Captain Picard's secret mission fails, leading to him being captured by Cardassians. As he is tortured by his captors, Captain Jellico and the Enterprise attempt to prevent war with the Cardassian Union.
Jean-Luc Picard is drugged and questioned by Gul Madred. He sits in the middle of a dark room answering in a monotone. Picard reveals details about his mission and the personnel involved. Madred then asks his prisoner about the defense plans for Minos Korva. Picard truthfully states that he has no knowledge of such plans.
Captain Edward Jellico, Commander William T. Riker, Counselor Deanna Troi, Gul Lemec and his aides are in the Observation Lounge. Despite Jellico's assurances, Lemec divulges that he knows that Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Lieutenant Worf, and Doctor Beverly Crusher have gone into Cardassian territory and killed 55 men, women, and children. When asked for proof, Lemec reveals they have Picard held prisoner. The Cardassians exit, leaving the officers stunned.
Jellico then reveals the mission plans to his first officer and counselor and reveals that the USS Enterprise-D is supposed to rendezvous with the away team in eight hours. Since the negotiations have taken longer than expected, he will send Riker in a shuttlecraft.
In the interrogation chamber, Picard is unshackled by Madred. Madred and Picard briefly discuss the ruins of the First Hebitian civilization of Cardassia Prime. The ancient tombs contained artifacts made of a rare, breathtaking stone called jevonite, but were plundered by impoverished Cardassians. When Picard requests to be returned to his ship, Madred informs him that he is a criminal and was captured attempting to invade a secret Cardassian facility. Picard is offered the chance to make his trial and eventual punishment civilized in exchange for information about the Federation's defense plans for Minos Korva. Picard says that he has no knowledge of any such defense plans. Madred tells the Captain that the Cardassians have gone to great lengths to lure him to learn the Federation's defense plans.
Madred's guards promptly enter and drag a struggling Picard to the center of the room. His captor warns him, "Wasted energy, Captain. You might come to wish you hadn't expended it in such a futile effort." He protests that torture is forbidden under the terms of the Seldonis IV Convention, governing the treatment of prisoners of war. His cry goes seemingly unheard, however, as Madred uses a PADD to lower a steel suspension rack from the ceiling above Picard. Before continuing, Madred asks Picard if he is in good health. "Do you have any physical ailments I should know about?" He then approaches the Captain with a knife which he informs him is made of Jevonite. "Now you know why it is so highly prized." Stripping off Picard's jumpsuit, Madred tells him he will no longer have the privilege of rank or individuality. From now on, Picard will be referred to only as 'human'. The guards pull Picard's clothes down to his ankles and attach manacles to his wrists, which are connected to the retracting rack above. The Captain is left naked and suspended above the floor.
First Officer's Log, supplemental: I have returned from the rendezvous point in the Lyshan system with Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Worf. Captain Picard's fate is unknown.
In sickbay, the away team is treated for minor injuries. Jellico orders Riker to analyze the team's tricorder readings, but the first officer wants to begin planning a rescue mission for Picard. Captain Jellico believes such an attempt would be foolhardy.
With four lights shining behind him, Gul Madred begins questioning Picard again, and informs him that while he was drugged, a small device was implanted in his chest. Madred demonstrates the device, causing Picard to fall to his knees in pain on even the lowest setting. He asks Picard how many lights there are behind him, wanting him to respond with "five". He says there are four and receives another painful shock.
Gul Lemec shows Captain Jellico, Commander Riker, and Counselor Troi a PADD showing Captain Picard's original, more civilized interrogation. Jellico denies Picard was acting under his orders, and Lemec suggests they will execute him. Riker reminds the Gul about the Seldonis IV Convention which is similar to the Geneva conventions of 20th and 21st Century Earth. This, however, would be almost like a declaration of war. Lemec alternately offers to release Picard in exchange for a Federation withdrawal from the sector. Jellico agrees to discuss the proposal with Admiral Alynna Nechayev. After Lemec and his aides leave, Jellico says that he's going to recommend against agreeing to Lemec's proposal, essentially abandoning Picard. Riker becomes upset at this, demanding that Jellico acknowledges that the mission was under Federation orders, thus Picard would be protected under the Seldonis IV Convention. Jellico sharply rebukes him stating it would show weakness on the Federation's part. Riker sharply objects the captain's plans stating that one of the roles as first officer is to point out mistakes by his or her commanding officer. Jellico would not have any of it and relieves Riker of duty, with an added threat of confinement to quarters.
