(written from a Production point of view)
Data must convince a colony of 15,000 people to evacuate before the aliens who own the planet arrive.
In Ten Forward, a string quartet is tuning up. Data enters carrying a violin and approaches Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, who are sitting nearby at a table. He advises that they attend the second concert, as he will not be playing the violin, saying that although his playing is technically proficient, he has been told by his fellow performers that he lacks soul. He says he is only trying to be honest, but Picard tells him that excessive honesty can be dangerous in a leader. Data takes his place, but just as the quartet begins the first movement ("Allegro") of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Riker calls Picard to the bridge, forcing the Captain to depart, painfully aware that it appears he's walking out on his friend's performance.
When he gets there he learns that they have been contacted by the Sheliak Corporate, for the first time in 111 years. In a recorded message, set on repeat broadcast from the Shelia system, they demand that a Human colony on Tau Cygna V be removed, as this planet was ceded to the Sheliak in the Treaty of Armens. They give them four days to remove the Humans. The Federation has no record of a settlement on the planet, which is cloaked in hyperonic radiation that is lethal to Humans. Picard reasons that there must be someone there, so they set course for Tau Cygna V.
On arriving there, Lieutenant Worf detects Human life signs, but interference from the radiation prevents him from determining how many exactly. The radiation also prevents the use of the transporters and phasers. Crusher suggests that they must have adapted somehow; previous research had suggested it could be done, perhaps through extensive virotherapy. Picard says they must be evacuated or the Sheliak will remove them forcefully, as they consider Humans a lower form of life. 'Forceful removal' would more than likely equate to outright extermination. As Data is unaffected by the radiation, Picard orders him down to the surface, Riker commenting that there are probably only a dozen or so survivors.
Data lands the shuttlepod Onizuka on the surface, and is approached by two Humans, Kentor and Haritath. They recognize that he must be from the Federation and tell him he is the first visitor they have ever had. They will bring him to their leader, Gosheven. They claim to be descendants of the original settlers from the colony ship SS Artemis. On the USS Enterprise-D, Riker learns that the Artemis was launched 92 years ago, its destination being Septimis Minor, but when they missed a check in, an extensive search by Starfleet was begun. To the shock of the bridge crew, Data informs them that there are 15,253 colonists. Without transporters, and using only shuttles it will take over four weeks to evacuate the colony. Picard orders Data to prepare for evacuation, and tells Worf to attempt to hail the Sheliak colony ship.
On the surface, Data is brought to the town square where he meets Gosheven. He explains the situation and the need for evacuation, but Gosheven won't listen to him, and claims the planet is theirs. When the guidance system on the Artemis failed it took the ship far off course, and their ancestors were lucky to find Tau Cygna V to land on at all. One third of the colonists died before they learned that they could adapt to the radiation. Data agrees that the colony is remarkable, but as the planet clearly belongs to the Sheliak, the most sensible course of action is to evacuate. Gosheven tells him to go back to his ship. Someone throws a pipe towards Data, which he catches. A woman approaches, marveling at his reflexes and at him in general. She says she is very interested in cybernetics, and wants to question him. However he tells her he needs to know more about the settlement and its people. She agrees to show him around, and introduces herself as Ard'rian McKenzie. Gosheven is not happy with this development.
They leave, and Picard goes to the bridge to talk to the Sheliak director. They are very hostile, and repeat that the Humans must be removed. Picard tries to get them to compromise, but they refuse to negotiate, saying the law is paramount, then cut him off.
In Ard'rian's house on Tau Cygna V, she tells Data that Gosheven won't listen to him because he is an android. She, however, believes androids are better than Humans as they have no emotions to cloud their judgment. Picard contacts Data, telling him he's contacting Starfleet for a transport ship. The transporters are still not working despite La Forge, O'Brien and Wesley Crusher's best efforts.
