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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"The Quality of Life"
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"Ship in a Bottle"
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. 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 anything to make the torture stop, and for a brief moment 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 had previously 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. He was cast as Gul Madred in "Chain of Command" at short notice, only a few days before production. This was because the actor previously cast dropped out; it was at such short notice that Warner had no opportunity to learn his lines. In response, the dialogue were 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]

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.

External links[edit]