With Commander Riker's duties untasked, Captain Jellico temporarily promotes Lieutenant Commander Data to the position of first officer. Data (wearing a command red duty uniform), Jellico and Lieutenant Commander La Forge try to determine why the Cardassians would want to capture Picard. They decide that the Cardassians may have been interested in the defense plans for Minos Korva, knowing that the Enterprise would be assigned as command ship for the sector. Jellico orders La Forge to conduct a discreet scan of Lemec's ship to determine where they may have been recently.
Meanwhile on Celtris III, Gul Madred is speaking with his daughter about whether humans have parents. Picard is sitting in a spotlight in a red robe-like gown. Picard tries to get under Madred's skin by questioning his motives for bringing his daughter to such an installation, let alone allow her to see her father interrogating a prisoner. They banter back and forth about military power and its role in their civilizations. Madred tells his prisoner that because of the Cardassian military, his daughter will never go hungry. Picard turns this on him by saying, "Her belly may be full, but her spirit will be empty."
Madred continues with his Orwellian questioning about the lights. Picard replies, "What lights?" This infuriates Madred; he shocks Picard for his obstinance.
Gul Madred awakens Captain Picard from his dream of his family in France. Madred compliments Picard on his strong will and informs him that he is free to go. Picard stands slowly and heads toward the door. Madred claims he will just have to get the information from Dr. Crusher. Picard chooses to remain as a prisoner since he knows Crusher has no knowledge of operations.
Some time later, Madred and Picard share a small meal. Picard is disgusted at first, but since he is virtually starving, chooses to eat it to survive. The captor tells his prisoner the story of his childhood on the streets. He was beaten and his arm was broken at the age of six for a pair of taspar eggs. Picard uses this to his advantage by thinking of Madred as that child who couldn't protect himself. Madred, angry, asks Picard by name about the plans for Minos Korva. Picard points this out and adds, "There are four lights." Madred shocks Picard and the prisoner collapses in agony.
La Forge discovers that Lemec's ship has some minor hull degradation along their warp nacelles, which indicates recent exposure to a molecular dispersion field, most likely from traveling through the McAllister C-5 Nebula. Guessing that the rest of the Cardassian fleet is hiding in the nebula, Jellico begins an operation to mine it using a shuttlecraft.
While the shuttle is being prepared, Captain Jellico discusses the mission with Lt. Cmdr. La Forge. La Forge claims that he could complete the mission successfully, but that the best person for the job is Commander Riker, which does not sit well with Jellico.
Jellico talks to Riker about his piloting skills, and that every shuttle pilot on the ship labels Riker as the best. Jellico and Riker drop their ranks and exchange their dislikes to one another, expressing both their disapproval for each other's roles. Jellico will not order Riker to pilot the shuttle, to which Riker smugly replies "Then ask," after which the captain does and Riker accepts. Jellico begins to leave in a hurry, and Riker adds "You're welcome," which leaves a disgusted look on Jellico's face.
Navigating through the nebula was a daunting task, with one near collision. When Geordi asks if he wants to know how close they came to disaster, Riker simply replies with "No," and continues the flight. After Riker and La Forge lay the mines, Captain Jellico initiates red alert and begins negotiations with Gul Lemec. The furious Lemec demands that the Enterprise withdraw, but Jellico interjects saying that he has mined his ships, his finger is on the button, and Lemec is in a very bad position. Lemec believes Jellico is bluffing, but the captain orders Worf to show Lemec that he is not by detonating a smaller mine. The room Lemec is in shakes as if it had been hit with a low-yield phaser discharge. Jellico reveals to Lemec that there's a much larger one sitting on his hull that will destroy his ship. Jellico tells Lemec that the Cardassian fleet may leave the nebula one by one only if they eject their primary phaser coils — thereby leaving them at the mercy of the Federation for the return trip home. Lemec objects, but agrees before Jellico orders Worf to detonate the bigger mine. Almost as an afterthought, he also demands the immediate return of Captain Picard.
