HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Chain of Command
HTS Overall Score:93
I love these little 2 part episodes turned into a single cohesive film that have accompanied all of the different seasons for “The Next Generation”. It’s always nice to be able to put both parts together as one cohesive unit and see them as they were originally conceived. They are, of course, part of the regular season’s roster, with identical audio and video, but seeing them as one movie, rather than single episodes gives them a more epic feeling and experience. “Chain of Command” is probably one of the greatest 2 part story arcs in all of “The Next Generation’s” lineups. It is a fine piece of storytelling that transcends normal TV writing. Picard is pitted against a merciless foe and we get to see his resolve fileted at the end of a Cardassian knife, his humanity and dignity stripped from him in an effort to shatter the powerful captain’s mind and will. It’s gripping, completely mesmerizing and the addition of Ronny Cox gives it a more cinematic feel than most of the other two parters can achieve. Usually we see the season finale’s paired with their respective season beginnings back to back, but this is one of the few times where the mid seasons arcs can be more compelling than those traditional cliffhangers (although I hope next seasons returns to the old formula of season finale’s as Descent parts 1 and 2 are the single greatest episodes in all of “Next Generation” history in my opinion).
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is immediately relieved of command by Admiral Nechayev (Natalija Nogulich) and the Enterprise turned over to Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox). No one aboard the Enterprise is allowed to understand the reason why, but for 3 people. Picard, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) are assigned to a top secret mission at the edge of Cardassian space. It seems that the Cardassians are creating a mutagenic weapon that threatens all in the sector and with Picard’s knowledge of the technology he is assigned to go in and neutralize the lab creating it on Selica III. Once on Selica III the trio spring a Cardassian trap with Dr. Crusher and Worf barely escaping with their lives, leaving Captain Picard in the hands of the enemy. There Picard is tortured mercilessly, hounded time and time again for the Federation defense strategy for the sector.
Simultaneously, Captain Jellico is having a hard time with the crew of the Enterprise, as he’s a hardnosed man who commands as a blunt battle axe, expecting loyalty without giving any in return. To make matters worse he’s preparing for war, as the Cardassian fleet is moving very suspiciously along the neutral zone. With Captain Picard captured his only line of defense is to mine the nebulas surround the neutral zone and pray that he can negotiate the Cardassians into a stalemate before Captain Picard is broken, or killed.
“Chain of Command” is by far, one of THE best 2 part episodes in “The Next Generation”. Season 6 is tied for Season 5 as being the best of the seasons and these are the cream of the crop for included episodes. Ronny Cox is always great when he’s playing his hardnosed old man roles like he did in “Stargate” and “Robocop”. The crew genuinely dislikes him and you can tell that he’s a man that’s used to getting his way. Every one of the crew is known to trekkies and they’re in full form, but it’s really Picard’s story here. We see the machinations of the Cardassians and the movements of Starfleet to counter their aggression, but the story really shines when we’re in that Cardassian torture chamber. There we see a battle of wits and wills, with Gul Madred (the famed David Warner) and Picard playing a deadly game. Gul Madred wants those battle defense plans from Picard’s head, but more importantly he wants to break the captain. Not out of some misguided loyalty, or duty, but in an effort to make Picard suffer, to assert his dominance over the human and expel his rage and powerlessness onto someone else. Picard is a Federation Captain and not easily broken. Even so, every man has his limits and you watch those limits come closer and closer with each hours spent in the hands of the enemy. Madred pushes, Picard pushes back. Madred pushes harder in anger and Picard pushes back again, albeit weaker and weaker resistance. Finally something must come to a head, either the Enterprise succeeds in its “negotiations” or Picard is a dead man.
The sense of raw realism in the torture scenes makes the episodes (or shall I call it film now) so visceral and keeps the viewer on edge. Picard is a powerhouse of a captain, and we all love him, but you see his mind coming closer and closer to that lack of resistance that he knows is inevitable. We may love our heroes invincible, but that’s not realistic. Every man can be broken under torture, it just takes time and time is what the Cardassians seem to have an abundance of. Picard’s reactors are heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time, as we see the man struggle against the inevitable, knowing that he can only hold out for so long, but refusing to be broken as long as he keeps just a portion of his will. Even the final seconds of the episodes shows just how vulnerable and human Picard really is through this entire ordeal.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21490[/img]My my my, I LOOVE reviewing these “Next Generation” transfers as they have been such an eyesore in the DVD world for far too long. Taken from VHS masters they looked grey, washed out and sorely lacking detail. Here, with each and every season, CBS has done a simply phenomenal job of restoring the episodes to their former luster and even upgrading a little bit of the special effects with modern CGI. Consistency is the key here, CBS has gone out of their way to consistently give us top notch video and audio transfers for these seasons and “Chain of Command” (well all of season 6 as well) is simply marvelous. Colors are so rich and bright, detail is through the roof to the point where I never realized that each uniform worn has its own distinctive material, from a tightly woven bridge uniform to a more relaxed almost “velvet” looking casual uniform that looks soft and flexible to the touch. Black levels are incredible and the entire 35 mm film stock looks beautiful with a nice moderate amount of film grain still visible at all times. With only 86 minutes long with minimal special features, the film is given a nice bitrate in the 20’s that keeps it free of any visual digital artifacting. Another home run for CBS/Paramount.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=21498[/img]As with the video, the audio is a home run as CBS/Paramount gives us a very robust and lively 7.1 DTS-HD MA track. A HUGE upgrade from the DVDs the 7.1 track is lively and gives quite a level of dimensionality to the old show. Surrounds are used well and provide a varied soundstage as ships rumble in in space, livening up all 8 channels with nice weighty pulsing LFE and great directionality. The dialogue is crystal clear and is well balanced with the rest of the track. While the show has plenty of dialogue and would normally be rather front heavy, the rest of the channels are not ignored, as the sound of phaser fire and the hustle n bustle of a busy starship keeps those surround powered on at all times. I really can’t complain with the mix, it sounds every bit as good as any number of fantastic feature films. The sound design is superb and with the upgrades to the audio compression it sounds better than it ever has in the home. Bravo, bravo.
• Audio Commentary by Ronny Cox, Jonathon West and Mike & Denise Okuda
• Deleted Scenes
• The Privilege of Rank: Making "Chain of Command"
• Episodic Promos: Parts 1 and 2
“Chain of Command” is an excellent set of episodes and gives my personal favorite of “Descent parts 1 and 2” a very hefty run for their money. It’s one of the most introspective and raw episodes of the entire series, asking questions about our own resolve and humanity as Picard suffers on screen. While the episodes are included on the season 6 set, it’s nice to see them in this uninterrupted form and these little “additions” to the season sets are a blast to sit through. I sometimes hesitate to put a “must buy” on the 2 part “movies” because of their inclusion in the sets, but the trekkies are the demographic that these little movies are targeted at. The collectors who like to own the ENTIRE collection, or just those would like a “best of” type set instead of spending the big bucks on the season sets. Still, at the very least it behooves any trekkie to track down and watch this pair of episodes as it was meant to be seen, rather than broken up into episodes as seen on the season sets. Definite watch , and a must buy for fans.
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathon Frakes, Brent Spiner, Ronny Cox
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
Written by: Ronald Moore
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English, German, French DD 2.0
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 24th, 2014
Buy Star Trek: The Next Generation - Chain of Command Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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