The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Chain of Command I+II

When Picard is selected to lead a top secret mission into Cardassian space, command of the Enterprise is turned over to Captain Jellico. Jellico’s task is to negotiate openly with the Cardassians, but with his brusque manner rubbing the crew up the wrong way, does he really have what it takes to lead peace talks?

I was in my teens when I first saw this episode, and I loved it – so much so that I inadvertently plagiarised some elements of Part I in my own sci-fi writing. So I was a little nervous about watching it again – what if it didn’t live up to expectations? Well, as it turns out, it both does and it doesn’t.

Part I is, admittedly, not nearly as good on rewatching. The choice of Picard, Crusher and Worf to go on this special mission seems implausible, whilst handing the entire Enterprise over to Jellico is clearly a bad move from the outset. Why is Picard dressed in all black? Is he training to be a ninja? Is the Federation so strapped for people that they need to use senior officers from the Federation flagship for every single thing? Why does Beverly have to come on to a Ferengi? All of these are good questions.

But Part II thankfully saves the day. Yes, it’s unclear why Gul Madred really needs to torture Picard to such an extent, but put David Warner and Patrick Stewart in a room together, and excellent acting will happen. It’s great to watch, and who among us will ever forget “THERE…ARE…FOUR…LIGHTS!”?

Nitpicking

  • I refuse to believe that the Federation doesn’t have operatives who are trained for the kind of infiltration mission Picard, Beverly and Worf are sent on. The pretext about Picard being an expert on theta-band carrier waves is flimsy at best – others could be told what to look for. Besides, why is a starship captain the only expert on these things? Ask a Federation scientist!
  • Also, what was Beverly doing on the mission? She’s a doctor, not a secret agent! There was certainly nothing medical to do. Her only distinctive role is to seduce a Ferengi, since obviously Worf and Picard were never going to do that.
  • Why was it such a big thing that the Cardassians knew the Enterprise would be at the forefront of any confrontation? It’s the flagship – anyone could guess it would be there. Also, if Picard’s so important, don’t put him in danger like that – send someone else.
  • Jellico’s brash manner belies his supposed experience at dealing with the Cardassians. He certainly lacked any semblance of people skills.
  • It was also quite unprofessional of Riker to bitch about Jellico to Geordi, instead of keeping things professional.
  • Why was Riker the best pilot to send on the mine dropping mission? I mean, clearly it was for story reasons, because there’s never been any mention before of Riker being an especially gifted pilot, over and above the other crewmembers. Surely Data would be the best choice, what with his superhuman reflexes and all. There’s never a piloting mission for which Data is not the best choice.
  • What exactly did Madred want from Picard once he’d used the truth serum? Was he after intel the whole time, interested in the science of breaking a human, or just doing it for the sheer fun of it?
  • Why did Jellico need to take command of the Enterprise? For starters, Picard should never have been sent away, but given that he had, why not just have Jellico and the Cairo remain with the Enterprise and have both ships present? What did the Cairo have to do that was so important that it couldn’t stay? It wasn’t like giving Jellico command of the Enterprise would make the Cardassians respect his position more – they know full well that Picard is the real captain.

Summary – Chain of Command: Coming soon, Picard and Madred as flatmates in an Odd Couple-style comedy.

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