Oct 23 2012 5:30pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Chain of Command, Part II”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2“Chain of Command, Part II”
Written by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Les Landau
Season 6, Episode 11
Production episode 40276-237
Original air date: December 21, 1992
Stardate: 46357.4

Captain’s Log: We get a summary of the high points of Part 1, and then show the beginning of Picard’s interrogation, where he has been injected with the Cardassian equivalent of sodium pentothal. He reveals his name, mother’s name, place of birth, and current assignment, but says, “I don’t know” when asked what Starfleet’s plans for Minos Korva are, at which point Gul Madred ups the dosage.

On the Enterprise, the negotiations, which are already going poorly, go much worse when Gul Lemec reveals that they have captured Picard. (He also accuses Picard, Worf, and Crusher of killing 55 Cardassian men, women, and children, which is patently false, but not at all surprising.) Lemec assures Jellico that the Cardassians will respond to this attack on their soil, and leaves. Jellico is forced to reveal Picard’s mission to Riker and Troi, and he sends Riker to the rendezvous point in the hopes of finding the trio there and exposing Lemec’s words for a lie.

But we know better, as we cut to Picard, no longer drugged, being brought to Madred. Picard demands a neutral representative. Madred lies and says such a representative is en route. They banter for a bit, discussing archeology, the fact that the Cardassians plundered their archeological treasures to pay for their war efforts. Madred also makes it clear that Picard is a criminal who will stand trial and be punished. What form that punishment takes depends on his cooperation. He wants to know Starfleet’s defensive strategy for Minos Korva, which Picard insists he does not know — and he also knows that he’s been drugged and told them everything he knows already.

The gloves come off, then, and Madred strings Picard up, strips him naked, and makes it clear that he has no rights of person, and will heretofore only be referred to as “human.” And then he leaves Picard alone, dangling from the ceiling by his arms.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

Riker returns from the rendezvous point with only two of the three people he was hoping to see. Immediately, Riker requests permission to mount a rescue mission, which Jellico refuses.

The following morning, Madred returns, letting Picard down, and drinking in front of him without offering him anything, even though he’s incredibly thirsty. Then he turns on four lights behind him and asks Picard how many lights he sees. Picard says he sees four, but Madred insists there are five. Madred then demonstrates the implant in his chest which causes Picard tremendous pain at Madred’s whim.

On the Enterprise, Lemec shows Jellico, Riker, and Troi a recording of Picard’s interrogation. When execution is threatened, Riker mentions the terms of the convention applying to prisoners of war, which Lemec throws in his face, as that would mean the Federation acknowledges Picard’s invasion of their space – which they won’t, meaning the Cardassians will treat him as a terrorist, not a POW. Lemec makes an offer: the Federation withdraws entirely from this sector, and they’ll release Picard.

Jellico has to check with Nechayev, but he will recommend they not give in. Riker recommends that they at least acknowledge Picard was acting under orders, so he’ll have the protection of being a POW. Jellico refuses, as it would play into Lemec’s hands, and it devolves into a nasty argument that ends with Jellico relieving Riker of duty.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

Soon after, Jellico meets with Data—now first officer, with Jellico going so far as to put Data in a command-red uniform—and La Forge—who looks more than a little annoyed that Jellico took that extra step—to try to figure out why they captured Picard in particular. Since the Enterprise was to be the vanguard of any defense against Cardassian incursion in the event of a war, that may be what they were interested in. Jellico has La Forge perform a discreet scan on Lemec’s ship to see where it’s been, and he determines that it was probably in the McAllister Nebula, which is a good jumping-off point to attack Minos Korva, a system they tried to annex during the war. Jellico orders Data to set a course for that system.

It’s apparently take-your-daughter-to-work day on Cardassia, as Madred brings his daughter in. She asks if humans have mothers and fathers, and Madred says they do, but their parents don’t love them the way Cardassians do. After she leaves, they talk some more, Picard decrying Madred’s exposing his daughter to torture, which modulates into a discussion of Cardassian history – once they were peaceful and spiritual, but people starved by the millions. Since the military took over, many lives have been lost, but the people can feed themselves, and Madred’s daughter will never go hungry. After Picard comments that her belly may be full but her spirit will be empty, Madred backhands him, then goes back to asking how many lights there are and infliting agonizing pain on Picard when he doesn’t say there are five of them.

After some more torture, and another break, Madred offers to let Picard go – they’ll just interrogate Crusher next. (He tells Picard that Worf was killed, but Crusher was captured.) Rather than subject Crusher to Madred’s ministrations, Picard chooses to stay.

Later on, Madred offers Picard food: a taspar egg, which Picard consumes hungrily, even though there’s stuff swimming around in the egg. Madred tells a story of childhood when he lived as a poor ragamuffin on the streets. He found three taspar eggs, ate one as eagerly as Picard did, and saved the other two, as they’d feed him for a week. But an older boy stole them from him, breaking his arm in the process. Picard sees his first opening, as he now realizes that Madred is paying other people back for his being bullied as a child, and says he finds Madred to be pitiable. Not overwhelmingly thrilled with this psychoanalysis—or Picard’s pity—Madred turns on the lights and activates the implant. Picard screams in agony but continues to insist that there are only four lights.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

The Enterprise heads to the nebula. La Forge modifies a shuttle to work in the nebula, and Worf arms magnetic mines to be placed on the Cardassian ships that are probably in the nebula. They’re not a hundred percent sure, and Crusher is particularly cranky on the subject of the risk Jellico is taking on a hunch. But it’s not a discussion – the mission has already been approved by Starfleet Command.

