Chain of Command
Marking the point just prior to the concurrent beginning of
its sister Star Trek spin-off "Deep Space Nine",
The Next Generation produced a two-part Cardassian political adventure
called "Chain of Command". It's got a great hook, and a premise
that draws one in compellingly, easily triggering anticipation
of a "big" story with a lot of importance to the canon.
Unfortunately for me, my own anticipation for what this story should
have been about continues today to make me think the producers
really missed the boat with this one. You see, when I somehow missed
this story in its first run, and saw all the other stories surrounding
this one before coming back to it in re-runs, it seemed obvious what a
big two-part Cardassian story should tackle. This should be the big
action-thriller that in the end causes the Cardassians to end their
occupation of Bajor and pull out of the Bajoran system. When this was
mentioned as backstory for the Deep Space Nine pilot, it seemed
like a great Star Trek story to tell, but DS9's debut had just missed it.
Would we finally see that story done justice here? David Warner's credit
in the opening raised hopes even more - it would be great if he was the
Cardassian mastermind behind a big political plot, directing armadas,
pulling everyone else's strings, and in the end having to concede the
I was so disappointed when that story never materialized, and David Warner
didn't even show up before the cliffhanger.
The opening quarter of the story has most of the best material. There are
a lot of genuine believable tensions for the various Starfleet characters,
an intriguing plotline has begun, and, as far as I knew, it could all still
lead to the places I was hoping for.
The second quarter of the story, leading to part one's
cliffhanger, definitely feels padded, as though we're basically
killing time for a while.
Things really fall apart in the
second episode, where Picard spends all his time getting tortured
by a retarded lone Cardassian in a dark, clinical, empty little room
far removed from any of the interesting action - and a big story turns
into a very tiny and very ugly one. Although it's excellent to see how
Picard turns the tables on this guy using nothing more than
his mind and greater emotional awareness, and
both Patrick Stewart and David Warner are top notch actors
giving great performances, the quantity of boring rubbish
required to set this reversal up isn't worth its time on screen.
The bottom line for me is that torture
is such a low quality dynamic that I can't advocate tuning in
for it. Ever. It shouldn't be on television. Sadly,
television seemed to go for more of it in the years after this,
really overdoing it on shows like "Prison Break" or "Lost".
Give it up. It's a turn off, and a big reason why I don't
watch those shows second time, or why I fast forward through
most of the Picard/Warner scenes in part two of "Chain of Command".
The scenes of Captain Jellicoe stirring up the Enterprise crew
are far, far more interesting.
Indeed "Chain of Command" ended up as one of the most forgettable
Cardassian stories ever, when it should have been the opposite,
and it is easily overshadowed by Deep Space Nine's
far superior pilot.
The Emergence of Team Blue
But if "Chain of Command" does leave any significant legacy,
it is this: Modern Star Trek spin-offs seemed to promote an aversion
to properly balancing the colour of the uniforms among its principle
cast. In short, why are there so few blue uniforms on
"The Next Generation" and "Voyager"? Voyager is particularly
troubled, as only the Doctor is in blue, and he was confined to
the sickbay for years. Any gathering of main characters in any
other room became a sea of red and yellow. "The Next Generation"
wasn't quite as bad, but still had its troubles, with only
Dr. Crusher propping up the blue team most of the time.
In actual fact, Troi should have been part of team blue, but spent
a lot of time letting the side down by running around in weird
burgundy or pink leotards, or other strange outfits. Most of
season one was a particularly unimpressive look for her.
Finally, in "Chain of Command", Jellicoe puts the question to her
of why she's not in standard uniform, and she finally supports
team blue for the first time since the pilot. Good move!
What's more, she continues to stick to the blue uniform often
afterwards. Nice legacy for "Chain of Command".
Ultimately, if these shows remembered to stick to the exploration
of science, as the science fiction title implies, we should see
more Starfleet main characters in blue uniforms, indicating science,
instead of yellow, indicating "engineering". I think my brother
is right in saying that Data should have been in a blue uniform
instead of a yellow one. Considering his function in most scripts,
he is concerned more with general science than engineering per se,
or certainly security. I can only think that he's in yellow
to help differentiate himself from Mr. Spock - but that's too
artificial to be believable, and shouldn't have continued beyond
season 2 or 3 at the latest.
Face of the Enemy
Another mention I want to make concerns the episode
"Face of the Enemy", mostly because the music very noticeably
rose above the usual boring bland washes of orchestral chords,
and actually contributed to the excitement of the story.
Credits revealed that composer Don Davis had made his debut
on the show. Good job!
This episode is a
good example of what a television composer can do before
Berman berates the creativity out of them to the disappointment
of Trek fans everywhere. I gladly bought the original music
tracks from this story on CD when they became available,
something I can't often say about most of the
McCarthy/Chattaway scores from the same era.
Liner notes revealed that this is indeed the same Don Davis
that went on to score the Matrix trilogy.
My favourite bits include the cue "N'Vek Nervosa", and pretty much everything
from Act 5 which featured wall-to-wall musical underscore. The compelling pulse
of tension building throughout these sections added good energy to the story.
Star Trek - TNG
Face of the Enemy
Original music soundtracks
Don Davis, and others...
3-disc Audio CD set
Find out more....