Meanwhile, on Celtris III, Picard awakens and tries to smash the control device used in his torture. Madred chides him rather gently for this, citing that he has many more. Madred then wrongfully informs his prisoner that the Cardassians have invaded Minos Korva and the Enterprise is burning in space. Gul Madred reminds Picard that the Federation will not look for him since the word will be that he died with his crew on the Enterprise. Madred offers Picard the opportunity to live a life of comfort and scholarly reflection, but at a price. All he has to do is admit that he sees five lights. Before Picard can answer, Lemec enters and complains that Picard should have been ready to transfer already. A ship is ready to take him back to the Enterprise. Before he leaves, Picard holds firm and announces that there are four lights.
Back onboard the Enterprise, Jellico transfers the command codes back to Captain Picard without the ceremony from the previous command transfer. With a quick glance at Troi's standard uniform, Picard retires to his ready room and the Counselor follows. Inside, Picard tells her of the choice he faced. He admits that at the end, he could actually see five lights when in fact there were only four.
"From this point on, you will enjoy no privileges of rank, no privileges of person. From this point on, I shall refer to you only as Human. You have no other identity!"
- - Gul Madred as he begins to torture Picard
"How many lights do you see there?"
"I see four lights."
"No. There are five."
- - Gul Madred and Jean-Luc Picard beginning the lights mind game
"I know nothing about Minos Korva."
"But I've told you that I believe you. I didn't ask you about Minos Korva. I asked how many lights you see."
(Picard stares at the lights intensely, then pauses and glares at Madred)
"There are four lights."
"I don't understand how you can be so mistaken."
(Madred shocks Picard)
- - Jean-Luc Picard and Gul Madred
"Shall we begin again? How many lights are there?"
"… What lights?"
- - Gul Madred and Jean-Luc Picard
"I can't believe you're willing to sacrifice Captain Picard's life as a negotiation tactic!"
- - Will Riker shouting angrily at Edward Jellico
"Let's drop ranks for a moment. I don't like you. I believe you're arrogant, insubordinate, willful. I don't think you're a particularly good First Officer."
- - Captain Edward Jellico, expressing his feelings toward Will Riker
"Well, now that the ranks are dropped, Captain...I don't like you, either. You ARE arrogant, and closed-minded. You need to control everyone and everything. You don't provide an atmosphere of trust, and you don't inspire these people to go out of their way for you. You've got everyone wound up so tight, there's no joy in anything. I don't think you're a particularly good Captain.
- - Commander Will Riker, giving as good he got to Captain Jellico
"You are...six years old...weak and helpless! You cannot...HURT ME!"
- - Jean-Luc Picard, resisting Gul Madred
"I'm not going to argue with you, Gul Lemec. Every one of your ships has a mine on its belly, my finger's on the button, and you're in a very bad position."
- - Edward Jellico
"I understand you're holding a Starfleet officer named Jean-Luc Picard. I expect him returned...IMMEDIATELY!"
- - Captain Edward Jellico, dictating terms to Gul Lemec
"There… are… FOUR LIGHTS!"
