“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 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.
This episode is also noted for guest acting performances by Ronny Cox as Captain Jellico, and David Warner as Gul Madred. A scene that pays homage to the novel 1984, is noted for a debate between Picard and Madred about a number of lights, (four vs. five lights).
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 criticises 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 realises 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.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Les Landau.
- Writer(s): Frank Abatemarco.
- Release Date: 21 December 1992.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.