In the shuttle bay, Jellico checks on La Forge. They reminisce about their respective backgrounds as pilots—both of them were shuttle pilots early in their career—and that leads La Forge to point out that you need an incredibly skilled pilot to lay these mines within two kilometers of the Cardassian ships, with only a proximity detector to navigate by. And La Forge insists that the best person for the job on board is William T. Riker.

After Jellico gets this opinion from everyone else on board, he goes to Riker’s quarters. Jellico drops the ranks for a moment, and flat-out states that he doesn’t like Riker, finding him insubordinate, arrogant, willful, and a lousy first officer. Since the ranks are dropped, Riker counters that he doesn’t like Jellico, either, finding him arrogant, close-minded, a control freak, uninspirational, and a lousy captain. Jellico won’t order Riker to pilot the shuttle, but he does ask – and Riker smugly says yes. He and La Forge deploy the mines successfully, and then Jellico calls for red alert and hails Lemec. Realizing that his entire fleet is now mined—after Jellico detonates one of them—Lemec backs off, agreeing to retreat, and also to free Picard.

While alone, Picard grabs the padd that Madred has been using to activate the implant and smashes it. Madred then enters and, after assuring Picard that he has plenty more padds, tells Picard that the invasion of Minos Korva has been successful and the Enterprise has been destroyed. The universe will believe Picard to have gone down with his ship, and no one will ever know he is with the Cardassians. Madred then offers him a choice: stay with Madred and continue to be tortured, or live in comfort with intellectual challenges. All he has to do to determine which fate is his is to tell Madred how many lights there are.

Before Picard can answer, Lemec comes in, furious that Picard isn’t cleaned up and ready to be taken back to the Enterprise yet. Madred weakly says that he had unfinished business with Picard. Realizing that Madred lied one last time, Picard screams that there are four lights and leaves the room.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

Picard returns to the Enterprise, and Jellico returns command to him. Once that’s done, Picard goes into his ready room with Troi, where he admits something he didn’t put in his report: that he was ready to admit that there were five lights, and he would have said so had Lemec not come in when he did. At that point, he truly believed he saw five lights.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The McAllister Nebula has a molecular dispersion field that means that ships can only stay inside it for 72 hours or so. La Forge can shield the shuttlecraft from the field, which makes you wonder why the Cardassians didn’t do likewise. Data also gives a precise time when the Cardassians will have to leave, but since they don’t know when the ships entered, it’s not clear how he got to that figure.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is the first person Picard talks to once he gets command back, and it’s a professional conversation, patient to shrink.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data gets to be first officer for the third time (after “A Matter of Honor” and “Peak Performance”) and again does a fine job, though this is the first time he’s been asked to put on the red uniform to go with it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

I Believe I Said That: “Do I wanna know how close that was?”


La Forge’s question following the shuttle making a hard turn, and Riker’s emphatic reply.

Welcome Aboard: No new guest stars this week, aside from Heather Lauren Olson as Madred’s daughter. Returning after Part 1 are Ronny Cox continuing to be disruptive as Jellico, John Durbin continuing to be delightfully slimy as Lemec, and David Warner knocking it out of the park as Madred.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Chain of Command, Part 2

Trivial Matters: To prepare for this episode, both scripter Frank Abatemarco and actor Sir Patrick Stewart studied material provided by Amnesty International regarding torture.

One of the inspirations for the episode was the 1991 film Closet Land. Another was the George Orwell novel 1984, where O’Brien of the Thought Police used fingers the way Madred used lights when interrogating Winston Smith, insisting he held up five fingers when he only held up four.

At two points while he’s being tortured, Picard takes refuge in the French song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” which he sang as a boy with his family. It’s also revealed that his mother—whom we saw an image of in “Where No One Has Gone Before”—was named Yvette.

In your humble rewatcher’s TNG comic book Perchance to Dream, Picard uses the four lights as a mental anchor to assist him when he undergoes a mind-meld that results in the personality of Locutus dominating his mind.

Picard’s next appearance will be on “Emissary,” the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, which aired a month after this. This two-parter did a great deal to cement the Cardassians as a major antagonist in the Star Trek universe, and they remain a large part of DS9 throughout its run.

Although Abatemarco got sole credit, the script got a page-one rewrite by Jeri Taylor.

Make it So: “There are four lights!” Like Part 1, this is half a great episode, but the positions are reversed, as Picard’s half of the story is some of TNG’s finest work, but the Jellico half is just awful. None of the maneuvering makes any kind of sense, neither the Cardassians’ fleet-gathering in a single nebula, nor the relative ease with which the Enterprise flushes them out, nor how thoroughly Lemec capitulates to Jellico once he starts detonating mines.

There are certainly moments: Jellico’s confrontation with Riker is well played, as both characters are right about the other one, and I must admit to loving the conversation between Jellico and La Forge about their younger days doing “Titan’s turn” as shuttle pilots. But it doesn’t work on the same level as Jellico’s initial takeover of the ship, and the ease with which the status quo is restored is unconvincing given the circumstances of Part 1.

Having said that, nobody remembers Part 2 for the Jellico bits. This half is all about two great actors in David Warner and Sir Patrick Stewart doing a two-person play in a room. The manipulations, the carefully constructed lies, the strength that Picard shows in the face of torture, the artful way that Madred constructs his questioning – it’s just brilliantly done. And the actors are magnificent, from Warner’s quiet, even tone that is far scarier than any shouting or histrionics would have been, and Stewart being stripped bare both literally and psychologically, showing the scars of Madred’s ministrations.

