also worked really well especially when they dropped rank.

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.
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 7:41am (UTC -5)
I was watching this episode last night and I found myself intrigued by the Gul Madred character. The Cardassian motive to capture Picard seemed pretty straightforward - they were hoping (it seems in vain) that he had some tactical knowledge of Minos Corva and wanted to use him as a bargaining chip.

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!
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 3, 2018, 9:21am (UTC -5)
@ Jason R.,

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)
I don't think Jellico or Riker were entirely right with the way they handled command. While this episode shows Jellico was a brilliant tactician and perhaps underestimated by the Enterprise crew, I don't think it would have hurt him to acknowledge the fact that he was asking the Federation flagship to make an enormous change from its routine diplomatic missions and spatial anomaly analysis to doing a high stakes covert military gambit. The one thing the Riker was right about, was that it also takes some social skills to really be a good a leader. Sure, the Enterprise succeeded in this one mission under Jellico, but what about the crew's morale?

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.
Derek D
Wed, Jan 24, 2018, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
My all-time favorite TNG episode.
Chris P
Sun, May 20, 2018, 9:21am (UTC -5)
What a wonderful convergence of quality writing with three great actors taking up 90% of the screen time. Filmed fiction flourishes when it allows the viewer to believe that they're watching real events transpire. This was rarely accomplished better in Star Trek than in these two episodes.
Cody B
Sat, Jun 2, 2018, 4:55am (UTC -5)
Captain Jellico is such a bad captain they would have even been better off with Captain Juggalo
Sun, Nov 11, 2018, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
3.5 for both parts.
Sat, Dec 15, 2018, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Why does Data change to a red uniform?

Why is his uniform a different shade of red?
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
Because he is now first officer. And his uniform was freshly replicated!
Bobbington Mc Bob
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 6:36am (UTC -5)
Four stars from me too. The episode has been slightly edited in one key way since it was first broadcast. I recall watching this some time before 2010, and there was a scene where Picard sees the four lights blur - and for a moment we can see five. Watching again on netflix, I can no longer find that scene, and the comments above going back to 2012 do not reference it. I have been back through the episode and can no longer see it.

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)
Hmm-I still think Babylon 5 did this better.
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)
This part two opens okay but only because like a good cliff hanger, the Federation looks like it has backed itself into a corner. Picard is captured and the Enterprise is in charge of that new captain, a real bitch. He is so emotional. And we still don't know what the Cardassians want or why they set the trap. Jellicoe improves once things settle down.

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)
sorry I meant Cardassians not Romulans. But even the Cardassians usually outplay the Federation don't they?
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
I was watching a Jellico video on youtube and something occurred to me. I HATE when Riker says Jellico is confident and Deana says, publicly, "No he's not." I thought that was so unprofessional. Then I thought about how I would have written it . . .

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.

Deana: Hmmm.
(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)
Arguments could be and have been made about how Kirk and even Sisko are more badass than Picard. I use this episode as a rebuttal every time. Yes, Picard is broken at the end, but the defiance he shows to Madred over and over again are beyond courageous. The scene before he's broken, he spouts his strongest indictment of his tormentor - "It doesn't matter what you do to me because you're insignificant." The cahones on that guy!!
Picard Maneuver
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 2:06am (UTC -5)
It would have been epic if, when taking back command, Picard said to Jellico, "'re fired!"

"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 have a couple of comments to make about this two-parter, mostly in response to the audience-show dynamic evidenced on this site. Episodes like this get 3.5-4 stars from Jammer, and the consensus seems to agree with that. The lighter episodes like 'Rascals' tend to get 2-3 stars, and people really tear into them.

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)
On the subject of the Jellicoe plotline:

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.
Jason R.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 8:56am (UTC -5)
@Focksbot in the final scene with Troi Picard does admit to her that he actually had broken and was about to tell Madred there were five lights when the guards walked in. Admittedly not quite the same as seeing him break but at least it's acknowledged that even great men will break eventually.

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.
Peter G.
Sat, Jun 6, 2020, 11:11am (UTC -5)
@ Focksbot,

"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)
After watching the past 2 weeks of protests in the US and the wide variation in news reports and trying to honestly figure out whether there are 4 lights or 5.... I've been reminded of Solzhenitsyn's statement about the importance of *always* telling the truth and I thought of this episode and needed to re-watch it for Picard's devotion to the truth.

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.
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Just caught this one while conducting in my constant Trek-a-thon COVID-19 work from home binge. Currently "flipping" between TNG, DS9 and VOY. :-) Something always running in the background.

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.


Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 10:56am (UTC -5)
I never understood this episode. Was the ending supposed to be a homage to 1984? Shamelessly ripping off a classic book? Not one of TNG's more inspired ideas.
Peter G.
Fri, Jun 19, 2020, 11:03am (UTC -5)
@ Cameron,

"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.
James G
Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
Watched both parts tonight, and I'll comment on the whole shebang here.

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)
This one was a bit boring, perhaps because I read the review of Part 1 before watching Part 2 and had too high an expectation.
Hotel bastardos
Fri, Nov 13, 2020, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Let's not fuck around- this was a two header acting masterclass,....
Frake's nightmare
Mon, Nov 16, 2020, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
This was clearly a brave two part Barclay revenge holo-deck episode - sending Crusher on a commando raid; Riker's dressing downs by Jellicoe - you get the idea.....
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 6:47am (UTC -5)
I'm with @Cameron. The interrogation asking about the number of lights was blatantly cribbed from Orwell's 1984. That reduced my enjoyment of the episode a bit. Do they think Star Trek fans are unfamiliar with that book? Because I felt it came across as a lot more than an homage.
Jason R.
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 7:22am (UTC -5)
"I'm with @Cameron. The interrogation asking about the number of lights was blatantly cribbed from Orwell's 1984."

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.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 9:09am (UTC -5)
"When Picard ripped off Shakespeare in Menage a Troi I nearly quit the show in outrage." LOL what? Picard was *quoting* Shakespeare. Not the writers, not Patrick Stewart, Picard. Why is that a bad thing? Picard is fond of Shakespeare and even reenacts it on the holodeck. So when does an homage become a ripoff? I find that the best scene of an otherwise crappy episode because of Picard's awful acting. Again, not Patrick Stewart's acting, Picard's. If you look around the series you'll notice that while Patrick Stewart is an outstanding actor, Jean Luc Picard is not. See this episode, Starship Mine ("I'm Mott, the barber"), Gambit, any time he plays Dixon Hill straight.
Peter G.
Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 10:59am (UTC -5)
@ Jeffrey Jakucyk,

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)
Brilliant. Both parts 1 & 2 give us a glimpse into what TNG could have been if they had all resisted the puerile story lines of most of the series. The admiral kicks ass, Jellico is hateful at first but grows into a totally sympathetic character, in the sense that his martinet ways prove to be necessary to the success of this particular mission, and the Cardassian part of the action, including Picard's torture scenes, is drama with complexity and ambiguity of the highest order.

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)
Picard - "What lights?" is on par with Daniel Craig's James Bond - "I've got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?"
Sat, Sep 18, 2021, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Great episode. That scene with the daughter made me sit straight up and listen. So much for “bring your daughter to work day”.

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.
Peter G.
Mon, Sep 27, 2021, 9:11am (UTC -5)
Whoa, I just realized (probably for the first time since this first aired) that this is the last episode of TNG to air prior to the premiere showing of DS9's Emissary. I knew that The Wounded and Ensign Ro were setup eps for DS9, and that Chain of Command was adding to that, but it has completely escaped my attention over the years that this dark episode was the direct launching point for DS9. And who dares to say that DS9 was a dark series! TNG got the ball rolling on that. Not even DS9 showed outright torture scenes.
Tue, Sep 28, 2021, 11:14pm (UTC -5)
I wish they showed why Jelico was reassigned (or stepped down?) at the end. I just watched it and, from what I saw, Picard was returned to the Enterprise and Jelico is like, "Well, Picard's back. I guess I'm out, huh?" Except he didn't actually say anything. Pretty weird. Would it have hurt to take 10 seconds to say why Jelico, a pretty stubborn guy who would never be submissive with Picard, was leaving? Did I miss something?
Latex Zebra
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 6:28am (UTC -5)
@AdRock - It was only ever a temporary assignment until the Cardassian situation was resolved. If Picard hadn't have been captured and escaped he would have come back to the Enterprise, been de-briefed and then taken command of the Enterprise again.
I know it wasn't specifically mentioned but that is the way I always thought about it.
Top Hat
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 9:47am (UTC -5)
I wonder what would have happened if Picard had died (or simply disappeared) on the mission. Would Jellico's appointment have been made permanent (this is somewhat implied by the fact that they do the formal procedure in Ten Forward) or would he have been shuffled off to another assignment and someone else made captain (maybe even RIker)?
Peter G.
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 10:25am (UTC -5)
I suppose this is all head canon, but in peacetime I don't think there's any way someone like Jellico commands the flagship. It would send the wrong image and would especially not service the Galaxy Class's function as primarily a science and exploration / diplomatic vessel. I think this was always a temporary assignment, maybe *unless* things boiled over into another hot war with the Cardassians. Maybe then having a hardass commanding the flagship would be more sensible.
Midshipman Norris
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
>>"Not even DS9 showed outright torture scenes."

