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The Drumhead

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"The Drumhead"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 21
Directed byJonathan Frakes
Written byJeri Taylor
Featured musicRon Jones
Cinematography byMarvin Rush
Production code195
Original air dateApril 29, 1991 (1991-04-29)
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"The Drumhead" is the 95th episode of the syndicated American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and the 21st episode of the program's fourth season. The episode was directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes. It takes the form of a courtroom drama.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, an explosion aboard the Enterprise leads to a high-level investigation headed by Admiral Norah Satie (Jean Simmons), a retired officer renowned for her skill at exposing conspiracies.


When an explosion within the dilithium chamber of the Federation starship Enterprise's main engineering appears to be the work of sabotage, Starfleet Command dispatches Norah Satie (Jean Simmons), a retired rear admiral from the Legal Division of its Support Services Section, to lead an investigation to uncover the cause.

Worf (Michael Dorn) discovers that J'Dan (Henry Woronicz), a Klingon exchange officer, had been using modified hypospray syringes to encode information into amino acid sequences for secret transport. J'Dan admits his collaboration with the Romulans but attests that he did not sabotage the chamber. Satie and Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) interview crew members who associated with J'Dan, including Dr. Beverly Crusher and medical technician Simon Tarses (Spencer Garrett). Meanwhile, Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) determine that the hatch had failed due to simple fatigue, not sabotage.[1]

Picard considers the matter closed, but Satie expands her search for traitors, revealing Tarses' Romulan heritage and questioning Picard's guilt following his time as Locutus of Borg. Starfleet's chief of security, Admiral Thomas Henry (Earl Billings) attends the tribunals. Picard begins to compare the tribunal to a drumhead, resembling a battle-field court-martial of the 18th and 19th centuries infamous for its numerous miscarriages of justice.

Picard recalls a quote from Satie's own father Aaron Satie: "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably."[2] Satie is enraged at him invoking her father and condemns Picard as a traitor. Admiral Henry becomes disgusted with Satie's fanaticism and calls a halt to any additional investigation. After they leave the ship, Picard privately confers with Worf, displaying regret at the arrogance he has shown as a human of the 24th Century as opposed to one in the 20th and earlier ("We think we've come so far."), and notes that such fanatics are well-disguised through apparent good words and deeds, and humanity must remain vigilant against them to protect their freedom.

References to other episodes[edit]

Satie makes numerous references to the events of earlier episodes of the series, commenting on Worf's father being a Romulan collaborator (referring to the third season episode "Sins of the Father"), questioning Picard's actions regarding the Romulan spy T'Pel (referring to the fourth season episode "Data's Day"), as well as referring to Picard's abduction by the Borg (as shown in "The Best of Both Worlds").


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a grade A.[1] Keith DeCandido of Tor.com rated it 3 out of 10.[3]

"The Drumhead" was rated the 15th best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 2016 by The Hollywood Reporter. Actor Michael Dorn, who played the character Worf on the show, has stated this was his favorite episode of the series, and in particular liked Worf and Picard's scene at the end of the episode.[4]

In 2014, "The Drumhead" was rated as the 34th best episode of Star Trek by io9, when reviewing the top 100 episodes of all series up to that time (including animated and live-action television series).[5] In 2018, Tom's Guide rated "The Drumhead" one of the 15 best episodes featuring Picard.[6] In 2017, Den of Geek ranked Jean Simmons' role as one of the top ten guest stars on Star Trek: The Next Generation.[7]

In 2017, Vulture.com listed this episode as one of the best of Star Trek: The Next Generation.[8]

In 2018, Entertainment Weekly ranked "The Drumhead" as one of the top ten moments of Jean-Luc Picard.[9] In 2018, Popular Mechanics highlighted "The Drumhead" as one of the best Picard episodes, and as recommended viewing for audiences to prepare for a new television series based on that character, Star Trek: Picard.[10]

In 2019, The Hollywood Reporter ranked it among the top 25 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, noting the acting performance by guest star Jean Simmons and its narrative warning about those who spread fear, of fanatical biases, and McCarthyism.[11]

In 2020, Games Radar recommended watching this episode prior to viewing Star Trek: Picard.[12]

In 2020, Space.com considered Picard's speech (beginning "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored. The first thought forbidden. The first freedom denied—chains us all irrevocably") as one of the character's top ten moments.