Data is trying again with Gosheven, but he still won't listen. He calls the town a monument to his people, saying his grandfather remains buried in a rockslide up on the mountain while surveying the path of their aqueduct, just one of many lives lost over time for the colony's survival. Too much has been sacrificed for them to leave. Data comes to the conclusion he will have to convince others of the need to leave, and Ard'rian says she will help him.
In the captain's ready room, Picard tells Riker that Starfleet is profuse in its apologies and that it will be three weeks before a colony transport ship will arrive. He will have to convince the Sheliak to compromise. Then he realizes that with the distances involved and the timetable the Sheliak intend on, their colony ship must be already en route, and orders the Enterprise to intercept.
Riker contacts Data and tells him what's planned. Data is unsure if he can arrange the evacuation, saying few colonists want to leave, but Riker dresses him down, saying he's responsible for the 15,000 colonist lives. He asks how violent the Sheliak may be in dealing with the colonists themselves; Riker explains that the treaty was the only thing preventing them from eradicating the colony the moment they discovered it. Ard'rian tells Data that Gosheven has called a meeting to discuss the situation, then gives him a kiss, saying that she thought he needed it. She then suggests some reverse psychology is needed.
At the meeting, Data makes a speech, saying he admires their doomed effort, and how they are "all"willing to die for land "even their children" and so on. Gosheven sees through it, but Kentor and Haritath are getting worried. Gosheven starts to talk about his grandfather, when Ard'rian interrupts, saying, "who will bury you?" Gosheven counters, saying he is not willing to lose everything without a fight. The crowd cheers and gathers around him.
Later Kentor and Haritath approach Data and confess they are not convinced by Gosheven. Ard'rian suggests a secret meeting at her house.
The Sheliak ship is intercepted, and hailed. Picard uses a clause in the treaty to get a hearing with them. In Ard'rian's house, Kentor agrees to the need for an evacuation, but says they still need to convince Gosheven. Then Gosheven turns up, saying the matter is settled, there will be no evacuation. He then gives Data an electrical shock with a tool, knocking him out. The crowd leaves, as Ard'rian tries to revive Data. Troi and Picard beam over to the Sheliak ship. Picard asks for some flexibility, saying they need three weeks. The Sheliak refuse, saying they will kill all the colonists if they are not removed. They then beam them back over to the bridge of the Enterprise.
On Tau Cygna V, Data reawakens and says that actions speak louder than words, so some drastic action is needed. He returns to the Onizuka and modifies a Type 2 phaser using parts of his own circuitry, so it will work in the radiation, and tells Ard'rian to let Gosheven know he intends to destroy the aqueduct at the pumping station.
Picard has the Enterprise put on yellow alert and tells the Sheliak they will have to go through him to get to the colonists. He then decides to look through the treaty for something that will help. On the planet, Data has made his way to the pumping station unseen, where Gosheven has posted four armed guards and many of the colonists are present to watch what Data may do. He pops up from his hiding spot and stuns the guards as a demonstration of his firepower. When Gosheven tries to intervene, Data warns him to stop, and then demonstrates a stronger setting and firing it at the aqueduct and vaporizing the entire flow of water up to its source in the mountains; making good of his promise. He informs the stunned colonists that he could reduce the pumping station to a pile of debris, but trusts that his point is clear. He then tells them that one android with a hand phaser has destroyed their aqueduct, while hundreds of Sheliak are on their way, with far more powerful weapons, and the will, to eradicate their entire colony from orbit; they will not even see the faces of their killers before they die. The choice is theirs. Kentor speaks out, saying they must leave, telling Gosheven that there are challenges awaiting them elsewhere on another world. As colonists leave to start preparing for the evacuation, Data comforts Gosheven, hunched mournfully over the aqueduct, where the water has started to flow again. Gosheven now understands the reality of their situation, but tells Data that he really was ready to die for all they've built. Data knows this, but reminds him that the aqueduct – and by extension, the colony it sustains – is merely a thing. It can always be replaced: lives cannot.