- - Jean-Luc Picard, exhausted but defiant, shouting at Gul Madred before returning to the Enterprise
Story and production
- 'Chain of Command' was originally pitched as a single episode, but Michael Piller suggested splitting it into two parts in part to save money. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Key influences on this episode included the 1991 independent film Closet Land, as well as Ro Laren's story from "Ensign Ro" in which she revealed that her father was tortured in front of her eyes by Cardassians during the Bajoran Occupation. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Jeri Taylor did a page one rewrite on the teleplay, but Frank Abatemarco retained the sole writing credit for the episode. This all-too-common television occurrence upset many of the production staff. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages) A subsequent polish was done by Ronald D. Moore. (citation needed • edit)
- Abatermarco did intensive research, including consultations with Amnesty International, on the psychology of torturers, torture methods and the experiences of survivors to inform the episode. Amnesty supporter Patrick Stewart was delighted at the first draft, but was concerned when he heard of the rewrites. Taylor recalled, "Patrick got very concerned because he assumed that meant we were going to back off from the very strong nature of it. He said, 'I don't want that to happen. I think that this hits it head on. I want to do that. I don't want this to become another talky episode where we simply talk about and around something and don't really tell it the way it is." These concerns were shared by Taylor, who remembered that Stewart was thrilled at the finished script "because we didn't back off an inch. It was very strong stuff." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Stewart prepared for his torture scene at the hands of the Cardassians by reviewing tapes provided by Amnesty International. (Star Trek 30 Years) Stewart, at his own insistence, performed the beginning torture scene naked on a closed set. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- The idea behind the torture scene comes from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the hero, Winston Smith, is tortured by O'Brien of the Thought Police. O'Brien keeps asking, "How many fingers do you see?" while holding up four, and the expected answer is "five." Unlike Winston, Picard never outwardly cracks to his tormentor, but in the final scene, Picard admits to Deanna that in the end he actually saw five lights.
- Set designer Richard James sought to avoid similarities to Closet Land in the design of the interrogation chamber. "I wasn't familiar with it and I didn't want to be influenced by that because I was fighting Silence of the Lambs at that time as well. I really wanted to try and keep myself open to my own kind of vision of it and as it turned out, the lighting played a very important role in what I was planning to do with it and the starkness of it. I wanted it to feel big as opposed to feeling like they were stuck in a small dungeon-type thing." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Due to budget considerations, a bigger on-screen confrontation between the Enterprise and the Cardassians in the nebula had to be scrapped. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- This episode was the last to air before "Emissary", the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on 3 January 1993. The Cardassians are a pivotal part of that series.
- During interrogation, Picard sings the first two lines of the French song called Sur le pont d'Avignon.
- A line cut from the final episode stated that Starfleet had also sent the USS Aries, USS Berlin, and USS Sutherland to assist the Enterprise, but they were three days behind.
- Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode (combined with Part I) #10 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 
- Michael Piller remarked, "I can't imagine a better show than 'Chain of Command, Part II' and it had no tricks or whiz bang stuff and it was one of the least expensive shows of the season. David Warner was sensational and Patrick Stewart was even better. I don't think there's been a better show in the history of this series, and certainly there was not a better hour of television on that year." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Jeri Taylor agreed, "It is not possible that there are five better male actors in this town than Patrick Stewart! It's probably his finest performance – he literally threw himself, physically and mentally, into that." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Taylor noted that some viewers protested at the graphic nature of the torture scenes. "They didn't want to see Patrick Stewart or anybody else writhing in pain. They felt that it was excessive, that it went too far and that it was disturbing to children. I can't disagree. It's certainly very intense for children. I wish there had been a disclaimer." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- In the comic story Perchance to Dream, Picard is forced to enter his own mind to stop a telepathic weapon called the Chova – his mind meld with Sarek, the imprinting of Kamin's memories, and his time as Locutus of Borg grant him the makings of an MPD and his multiple personalities are able to overwhelm the Chova and thus neutralize it to "cure" the other victims. During this time, he uses the symbol of four lights as a memory of a previous victory to allow him to maintain his strength even when Locutus attempts to take control of his body.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 69, 7 June 1993.
- In feature-length form, as part of the UK VHS release Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Full Length TV Movies: Volume 6, catalogue number VHR 4106, 27 March 1995
- As part of the TNG Season 6 DVD collection.
- In feature-length form, as part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete TV Movies collection.
- In feature-length form, as part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Captain's Log collection.
Links and References
- Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
- Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Christie Haydon as an Ensign
- Mic Rodgers as Corak
- Unknown actor as Tajor
alpha shift; archeology; beta shift; Celtris III, delta shift; gamma shift; Jovian Run, Lakat, McAllister C-5 Nebula, Minos Korva, Titan's Turn, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, Tohvun III, Seldonis IV Convention, Jevonite, First Hebitian civilization, Yvette Picard, La Barre, France, Lyshan system, Metagenics, Wompat, Taspar egg, Gettle, phaser coil
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