Best of all, though, is Picard’s admission to Troi at the end that he had, indeed, been broken, that Madred had truly convinced him that there were five lights.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is one of the readers, along with fellow Trek scribe Aaron Rosenberg, for this week’s New York Review of Science Fiction Reading at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art tonight at 7pm. He is also one of the readers, along with Genevieve Valentine, John Wray, and Tor.com’s Emily Asher-Perrin, this Friday the 26th for Tor.com’s Ryan Britt’s “I, Reader” Scary Stories reading at Singularity & Co. in Brooklyn, also at 7pm.

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
I really have nothing of substance to add, but I was fairly amused that apparently there are ferrets on Cardassia (my dad is kind of obsessed with ferrets so now I notice them all over the place).

I also found the little girl one of the most interesting 'throwaway' chracters and wonder whatever happened to her and the person she grew up to be.
2. critter42
I don't remember where I read it, but I remember an interesting interpretation of the four/five lights - in addition to the Orwell homage, most of the time from Picard's viewpoint (and the camera's most of the time), there were two lights on either side of Madred's head - making HIM the fifth light . Thus he become's Picard's savior in both a physical AND spiritual sense (cf "I am the way, the truth and the light"), making Picard's subjugation utterly complete if he acknowledges and believes he sees five lights.
3. John R. Ellis
The David Warner/Patrick Stewart scenes are awesome.

Everything else was just window dressing.
4. RobinM
David Warner and Sir Patrick Stewart are just stellar in this episode. I remember being so suprised that STNG actually showed the torture of prisoners and that it was Cpt. Picard who was captured. I think they did this part of the episode quite well.
Jellico is still an asshat. One of my favorite parts of the series New Frontiers by Peter David is when Mackenzie punches Jellico in the face . The best thing he did that stuck was getting Troi into a different uniform, and making the Cardassians let Picard go free.
adam miller
5. adamjmil
Nothing more needs to be said about the Stewart/Warner scenes. Far ahead of their time, and way better than the Jack Bauer torture crap of the 2000's.

I have a question. Was it established before this episode that Riker was a brilliant pilot? I don't remember it myself, which doesn't mean anything of course. It's been established that he's a creative and unconventional tactician when in command of the bridge (well, unless the plot dictates that he loses the ship to a few Ferengi), but that's completely different. So when was it established that he's the Michael Jordan of pilots?
6. Lektu
Critter42, isn't that quote really "I am the way, the truth and the life"?
Joseph Newton
7. crzydroid
@5: I'm glad you mentioned that, because I was going to, and then I forgot. I don't think it has been established before that Riker is this super pilot. I think there may have been two episodes prior to this to show that he's had any kind of flying experience at all, but nothing to indicate that he was the best star pilot in the galaxy. I think he was just an awesome pilot because the script needed a reason for Jellico to beg him for help.

Other than that, I agree with Keith about the Jellico stuff here: In part one, that was the fun plot to watch (and I found the running through the caverns quite boring) whereas here, that whole plot is a little flat. Though as everyone knows, the strength is in the torture story.
8. Jeremy Marr
Wow...how did I KNOW that "Oh, ****" moment was going to be the "I Believe I said That..."
9. Erik Dercf
A powerful drama with a related subplot on the ship. A very real reminder of how some are ordered to do the very difficult for a government that disavows them when they are captured. A what if is what if Data were offered a command. A wish I wish they would have shown Riker piloting the shuttle more with views of the shuttle in space. SPS once again shows his excellent skills as an actor a bravo performance.
10. jlpsquared
@5, it was never established he was the best pilot on the ship. In fact, in actual references to piloting, I believe it was established that Picard and Geordi himself would have been the best pilots aboard. That is why I thought that was so weird in that scene that Geordi said Riker. I actually thought Goerdi only said Riker to help get his friend out of hot water, even knowing he (Geordi) was the best pilot on the ship.

But anyways, what an awesome episode. Every scene between Warner and Stewart is just magnificent. "There are four lights" is still one of the most quoted lines in the history of TV, but my favourite scene is probably the one with the daughter, so interesting. I think this is one of the few times Picard is wrong. Now, i am not about to go exposing my children to torture, but the idea that because madred showed her torture she will grow up essentially souless, what meditational garbage!

This is the episode where Cardassians become immensly fascinating, and lets be honest, its because deep down, we kind of admire their society. Yes, they are militant and evil, but they very much do love their family, children in particular, above all else. And that is WHY they are militant. They crafted their society to protect their children, and if they must do certain things to maintain that society than so be it. They state later they have no divorce, broken families, and no poverty like before. I must ask, how is that wrong?

Just a great, great, episode.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
I don't think it was the torture per se that would make her soulless, but rather the emphasis they placed on military might, etc - instead of more peaceful pursuits. Yes, they have food and well being, but at what cost? What has it done to them as a people?

It's not wrong to have no divorce or poverty, but that doesn't mean the ends justify the means.

But, I also loved the little girl and thought that was a nice addition to at least make them more nuanced.
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
Nothing much to add. This was a powerful condemnation of torture, confronting the fact that it's not about getting information at all but just about bullying and psychological domination, and that's a lesson we all could've stood to remember not that long ago.

