The perfect marriage of two separate story ideas, Chain of Command Part 1 is a military thriller that showcases many of Star Trek's greatest strengths. The episode focuses on the Captain and also focuses on Picard, (but not both at once, believe it or not,) and supplements the regular cast with an all star guest cast that nearly steals the show. The new Captain (expertly played by Ronnie Cox) is well handled by writer Ron Moore - he's simultaneously respectable and unlikeable - and gets the A story while Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Worf get a B story that's really just a setup for the second part. From character conflicts to phaser battles, "Chain of Command" has just about everything, and yet the best is still to come.
With Ronny Cox guest starring I was expecting better. I did like the episode, but I found it chaotic at times. There was too much going on, onboard the Enterprise to make effective screenplay. Sure the lead up to the secret mission is full of trepidation, as is the anxiety felt across the ship at the change in command. Both elements succeed in keeping viewers off-balanced so they arent thinking of what inevitably will come to pass. In this respect if watching for the first time or after a long time you wont remember what will come to pass.
Some memorable moments are Rikers reaction to the new captains requirements... heh-heh-heh. While the Jellico's scene with the Cardassians is probably the best sequence of this particular hour. I just wonder if the Cardassian wouldnt have left and gone to a superior - but I guess even they are embarrassed to fail.
And so to the actual mission, which was dont really well and provides drama on their approach to their target and a great twist at the end, where most of the action occurs - at least that of a violent nature.
The way in which the Cardassian's fulfil their racial traits and outfox the Federation is the best part of the whole plot. Very believeable.
Ultimately though, this proves to be an adequate foil for the concluding part - thankfully.
Aside from "The Best of Both Worlds", "Chain of Command" is easily the best two-parter in TNG's run. Though not as fast-paced as its predecessor, it projects the same tense, militaristic feel and doesn't offer a lot of breathing room. The idea of a by-the-book captain replacing Picard at the helm of the Enterprise is an inspired one, and it works particularly well in this context (tension rising with the Cardassians). It's enjoyable to see Jellico putting the Enterprise crew in their place - expressing little patience with Riker's insubordination, telling Troi to stop wearing her silly little outfits, and even telling Picard "it's my ship now."
The secret mission is probably the weakest part, simply because the cave set is not particularly interesting. But the shock at discovering that the mission was a set-up, along with Picard's capture, make for quite a cliff-hanger.
Picard has been reassigned to a surveillance mission. He relinquishes command of the “Enterprise” to Captain Jelico. Captain Jelico is one pushy captain. He wants four shifts instead of three. The trouble is there are not enough crewmembers to cover this change. He seems like he does not like Riker. Troi tries reasoning with Jelico, but fails. Picard asks Jelico to go easy on the crew. Picard goes on his away mission. Picard, Worf, and Dr. Krusher is on a secret mission. Picard gets caught by Cardassians. Now it seems like Jelico will be the permanent Captain of the “Enterprise”.
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