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Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Chain of Command, Part I"

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Timothy W. Lynch

Dec 21, 1992, 8:08:55 PM12/21/92
WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information for the TNG
episode, "Chain of Command, Part I", in the context of a review. Those not
wishing to see said spoilers (or said review, for that matter) had best move

The characters and execution? Wonderful. The plot? Well...maybe.

It depends a lot on what's revealed in part 2, and I'm not at all convinced
about which way it's going to work. More after a lengthy synop.

The Enterprise rendezvouses with the USS Cairo near the Cardassian border,
but Picard quickly finds that his meeting with Vice Admiral Nechayev is going
to be short and blunt. "I'm here to relieve you of command of the
Enterprise," she says...

Some time later, Nechayev briefs the senior officers, minus Picard, Dr.
Crusher, and Worf. She tells them of Cardassian ship movements near their
side of the border, and of Federation suspicions that the Cardassians are
planning an "incursion" to seize some disputed systems in Federation
territory. In order to stave off this possible act of war, the Enterprise is
being sent to conduct open talks with the Cardassians in the area, thus both
appearing peaceful and having the flagship on the border in the event of
hostilities. However, to Riker's surprise, Nechayev hands over command of
the Enterprise to Capt. Edward Jellico, who negotiated the original armistice
with the Cardassians two years ago. When asked about Picard and the others,
Nechayev says only that they are "on assignment."

Picard, meanwhile, is training in caverns with Worf and Beverly, apparently
in preparation for some sort of quick commando operation. Although they are
having their difficulties, Picard assures them that where they're really
going will be far worse -- but refuses to elaborate.

Jellico arrives on board the Enterprise and quickly takes charge, demanding
several changes in the day-to-day routine to start things off. At the
official change of command a short time later, he and Picard talk while
others speculate on how permanent the assignment is. Jellico volunteers to
launch a probe that will obtain more detailed information on "the
installation", and quickly arranges matters. However, in the process he
becomes disenchanted with Riker, who has not yet implemented some of the
changes he ordered initially. Picard volunteers that Riker is a fine
officer, which Jellico grants. "Of course he is, Jean-Luc. I'm sure it'll
all work out."

Hours after this, the transition to Jellico's command is proving very rocky.
Jellico is ordering major changes in everything on very short notice:
science stations are being devoted to damage and weapons, battle drills are
frequent, Engineering needs a complete overhaul, "...and get that fish out of
the ready room." When Troi attempts to talk to Jellico about the crew
needing time to get used to his style, he claims he can't afford that time,
and asks her to "deal with the morale situation. [...] By the way...I
prefer a certain formality on the bridge. I'd appreciate it if you wore a
standard uniform while on duty."

Geordi gripes to Riker about the working conditions (not only does he have
huge amounts of work ordered, but a third of the department has now been
transferred to security), and urges Riker to speak to Picard about it.
Riker tries, but when he finds Picard in his quarters, Picard is utterly
exhausted from his training. Riker quietly leaves.

As the Enterprise reaches the border, Picard and Jellico meet for one last
time. Although Picard is under strict orders to maintain radio silence until
things are completed, Jellico assures him that the Enterprise will monitor
his channel just in case. After a quick communication with Riker, Jellico
again disparages Riker's attitude, and Picard quickly leaps to his defense,
asking Jellico to give him a chance. Jellico listens, but says that
realistically, a war is imminent, and that he doesn't have time "to give Will
Riker or anyone else...a *chance*. And forgive me for being blunt, but the
Enterprise is mine now." Jellico stands. "'s hoping you beat the
odds. Good hunting."

