Tensions rise as a possible Cardassian attack looms, and Picard, Dr. Crusher and Worf are sent on a secret mission to find and destroy suspected biological weapons. The headstrong replacement captain, Edward Jellico, is cold and demanding -- to the dismay of the remaining crew. But when Picard is captured by the Cardassians and tortured for information, dismay turns to anger and resistance as Jellico's plans exclude a rescue mission. With his options running out, Picard must fight to save his sanity and ultimately his life.
'Star Trek: The Next Generation – Redemption' and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds' were obvious pairings for a standalone releases. Connecting the gaps between individual season releases by conjoining cliffhanger finales and premieres into one release was a perfect move. No one wants to be haunted by "To be continued…" messages once they've started binge-watching a show on Blu-ray. 'Chain of Command' is a different story though.
Ripped right from the middle of season six, 'Chain of Command' doesn't really follow along with the idea of 'Redemption.' Instead it feels like a release for those who don't want to buy the seasons, but still want to get some 'TNG' high-def goodness in their home. If that's the case, then I guess it's fine. However, it'll be hard not to think of this release as anything but a bit superfluous.
It is one of the great two-part stories 'TNG' has to offer. There are a couple memorable long-form episodes in season six. 'Chain of Command' is probably the most revered, though "Birthright," and the first half of "Descent" are equally deserving of praise. For my money pairing parts one and two of 'Descent' onto the same disc, bridging the gap between season six and seven, would've been the better release, but I digress.
Season six does one thing really well, and that's making Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) appear utterly vulnerable at times. Hell, season six even has the episode "Tapestry" where Picard is impaled, and then shuffling off to meet Q in some bizarre afterlife near-death experience place. In 'Chain of Command' Picard loses something even more important than his life: his command. It's a trying time for him and the crew. It's one of those episodes, which even though you know it's going to work out in the end there's always that seed of doubt that it may not. 'TNG' always did that so well. Even the show was well-established by now, and the main characters weren't going anywhere, there were always those episodes that gave you the briefest of pauses wondering how everything would rectify itself in the end. 'Chain of Command' is one of those episodes.
Before a rendezvous with a Cardassian ambassador, Captain Picard is relieved of his command by Captain Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox). Picard, Worf (Michael Dorn), and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) are assigned to a top-secret mission: find and destroy a Cardassian biological weapon that they may be building.
Jellico instantly rubs William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) the wrong way. Riker is sick of him before he's finished giving his initial commands after coming on board. The politics of the switch flew over this reviewer's head – something about Jellico having more sway with the Cardassians – but, I went along with it all the same.
What 'Chain of Command' really does is it gives us some great insight into both Riker and Picard as characters. Building on already known characteristics and adding a few deeper dimensions we didn't know existed.
Picard is captured by the Cardassians and tortured. He withstands the torture, and true to 'TNG' standards the script is discussing, in depth, the controversial issues of today. Picard and his captor have a lengthy discourse about the viability of torture as an information gathering technique. It's all very interesting seeing that we're still discussing those topics as a society even today. As for Riker, he's stuck on a ship with a new captain that he hates. He's pining for Picard, but like all good first officers, he's following orders. Even though he does most of them stomping away in a huff.
While I really enjoy 'Chain of Command' I fail to see why Paramount decided it needed a standalone release, seemingly abandoning the idea of joining finales and premieres on the same disc. "Descent" just seems like the obvious choice here.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a pretty bare bones release. One 25GB Blu-ray Disc is provided. It's housed in a standard keepcase which comes with a basic slipcover. It's labeled as a Region A release.
With the other standalone releases I've encouraged readers to refer back to the main season review to check out the video portion. I'll do the same thing here. Since 'Chain of Command' is taken straight out of the middle of the season there's not even a need to explain the stuff that isn't found in this season like there would be if this were a release with both "Descent" parts included. So, refer to the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Six' review for a full explanation of the stellar video.
A few examples of the great video presentation in 'Chain of Command' include the beautifully rendered, all-new special effects. There are quite a few shots of space, the Enterprise, and Cardassian ships. Everything looks spectacular. The black levels in the space where Picard is being tortured are also exemplary.
Same goes with the audio. For a full review of the season's audio, which mirrors the audio provided on this release, please refer to the season six review.
A few examples of the fantastic audio performance include the echoing of Picard's voice as he screams in agony. The extra side channels really do a great job at bouncing the voice around, making it really feel like you're right there next to him. Also, the rear channels are full of beeps, boops, and the normal goings on of the Enterprise Bridge.
There are two reasons why someone would want to buy this release. Either you're not planning on buying the season, but you can't live without some high-def 'TNG' in your house, or you really want to have a complete collection of all the special features. Whatever the reason, 'Chain of Command' is a great episode, even though it wouldn't have been my choice for a standalone. The video and audio are as fantastic as the season they came from. With such high scores it's recommended, just remember the caveats that come along with that recommendation.