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    Star Trek: The Next Generation Chain of Command Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Paramount

    Jul 08 2014 06:11 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Star Trek: The Next Generation’s mid-season two-part episode has been edited together to create a seamless movie experience and the results are good. With each season (beginning with season 3,) CBS has produced a special release containing a combined two-part episode into a ‘movie,’ The Best of Both Worlds, Redemption, and Unification have all received the treatment, arriving with a small collection of special features unique to the release. Chain of Command works better than the previous releases as a seamless experience (though the swell of music and turn of the camera to emphasize the drama of the cliffhanger moment can still be spotted easily,) as the overall action level is more muted in favor of more dramatic machinations. The collection of special features here are good, if not spectacular.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Paramount
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Other
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 26 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: Standard case with slipsleeve
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 06/24/2014
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!”


    Captain Picard, Lt. Worf and Dr. Crusher are selected for clandestine mission into Cardassian territory to determine if the reports of the Cardassian’s development of a deadly metagenic weapon, and a potential invasion of Federation space, are true. While absent of command, Picard is replaced by Captain Jellico, a man with a very different command approach to Picard, and with a great deal of history and experience dealing with the Cardassians as a chief negotiator for their withdrawal from Bajoran space. When Picard’s mission fails, he is captured and is subjected to unacceptable treatment in the hands of a malicious captor.

    “Chain of Command” is superb dramatic television. The startling command shakeup as Captain Jellico assumes captaincy of the Enterprise when Picard is chosen to lead a daring mission into a secret Cardassian installation (with Lt. Worf and Dr. Crusher as his team), is potently played out. Superbly paced in the opening episode – with energy and speed – it is given space to breathe and allow the powerful performance by Patrick Stewart, captured by the Cardassians, to play out unfettered during Part II.

    Dramatically speaking, a sharp-shift in command has been explored before when Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) joined the Enterprise during “The Best of Both World’s” two-part episode. But here the shift ripples through the entire senior staff, each suffering the seismic shift in expectations and directives from an uncompromising Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox.) Ronny Cox, undoubtedly hired to role based on his callous, evil corporate leader appearances in Robocop and Total Recall, is well-written for and provides a strong performance. Fortunately, Cox’s character is afforded a little more nuance here than the straight bad-guy roles he excelled at in director Paul Verhoven’s science fiction films. Though he serves as the spoil, Cox delivered enough equivocations in his “my way or the highway’ veneer that his feather-ruffling function in the story earns genuine sympathy.

    “Chain of Command” goes to great lengths to set a tone for the Cardassians in preparation for their expanded role (and antagonistic presence) on the, at the time, soon to be launched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And it does so well. With David Warner given a further opportunity in the Star Trek universe as Gul Madred (beyond his wasted turn in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as St. John Talbot, and his far better turn in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as Chancellor Gorkon), menace and cunning are woven into this species character.

    The A and B stories are equally engaging, with the turmoil aboard the enterprise playing only slightly second to the journey and battle of wills engaged by Picard and Gul Madred. There is a genuine darkness running through Picard’s capture and torture. In terms of all that had come before and all that came after in The Next Generation, “Chain of Command” is unusually dark at times – and that harshness is deeply satisfying, dramatically speaking. The standoff, as Gul Madred tortures Picard to force his submission, to say that there are five lights when in fact there are only four shining hard upon him, is a memorable element in the episode and in the series.

    Patrick Stewart, a longtime supporter of Amnesty International, researched torture and sought, through his performance, to lay bare the brutality of torture and bring attention in some way to its unwelcome presence in the world. Having a deeply personal connection to the mission of Amnesty International (having lived with an abusive father,) his work here is superb. Working on a closed set he performed several scenes actually laid bare, nude and strung up performing as a beaten and exhausted prisoner subjected to the type of abuse that can seep the humanity (if you’ll forgive a human expression) out of all of us.