My one big problem with this episode is that I simply could not make out what Patrick Stewart was saying in his final line. It was years before I could be sure he was saying he believed he saw five lights. So that weakened the ending for me.
Rob Rater
13. Quasarmodo
A perfect ending to the episode obviously, but somehow I kind of almost wish the final scene would've been of Jellyco, after he left the Enterprise, walking through a door and finding David Warner waiting there, and the four lights come on...
14. boquaz
As a kickoff to the Cardassian storyline, this is a great episode. To really understand the problems with their society, you need to watch the other end of the story in DS9, where the people of Cardassia rebel against a military which has sacrificed too much of their own identity in the name of survival.
15. jlpsquared
@11, "Yes, they have food and well being, but at what cost? What has it done to them as a people?"

That's cute, but tell that to starving people in poor countries. It is so easy to take that stance living in a very powerful country. I promise you that if you went to a 3rd world country and gave them the choice would you rather.....

A. Live in a poor country with no military and everyone starves, or
B. Live in a rich country with a huge military and everyone is fed....

your probably right, everyone would pick A.
Bastiaan Stapel
16. Stapel
There are 4 lights!

Awesome, though it was more awesome when I watched it for the first time. Then again, one of the few episodes I clearly remember from back then.

I think most of us agree there was too much nonsense around this awesomeness, both in part II and in part I. IMHO, the whole plot around it goes from below par to full crap.

A good thing in these episodes is the (proper) introduction to Cardassian society (as others have mentioned). Krad, is there a reason you have hardly addressed this?
17. De
@15 - In the case of the Cardassians, it's not simply about having a militaristic, Orwellian society. As we learned through Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian Empire was one of cruelty to the peoples they conquered (slave labor camps, cultural subjugation, and executing people they didn't like to name a few items in their playbook). It is certainly wrong for one's full belly to come at the expense of innocent life.

It's wrong when the United States does this. It's wrong when other nations do this. And it's certainly wrong when the fictional Cardassians do it.
18. Don3Comp
Okay, I'm probably going to stir up some controversey here.

1. This is one of the very few times, perhaps the first since "Skin of Evil" that the series dealt with pure, unadulterated evil. There are plenty of villains in between, but by and large they either are officers in an opposing fleet (Sela) or amoral creatures that consider their actions as the means to a natural extention of their species (the Borg). In Madred, however, there is something much deeper and nastier. This is made clear at the end, when Lemec (a Sela type) is angry at Madred for not preparing Picard for release as ordered. Madred went above (or below) and beyond the call of his Cardassian duties. The episode explored sadism for its own sake, a road not usually travelled in Trek. This episode was the kickoff of making this season the show's darkest, a trend that would continue in episodes like "Frame of Mind," "Face of the Enemy," and "Tapestry."

2. Jellico does remain an asshat--though an effective one--but in his defense, so was Picard at the beginning, frankly. Don't think so? How many times in "Encounter at Farpoint" did he ask a crew member an embarrasing/patronizing question? ("Were you going to blast a hole in the viewer?") We liked Picard because of his sense of wonder about the universe, his intellect, and his strong moral center (his concern for the jellyfish creatures), but he was a fairly hard-edged man, difficult to work for. It was his experiences in episodes like "Best of Both Worlds" and "Chain of Command" that soften him and prepare him to join his crew at poker in the series finale.

By the way, much has been made--justifiably--of Stewart and Warner's performances, but I think that Frakes and Cox also deserve kudos for the verbal shootout between Riker and Jellico.

Keith, it's interesting that you had Picard use the Four Lights as a defense against Locutus, because the two are linked in a way: they are the two times that Picard was most violated and put through hell in the series.
Keith DeCandido
19. krad
BTW, there was indeed never any previous mention of Riker being a hotshot pilot -- but there was nothing established previously to contradict it, either.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
20. Lisamarie
@15, you are presenting a false dichotomy. Also, I agree with 17 that is not the issue of the military per se (I have no problem with people having a military, or even if they use that military to organize society in such a way that it results in a more efficient distribution of labor, food, etc, or to throw off some oppresssor that was hoarding their resources - I don't know what the Cardassian backstory is) but how they used it. There are societies which are able to feed their people without torture, conquering other societies, slave labor, etc.
21. Jeff Dickerson 21
@5 Riker's piloting skills were referenced in "Encounter at Farpoint" when Picard orders him to reconnect the saucer section manually, rather than allow the computer to handle it.

@18 Interestingly enough, this is also an example of Picard's sharp side, since it took him several seasons to say "Good job"
22. Jarvisimo
Keith should you recommend the following for thematic trivial links? I woudl argue that the best companions to the onscreen depictions of Cardassian life and militarism are the two novels, Andrew J Robinson's A Stitch in Time (amazon), and the thematically more complex The Never-Ending Sacrifice (amazon) by Una McCormack. Of course, built on DS9's development of the species, these two books complify and also deconstruct rather well the kinds of charcaters & society seen embryonically in Chain of Command. Most relevant for this episode, perhaps, are the topics of youth and individuality in the Cardassian state. There are several children & young persons who are equivalents to (and sometimes mirrors to) Madred's daughter. I would really recommend each.
Joseph Newton
23. crzydroid
@19: "
BTW, there was indeed never any previous mention of Riker being a hotshot pilot -- but there was nothing established previously to contradict it, either."

Good point.
24. jlpsquared
Not to be too much of a pessimist, but is there any historical evidence for what you are referring too? I hope I am not coming off as combative, but I was discussing this with one of my friends at lunch today, and we couldn't think of any country or empire that was both strong militarily, and did not torture.

Now, obviously Star Trek is supposed to be better than all that, but at the same time, but I have a hard time judging an entire society based on the experience of one person. Now I know you guys like to argue all the stuff from DS9, but remember at the time this episode was aired, none of that stuff was known. Remember, all we know from this point is that the Bajorans didn't really care for the cardassians, but they weren't really fans of the federation either. I don't believe the "occupation" was even an issue until the 1st episode of DS9.