The shuttle carrying Picard, Beverly and Worf leaves the Enterprise, and
Picard now briefs the two. According to the intelligence reports, the
Cardassians are working on a "metagenic" weapon. This is, roughly speaking,
the biological equivalent of a neutron bomb: it destroys all life in a given
ecosphere, then dissipates harmlessly, leaving the planet ripe for occupation
by the attacking species. The weapon is extremely dangerous, but rumour has
it that the Cardassians are working on a way of shipping the virus while
dormant and then activating it via a subspace signal, thus keeping themselves
well out of harm's way. Picard, thanks to tests he conducted while
commanding the Stargazer, is a leading expert on theta-band subspace waves,
the expected type; thus the choice of him for this mission. He refers to
Worf's presence as obvious, and notes that Beverly's job is to locate and
destroy any biotoxins they may find. Their job as a whole is to infiltrate a
Cardassian installation on Celtris Three (site of a great many theta-band
emissions of late), determine if there is a metagenic production facility
there, and if so destroy it. The three head for a Ferengi and, through Bev's
seductive manner with him, manage to convince him to transport them to

Quite some time later, they are exploring the caverns on Celtris Three, which
bear a striking resemblance to their training ground. The theta-band signals
they pick up begin to guide them, and they head off after a chance encounter
with a Celtrisian bat. ("You're not afraid of *bats*, are you, Worf?" "Of
course not.")

Meanwhile, the Enterprise rendezvouses with the Cardassian ship Reklar and
its commander, Gul Lemec. Jellico attempts to take a dominant position from
the start, waiting in his ready room for an hour before meeting with a rather
impatient Gul Lemec.

Back in the caverns, Picard and the others happen upon a sheer granite cliff,
which is the only way down to the installation. ("You're not afraid of
*heights*, are you, doctor?" "Of course not.") They begin rappelling down.

Back on the Enterprise, Jellico meets with Lemec, bringing Riker and Troi in
with him. When Lemec complains about both the delay and the others'
presence, however, Jellico responds harshly, accusing Lemec of quibbling over
minor points. "I can see you're not serious about these talks. If the
Cardassian Union truly wishes to discuss peace, they can send someone who can
negotiate in a *civilized* manner!" snarls Jellico, who then walks out. A
perplexed Riker and Troi follow him out; Jellico then orders that in a few
minutes, they should go back in and say that they've convinced him to meet
with Lemec once more, but that Lemec must be more reasonable because Jellico
is so *unreasonable*. He suggests that they allow (grudgingly) two of
Lemec's aides to join them, and then adjourns to his ready room. "I'll say
this for him; he's sure of himself," volunteers Riker. "No. He's not."

Picard and the team reach the bottom of the cliff and move on, now having to
crawl through a very narrow lava tube for a few tens of meters.

The negotiations begin anew, beginning much more congenially this time.
Lemec dismisses the Cardassian "provocation" as paranoia, saying that they
are merely conducting training exercises. Lemec then brings up the disputed
worlds, and draws an angry response from Jellico, saying that "you abdicated
the right to those worlds when you signed the armistice!" As Troi calms
Jellico down, Lemec insists that the Cardassians are preparing to defend
themselves if necessary, but nothing more.

"The Federation will not *start* a war," Riker points out. Lemec accepts
that this is Riker's belief, but then talks of rumours of a small Federation
assault team being sent to a Cardassian world. "Of course, I don't believe
it. Such an attempt would almost certainly fail. And even if it succeeded,
it would trigger a _very serious_ response on our part." Jellico feigns
ignorance, and accepts Lemec's call for a recess. Almost as an afterthought,
Lemec asks, "Where is Captain Picard?" "Reassigned." "Well, I hope his new
assignment is not too dangerous. It would be a shame if something were to
happen to such a...such a *noted* officer." "Yes. It would."

The team, meanwhile, is nearing the end of the crawlway. A freak rockslide
nearly causes Bev serious injury, but Worf manages to save her in time. All
are feeling a bit shaken, but continue on. They arrive at an entrance to
the facility, with proximity sensors nearby. Worf deactivates those sensors,
then breaks through the magnetic seals on the door. They burst in ready for
anything, and are surprised to find...*nothing*.

"It's a trap. Come on!" Picard and the others turn to exit, but now
Cardassian guards spring from virtually every shadow, attempting to prevent
their escape. Worf and Beverly manage to get away, but Picard is forced to
remain behind long enough that the door closes before he can escape. (Worf
attempts to keep the door open, but is wounded and must withdraw.) As
Beverly and Worf flee, Picard drops his weapon and surrenders.