    The sets, the lighting, the writing, the performances and the direction are all top-tier television and set “Chain of Command” among the finest episodes of The Next Generation produced over the seven-year run.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    Framed correctly at 1.33:1, Chain of Command works very well as a single movie narrative, despite the sharp shift in focus of the two original halves. The re-compositioning of the entire series (just season seven to go) has resulted in Chain of Command filled with fine detail, bright and bold colors (on the Enterprise) and a set-design and lighting accomplishment for the scenes between Picard and Gul Madred appearing the best they have ever looked.

    As mentioned in my season six review. Patrick Stewart’s stressed and drained appearance in Chain of Command is subtly effective, and the harsh lighting revealing of great detail.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    Chain of Command, as with the season it is pulled from, comes with a solid 7.1 DTS-HD track.

    A brief phaser battle between Picard and team and a few Cardassian soldiers provides the major exercising of the audio (beyond the standard hum of the Enterprise and the audibly sparse room where Picard is held.) And Jay Chattaway, scoring both halves, of the original episode format, delivers a fine score not punctuated by anything particularly memorable, but effectively subtle where it needs to be.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentary by Ronny Cox, Jonathan West and Mike & Denise Okuda: Another fine and informative commentary track notably for Ronny Cox’s perspective on his role as spoil for the crew of the Enterprise in Picard’s absence (he rather sees himself as a good captain, just different) – and his fondness for his experience and working with the cast. Technically, Jonathan West (Director of Photography) provides a number of good pointers (for the uninitiated), while the Okuda’s work quite well in moving the conversation along, and mixed with their trademark heavy dose of TNG trivia.

    The Privilege of Rank: Making “Chain of Command” (28:35) (HD): Hearing Ronny Cox discuss his craft with joy, coupled with contemplative comments and earnest reflection, is perhaps the high point of this light special feature. Other actors are given space to share their perspective of their time on the show, in these episodes, with their characters, and others, including the supervising producer Frank Abatemarco and writer of the first part, Ronald D. Moore.

    This making of feature doesn’t delve as deeply behind the scenes though there are important touches on the torture plotline and Patrick Stewart’s dedicated performance.

    Deleted Scenes (HD): A number of deleted scenes, including a battle of wits between Captain Jellico and LaForge, a lack of apparent compassion between Counselor Troi and Jellico, and others between David Warner’s menacing Gul Madred and Captain Picard.

    Episodic Promos: Part I and Part II

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Chain of Command works very well as a single movie experience (perhaps the best of similar releases that have come with each season’s debut on Blu-ray,) and it remains a fine entry in the library of Star Trek creations. The cold, still menace of David Warner’s Gul Madred playing opposite a weakened, almost frail Picard performed with such vulnerability by Patrick Stewart is genuinely excellent work. Ronny Cox’s sole appearance in Star Trek is also surprisingly memorable and equal to the quality of the two-parter.

    Reviewed by: Neil Middlemiss
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    9 Comments

    Photo
    Ronald Epstein
    Jul 08 2014 10:30 PM

    Firstly, thank you for the review, Neil.  Enjoyed reading it.

     

    Interesting that this review has appeared at this time.  I just recently

    finished watching Chain of Command over the past week.

     

    It's surprising to see (thus far) two separate 2-part stories in Season 7

    (Chain of Command and Birthright).  Only being halfway through the 

    season, I am uncertain if there are any more two parters.  

     

    I very much enjoyed this story.  Ronny Cox does a great job as Captain

    Jellico.  If you knew how many times I mumbled the words "what a bastard"

    under my breath every time he issued a command....

     

    I am glad you touched upon the movies Ronny Cox appeared in.  I knew he

    looked very familiar, but did not know exactly where I had seen him before.

     

    It was a surprise to see David Warner in this episode.  He's an old favorite

    that I have loved since first seeing him in Time After Time.  

     

    Really enjoyed reading the backstory on Patrick Stewart, his involvement with

    Amnesty International and living with a brutal father.  It's very apparent that Stewart

    went to great lengths to portray torture. I was rather shocked when I saw him doing 

    those nude scenes.  