So what I am arguing is from what we know about Cardassia from THIS episode. So yes, what they did to Picard was sucky, but I think you could easily argue everything else was pretty justified.

And BTW, to back to DS9, for every terrible thing we learn about Cardassians, isn't there something equally noble about them also. Again, I go back to the family thing. I don't think they are wrong in believing Children should be protect AT ALL COSTS. Yes,the later eps of DS9 showed cardassian society fall apart, but remember, that was after the dominion war, which was brutal on them, and it was also for dramatic purposes (R. Moore?), not any judgment of their society.
25. rowanblaze
I don't know about "best pilot on the Enterprise," but Riker's skills are referenced near the end of "In Theory," when Picard insists on piloting the shuttle, even though Riker is explicitly singled out as being more qualified than the captain.

Given the commentary last week, I'm surprised more wasn't made of Riker's "tantrum" in this episode. Far from being childish, Riker's righteous indignation over the disavowal of Picard by Starfleet is certainly justified, even more so once we find out about his role in the Pegasus incident later in the series. He'd seen enough of the seedier aspects of Starfleet. (Though one could argue that such situations are inevitable, even in an idealistic society like the Federation.)
Of course, despite being an asshat, Jellico was justified in relieving Riker of duty for it.
26. Robby the Robot
I had to put in my two cents here...

Jelico should have been brought back for further episodes. The novels make very good use of him as an admirial. I just liked the way he shook things up and added much needed drama and character conflict. Watching him square off against Riker was what Next Generation needed. It could have had less gimmicks and more material for the actors to act instead of reacting to special effects.

The entire second part was very painful to watch. To see Picard tortured was especially upsetting; however it was well portrayed and was a moving episode. That being said, I wish there were more battles with the command side of Starfleet and Picard. It would have made the program less sci fi and more real drama.
27. oldfan
@ rowanblaze #25
Very interesting that you mention the Pegasus incident. I always thought that Picard's behavior and tone of high moral indigantion in that episode was absurd, given his own willingness to undertake missions like this one. However, maybe it's the reverse, and Picard wanted to hang Starfleet out to dry there because they were willing to disavow him here? Also agree with #26 that Jellico should have been seen more often. He's good -he saves Picard and averts a war- but his style makes for a great contrast with the Enterprise crew and could have been the subject of some great drama.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@27: I don't see the comparison between this and "The Pegasus." This was a mission to stop the development of a Cardassian weapon that violated all treaties. The incident in "The Pegasus" was one where Starfleet was the one developing a weapon that violated a treaty.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
29. Lisamarie
@24 - first of all, aside from a few miscellaneous episodes on the Q/Time Travel DVD collections, I have not seen DS9. So, my opinions are just based on what I have seen here or inferred from other comments.

As for societies with a strong military and torture - oh, I am totally willing to believe that they have all done it, human nature being what it is. I'm just saying that it is not NECESSSARY. I am not against a strong military, but I don't think the torture aspect is necessary to feed the people. At least in this episode, I didn't see anything to justify what they were doing. It seems like they just went from one extreme to another, when it should be possible to find a balance.
30. jlpsquared
@29, no doubt torture is a tough subject, and I am in no way advocating (well, maybe a little), but at the end of the day I firmly believe that All governments torture. That is a fact of existence. It is why i always laugh when Obama says he will end torture? How, exactly? There is no way you can watch intelegence agencies 24 hours a day, and even if you could, what about the old Nuke in NY scenario? Does Obama really want to be the sitting president who let a nuke go off and kill 23 million people when he had a terrorist (or whatever) that under torture may have given the location? Of course not.

Anyone who thinks Obama doesn't allow torture is insane. He still has voters to answer to just like everyone else, even the Cardassian government. I refuse to damn an entire society because they tortured a guy, because, and I say again, you will have to damn every society, culture, government that existed, exists, or will exist in the future.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
31. Lisamarie
I will be honest, I am not sure how I feel about harsh treatment of people who are involved in terrorist activities to get information (and at what point those things become 'torture', I am not sure); my gut says it is wrong, especially since we may not even know the person is guilty or giving reliable information. But I can understand where you wouldn't want to let millions die if you think you can stop it.

But we KNOW Picard is not a terrorist and so do the Cardassians - it was all a trap meant to lure Picard for information that it turns out he didn't even have, AND he continued to torture him even after the order had been given that he be released.

And to be honest, I'm okay with damning every society, because, well...we all do damnable things. That being said, I think the crux of the comment (soulless but being fed) wasn't JUST about the torture, but the general knowledge of the kind of society they have become. And I will admit that since I don't have a lot of other knowledge, I'm basically going on this episode and a few other episodes, and Picard's words, but since Star Trek isn't one of those cynical shows, I assume we're meant to take it at face value - that they have resorted to using their military in unethical ways and that torture is a more commonplace occurence than it needs to be. But I also agree that they have noble aspects - just from the one scene (assuming he isn't lying) you can tell he loves and dotes on his daughter and wants what is best for. Already they are far more interesting and nuanced than other villains in the series (not gonna mention the F word here ;) ).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
Also (don't want to post a link because they never tend to get past the spam filters) but you should do a youtube search for the Weird Al song Party in the CIA ;)
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@30: "Does Obama really want to be the sitting president who let a nuke go off and kill 23 million people when he had a terrorist (or whatever) that under torture may have given the location? Of course not."