Riker informs Jellico of a number of coded messages coming from Celtris
Three, noting also that the theta-band emissions coming from that planet have
recently ceased. Jellico passes that news back to Nechayev, saying that one
way or another, the mission is finished. "Have you heard from our friends?"
Nechayev asks. "No." "Let me know if you do. I would very much like to see
them again." "So would I, Admiral."

Finally, Picard is led in to his inquisitor, Gul Madred. "A challenge," he
muses, dismissing the guard. "You should prove an interesting challenge --
possibly the most interesting to come through that door in many years."

"What do you want?"

"Why, you, of course." Madred begins to circle Picard like a hawk. "Picard.
Jean-Luc. Serial number SP, dash, 937, dash, 215. Son of Maurice and Yvette
Picard. Born in Navarre, France. Formerly captain of the Stargazer, where
you conducted extensive studies on theta-band carrier waves."

Picard stares at Madred in astonishment.

"Don't look so surprised. How could we have designed a lure for the captain
of the Federation flagship unless we knew something about his background?"

"So you concocted an elaborate ruse to bring me here. Why?"

Madred, now ceasing his movements, fixes his gaze directly on Picard. "In
this room, you do not ask the questions. I ask them; you answer. If I am
not satisfied with your answers, you will die."


Well, now, wasn't that interesting? (And one advantage of this review being
so late is that the review/synop of part 2 will probably show up only a day
after this one. :-) ) Now, on with the show.

Well, as I said at the beginning, my only problems with the show are very
plot-oriented. The characterization (both written and acted) and the
direction were both quite good, and I'll heap my praise on them in a bit. I
have a few plausibility questions that come to mind, however.

While most of them are very small (things like "why did Picard et al. need
to find their own transport?", which while valid is also not particularly
relevant in my opinion), one of them is not. That one, simply put, is this:

Unless there's more going on than we've been told so far, choosing that
particular team for this suicide mission is completely absurd.

Let's run through it. Worf I can buy; he's well trained in tactical matters
and strong. Beverly I absolutely cannot buy, however; if I'm being asked to
believe that there is *no one* on the security end of things trained in
biotoxins and so forth (not even necessarily on the Enterprise), I'm afraid I
must decline.

Finally, sending Picard is a mistake in a whole host of ways. First, it
probably *is* a suicide mission, and Picard's so integral to the Enterprise
that sending him off to die is a big mistake, particularly if it leads to a
war where the Enterprise needs to be at maximum efficiency. Second, Picard's
absence from the talks would (if the Cardassians didn't already know about
it) send up a signal flare that something's afoot, *especially* since Picard
is such a well-respected diplomat.

I'm not sure what can be done in Bev's case, but I have strong suspicions
about this whole affair that would explain Picard's choice with no difficulty

Adm. Nechayev's in on the setup.

Think about it. She, one assumes, is the one who selected Picard for the
mission; she is the only contact Picard *or* Jellico has had with Starfleet
that we're aware of; and she's the only source of intelligence on Cardassian
matters that we've seen either Picard or Jellico consult. If she is either a
Cardassian mole or simply someone who *wants* a conflict, then sending Picard
is an excellent choice (particularly if she's a mole; if she wants the Feds
to win, then sending Picard in is a bit dim from a tactical sense).

I have no idea if that suspicion is right, but I hope so. If so, then my
plot questions are down to less essential ones (like the justification for
Bev's presence). If not, however, the whole setup's based on a house of
cards, which will hurt.

Anyway, on to more pleasant discussions. Regardless of whatever questions
nagged at me later (or perhaps during, but very slightly), the show itself
kept me more than interested throughout. This may be the first time since
BOBW1 that we've had both a Federation Threat [TM] storyline and a Personal
Crisis [TM] storyline together where both have *worked*. While I expect the
Picard/Madred scenes to keep me more enthralled in part 2 (for reasons I'll
discuss in a bit), here the scenes focusing on Jellico had the upper hand.
In almost no scene, however, did I find myself bored. (All right...maybe
one. Toss the Ferengi out a window, please.)