Looking through the treaty, Picard sees something. He hails the Sheliak, and requests third party arbitration, as is his right. He nominates the Grizzelas, who are in the middle of their hibernation cycle for another six months. Three weeks or six months: which would they prefer? The Sheliak insist that their colonization plans will not be delayed, but when Picard declares the treaty in abeyance for arbitration, they realize he's serious and quickly change their minds about negotiation; he cuts them off by closing the channel. They hail him back, but Picard makes them wait before answering, taking the time to casually inspect the ship's dedication plaque for dust. They grudgingly agree to give him the three weeks and he politely thanks them.
Data is preparing to leave in the Onizuka, when Ard'rian approaches and says the evacuation plan is going well; they'll be ready to go when the transport ship arrives. She asks if he feels anything for her, but he reminds her he has no feelings at all. She looks downcast before Data kisses her, saying she appeared to need it. He returns to the Enterprise, where he goes to Picard's ready room. Picard is listening to a recording of Data's concert (now playing Eine kleine Nachtmusik's second movement – "Andante") that Dr. Crusher made for him, and comments how he has managed to combine two disparate styles successfully. Picard considers this highly creative. Data is forced to admit that through his situation on Tau Cygna V, he has indeed learned to become more creative.
"Gentlemen, we're giving you an assignment. The one thing we don't want to hear is that it's impossible."
"I need the transporters to function despite the hyperonic radiation."
"Yeah, but that's im– yes, sir."
- - Riker, Picard and La Forge
"Data, telling us you're going to fail before you make the attempt is never wise."
- - Beverly Crusher
"What is your memory capacity? How many operations per second? I have a million questions."
"I am afraid I have no time for a million questions."
- - Ard'rian McKenzie and Data
"Commander, in Human parlance, I do not believe I can 'get the job done'."
- - Data, after the majority of the Human colonists refuse his evacuation order
"This is not a law, it is a treaty! It is designed to smooth relations between races, not to act as a strait--" (The Sheliak cut him off) "…jacket."
- - Picard, in an early attempt to negotiate with the Sheliak
"The lives of 15,000 people are riding on you. You'd better get innovative. Riker out!"
- - Riker, underlining to Data the importance of evacuating the Human colonists from Tau Cygna V
"Now, how are we progressing, Mister La Forge?"
"About like you'd expect, sir."
"Splendid. Splendid. Carry on."
- - Picard and La Forge, not making any progress with the transporters
"Any objections? Good because here… we stand."
"Then here, you die."
- - Gosheven and Data
"He wants the impossible…!"
"That's the short definition of 'captain'."
- - Wesley Crusher and La Forge
"Use that fancy positronic brain of yours. Carry out your mission."
"Sir, if I do not succeed, how violent is the Sheliak reaction likely to be?"
"The treaty is the only thing preventing them from eradicating the colony the moment they discovered it."
""Ah" is right, Data."
- - Riker and Data
"It's over. Don't you get it? You've had your say. You've lost."
"I appear to be reversing that defeat."
"No, you're not. You're just stubborn. Well, let me tell you something." (zaps Data with an electrical prod; Data falls to the floor) "So am I."
"Damn you, Gosheven!"
"You killed him?!"
"I've killed no one. I merely shut down a machine."
- - Gosheven, Data, Ard'rian McKenzie and Haritath
"That was the stun setting. This is not."
- - Data, shortly before vaporizing the water supply to the village
"This is just a thing… and things can be replaced. Lives cannot."
- - Data
"Pursuant to Paragraph 1,290, I hereby formally request third party arbitration of our dispute."
"You have the right."
"Furthermore, pursuant to Sub-section D-3 I name… the Grizzelas to arbitrate."
"Unfortunately, they are currently in their hibernation cycle. However, they will awaken in six months, at which time we can get this matter settled. Now… do you want to wait? Or give me my three weeks?"
- - Picard, taking advantage of a clause in the Treaty of Armens and Sheliak
"Wait! Negotiation is permiss…!"
(Picard signals to cut the transmission.)