      • Jason_V likes this

    Ron, the only two-part episodes in Season 6 are Chain of Command and Birthright (as long as you exclude Time's Arrow II and Descent I). You're not in for anymore once you're done with Birthright.

     

    Season 7 only has one (Gambit). The finale (All Good Things...) is a 90 minute episode, so that *could* count as a two parter, I guess.

    Is this sold as an individually packaged "movie"? Or is it part of the a season re-release?

    Stand alone movie, Dave.

    Chain of Command is included in the Season 6 Blu-ray, but the special features (commentary, featurette, deleted scenes) are exclusive to this separate release.  It is the fourth such release after "Best of Both Worlds", "Redemption" and "Unification".  I suppose that it's possible that they'll do a similar separate release for "All Good Things", but my instincts are saying that they'll just include the special materials for that with the rest of Season 7.

    It's two different cuts of Chain of Command:

     

    The "movie" reviewed above is not available on the season 6 set AND the original, intended 2 part episode.

     

    The movie is only available separately. The two separate episodes are only included on the S6 set.

    Jason is correct that the two episodes have been slightly - and I stress SLIGHTLY - edited to join them into a single show, with the credits combined at the beginning of the show.   This is the same approach as was taken with the three prior separate releases.  The one time that this actually changed a scene by a small fraction was in the very beginning  of the second part of "Best of Both Worlds", and even that was pretty mild. 

     

    But the episodes are essentially the same.  

     

    I should also note that I have a slightly different opinion about the score of this episode - and frankly, all the episodes starting somewhere around the top of the 5th season.   The score is intentionally bland, to the point that it becomes a kind of sonic wallpaper, which was the aim of Rick Berman.  He had tired of the more bombastic moments in the scoring of the earlier seasons and didn't want the music to announce itself.  The group interview of the composers on the Season 5 Blu-ray set is instructional in this area - all three of the guys say that it got pretty stifling trying to write cues that suggested something mysterious about a new character, but didn't indicate whether this was a good or bad person, and didn't present any emotion.   For me, this kind of music tends to be like running scales.   Occasionally, we'd get a hint of something else - particularly during the Series Finale, but Chain of Command wasn't such an opportunity.

    Photo
    Neil Middlemiss
    Jul 10 2014 11:31 AM

    I should also note that I have a slightly different opinion about the score of this episode - and frankly, all the episodes starting somewhere around the top of the 5th season.   The score is intentionally bland, to the point that it becomes a kind of sonic wallpaper, which was the aim of Rick Berman.  He had tired of the more bombastic moments in the scoring of the earlier seasons and didn't want the music to announce itself.  The group interview of the composers on the Season 5 Blu-ray set is instructional in this area - all three of the guys say that it got pretty stifling trying to write cues that suggested something mysterious about a new character, but didn't indicate whether this was a good or bad person, and didn't present any emotion.   For me, this kind of music tends to be like running scales.   Occasionally, we'd get a hint of something else - particularly during the Series Finale, but Chain of Command wasn't such an opportunity.

     

    I hear what you're saying Kevin, my opinion on the score is in a much as it is absent or deeply understated (allowing for the drama to play out) than it is the musical ingenuity at play (which as you correctly stated was stifled by the show runner.)

     

    Having said that, I adored how music was used in this season's "Lessons," including a welcome reprise of the theme from "The Inner Light".

     

    Good music can be found even in these later seasons, but it is harder to find pieces that genuinely standout.

    I'm in full agreement, Kevin. The change is tiny...as is the "edit" in Best of Both World, Redemption and Unification. TrekCore has a video up of the BoBW change. I think a lot of tension and pacing from these recut episode is missing versus their original versions. Despite that, I own all of them and will keep them on my shelf.

     

    Re: the music. Something I noticed in an ENT rewatch is the music. It's more dynamic with more chances being taken in S3 and S4. I first noticed it in "Azati Prime" but really got into the music during the Augments arc and now the Vulcan Reformation (my current rewatch arc).