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"
Peter G.
Wed, Sep 29, 2021, 11:34pm (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""

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.
Lee Jones
Sat, Oct 2, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
I thought this would be a first-rate episode. I had high hopes for it. Perhaps too high. I think "Chain of Command" was overrated. I had spotted one too many writing flaws for me to truly appreciate it.
Sat, Oct 2, 2021, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

Lmao... I got a good laugh outta this xD
Sat, Oct 23, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Ok. Chain Of Command is deliciously good. I’ll just get my main criticism out of the way first: the Cardassians laid a trap for Picard, but why did it involve the kind of undercover mission that a starship captain would hardly be personally on? Crusher had knowledge of meta genetics so her presence is understandable, and Worf as security chief, but why would Picard risk himself, and why would the Cardassians assume that he would?

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)
Sure Picard being there makes no sense but would the whole torture scene be better with Worf. I can almost picture it...

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)
Madred (David Warner) should have been brought back within DS9. "Lord high executioner/resident sadist" characters should not be so quickly put out to pasture. Possible Madred scenarios include a confrontation with Dukat; interrogation of Major Kira, or even Kai Winn.

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)
Great episodes, and they age well. I had to forgive the premise in order to take it seriously. They would not send Picard in with Crusher and Worf. They would put together an entirely different team and send them, regardless of the so-called experience with Theta band emissions. They would not send the Captain of the flagship of the Federation. They would not install a new CO on the flagship and then radically reconfigure the ship's internal workings on the possible eve of war, which would only serve to destabilize the ship due to lack of time. The very issue that Troi brings up to Jellico in pt 1 (the crew news more time) is poo poo'd by the script like it's no big deal, carry on! Meanwhile in reality, that would present a huge security risk in a battle.

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)
An outstanding two-parter, with implications echoing far beyond this episode or the entire show.

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)
I saw a parallel in the stories of Madred/Picard and Jellico/Riker. The guys on top of the chain of command, Madrid and Jellico, were both abusive to, and needing to control, their underling, Picard and Riker. By the end, the underling ends up taking control of the relationship, by sheer ability and willpower.
Sat, Jul 30, 2022, 11:29am (UTC -5)
David Warner (1941-2022)

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.

matt h
Sat, Oct 22, 2022, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
Stray observations
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."
Dark Kirk
Tue, Dec 13, 2022, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
The Picard/Jellico contrast suddenly makes a negative what the audience had been trained to see as a positive: Picard's Enterprise crew is more like a family than it should be, especially for Riker. That could logically grow from being primarily an exploration vessel and not as much an instrument of Federation/Starfleet interests. Jellico is a reminder that they are not a family, they are agents of Starfleet and the Federation.
Wed, Dec 14, 2022, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Nonsense Dark Kirk, they are both. The family aspect drives greater loyalty than any uniform or rank could ever engender.
Tom Dickson
Fri, Mar 24, 2023, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
Jellico: I didn’t come here to make friends lol.
Projekt Kobra
Tue, May 2, 2023, 10:00pm (UTC -5)
So torture DOES work..since Picard admits that he COULD see "5 Lights" at the end.
Tue, May 2, 2023, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
@Projekt Kobra

More like gaslighting works, not torture.

The context in which the question of whether torture "works" or not has to do with whether viable information can be extracted that way. In which case the answer is no because the victim will tell their torturer what ever they want to hear. But in this episode, Gul Madred didn't actually get viable information out of Picard using torture. Rather, he used a combination of torture and gaslighting to try to "break" Picard. Even if the ending reveals that Gul Madred was at least partially successful in breaking Picard, that doesn't necessarily mean that he would have been equally successful in getting viable information out of him. All it proves is that Picard can potentially be manipulated into telling him exactly what he wants to hear...which, you know, would completely defeat the purpose of torture as a means of information extraction.
Fri, Jun 16, 2023, 2:34pm (UTC -5)
Best two-parter in the series with equally fantastic A and B story threads. The one drawback is that Jellico and Madred are both given some clunky one-dimensional material to firmly establish them as the villians when the story could have worked just as well by making them more nuanced. Wars are not always good vs. evil. Sometimes its good vs good and more often, evil vs. evil.
Sat, Jul 29, 2023, 6:04am (UTC -5)
I wouldn’t enjoy working under Jellico. but he’s a badass captain. The exchange with Gul Lemec was brilliant. Jellico did what was necessary to get the job done. It was awesome. I wish we could have seen more of him.

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