In 2020, ScreenRant ranked "The Drumhead" the number one best episode of all Star Trek franchise television episodes up to that time.[13] That same year the rated as the most important TNG episode with a morality message that "in an age of social media and out of control fake news, Admiral Satie's rhetoric has been taken to insane extremes within our culture, forcing us to once again examine our propensity for falling victim to conspiracy theories and nefarious agendas perpetuated by bad-faith actors."[14]

Home media releases[edit]

This episode is featured on the Star Trek: The Next Generation – Jean-Luc Picard Collection DVD set for Region 1 only, released in 2004.[15]

CBS announced on September 28, 2011, in celebration of the series' twenty-fifth anniversary, that Star Trek: The Next Generation would be completely re-mastered in 1080p high definition from the original 35mm film negatives. For the remaster almost 25,000 reels of original film stock were rescanned and reedited, and all visual effects were digitally recomposed from original large-format negatives and newly created CGI shots. The release was accompanied by 7.1 DTS Master Audio.[16] On July 30, 2013 "The Drumhead" was released on 1080p high definition as part of the Season 4 Blu-ray box set in the United States.[17][18] The set was released on July 29, 2013, in the United Kingdom.[19]

This episode was released in the United States on September 3, 2002, as part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation season four DVD box set.[20]

See also[edit]

  • "Balance of Terror" (Star Trek, aired December 15, 1966, S1E14, first episode with Romulans)



  • Guest star Jean Simmons, a noted longtime Trekkie,[21] portrays retired Rear Admiral Norah Satie, a special investigator who visits the Federation starship Enterprise.
  • Michael Dorn said this was one of his two favorite episodes, the other being "The Offspring", which Jonathan Frakes also directed.[22]
  • "The Drumhead" was the last Star Trek episode to have its music scored by Ron Jones, whom producers Rick Berman and Peter Lauritson dismissed, shortly after he had completed his work on it, as "Ron's stuff was getting big and somewhat flamboyant" and the producers "decided to move on and try other composers."[23]


  1. ^ a b Zack Handlen (January 20, 2011). "Qpid/The Drumhead". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Greatest Star Trek Quotes". John Petrie. Archived from the original on December 26, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  3. ^ DeCandido, Keith R. A. (May 4, 2012). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "The Drumhead"". Tor.com.
  4. ^ McMillan, Graeme; Couch, Aaron (September 21, 2016). "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' — The 25 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter.
  5. ^ Charlie Jane Anders (2014). "The Top 100 Star Trek Episodes Of All Time!". Gizmodo.
  6. ^ "The 15 Best Capt. Picard Episodes of Star Trek". Tom's Guide. August 12, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation — 10 Great Guest Performances". Den of Geek. September 27, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "A Beginner's Guide to the Star Trek Universe". Vulture.com. September 25, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  9. ^ "10 best 'Star Trek' moments from Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard". EW.com. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  10. ^ Grossman, David (August 6, 2018). "12 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Episodes That Will Make You Fall in Love With Picard All Over Again". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  11. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation' – The 25 Best Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. May 23, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  12. ^ Salmon, Will (January 21, 2020). "10 key Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes to watch before Picard". gamesradar. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  13. ^ "The 15 Best Episodes In Star Trek TV History, Ranked". ScreenRant. May 28, 2020. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  14. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation: 10 Most Important Episodes With A Moral Message". ScreenRant. February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  15. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Jean-Luc Picard Collection". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  16. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Blu-Ray Release". July 10, 2012. Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  17. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4 Blu-ray Review | High Def Digest". highdefdigest.com. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  18. ^ Miller III, Randy (July 28, 2013). "Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Four (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  19. ^ Simpson, Michael (July 29, 2013). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 Blu-Ray Review". Sci-Fi Now. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  20. ^ Ordway, Holly E. (September 9, 2002). "Star Trek the Next Generation – Season 4". DVD Talk. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  21. ^ "Simmons, Jean". StarTrek.com. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  22. ^ "ST:TNG: Final Unity: Michael Dorn Interview". TrekCore.com. Retrieved March 12, 2008.
  23. ^ "Rick Berman Answers Your Questions – Part 1". StarTrek.com. March 1, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2011.

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