We were tossed right into the middle of a plot, more or less. Unlike
"Unification" (the nearest relative I can think of offhand to this), the full
accounting of the situation didn't come until halfway through; we were
piecing together bits of it ourselves until then. (Of course, as I've
already said, I suspect we still don't know the *whole* story, but that's a
different matter.) In general, I prefer it that way; while TNG is
entertaining, its plots can be a bit predictable, and I definitely appreciate
it when all the cards are *not* initially on the table.

Robert Scheerer has definitely rebounded from some of his directing stints of
last season ("New Ground"? "The Outcast"? Ehh.) and has returned to form.
While nothing stuck out as particularly breathtaking (except perhaps the
final scene with Madred circling a helpless Picard; a common technique, but
also an effective one), everything was very crisp this time around. We were
kept moving without a lot of time to think or catch our breath. Yea, 'tis

I said a little while ago that I found the Jellico-centered scenes the
most interesting of this part, on the whole. I chalk that up almost entirely
to the performance of Ronny Cox in the role. Cox's Jellico is clearly not
someone we're meant to give a chance even before we see what he does. After
his first appearance -- hunched-over, limping, jowly, and with very sunken
eyes -- my initial thought was "Oh my Lord, Nixon made Captain!" :-)
Captain Queeg is probably a little more appropriate, however, and I also half
expect Jellico to come into a scene holding two steel balls at some point in
part two. It's something of a pity that Jellico is *so* unlikable, as there
might be a little more conflict about Picard's return if he weren't; but if
he's there to create friction, he's doing a hell of a job. (His "get that
fish out of the ready room" line was a nicely executed piece of work, too;
just in case anyone was *still* thinking he had a little empathy for

Jellico's presence also led to the single best scene involving Troi in a
long, long time. No, not her discussion with him in his ready room, though
that was certainly reasonable. I'm talking about her comment to Riker as
Jellico moves away from their first meeting with Gul Lemec. "No, he's not
[sure of himself]." That is the sort of thing Troi's empathic abilities are
*meant* for, and it was understated enough that it worked beautifully.

Then, there's the promise of great things next time around between Picard and
Gul Madred. David Warner (Madred) is clearly trying to follow in the Mark
Lenard School of Multiple Race-Roles; between the last two films and this,
he's now played a human, a Klingon, and a Cardassian. More than that,
however, this time we have him playing someone particularly sadistic and
nasty; and I *think* he's being restricted just enough that it won't turn out
over the top. In short, we *may* get a performance from Warner that rivals
his turn as Jack the Ripper in "Time After Time", which as longstanding
readers know is the standard by which I judge most David Warner roles. :-)
In any case, with Warner and Stewart playing together for much of part 2, I
expect wonderful things.

So, a few short takes before I wander off into even more irrelevancies:

--Is it just me, or is Worf starting to mutate into the Cowardly Lion? I
don't know about you, but my response after the "bats" exchange was to have
Worf wandering down the corridor saying "I do believe in spooks, I do believe
in spooks, I do I do I do I do I *DO*!" ;-)

--Continuity question: The armistice with the Cardassians was negotiated
only *two* years ago? That doesn't make sense to me; it's strongly implied
if not outright said in "The Wounded" that they've been at peace for at least
a year or two, and it goes completely against the grain to retroactively
claim that the Federation was at *war* for the first three seasons of TNG.
Let's try that again, folks...

--More proof that Jellico's a nasty guy; he shut down the astrophysics lab.
The nerve! :-)

--Imagine, if you will, the first staff meeting Jellico runs that involves
Lt. Reg Barclay. But don't imagine it for long.

--I believe this show now holds the record for shortest TNG teaser ever. And
at 39 seconds, I don't think it's likely to get broken; I'm not sure it *can*
and still get anything done.

--Why, exactly, do the Cardassians want *Picard*? One aspect that occurs to
me is the propaganda value; having the flagship captain and the man who
helped repel the Borg invasion as a POW is a nice morale-builder for the
Cardassian troops. But are they also after him for information; and if so,
what sort?

