Sunday, July 30, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 137 (Chain of Command: Part 2)

As you might have guessed from the episode title, Chain of Command, Part II is the second of a two-part story.  In the first, Captain Picard is sent to a planet with Dr. Crusher and Lieutenant Worf to find and destroy some nasty weapons.  The entire plot is convoluted, but it’s used to set up this episode.  At the end of the last episode, Captain Picard is captured by the Cardassians.

This episode begins with the Cardassians interrogating Picard for information on a particular sector of space.  Even under the influence of some heavy drugs, Picard says that he doesn’t know.  That’s not good enough.  The Cardassian interrogating him, Gul Madred, keeps at it.  He even tries to get Picard to say that there are five overhead lights when there are only four.  If the Captain doesn’t say five, Madred pushes a button and Picard is given excruciating pain.

Meanwhile, Captain Jellico is still in command of the Enterprise.  Commander Riker meets Worf and Crusher to bring them back to the Enterprise.  Riker wants to rescue Picard, but Jellico won’t let him.  Their mission is negotiating with the Cardassians.

It doesn’t take long before they admit to having Picard, which puts Jellico in a tough spot.  If they admit that Picard was operating under orders, Picard gets certain protections.  Otherwise, he’s a terrorist.  The Cardassians present an offer:  If the Federation gives up certain sectors, Picard will be released.  Jellico isn’t about to do that.

Things finally come to a head between Jellico and Riker with the result being that Riker is relieved of duty, making Lieutenant Commander Data the first officer, albeit temporarily.  Riker is reinstated when Jellico is made aware of Riker being the best shuttle pilot available.  His skills are needed to place mines around a Cardassian fleet, thus giving Jellico the edge he needs to get Picard back.  Once Picard is safely back on the Enterprise, all goes back to normal.  The only notable exception is that Counselor Troi (or Lieutenant Commander Trou, if you prefer) wears the standard uniform throughout the rest of the series.

This is one of the few cases where the second part was better than the first.  Most of the first episode was meant to set up this one.  This episode deals primarily with Picard being interrogated.  Gul Madred uses a variety of means to break Picard, including dehydration and humiliation.  One thing I didn’t realize upon first watching the episode was that Madred’s insistence that there were five lights when there were really four was meant to break Picard’s will.  Once he gave into that, it would be easier to manipulate him.

As I pointed out in m review of the previous episode, needing Picard seemed a bit contrived.  There had to be easier ways to get the information.  It seems unlikely that Picard would have full battle plans in case of a specific conflict.  I don’t know if the Cardassians tried hacking into Starfleet of if Starfleet even had that information, themselves.  I’d think that there would have been easier ways to come by it.

The episode was well acted.  The scenes between Madred and Picard are believable.  We also learn a little about Cardassian society.  (Not coincidentally, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would premier not long after this episode aired.)  Some of my complaints about the previous episode carry over.  Jellico was still an arrogant captain.  I admit that the character’s traits were necessary for the episode, but I have to wonder what kind of captain he is normally.  Did his style work normally?

It seems like this episode could have been used to shake things up a little more.  Instead, it seemed like things mostly went back to normal for the Enterprise.  Jellico’s influence was a one-off deal.  It was interesting to see Jellico and Riker speak frankly.  Both are correct in their assessments of the other.  However, neither seems to learn from that.  (To be fair, Jellico is never seen or heard from again.)  It was a memorable episode, but it could have been better.

IMDb page

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