Along with the boxed set of Season 6, the single disc release of ”Chain of Command”, the critically acclaimed two-part episode that deals with torture, prisoner’s rights, and handling the change of leadership under a new commanding officer, will also be available to purchase on June 24 in the USA. As with other single-disc releases, both parts have been edited together to make one 90-minute TV movie.
As with the other single-disc releases, “Chain of Command” comes in a cardboard slipcover that opens up to artwork showing the other major characters in the episode.
When you insert the disc, the menus start with two Cardassian Galor class warships swooping by before the usual Federation LCARS disc menu comes up.
As a possible Cardassian attack looms, Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher and Worf embark on a secret mission to find and destroy suspected biological weapons, leaving the Enterprise under the leadership the demanding Captain Edward Jellico. Soon after, Picard is captured by the Cardassians and is brutally tortured for information. The crew’s dismay quickly turns to anger as Jellico’s plans exclude a rescue mission. With his options running out, Picard must fight to save his sanity and ultimately his life.
Chain of Command is a generally very good episode. This is certainly true from an acting perspective. We get high caliber guest stars in Ronny Cox (Jellico) and David Warner (Madred), who really inhabit their roles.
The setup for the two main themes, a new captain with a very different style of command and Picard’s capture and torture, is a bit flimsy. Some random radio waves have been detected which may or may not mean anything at all and need investigation, for some reason the captain of the Federation’s flagship and members of his senior staff are the right people for a recon mission?
But ignoring that, we get some really amazing scenes of the shake up that Captain Jellico does to our crew, including some serious Riker versus Jelico stuff, and the one-on-one battle of wills between Gul Madred and Picard is riveting. And we can thank “Chain of Command” and Captain Jellico for insisting Troi finally wear a standard uniform!
Video and Audio Quality
CBS Digital is remastering the rest of series, hence the long wait between Seasons 5 and 6 and between Seasons 6 and 7 (which is due out late this year), but the results are worth it.
Things look great, from the rich colors of the uniforms, to the sinister lighting of Gul Madred’s office. The caves on Celtris III are pretty dark in spots, it could be argued a little too dark, but it’s a minor quibble.
NOTE: all of the new bonus material here is exclusive to this single-disc release and is not found on the Season 6 set.
Audio Commentary by Audio Commentary with Ronny Cox, Jonathan West (Director of Photography for Season 6) and Mike & Denise Okuda – There’s lots of technical talk with the Director of Photography while we wait for Ronny Cox to show up on screen. Cox’s commentary reiterates some of what he said in his interviews in the documentary on the disc, but also adds quite a few anecdotes about the filming and how the actors got along with each other and enjoyed working with Cox. It’s a generally lively and interesting commentary track.
The Privilege of Rank: Making “Chain of Command” — approx. 30 mins
The new documentary opens with Ronny Cox, he says some of his friends and relatives (his sons especially) think his Trek episodes are some of the only worthwhile work he’s done in Hollywood.
Ron D. Moore talks about how Patrick Stewart supported Amnesty International, and so treatment of prisoners was something to bring to light, and it feeds into the Cardassian storyline that’s setting up Deep Space Nine.
Ronny Cox talks about how people are often surprised by his real personality versus the characters he’s played.
Moore says he wanted a very different captain to change things up and throw things off.
Marina Sirtis talks about finally wearing a proper uniform. She was so happy, it finally showed her rank, proving she wasn’t just some random civilian advisor, a common misconception at the time.
Natalija Nogulich talks about Trek, how she was a TOS fan, but soon became a TNG fan as she started to work on TNG as Admiral Nechayev. She originally auditioned for another part earlier in the series, the producers liked her, but thought she was wrong for that specific part. They kept her in mind and called her in for Nechayev. Nogulich said it just clicked for her when she saw the role and the name, being Slavic herself. She made a background bio to her character to help flesh out the character for herself, she said she felt that Nechayev has been around military life and knew what was expected and how to be military proper, the chain of command, and so forth. So the regimented way she presented herself was a part of her upbringing and experiences.
Ronny Cox talks about playing some really nasty guys, but in the world of Trek Jellico was pretty reviled, even though in the scope of all the bad guys he’s played Jellico is actually pretty decent and heroic.
Patrick Stewart talks about the diversity of episodes that TNG was doing by Season 6, exploring different styles and genres and how it was a great platform for both fun and serious topics like the torture in “Chain of Command”.
Season 6 supervising producer Frank Abatemarco discusses how the lights used during torture came from historical accounts of the prison guards in the Russian Gulag. They wanted to break people, so they would hold up four fingers and ask how many fingers they were holding up. When the prisoners finally said “five”, they were released.
Stewart talks about, early on in his career, seeing David Warner at the Royal Shakespeare Company and being blown away. So he loved working with him one-on-one in “Chain of Command”.
Abatemarco discuses Stewart’s amazing acting and his willingness to do it all realistically; how his torture scenes were actually in the nude.
Deleted Scenes – There is a whole lot of extra footage, some of it is quite useful in expanding the scope of the episode and Jellico’s character.
From Part 1
- Jelico keeps people on their toes by being both tough and yet congenial with LaForge in a Jefferies Tube.
From Part 2
- Jelico’s single mindedness about the mission worries Troi (she talks about how Picard may be tortured) which she voices to him, Jelico responds only by saying that she is to tell Starfleet command that any access codes Picard knew should be changed since he’s been captured.
- Extended scene from early on in Picard’s capture with Madred and Picard they talk about the use of drugs to extract information.
- Madred and Picard discuss risking another war and how Federation planets seem to want for nothing, but Cardassia is still facing hunger and famine.
- In the ready room just after Jelico relieves Riker as first officer is a cut short interaction between Jelico and Data as the new first officer.
- The grim reality of Picard’s capture and torture begins to sink in, even to Jelico. Another short scene between Data and Jelico about what Picard does and doesn’t know, if he breaks under torture.
- A short standoff over the viewscreen between Gul Lemec and Jelico.
- Jelico’s battle plans meet with resistance from the senior staff. Jelico announces that he intends to make a preemptive strike against Cardassians in the McAllister nebula inside their space. The bits presented on the disc are the cut reactions from the staff.
- The crew prepares to execute Jelico’s plan of sending a shuttle in to lay mines.
Check back soon for our review of Season 6!
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Chain of Command” single disc set and the entire 6th season come out next Tuesday. You can pre-order them on Amazon.