The Ensigns of Command

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"The Ensigns of Command"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 2
Directed by Cliff Bole
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Featured music Dennis McCarthy
Cinematography by Marvin Rush
Production code 149
Original air date October 2, 1989 (1989-10-02)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Evolution"
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"The Survivors"

"The Ensigns of Command" is the second episode of the third season of the syndicated American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 50th episode overall, first broadcast on October 2, 1989.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the crew of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D. In this episode, Commander Data (Brent Spiner) must convince a reluctant colony of more than 15,000 to prepare for immediate evacuation while Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) attempts to negotiate a three-week reprieve from aliens intent on colonizing the planet themselves in four days and wiping out any humans found there.

Plot[edit]

The Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), receives an automated message from the enigmatic Sheliak: Remove the humans on planet Tau Cygni V in four days. The Sheliak are a non-humanoid species with little regard for human life and would exterminate any humans found in their path. Their message is only due their obligation under a treaty with the Federation to notify their intention to colonize before taking further action.

There is no record of a Federation colony ship being sent there as it contains levels of hyperonic radiation lethal to humans, which doesn't explain why the Sheliak indicate otherwise. The Enterprise arrives in the system to find what looks to be a small colony on the surface. The android Second Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner), takes a shuttlecraft to the planet to coordinate the evacuation as he is the only crewmember unaffected by the radiation. Once he arrives, he finds that the sensor readings were incorrect. He is informed by local greeters that it is a colony of 15,253 people, the descendants of the wayward colony ship Artemis launched 92 years prior. The colonists' ancestors found a means to survive within the radiation but initially suffered heavy loss of life before an effective defense was found.

Although it would normally be a simple matter of beaming the colonists off the planet, hyperonic radiation renders the transporters useless. Because of this, a complete evacuation of the planet would take an estimated three weeks, and the Sheliak are not willing to give the Federation any extra time beyond the four days required by the treaty.

While on the planet, Data is greeted by a colonist named Ard'rian (Eileen Seeley). She expresses interest in Data as an android and invites Data to her home, where they discuss ways to persuade the colonists to evacuate. Ard'rian kisses Data. When Data explains to the colonists that they should evacuate their world before its imminent destruction, the colonists refuse to leave, insisting they will protect themselves by fighting.

With time running out, Picard and the Enterprise crew begin poring through the 500,000-word treaty in the hopes of finding something they can use to their advantage. Data reasons that if persuasion cannot work, then intimidation and a show of force should be his next option. Modifying his phaser to work in the hyperonic atmosphere, he raids the colonists' aqueduct to prove they are helpless to defend their livelihood. When Data easily overpowers the colonists guarding the aqueduct, he points out that if they can't defend against a single person with a phaser, then they aren't capable of fighting the Sheliak. Data then destroys the aqueduct system that is vital to the colony's survival, convincing the colonists to evacuate the world.

Back on the Enterprise, Picard exploits a loophole in the treaty. He invokes a section calling for third-party arbitration to resolve the dispute and names the Grizzelas as arbitrators, a species that is in its hibernation cycle for another six months. Picard offers the Sheliak a choice: wait 6 months for the Grizzelas to come out of hibernation, or give the Federation three weeks to evacuate the colony. The Sheliak give the Federation the three weeks.

Just as Data is about to leave the colony in his shuttle, Ard'rian comes to say goodbye. She asks Data if he has any feeling over what has just happened, and Data says no. He then kisses Ard'rian. Aside from the kiss, Data leaves Ard'rian in a somewhat cold manner and returns to the Enterprise.

Aboard the Enterprise, Picard comments on Data's performance at a classical concert before his mission with the human colonists. Picard tells Data he performed with feeling, and Data reminds Picard that he has no feeling. Picard says that this is hard to believe.

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