--Another prediction of mine, based on zero knowledge of part 2: I suspect
that Picard is not going to escape the Cardassians. Instead, I'm betting
that he's going to be handed over as part of the negotiations; perhaps the
Cardassians are hoping to break him so that he's useless when he *does*
return. We'll see.

--One ranting against cliches: *why* did we need the rockslide in the
tunnel, and why was Bev bringing up the rear? I mean, come on. (Still, as a
friend of mine remarked, it could be worse; at least she didn't twist her
ankle in the final escape. :-) )

Well, that ought to about do it. (It's also a scant few hours until I see
part 2 myself, so I better get this up and posted! :-) ) I'm going to give
this a lot of provisional scores, which may need revision if my hopes about
Nechayev's involvement do not prove founded. (Of course, if they come up
with some other good way of justifying Picard, that's fine.) So, for now:

Plot: 8. A bunch of little things over and above Picard have gnawed at me,
but not enough to make a lot of difference.
Plot Handling: 10. Crisp and snappy.
Characterization: 10. Yes. Like that.

TOTAL: 9.5. Veddy nice indeed; now don't muck it up!


It all gets worse.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET: tlynch@citjulie
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!
"I'm very silly, but it's what I do for a living."
Copyright 1992, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

Dec 21, 1992, 10:53:24 PM12/21/92

> --Continuity question: The armistice with the Cardassians was negotiated
> only *two* years ago? That doesn't make sense to me; it's strongly implied
> if not outright said in "The Wounded" that they've been at peace for at least
> a year or two, and it goes completely against the grain to retroactively
> claim that the Federation was at *war* for the first three seasons of TNG.
> Let's try that again, folks...

I think what we had in "The Wounded" was the treaty just officially completed.
Previous to this there had been a lengthy cease-fire.

> --One ranting against cliches: *why* did we need the rockslide in the
> tunnel, and why was Bev bringing up the rear? I mean, come on. (Still, as a
> friend of mine remarked, it could be worse; at least she didn't twist her
> ankle in the final escape. :-) )

But, she was still crawling inside a "ventilation shaft." :)


Joseph W Reiss

Dec 21, 1992, 11:30:28 PM12/21/92

Hello, again!

Well, for this being winter break and all, I sure did get a good
response to this week's S.O.S.! Sorry this is a day late, though.
With the holidays and all, I'm ashamed to say that the S.O.S. slipped
my mind for the first time.

But the good news is that we've all just seen the second best episode
this season (bested only by _Relics_, which looks like it's going to
be hard to beat). And Part II is yet to come.

Oops, there goes the phone bill. Better send this off already. So,
here are the numbers...

+ Josh Laff 7.0 / 10.0 7.0 * * * * * * *
+ Anton Sanderfoot 7.0 / 10.0 7.0 * * * * * * *
+ Jeff Rupley 8.0 / 10.0 8.0 * * * * * * * *
Tim Witort 84 / 100 8.4 * * * * * * * * >
Joe Reiss 8.5 / 10.0 8.5 * * * * * * * * Y
David Chappell 9.0 / 10.0 9.0 * * * * * * * * *
Kristofor Varhus 9.4 / 10.0 9.4 * * * * * * * * * >
Ken Papai 9.5 / 10.0 9.5 * * * * * * * * * Y
+ Nora Peal 9.7 / 10.0 9.7 * * * * * * * * * X
John Gardner 9.8 / 10.0 9.8 * * * * * * * * * X
+ Rob Knauerhase 9.9 / 10.0 9.9 * * * * * * * * * *
Jose Gonzalez 10.0 / 10.0 10.0 * * * * * * * * * *
Average 8.9 * * * * * * * * *
[+] Ratings included in the first S.O.S. posting for this week
Partial point key:
[,] 0.1-0.2 [>] 0.3-0.4 [Y] 0.5-0.6 [X] 0.7-0.8 [*] 0.9-1.0

Unless you're new to the S.O.S., you can hit `n' now...