"You enjoyed that."
"You're damned right!"
- - Sheliak, Riker, and Picard
"Captain, they are hailing us."
(As hailing tone continues, Picard walks over to the Enterprise's dedication plaque and wipes some dust off of it with his finger)
(Picard wanders back to the middle of the bridge and gives another pause)
"… on screen."
- - Worf and Picard
"You may have your three weeks, Picard of the Enterprise."
(Politely) "Thank you."
- - Sheliak and Picard, finally coming to an agreement
"Captain. We can do it. We can modify the transporters."
"It will take fifteen years and a research team of a hundred…"
"Mister La Forge… I believe we will postpone."
- - La Forge and Picard
"Do you have any feelings for me?"
"I have no feelings of any kind."
- - Ard'rian McKenzie and Data
"Captain, when the treaty was first negotiated, the Federation sent 372 legal experts. What do we have?"
"Thee and me?"
- - Troi and Picard
- First draft script: 3 July 1989
- Third revised final draft script: 13 July 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 2 October 1989
- First UK airdate: 16 October 1991
Story and script
- Melinda Snodgrass commented, "I wanted to take Data one step further in his development as a Human being. I wanted to stress him and have him face a situation where logic isn't enough, to show that in order to command you have to have charisma. You have to learn how to wave your dick and hope your dick is bigger than the other guy's." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 186)
- According to a line cut from the episode, Tau Cygna V held sufficient amounts of an elusive sub-atomic particle called teremi-thoron, which interfered with transporter signals. The original script, including the cut lines, can be viewed here.
- The title of this episode is from the poem "The Wants of Man" by John Quincy Adams. In the context of this poem, the term "ensign" means a flag or symbol, not the Starfleet rank.
- I want the seals of power and place,
- The ensigns of command,
- Charged by the people's unbought grace,
- To rule my native land.
- Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask,
- But from my country's will,
- By day, by night, to ply the task
- Her cup of bliss to fill.
- Melinda Snodgrass's original version of the teleplay had some noticeable differences from the finished episode. In particular, the Sheliak were named the "Hrathan," Kentor was named "Noe" and had a much smaller role in the story (as did Haritath), Gosheven and Ard'rian were implied to be in a relationship, and the hyperonic radiation did not affect phasers or tricorders, with Data simply not wishing to resort to violence to resolve the situation, rather than being unable to use his phaser. 
- Despite Snodgrass's own name being used on both the earlier draft and the finished episode, the final draft teleplay credits "H. B. Savage" as the writer. 
- According to director Cliff Bole, US$200,000 was cut from the episode "at the last minute". The most prominent result of this was that more romantic overtones between Data and Ard'rian McKenzie were removed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101)
- Although this episode aired after "Evolution", it was actually the first episode produced during the third season. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (2nd ed., p. 137))
- During filming, the entourage of the 14th Dalai Lama visited the sets and had pictures taken with Brent Spiner. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101) One of these pictures appeared on the original UK VHS release of this episode. While the Dalai Lama had been touring the western US, his schedule precluded him visiting the set in person.
- Behind-the-scenes stills show that Thomas F. Denove was the director of photography for the scenes aboard the Sheliak ship, suggesting that regular director of photography Marvin V. Rush was either busy elsewhere, or had not yet been hired to replace Edward R. Brown, who left the show at the end of the previous season. Rush was the only credited director of photography on the episode, though Denove would later fill the role in the following season's "Half a Life".
