Star Trek The Next Generation: Chain of Command Part 1

"Captain's log, stardate 46357.4. We have rendezvoused with the starship Cairo near the Cardassian border for an urgent meeting with Vice Admiral Nechayev."

Meet the new boss, so not the same as the old boss.

'Chain of Command' is unusual for a Next Gen two-parter in that it is apologetically cheap. Previously, the powers that be have used two-parters as an excuse to indulge themselves, producing big, expensive, event episodes that saw the crew do everything from battle the Borg to meeting Spock. This two-parter, however, is almost a bottle episode. Despite the looming threat of a Cardassian invasion, there is little in the way of action or spectacle. Instead we get lots and lots of scenes of people sitting at tables talking to each other. This is a character driven, rather than plot driven, two-parter and is all the better for it. After 'The Best of Both Worlds' this is unquestionably Next Gen's best two-parter.

A character driven story like this rises or falls depending on the quality of its guest stars. Fortunately, 'Chain of Command' is blessed with a pair of fantastic guest performances from Ronny Cox as Captain Edward Jellico and David Warner as Gul Madred. We don't see a lot of Warner in this episode, just a brief scene at the very end. All the really great stuff between him and Patrick Stewart is being saved for Part 2. But we get to see a lot of Cox as Jellico, the Enterprise's new skipper.

'Chain of Command Part 1' is a classic example of the Tyrant Takes the Helm trope. This is where the beloved leader of an established team is suddenly removed from their position and replaced by someone who is, and let's be blunt, the absolute worst. New boss immediately starts messing with things, pissing off all the other characters until they conspire to get rid of them and bring back their beloved old boss. Other examples include 'Pegasus' from Battlestar Galactica, the first few episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine's third season, and Stargate SG-1's 'Chain Reaction', which also featured Cox, an actor who has made a career out of playing--and these are my mother's exact words--a pain in the arse. But as far as pain in the arses played by Ronny Cox go, Edward Jellico isn't all that bad.

While sterner and more by the book than Picard, Edward Jellico is no tyrannical Captain Bligh. At worst he is a little inflexible and a bit of a micro manager. He's someone who knows exactly what he wants people to do and exactly how he wants them to do it. Instead of Picard's more relaxed "Make it so", his catchphrase is the more threatening "Get it done". He believes that the crew should adjust to his way of doing things and not the other way round. And I can kinda understand where he is coming from. As he constantly has to remind everyone, they are heading into a potential war. He isn't making these changes simply because he wants to mess around with how things work. He needs the ship to be ready so when the shooting starts the crew is ready and completely in tune with their new captain. After all, it is far easier for a group of people to understand and implement the wants and needs of one person than it is for one person to understand and implement the wants and needs of a group of people.

Much of the conflict in this episode comes not from the Cardassians, but from the new captain and his first officer. This is one part of the episode that I have an issue with. I feel like Riker was deliberately made to be less professional in this episode in order to create more conflict between him and Jellico. He chose to ignore Jellico's order about changing the shift pattern because he didn't like it and thought he could talk him out of it. He also didn't think the captain would want to know that he'd launched the probe the captain had specifically ordered him to launch. I know the writers wanted these two to butt heads as quickly as possible, but couldn't they have found a way to do it that didn't reflect badly on Will?

Notes and Quotes

--This was the Cardassians third appearance on Next Gen and the first with the bulky uniforms they would continue to wear for the rest of Next Gen and throughout DS9.


--Speaking of uniforms, Jellico's insistence on a more formal bridge means Troi starts wearing standard uniform, a change that Marina Sirtis was more than happy with.

--This was also originally meant to be a crossover with Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi Picard and co. met with was going to be Quark. This was changed when DS9's launch was pushed back until after this two-parter aired.

--David Warner previously appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as St. John Talbot and Gorkon, respectively. He was cast with only three days notice and didn't have time to learn his lines so they had to be written down on cue cards.

--I really liked that, in a nice contrast to Picard, Jellico was shown to be a loving family man who redecorated the ready room with his son's drawings. Shame about Picard's fish, though.



Jellico: "Oh... and get that fish out of the ready room."

Jellico: "I want this ship ready for action, and I don't have time to give Will Riker or anyone else a chance. And forgive me for being blunt, but the Enterprise is mine now."

Riker: "Well, I'll say this for him – he's sure of himself."
Troi: "No, he's not."

Gul Madred: "In this room you do not ask questions. I ask them, you answer. If I am not satisfied with your answers, you will die."

Three and a half out of four pains in the arse.
--
Mark Greig is pissed he has to wait a whole extra month for Ant-Man and the Wasp More Mark Greig

1 comment:

Dustin said...

One of the better things to happen in the entirety of TNG is Jellico requiring Troi to wear an actual uniform. The funny thing is that they tried all of those various dresses to beautify Troi, but I always thought she looked the most attractive in her starfleet uniform (not to mention, the most professional).

When I was much younger, I was totally on Riker's side in the clash against Jellico. I now lean more to Riker and the crew really needing an attitude adjustment on how the (no pun intended) chain of command works. Riker sure as heck didn't put up with insubordination from Shelby in Best of Both Worlds, so he really comes across as immature here.