The S.O.S. (Spoiler-Free Opinion Summary) is a twice-weekly posting
made by yours truly. The first posting is made Thursday and is
intended to give those people who don't see the episode until later
in the week a hint as to the quality of episode to expect. The
second posting is made Sunday and gives the final ratings for the
entire week as a summary of the opinions of the entire viewing
constituency (or at least those who participate :-)

Becoming a part of the S.O.S. is simple. After you've seen the
episode, send me email at `'.
Include a simple rating on a numeric scale (no letter grades --
too much controversy). Please do NOT include any spoiler
information. I usually don't get to see the episodes until 11am
Sunday, and I like to go in fresh.

This concludes this installment of the S.O.S. Join us next posting
for more exciting adventures...

__________ |
| |___) | """"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
\_/OE | \EISS | Golly, gee whiz, Sir. My experiment disabled our warp
`---- | engines, and weapons, and left us inside Romulan space!

David Ellis 22-Dec-1992 0851

Dec 22, 1992, 8:51:37 AM12/22/92
to (Timothy W. Lynch) writes:

> Captain Queeg is probably a little more appropriate, however, and I also half

> expect Jellico to come into a scene holding two steel balls...

This would be an echo of "The Doomsday Machine" from TOS, where Commodore
Matt Decker (played by William Windom) was twiddling two tape cassettes in
his hand as he sat in the conn and argued with Spock.

David J Ellis
Digital Equipment Corporation, Semiconductor Engineering Group
77 Reed Road, Hudson MA 01749 Mailstop HLO2-3/D11
Internet: Phone: (508) 568-4393

Dec 22, 1992, 4:04:30 PM12/22/92
I've just seen CoC pt.1 and read some (not all, yet) of the reviews and
comments; and I might as well add a few of my own before lunch.

I've read several posts that asks why send E crew as a suicide mission
team: Good point. Worf may be a logical candidate; Bev, GIVEN THAT PICARD
AND WORF ARE IN THE TEAM, would be a good choice; but that still leaves the
question: Why Picard? The only answer I can come up with, is that the
female admiral is a plant from the Cardassians or a conspirator.
I don't think Jellico is a conspirator, though. Contrary to early
posts, he seemed fairly understandable. He has been given a sudden command
of the flagship on a probably dangerous mission with minimal time to prepare.
The ship is in "civilian" status, and needs to be brought upto specs quickly.
He could not go into a battle leading the crew when the crew is still reacting
to Picard; his other choice was to let Riker be the de-facto captain, in which
case, why would Jellico be persuaded to move to Enterprise in the first place?
As for Bev using her charms, it was more understated than the posts made
it seem. Furthermore, given her reaction to the "metagenics" weaponery, the
loss of her dignity would not be exactly high on her list of priorities.

But the last point: In the last two (three) years, Picard has been
mindraped by the Borg, and now (will be) physically tortured by the Cardassians
AND they will drop him off on DS9 so Sisko will remind Picard that his
knowldege wiped out half the fleet, including Sisko's wife and his old friend,
the Admiral in BoBW.
How much do you want to bet that Picard will start thinking more and more
about retiring from active Starfleet duties?
Has Stewart's contract been renewed yet?

Junsok Yang

David H. Gorski

Dec 22, 1992, 7:25:37 PM12/22/92

In a previous article, YAN...@YaleVM.YCC.Yale.Edu () says:

> But the last point: In the last two (three) years, Picard has been
>mindraped by the Borg, and now (will be) physically tortured by the Cardassians
>AND they will drop him off on DS9 so Sisko will remind Picard that his
>knowldege wiped out half the fleet, including Sisko's wife and his old friend,
>the Admiral in BoBW.
> How much do you want to bet that Picard will start thinking more and more
>about retiring from active Starfleet duties?
> Has Stewart's contract been renewed yet?

No, it hasn't, and Patrick Stewart has been dropping hints in interviews that
he'd really like to go back to stage productions. I don't think he'll be
around next year.
David Gorski, M. D.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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