That's an illegitimate argument, because it's based on the false premise that torture is actually effective as a form of extracting useful information. Here are statements from many experts on interrogation all agreeing that torture doesn't actually work, that you can get much more reliable results using non-confrontational techniques and positive reinforcement:


Contrary to fiction, torturing prisoners actually makes it harder to get the truth from them, because the pain and stress can impair the brain's ability to remember things accurately or to distinguish true memories from false ones, as discussed here:


So torture is a stupidly counterproductive thing to do if you actually need to extract information to save lives. It's never really been about getting to the truth. Its only purpose is as Madred used it: as a tool of psychological domination and control.
34. NullNix
I completely agree that this is an excellent half-episode -- it was tied down by Trek's rigid adherence to episodic structure and A/B plots. It would have been much stronger if they could have focused on the Picard/Madred scenario without the Enterprise scenes dissipating the tension every five minutes, but that would have required a *three*-parter, and Trek always did hate doing that (and though DS9 would get over that, they never get over their requirement for chop-and-change A/B plotting or rigid five-act structure). I note that B5 did this much better a few years later, surely in the light of this episode, focusing on the interrogation and *only* the interrogation for a whole episode (though it was still five acts long: this is probably forced by the cadence of commercial breaks on US TV). But this episode did it first, and did it very well, and gets huge chops for that.

I'm afraid Madred struck me as an incompetent interrogator. This is the best the Cardassians can do, an interrogator who lets his captive repeatedly needle him into anger? Sheesh. (Sure, the anger might have been feigned, but wouldn't we have seen a sign of it, of Picard's responses to the anger being turned against him? We don't, so we must assume that the anger was real.)
Mike Kelmachter
35. MikeKelm
@26 Robby the Robot:

You bring up a good point in that Captain Jellico came across as a good nemesis to Riker- someone who wasn't as impressed by him, who challenged his comfort levels. He goes on to play a much bigger role in the expanded universe novel series (in particular the New Frontier and Destiny series) and works out into a great foil. Admiral Necheyev was another character who seemed to have a lot of facets to her. It's a shame that we didn't see more of him, but rather he gets shipped off into the "Somewhere else in the galaxy pile"

In my own little fantasy world of shows I'd like to see, I wonder if it would be possible to do Star Trek where the focus was actually on several ships with very different crews. Maybe this week we are on Enterprise doing it's usual fly in/fly out issue, next week on a science vessel, week after on some cruiser doing anti-Orion pirate duty somewhere else. It would be very interesting to see the interplays and character driven aspects. To me that is what makes the later seasons of TNG and DS9 much more interesting; there was a lot more character driven stories rather than on the wacky Sci-Fi of the week. It would also let you see the different facets of Starfleet- yes there is the best and the brightest on board Enterprise, but what about the not so best and bright on board some beat up old Constellation class. What happens when the crews meet?
Keith DeCandido
36. krad
NullNix: the later introduction of the Obsidian Order lends a bit more verisimilitude to Madred's mediocre skills as an interrogator. The OO is where all the good interrogators go, obviously. ;)

As for the "rigid five-act structure," they have no choice, as you indicated -- that's an artifact of commercial television. They can no more change that than a sonnet writer can change the number of lines.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
37. SKM
I was wondering when "Intersections in Real Time" would come up!

I find it really interesting that pretty much every sci-fi show does at least one "main character gets tortured" episode. Star Trek:TOS did "The Empath" and "Dagger of the Mind," TNG did this episode, Babylon 5 did "Intersections in Real Time," Farscape did that episode with Crichton in the Aurora Chair, Firefly did "War Stories"...it would be really, really interesting to do a compare/contrast on how different sci-fi shows use torture as a trope, and what that may or may not say about the different eras in which they aired.
Mike Kelmachter
38. MikeKelm
DS9 tortured O'Brien just about once a season....

The only issue I think I had with the torture scene is that it doesn't seem to come into play afterwards. Like Picard after Best of Both Worlds, Troi after Violations, and others where the characters undergo severe psychological stresses, they don't seem to have any lingering consequences. Now maybe the mental health field has advanced considerably in the next 300 years, but an episode later Picard is matching wits with Moriarty in a holodeck and completely back to normal. I'd like the characters to "sell" the impact of the incident a little more.
Christopher Bennett
39. ChristopherLBennett
I was unimpressed by B5's "Intersections in Real Time," because "Chain of Command, Part II" had already handled the same subject matter so much better.
40. lvsxy808
It is of some interest that this episode is the only one to ever mention the early Hebitian culture on Cardassia that has become comparatively prominent in the DS9-R novels. No episode of DS9 itself ever mentioned it - this is its only appearance in canon.
Christopher Hatton
41. Xopher
jlpsquared 10: They crafted their society to protect their children, and if they must do certain things to maintain that society than so be it. They state later they have no divorce, broken families, and no poverty like before. I must ask, how is that wrong?

How about: they have no divorce because they simply don't allow it, which is the only way to have a whole society with no divorce. Therefore no broken families, just families with people who hate each other, physical and sexual abuse, continual adultery, etc. (because everything you get divorced to avoid becomes common when you don't allow divorce). And maybe they have no poverty because people without jobs are executed, or (and there's plenty of evidence for this one) because they prosper through Bajoran slave labor. And they'll do the same thing to humans if they can, evidence for which is that they teach their children that humans don't love their children.

____ 15: That's a good model of how societies fall into evil, yeah. It's not having a military that does it, it's aggressive war against other countries. The model is Germany in the 1930s. Once a country makes that choice, they have to be crushed in war; that's why we shouldn't let any country get to the point where that's the choice they have to make.