Cast and characters
- There was a complication regarding the involvement of Wesley Crusher actor Wil Wheaton (and his character) in this episode. Even though he'd been cast in the film Valmont, which would be shot in Paris, during the hiatus since the second season and although the movie's production schedule was due to run over into the first week of filming TNG Season 3, Wheaton didn't anticipate a scheduling conflict. That was because this episode was scheduled to be produced first, instead of starting with third season premiere "Evolution". Wesley's participation in "The Ensigns of Command" was therefore in question. "One of the producers told my agent that they could not write me out of that episode," Wheaton remembered, "because it was a Wesley-focused episode, and I couldn't go work [in a movie] […] He called my house and told me, 'It's a Wesley episode, and I'm writing a scene with you and Gates that's going to move your mother-son relationship forward, and it's really important to the series,' and he just lied to me […] A few days before we began production on that season of Next Generation, this producer wrote me out of the script entirely, and it was appalling to me. The message was very clear – we own you – and it was a move to sabotage my career." Wheaton was extremely upset and felt very betrayed about the situation, which led him to want to quit the series. (The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, pp. 104 & 105)
- Grainger Hines' dialogue as Gosheven was dubbed by another actor. At his request, Hines' credit was removed from the final episode. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101) After filming was completed, it was decided that Hines' voice didn't have the presence the producers wanted in the episode – they thought it sounded too much like John Wayne. 
- Colm Meaney (Chief O'Brien) appears but does not have any dialogue. There were lines scripted for the character. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- The Sheliak vessel is a reuse of the merchant cargo ship from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
- This is the first of three appearances of the shuttlecraft Onizuka. In this episode, it bears the number 05, but it would be labeled 07 in future appearances. The shuttle was named for Ellison Onizuka, one of the seven astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101)
- O'Brien plays the cello on screen in this episode. This skill is not seen again, although it is referenced in dialogue – most notably, in "Shadowplay".
- No stardate is given in the episode. However, several official sources list it as 43133.3. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 100; )
- First appearance of the updated Type 2 phaser design, replacing the "dustbuster" version used throughout seasons 1 and 2.
- Director Cliff Bole remembered: "That was one of those shows where we started off with these delusions of grandeur, and at the last minute, had to cut $200,000 out of it. It's the budget crunch. What happens is you put a show together, all the departments put their budgets in, we go, 'Can't do it', and things get cut accordingly. Sets are the first to go, because they're so expensive. An interesting show, but not our best effort." ("Cliff Bole – Of Redemption & Unification", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 17, p. 30)
- A mission report for this episode by Robert Greenberger was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 10, pp. 23-26.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 25, 21 October 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.1, 28 February 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray collection.
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Eileen Seeley as Ard'rian McKenzie
- Mark L. Taylor as Haritath
- Richard Allen as Kentor
- Colm Meaney as Miles O'Brien
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli
- George Colucci as Tau Cygna V colonist
- B.J. Davis as Tau Cygna V colonist
- David Eum as Wright
- Michele Gerren as civilian
- Shana Ann Golden as Tau Cygna V colonist
- Grainger Hines as Gosheven
- Conrad Hurtt as Tau Cygna V colonist
- Buck McDancer as Tau Cygna V colonist
- Robin Morselli as Tau Cygna V colonist
- Frank Orsatti as Tau Cygna V colonist
- John Staible as Gosheven's aide
- Harry Young as Tau Cygna V colonist
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
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- Treaty of Armens: Acts of Widdershins; Akira; Bureau of Treaties; California; Cultural Contact Office; Earth; EM spectrum communication; Federation Drive; Federation document locator number; Galaxy-class; hospital; Iran; Iran-Contra Scandal; Kei; lawyer; light year; master; radio; Ranma Nibunnoichi; Rick; Rhea Gall Force; rhetorical question; San Francisco; Sirius Cybernetics Corporation; Sol Sector; Starfleet Headquarters; subspace communication; subspace relay booster station; UFP Standards Measurement Bureau; UFP Treaty Office; Urusei Yatsura; Yuri
- The Artemis Mission File: Bryce, Philip Peter; Deputy Mission Director; Failure Consequence Assessment System (FCAS); Federation Commander Pool; heliopause; Mars; Pizzorno, Galen
- "The Ensigns of Command" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Ensigns of Command" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Ensigns of Command" at Wikipedia
- "The Ensigns of Command" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
- Original script of Melinda M. Snodgrass
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