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Chain of Command (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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"Chain of Command"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes
Episode nos.Season 6
Episodes 10 and 11
Directed byRobert Scheerer (Part I)
Les Landau (Part II)
Written byFrank Abatemarco (Part II)
Story byFrank Abatemarco (Part I)
Teleplay byRonald D. Moore (Part I)
Featured musicJay Chattaway
Production codes236 and 237
Original air datesDecember 14, 1992 (1992-12-14)
December 21, 1992 (1992-12-21)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"The Quality of Life"
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"Ship in a Bottle"
Star Trek: The Next Generation season 6
List of episodes

"Chain of Command" is a two-part episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It aired as the 10th and 11th episodes of the sixth season, the 136th and 137th episodes of the series.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Jean-Luc Picard is relieved of command of the Enterprise and reassigned to lead a covert mission, while his replacement is assigned to deal with the Cardassians openly. The second part of the episode is noted for the intense performance of Patrick Stewart and its depiction of brutal torture and interrogation scenes.[1] The episode has been frequently ranked among the top ten best in The Next Generation.

This episode has guest performances by Ronny Cox as Captain Jellico, and David Warner as Gul Madred.[2] A scene that pays homage to the novel 1984 is noted for a contest of wills between Picard and Madred about perception of reality under coercion (seeing four lights vs. five).[2] Both episodes were the last of The Next Generation to air before its spinoff, Deep Space Nine, premiered in January 1993. As such, "Chain of Command" revisits the Cardassian political situation leading in to Deep Space Nine, where the race plays a crucial role.


Part I[edit]

Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Worf (Michael Dorn), and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) are assigned by Starfleet on a covert mission to seek and destroy a Cardassian biological weapons installation on their border world, Celtris III. In Picard's place, Starfleet assigns Captain Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox), who has a vastly different style of command than the Enterprise crew, particularly William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), are accustomed to. Under Jellico, the Enterprise patrols the border near Minos Korva, a strategically significant Federation planet, and holds negotiations with Cardassian representatives as to the fate of the planet.[3]

After intensive training in the holodeck, Picard, Worf, and Crusher discreetly arrive on Celtris III, and infiltrate the base. However, they find no signs of biological weapons, and suspecting a trap, they attempt to flee. Worf and Crusher escape, but Picard is taken prisoner and brought to Gul Madred (David Warner), who informs him Celtris III was a trap designed to capture Picard.[3]

Part II[edit]

Madred uses a number of torture methods, including sensory deprivation, sensory bombardment, forced nakedness, stress positions, dehydration, starvation, physical pain, and cultural humiliation to try to gain knowledge of the Federation's plans for Minos Korva. Picard refuses to acknowledge Madred's demand for information. Madred attempts another tactic to break Picard's will: he shows his captive four bright lights, and demands that Picard answer that there are five, inflicting intense pain on Picard if he does not agree.[3]

Meanwhile, the Cardassians inform the Enterprise crew that Picard has been captured. Jellico refuses to acknowledge that Picard was on a Starfleet mission, an admission necessary for Picard to be given the rights of a prisoner of war rather than being subjected to torture as a terrorist. This leads to a heated argument between Jellico and Riker, which ends with Jellico relieving Riker of duty and assigning Data as first officer. La Forge detects residue from a nearby nebula on the hull of the Cardassian delegation's ship, and Jellico suspects a Cardassian fleet may attempt to use the cover of the nebula to launch an attack on Minos Korva. Jellico determines that their best course of action is to place mines across the nebula using a shuttlecraft. However, Riker is the most qualified pilot for the mission. Jellico visits Riker in his quarters, where he candidly criticizes Riker's performance as a first officer and Riker does the same for his command style. Jellico asks, rather than orders, Riker to pilot the shuttle. Riker agrees, and he and La Forge successfully lay the minefield. Jellico uses the threat of the minefield to force the Cardassians to disarm and retreat, but not before they release Picard.[3]