____ 24: The US in the mid- to late-20th Century was strong militarily and did not torture. Torture came back in with the Bush Administration. (Yes, it was done covertly before that, but people were actually punished when caught.)

I don't believe the "occupation" was even an issue until the 1st episode of DS9.

Wrong. Ro Laren was a refugee for her entire pre-Starfleet life, and lived in camps with the constant threat of Cardassian attack. That's established before DS9 was ever thought of.

So what I am arguing is from what we know about Cardassia from THIS episode.

And if all you know of the US and Germany is that the US firebombed Dresden, your sympathies would be with the Germans. (And rightly so; the bombing of Dresden was a crime.)

I don't think they are wrong in believing Children should be protect AT ALL COSTS.

Oh, are you one of those people who justifies all manner of evil with "think of the children"? Really, you can see the harm that's been done by that idea in our society. Protecting children, OK, but not at all costs.

Of course your subsequent posts show that you still believe in long-discredited arguments in favor of torture, so I'm probably wasting my pixels here.
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
Where was it ever said that they had no divorce on Cardassia? I just searched Chakoteya's transcript site for "divorce," and the only reference to "no divorce, no broken homes" is Quark talking about Ferengi society in "Fascination."

Also, we only have Madred's word that there's no more poverty, and he's anything but a reliable narrator, considering that his whole shtick is trying to force Picard to agree to a blatant lie.
43. Bob A
If this was about ANY other character being tortured, it wouldn't have worked. Not merely because Sir Patrick is an amazing actor. As in "Best of Both Worlds", it is the noble Captain who is reduced to pawn. If it was Riker or Worf, it wouldn't have the same impact, although it might have been interesting to see what Madred would have to resort to in order to torture Data...
44. DPC
It was a tad contrived to get Picard off the Enterprise, but the results are so phenomenally good that the plot point doesn't matter.

Nor could I see any other character be hung up to dry like that.
45. Swlrsenn
I've sorta always figured data with a direct communication link to the crafts computer was the best pilot.
Brickhouse MacLarge
46. Midnightair
i for one would have requested transferring off the ship with captain jellico. he is a better captain than Picard. i would also have appreciated some form of disciplinary action or demotion for riker. also, i would've expected the ship's counselor to report or keep a note of her captain's ultimate failure in the interrogation, when he admitted to her he finally believed he saw 5 lights. it's a miracle the enterprise didn't get blasted out of the galaxy what with such a bunch of incompetent senior officers in charge.
47. John-Pierre
@Midnightair - Are you Jellico in disguise?
Brickhouse MacLarge
48. Midnightair
@47. No just someone who likes that captain as opposed to the alternative/s.
50. JohnC
@46 - I sense that you're being a contrarian because youre real opinions are probably not all that compelling, but I can't resist asking: just how did Picard "fail" in the interrogation? The goal of the interrogation was to get Picard to acknowledge to the interrogator that he saw 5 lights. That admission would signify submission. But Picard never broke. Picard admitting something to his confidante after the fact is entirely different.
51. Seth C
Over 20 years later, I still think this was one of the best episodes of science fiction produced. It's interesting to note that Madred's name was never mentioned in the episode itself; it comes from the script and the credits. I love this episode on a number of levels. Stewart and Warner's performances were stellar. The ship-based plot was a little weak, mostly b/c it seemed to rush along. I thought Riker had been established in "The Outcast" (another great episode) as an excellent pilot. As for the scene between Jill Ora and Madred, I always thought Madred was right. Picard was being arrogant and closed-minded when he told him that "When children learn to devalue others, they can devalue--anyone. Including their parents." Maybe on Earth, human children could but not on Cardassia. And as Madred said to his daughter, human mothers and fathers may not love their children in the same manner that Cardassian parents do; most human parents, at least in modern Western society try to protect young children from the harsh realities of life. The Tarlians in "Suddenly Human" don't; that was the point of the episode. I know when Madred told Jil Ora "Human mothers and fathers don't love their children as we do. They're not the same as we are," it was intended by the script writers to make Picard into the cultural "Other" for Jil Ora and show how truly despicable the Cardassians are. But what if we took Madred's view as valid? Ordinarily in the show, Picard's moral and world view was taken as sacrosanct, but at this point in the episode he was an outsider, a lowly "human". Perhaps humans and Cardassians aren't similar after all.
Christopher Bennett
52. ChristopherLBennett
@51: Sorry, I can't buy that interpretation, because that whole "They aren't capable of love" line is the same kind used by racists and nationalists throughout history to dehumanize their enemies and make it easier to justify persecuting or killing them. It's rather disingenuous to claim that Madred was asserting a simple difference in the form the love took; he was saying that humans didn't love their children at all, a blatant lie to convince his daughter that humans were morally inferior and not really people. Which is how he justified torturing them.

