Chain of Command (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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"Chain of Command"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no.Season 6
Episode 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 code236 and 237
Original air dateDecember 14, 1992 (1992-12-14)
December 21, 1992 (1992-12-21)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 6)
List of Star Trek: The Next Generation 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. In this episode, Jean-Luc Picard is removed from command of the Enterprise for a covert mission, and 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]


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 and decorum than the Enterprise crew, particularly William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), are accustomed to. Under Jellico, the Enterprise patrols the border near Minos Korva, a tactically significant Federation planet, and holds negotiations as to the fate of the planet with Cardassian representatives.

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.

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.

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 receive 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 upon which Jellico relieves Riker of duty. The crew observes signs of residue from a nearby nebula on the hull of a Cardassian 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 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. Riker candidly criticizes Jellico's command style, and only accepts the assignment once Jellico personally asks him to pilot the shuttle instead of ordering him to do so. Riker successfully lays the minefield, and Jellico uses the threat of the minefield to force the Cardassians to disarm and retreat, also demanding Picard's return.

With word of the failure of the Cardassians to secure Minos Korva, Madred attempts one last ploy to break Picard, by falsely claiming that Cardassia has taken the planet and 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 on Cardassia by admitting he sees five lights. As Picard momentarily considers the offer, a Cardassian officer interrupts the process and informs Madred that Picard must be returned now. 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 the Federation and reinstated as Captain of the Enterprise. Picard admits privately to Deanna 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 did see five lights.

Comparison to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four[edit]

Madred's test 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]


Warner and Stewart worked together in a production of Hamlet in 1965. Warner praised the young 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".[2]


This two-part episode is ranked tenth in Entertainment Weekly's list of top 10 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.[3] 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.[4]

in 2014, Io9 rated it the 11th best Star Trek episode.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] They praised the contributions of David Warner and Patrick Stewart to Star Trek.[8] They note David Warner had previously played a role in 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.[8] 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.[9] In 2016, The Washington Post ranked the two-part "Chain of Command" as the fifth best episode of all Star Trek.[10] 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.[11]

Empire ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) 16th out of the top 50 episodes of all Star Trek in 2016.[12] At that time, there were roughly 726 episodes and a dozen films released.[13]

In 2016, IGN ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) the 13th best episode of all Star Trek series.[14] They note the performances of guest stars Ronny Cox, as the autocratic Captain Jellico, and David Warner as the Cardassian Gul Madred.[14] They note the double story lines of the Jellico trying to command the crew of the Enterprise-D, and Picard enduring a brutal interrogation.[14]

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.[15] 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 5th greatest in 2017.[16] 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".[17] They elaborate that David Warner gives a "...calm, measured performance", which they said "perfectly matches Stewart's slowly crumbling Picard".[17] The interaction between Gul Madred and Captain Picard was noted as "one of Star Trek's most memorable confrontations..".[17]

In 2017, Nerdist ranked this episode(s) the sixth best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[18]

In 2018, CBR ranked "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) as the 5th 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).[19] In 2018, Entertainment Weekly ranked "Chain of Command" as one of the top ten moments of Jean-Luc Picard.[20]

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 magazine.[21] TheGamer ranked Captain Jellico as the 14th best captain of Star Trek.[22] In 2018, Tom's Guide rated "Chain of Command" (Parts I & II) one of the 15 best episodes featuring Picard.[23][23]

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.[24] They highlight Captain Jellico in command of the Enterprise-D, and Captain Picard trying to endure a brutal Cardassian interrogation.[24] 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.[24] In 2019, they also ranked "Chain of Command" the 8th best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[25]

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.[26]


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.[27] A remastered HD version was released on Blu-ray optical disc, on June 24, 2014.[28][29]

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.[30] 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.[31]

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".
  2. ^ "David Warner Is...". Star Trek Magazine. 1 (26): 44–50. June 2010.
  3. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': The Top 10 Episodes". 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': 10 Most Stunning Moments". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  7. ^ "The 50 Greatest Star Trek moments of all time - 6". Radio Times. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  8. ^ a b [2]
  9. ^ Kooser, Amanda. "10 best Star Trek episodes, according to the fans". CNET. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ WP the-top-ten-star-trek-episodes-ever
  12. ^ "The 50 best Star Trek episodes ever". Empire. 2016-07-27. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  13. ^ Streaming, Marshall Honorof 2016-05-17T16:04:04Z. "How to Binge Watch 726 Star Trek Episodes (and 12 Movies)". Tom's Guide. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  14. ^ a b c Star Trek: The Top 25 Episodes - IGN, retrieved 2019-08-05
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Cooley, Patrick (2017-09-24). "Before 'Discovery:' the best 25 'Star Trek' episodes of all time". Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  17. ^ a b c "Star Trek: The Next Generation — 10 Great Guest Performances". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  18. ^ "The 11 Best STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Episodes". Nerdist. Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  19. ^ Star Trek's Greatest Episodic Sagas, Ranked by Michael Weyer – on Nov 23, 2018
  20. ^ "10 best 'Star Trek' moments from Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  21. ^ McMillan, Graeme (2016-09-05). "Star Trek's 100 Most Important Crew Members, Ranked". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  22. ^ "Star Trek: The 15 Best Captains In The Franchise (And The 15 Worst)". TheGamer. 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  23. ^ a b "The 15 Best Capt. Picard Episodes of Star Trek". Tom's Guide. 2018-08-12. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  24. ^ a b c "The 10 Best Episodes In Star Trek TV History, Ranked". ScreenRant. 2019-06-01. Retrieved 2019-06-03.
  25. ^ "The 10 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time". ScreenRant. 2019-03-07. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  26. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' - The 25 Best Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  27. ^ Ordway, Holly E. (December 6, 2002). "Star Trek the Next Generation – Season 4". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  28. ^ Marnell, Blair (June 20, 2014). "Exclusive Video: Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 6 Gag Reel". Crave Online. Archived from the original on July 3, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  29. ^ Lipp, Chaz (February 28, 2015). "Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Six". The Morton Report. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  30. ^ TrekMovie com Staff. "Best Of Picard Star Trek TV/Movie Collection Coming To Blu-ray With New IDW Comic". Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  31. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Jean-Luc Picard Collection". Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.[verification needed]

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