With word of the failure of the Cardassians to secure Minos Korva, Madred attempts one last ploy to break Picard, by falsely claiming that the Cardassians have taken the planet and that the Enterprise was destroyed in the battle. He offers Picard a choice: to remain in captivity for the rest of his life or live in comfort by admitting that he sees five lights. As Picard momentarily considers the offer, the Cardassian head delegate enters the room and informs Madred that "a ship is waiting to take him back to the Enterprise." Picard realizes he has been duped. As Picard is freed from his bonds and about to be taken away, he turns to Madred and defiantly shouts, "There are four lights!" Picard is returned to Federation custody and reinstated as commanding officer of the Enterprise. Picard admits privately to Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) that he was saved just in the nick of time, as by that point he was broken enough to be willing to say or do anything to make the torture stop – and by the end, he actually believed he could see five lights.[3]



"There are four lights!"

Jean-Luc Picard, "Chain of Command, Part II"

Writer Frank Abatemarco consulted with resources compiled by Amnesty International on the methods, psychology and the survivors of torture.[4]

Madred's test of using four lights is an homage to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which O'Brien tortures Winston Smith until Smith admits that he sees five fingers when O'Brien only holds up four.[1][2]


Warner and Stewart first worked together in a production of Hamlet in 1965. Warner praised Stewart, who was early in his Shakespearean career at the time. Warner had previously appeared as different characters in two Star Trek films: St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The actor initially cast as Gul Madred in "Chain of Command" dropped out on short notice, and with only a few days before production, Warner had no opportunity to learn his lines. His dialogue was written onto boards for him to read out as he went along. He preferred the Madred character to either of his previous Star Trek characters because of the scenes with Stewart, which he called "wonderful".[5]


This two-part episode is ranked tenth in Entertainment Weekly's list of top ten Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.[6] Variety listed "Chain of Command, Part I" and "Chain of Command, Part II" as the sixth best episode (counting the two-parter as one) of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[7]

In 2013, Slate ranked "Chain of Command" one of the ten best episodes in the Star Trek franchise.[8]

In 2014, Io9 rated it the 11th best Star Trek episode.[9]

In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter, noted this episode's scene where Picard cries out "There are four lights", as one of the top ten "most stunning" moments of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[10]

In 2016, Radio Times rated the "there are four lights" scene with Picard as the 11th greatest scene in all Star Trek including films and television.[11] They praised the contributions of David Warner and Patrick Stewart to Star Trek.[11] They note David Warner had previously played a role in 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.[11] In 2016, CNET noted that "Chain of Command" was rated one of the top ten episodes of all Star Trek episodes in an audience-based rating at the Star Trek 50th anniversary convention.[12] In 2016, The Washington Post ranked the two-part "Chain of Command" as the fifth best episode of all Star Trek. They point out famous scenes, such when Picard (Patrick Stewart) is tortured by a Cardassian after being captured, but also Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox) struggling to command the Enterprise crew.[13]

Empire ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) 16th out of the top fifty episodes of all Star Trek in 2016.[14] At that time, there were roughly 726 episodes and a dozen films released.[15]

In 2016, IGN ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) the 13th best episode of all Star Trek series.[16] They note the performances of guest stars Ronny Cox, as the autocratic Captain Jellico, and David Warner as the Cardassian Gul Madred.[16] They note the double story lines of Jellico trying to command the crew of the Enterprise-D, and Picard enduring a brutal interrogation.[16]

In 2017, Den of Geek included the "Chain of Command" two-part episode as one of their 25 recommended watches of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[17] A regional newspaper of Cleveland, Ohio, ranked 25 of the greatest episodes of Star Trek prior to Star Trek: Discovery, and included "Chain of Command" as the fifth greatest in 2017.[18] In 2017, Den of Geek ranked David Warner's performance as Gul Madred, as the second best guest acting performance on Star Trek: The Next Generation, for his performance in "Chain of Command". They elaborate that David Warner gives a "...calm, measured performance", which they said "perfectly matches Stewart's slowly crumbling Picard". The interaction between Gul Madred and Captain Picard was noted as "one of Star Trek's most memorable confrontations..".[19]

In 2017, Nerdist ranked this episode(s) the sixth best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[20]

In 2018, CBR ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) as the fifth best episodic saga of all Star Trek, in between "All Good Things..." as #6 (the Star Trek: The Next Generation finale) and "In a Mirror, Darkly" from Star Trek: Enterprise (#4).[21] In 2018, Entertainment Weekly ranked "Chain of Command" as one of the top ten moments of Jean-Luc Picard.[22]

A character in this episode, Captain Jellico, was ranked as the 68th most important character of Starfleet within the Star Trek science fiction universe by Wired.[23] TheGamer ranked Captain Jellico as the 14th best captain of Star Trek.[24] In 2018, Tom's Guide rated "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) one of the 15 best episodes featuring Picard.[25]

In June 2019, Screen Rant noted "Chain of Command" as the second best episode of all 755 episodes of Star Trek up to that time.[26] They highlight Captain Jellico in command of the Enterprise-D, and Captain Picard trying to endure a brutal Cardassian interrogation.[26] Patrick Stewart's acting performance as a captive Picard is especially praised, noting the story as a showcase of the human spirit against lies and adversity.[26] In 2019, they also ranked "Chain of Command" the eighth best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[27]

In May 2019, The Hollywood Reporter ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) among the top twenty-five episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[28]

In 2019, IGN recommended watching both parts of "Chain of Command" as background for another Star Trek universe show, Star Trek: Picard; a show that will also feature the same character as in this episode, Picard.[2] They note a plot that tackles the struggles of people with bureaucracy, bad leadership, and suffering.[2] They note performances by Ronny Cox as Captain Jellico, and David Warner's brutal presentation as the Cardassian alien interrogator Gul Madred.[2] They note the struggle between Picard and Madred characters, and their battle for truth vs. information about the Federation.[2]

In 2020, SciFiPulse.net ranked this episode one of the top seven about the character Captain Picard.[29]

In 2020, Vulture recommended this as one of the best Star Treks to watch along with Star Trek: Picard.[30]

In 2020, The Digital Fix said this was the fifth best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[31]

In 2021, Cinemablend ranked this one of the series' top ten episodes.[32]

In 2021, Robert Vaux writing for CBR, said this was the high point of the sixth season and noted David Warner's Cardassian character.[33]


The episode was released as part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation season six DVD box set in the United States on December 3, 2002.[34] A remastered HD version was released on Blu-ray optical disc, on June 24, 2014.[35][36]

"Chain of Command" was released in the United Kingdom on PAL-Format LaserDisc on April 7, 1997.[37] The episode was published on a two-sided 12" optical disc with runtime of 88 minutes.[37]

It was also one of the episodes included in the anthology DVD box set Star Trek Fan Collective - Captain's Log; the set also includes the TNG episodes "In Theory" and "Darmok" among other episodes from the franchise. The set was released on July 24, 2007 in the United States.[38]