I think the problem here comes from the way modern American English speakers tend to treat "like" and "as" as interchangeable. "They don't love their children like we do" could be taken to mean "in the same way that we do," but as here is a conjunction, not a comparative. The "as" phrase there is basically a clarifying example of the action being described. It basically means "They don't love their children, which is something that we do."
53. Seth C
That interpretation might make sense Christopher but I take the perspective that Madred's point of view is a perfectly valid, logical and rational explanation in his mind. To the Cardassians, human mothers and fathers don't love their children as much as Cardassian parents. Humans and Cardassians are not similar in any way. Humans in the 24th century value individual liberty, personal creativity, rationalism, optimism, and secular humanism; Cardassians value strong families, hierarchy, education and service to the state. The Never Ending Sacrifice in DS9 is a Cardassian repetive epic, the finest example of Cardassian literature. The Cardassians' highest ideal is service to the state above their individual selves. To Picard, a rational, optimistic secular humanist, this is anthema. To Madred, it is the highest good he can obtain. You are free to disagree with my analysis but please do not try to suppress my point of view, which is still sound.
Christopher Bennett
54. ChristopherLBennett
@53: Bigots' attitudes are always perfectly reasonable and justifiable in their own minds. That's the problem. It certainly doesn't make them right. It's an abuse of moral relativism to treat hate speech as just another valid point of view.
55. Seth C
Christopher: I believe I wrote that Madred's point of view is perfectly valid in his own mind. I think Madred is twisting logic, though I also think Picard might have been arrogant to say that once Cardassians were a peaceful people, with a rich spiritual life. Since he's not exactly an anthropologist with specialization in 21st and 22nd century Cardassian culture, he doesn't exactly get the right to sprout off on how Madred is wrong. When you don't have food and clothing, being peaceful and spiritual is kind of beside the point. Simply because Picard is the star of the show and our culture rightly believes cruelty and torture is abhorrent, doesn't mean the Cardassians do and must. As Madred pointed out, under the First Hebitian civilization, bodies went unburied, epidemics ravenged the population. Climate change caused unimaginable suffering. At least the military since the 19th century could feed the populce, mandate a rebuilding program, build an agricultural program; essentially providing a minimal level of comfort. I don't see Madred as bigoted, simply espousing a different point of view, which clearly you and Picard don't like.
Christopher Bennett
56. ChristopherLBennett
@55: Yes, of course it's valid in his own mind -- that goes without saying. But that doesn't mean it's any less wrong. It's not just a "different point of view" because it's objectively false. It is simply a lie to say that humans are incapable of loving their children. I shouldn't even need to remind you of that, assuming you are human and not some kind of sophisticated spambot.

This is the problem with modern discourse. There's this insidious notion out there that there's no such thing as objective truth or verifiable fact, that even the most grotesque and harmful lie like racism or creationism or climate-change denial is "just another opinion" that's somehow on an equal footing. That's a dangerous falsehood. "I don't like cheese" is an opinion. "The moon is made of cheese" is a lie. There's a huge difference. An opinion cannot be proven wrong, but a lie or a factual error can. It is provably false that humans don't love our children. So no, it is not "simply espousing a different point of view," it is espousing a lie.
57. SethC
Chris-Well first of all, all Madred said is that "Humans don't love their children the way we do." To me that means it's a different type of love. Moreso however my point is that Picard is sitting in judgment of someone he knows little about. To quote Sisko's line in "The Maquis Part II": "It's easy to be a saint in paradise." Essentially Picard is that saint in paradise. It's easy for him to condemn the Cardassians' militaristic society because he doesn't live in it, re his line "I know that once you were a peaceful people, with a rich and spirtiual life." Madred throws it back in his face with "Where did peace and spirituiality get us? People starved by the millions. Bodies went unburied. Disease was rampant, suffering was unimaginable." Picard grew up in France, going on cycling trips with Louis and the Bloom sisters. Madred lived in poverty in Lakat, starving, cold, sleeping with other young children in doorways for warmth. The one time he found a treasure trove of food, he was brutally beaten for it by an older boy. It's too easy for Picard to condemn Madred's views of military power and lamenting the loss of the First Hebitian civilization. As the captain of Starfleet's flagship, he's interested in maintaining the Cardassians as a peaceful, spiritual people that don't pose a threat to the Federation's expansion; that' s self-interest and the Federation has it as much as any other organization, be it the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardassians... or the United States and Russia. It's easy for him to say Cardassians should be a peaceful people; he is from a paradise. He can read Shakespeare and drink his Earl Grey tea every night, comfortable and warm in his ready room on the Enterprise without a thought in the world about the poverty and misery that others have to endure behind a line on a map, be they Cardassians or Bajorans. On the other hand, for Madred, having to fight rampaging epidemics, dead bodies in the streets, suffering of children, it's hard for him to care all that much about being spiritual. Organized religion is predicated for the poor as to endure suffering in this world so they will be rewarded for it in the next. So rather than do something about fighting for equal rights and fairer conditions in this world, they can accept it more easily because they think they will be in paradise in the next world. I'm not saying that's true for everyone, or even for a majority, but for many poor people in the world, that is true. There is a hierarchy of needs. If I'm not able to find food and clothing for myself and my children, I won't give a damn about being peaceful or accepting, rather quite the contrary. That is why Madred believes in the Cardassian military, the territorial conquest of Bajor, the mandating of agricultural programs, of food supplies. What is more important to most people? Enough food and clothing for their children to survive another day or peace and spirituality? I'm pretty sure it's the former. The latter comes when one has enough food and clothing to survive. Please understand Chris, I am not endorsing Madred's methods or even his aims. I find torture outrageous. But I believe in looking at both sides with a critical eye.
58. JimP
While I understand the black and white interpretation of Jellico, he's one of those characters who I love and hate at the same time. Not in an "ends justify the means" sense, but just as a recognition of layers of nuance. He's a character that is supposed to grate. He comes to the Enterprise intending to shake up the status quo, and he does (for two episodes at least, give or take Troi's uniform).

The only other exposure I have to Ronny Cox is his role as Senator Kinsey in Stargate SG-1, where he is an absolute asshat with no redeeming qualities. At least here, there are aspects of his character that can be admired, if not liked.

But for me, THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS, and the admission to Troi at the end of the episode are what this whole two-parter is all about.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment