Top Ten Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes #3
Coming in at number eight on the list is the two-part episode, Chain of Command, which is where Captain Picard is captured and tortured by the Cardassians. This episode has been lampooned by just about everybody, but less today than when it first aired. Patrick Stewart hands in one of the most emotional performances he’s ever done, and everyone else strives to that standard too. Jonathan Frakes acts like a ticked off badass, the guest-stars are really excellent, and everything else feels edgy, like its not your ordinary episode. This one is special.
An Admiral swings by to take over the Enterprise and she sets the tone for the episode. Ronny Cox as Captain Jellicho is installed as the Captain of the Enterprise, while Picard is sent on a stupid suicide mission. Jellicho is the complete opposite of Picard, and is probably written that way on purpose to give a little contrast to the whole thing. He is strict, while Picard is casual, he is by-the-book, while Picard is more lax, and he is direct while Picard is more diplomatic. Needless to say, Jellicho ticks off Riker to no end.
The only weakness is that the first half of this episode is a little slow to get going, but Jellicho is there to tick everybody off, and keep us entertained. The only one who doesn’t mind is Data, and I’ve always wondered how that made him feel (assuming he does feel). Maybe he was in his element during the hard work under Jellicho. Then again, maybe he felt bad for his crewmates, who were trying to adjust to a hard leader.
David Warner plays Madred, Picard’s torturer. He has appeared in Star Trek many, many times, each time as a different character. His best role is probably as Gorkon in Star Trek VI, but he does just as well in this episode. He has a way of speaking that is just right for a villain. The second part of the two-parter gives him the spotlight with and he does a great job. Of course, it’s not hard to look good when Patrick Stewart is giving it his all.
This was reportedly a cheap episode to produce. Part two is probably the cheapest and takes place in one room essentially. There’s really not that much to it. It’s just dramatic and has good dialogue. That’s it. What else do you need? There’s really no great models or special effects, as in other episodes.
This episode explains that the whole thing was setup to capture Captain Picard. Many scenes ring of political intrigue. I was half expecting Robert Redford to walk in. The torture scene of Captain Picard is taken directly from Orwell’s novel, 1984, where the character is tortured into admitting that 2 + 2 = 5. Picard shows his badassness and doesn’t break like that guy.
The best part of this episode is the dialogue between Picard and Madred about children. Madred’s daughter walks through and visits her father at work, giving Picard something to comment on. It is a morale message, the highest thematic content this television show has to offer.
Madred: She’s been told enemies deserve their fate.
Picard: When children learn to devalue others, they can devalue anyone. Including their parents.
All in all, there are many good things about this episode, from the dialogue to the character interaction. The ending is just right, and wraps-up in a conclusive way, but leaves a scar.
BEST PART: The Madred and Picard dialogue.
WORST PART: The beginning drags.