It was announced in the summer of 2019, that "Chain of Command" was going to be included in a Picard box-set, along with "Best of Both Worlds", and the four TNG theatrical films.[39] This should not be confused with the previously released The Jean-Luc Picard Collection, which was released in the United States on August 3, 2004, and included four TNG episodes but not this one or the movies.[40] The box set, including "Chain of Command" was released on October 15, 2019, and also included a mini-comic book called Star Trek: Sky’s The Limit. The release included a making of feature for "Chain of Command" and also the episode(s) can be watched with an audio commentary by Ronny Cox, Jonathan West, and Mike & Denise Okuda.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lapidos, Juliet (May 7, 2009). "There Are Four Lights!: Revisiting Star Trek: The Next Generation's eerily prescient torture episode". Slate.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Star Trek: Picard Viewing Guide - The Essential Treks to Take Before the Show". IGN. 2019-12-14. Retrieved 2020-01-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Chain of Command". Star Trek: The Next Generation. 14 December 1992. CBS.
  4. ^ Nemecek, Larry (2003). Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (3rd ed.). New York: Pocket Books. p. 230. ISBN 0-7434-5798-6.
  5. ^ "David Warner Is...". Star Trek Magazine. 1 (26): 44–50. June 2010.
  6. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': The Top 10 Episodes". EW.com. 2007-09-20. Archived from the original on 2015-01-14. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  7. ^ Ryan, Daniel Holloway, Joe Otterson, Maureen; Holloway, Daniel; Otterson, Joe; Ryan, Maureen (2017-09-28). "'Star Trek: The Next Generation's' 15 Best Episodes". Variety. Retrieved 2019-06-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Yglesias, Matthew (2013-05-15). "Star Trek Movies, Series, and Characters Ranked". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  9. ^ "The Top 100 Star Trek Episodes of All Time!". 2 October 2014.
  10. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': 10 Most Stunning Moments". The Hollywood Reporter. 20 June 2015. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  11. ^ a b c "The 50 Greatest Star Trek moments of all time - 6". Radio Times. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  12. ^ Kooser, Amanda. "10 best Star Trek episodes, according to the fans". CNET. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  13. ^ Daniel W. Drezner (2016-09-13). "The top 10 'Star Trek' episodes ever". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2016-09-13.
  14. ^ "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. 2016-07-27. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  15. ^ Marshall Honor (17 May 2016). "How to Binge Watch 726 Star Trek Episodes (and 12 Movies)". Tom's Guide. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  16. ^ a b c "Star Trek: The Top 25 Episodes - IGN". 20 May 2013. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  17. ^ Harvey, Sven (January 29, 2016). "Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 must-watch episodes". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on January 30, 2016. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  18. ^ Cooley, Patrick (2017-09-24). "Before 'Discovery:' the best 25 'Star Trek' episodes of all time". cleveland.com. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  19. ^ Juliette Harrisson (27 September 2017). "Star Trek: The Next Generation — 10 Great Guest Performances". Den of Geek.
  20. ^ "The 11 Best STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Episodes". Nerdist. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  21. ^ Star Trek's Greatest Episodic Sagas, Ranked by Michael Weyer – on Nov 23, 2018
  22. ^ "10 best 'Star Trek' moments from Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  23. ^ McMillan, Graeme (2016-09-05). "Star Trek's 100 Most Important Crew Members, Ranked". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  24. ^ "Star Trek: The 15 Best Captains In The Franchise (And The 15 Worst)". TheGamer. 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  25. ^ "The 15 Best Capt. Picard Episodes of Star Trek". Tom's Guide. 2018-08-12. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  26. ^ a b c "The 10 Best Episodes In Star Trek TV History, Ranked". Screen Rant. 2019-06-01. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  27. ^ "The 10 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time". Screen Rant. 2019-03-07. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  28. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' - The 25 Best Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  29. ^ "Our Seven Essential Picard Episodes from Star Trek: TNG". 2020-01-21. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  30. ^ Phipps, Keith (2020-01-27). "The 14 Best Star Trek Entries to Accompany Picard". Vulture. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  31. ^ "The TDF Top 10 - Star Trek: The Next Generation". The Digital Fix. 2020-06-08. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  32. ^ "The 10 Best Star Trek The Next Generation Episodes, Ranked". CINEMABLEND. 2021-02-17. Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  33. ^ "Star Trek: Every Season of The Next Generation, Ranked". Comic Book Resources. 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  34. ^ Ordway, Holly E. (December 6, 2002). "Star Trek the Next Generation – Season 4". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  35. ^ Marnell, Blair (June 20, 2014). "Exclusive Video: Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Gag Reel". CraveOnline. Archived from the original on July 3, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  36. ^ Lipp, Chaz (February 28, 2015). "Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Six". The Morton Report. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  37. ^ a b "LaserDisc Database - Star Trek Next Generation: Chain of Command [PLTEB 35491]". www.lddb.com. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  38. ^ Todd Douglass Jr. (August 5, 2007). "Star Trek Fan Collective - Captain's Log". DVD Talk.
  39. ^ TrekMovie com Staff. "Best Of Picard Star Trek TV/Movie Collection Coming To Blu-ray With New IDW Comic". TrekMovie.com. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  40. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Jean-Luc Picard Collection". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  41. ^ Empress Eve (16 October 2019). "Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: Picard Movie & TV Collection". Geeks of Doom.

External links[edit]