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The Ensigns of Command (episode)

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"The Ensigns of Command"
TNG, Episode 3x02
Production number: 40273-149
First aired: 2 October 1989
48th of 176 produced in TNG
49th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
156th of 728 released in all
Tau Cygna V surface
Written By
Melinda M. Snodgrass

Directed By
Cliff Bole
Unknown (2366)
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Data must convince a colony of 15,000 people to evacuate before the aliens who own the planet arrive.


In Ten Forward, a string quartet is tuning up. Data enters carrying a violin and approaches Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, who are sitting at a table. He advises that they attend the second concert, as he will not be playing the violin, saying that although his playing is technically proficient, he has been told it lacks soul. He says he is only trying to be honest, but Picard tells him that excessive honesty can be dangerous in a leader. Data takes his place, but just as the concert begins, Riker calls Picard to the bridge, forcing the Captain to depart, painfully aware that it appears he's walking out on his friend's performance.


"Remove the humans."

When he gets there he learns that they have been contacted by the Sheliak, for the first time in 111 years. In a recorded message, they demand that a Human colony on Tau Cygna V be removed, as this planet was ceded to the Sheliak in the Treaty of Armens. They give them four days to remove the Humans. Starfleet Command knows of no settlement on the planet, which is cloaked in hyperonic radiation that is lethal to Humans. Picard reasons that there must be someone there, so they set course for Tau Cygna.

On arriving there, Lieutenant Worf detects Human life signs, but interference from the radiation prevents him from determining how many. The radiation also prevents the use of the transporters and phasers. Crusher suggests that they must have adapted somehow; it being the only way they could survive. Picard says they must be evacuated or the Sheliak will remove them forcefully, as they consider Humans a lower form of life. As Data is unaffected by the radiation, Picard orders him down to the surface, Riker commenting that there are probably only a dozen or so survivors.

Data kentor haritath

"It must be from the Federation!"

Data lands a shuttle on the surface, and is approached by two humans, Kentor and Haritath. They tell him he is the first visitor they have ever had, and tell him they will bring him to their leader, Gosheven. They claim to be descendants of the original settlers from the colony ship Artemis. On the USS Enterprise-D, Riker learns that the Artemis was launched 92 years ago, its destination Septimis Minor, but had gone off course and never been found. To the shock of the bridge crew, Data informs them that there are 15,253 colonists. Without transporters, and using only shuttles it will take over four weeks to evacuate the colony. Picard orders Data to prepare for evacuation, and tells Worf to attempt to hail the Sheliak.

On the surface, Data is brought to the town square where he meets Gosheven. He explains the situation and the need for evacuation, but Gosheven won't listen to him, and claims the planet is theirs. When the guidance system on the Artemis failed and it crash landed on Tau Cygna, over one third of the colonists died before they adapted to the radiation. Data agrees that the colony is remarkable, but as the planet clearly belongs to the Sheliak, the most sensible course of action is to evacuate. Gosheven tells him to go back to his ship. Someone throws a pipe towards Data, which he catches. A woman approaches, marveling at his reflexes and at him in general. She says she is very interested in cybernetics, and wants to question him. However he tells her he needs to know more about the settlement and its people. She agrees to show him around, and introduces herself as Ard'rian McKenzie. Gosheven is not happy with this development.

Riker tells OBrien and La Forge to get transporters working

"We don't want to hear is that it is impossible."

In the observation lounge, Riker tells La Forge and O'Brien to try to get the transporters to function. They leave, and Picard goes to the bridge to talk to the Sheliak. They are very hostile, and repeat that the Humans must be removed. Picard tries to get them to compromise, but they refuse to negotiate, saying the law is paramount, then cut him off. In Ard'rian's house on Tau Cygna, she tells Data that Gosheven won't listen to him because he is an android. She however, believes androids are better than Humans, as they have no emotions to cloud their judgment. Picard contacts Data, telling him he's contacting Starfleet for a transport ship. The transporters are still not working despite La Forge and O'Brien's best efforts.

Data is trying again with Gosheven, but he still won't listen. He calls the town a monument to his people, saying his grandfather died in its construction. Too much has been sacrificed for them to leave. Data comes to the conclusion he will have to convince others of the need to leave, and Ard'rian says she will help him. In the captain's ready room, Picard tells Riker that it will be three weeks before a colony transport ship will arrive. He will have to convince the Sheliak to compromise. Then he realizes that the Sheliak colony ship must be already en route, and orders the Enterprise to intercept. Riker contacts Data and tells him what's planned. Data is unsure if he can arrange the evacuation, saying few colonists want to leave, but Riker dresses him down, saying he's responsible for the colonist's lives. Ard'rian tells him that Gosheven has called a meeting to discuss the situation, then gives Data a kiss, saying that she thought he needed it. She then suggests some reverse psychology is needed.

Datas speech taucygnav

"There will be no one left alive to remember."'

At the meeting, Data makes a speech, saying he admires their doomed effort, and how they are willing to die for land and so on. Gosheven sees through it, but Kentor and Haritath are getting worried. Gosheven starts to talk about his grandfather, when Ard'rian interrupts, saying, "who will bury you?" Gosheven counters, saying he is not willing to lose everything without a fight. The crowd cheers and gathers around him. Later Kentor and Haritath approach Data and confess they are not convinced by Gosheven. Ard'rian suggests a secret meeting at her house.

The Sheliak ship is intercepted, and hailed. Picard uses a clause in the treaty to get a hearing with them. In Ard'rian's house, Kentor agrees to the need for an evacuation, but says they still need to convince Gosheven. Then Gosheven turns up, saying the matter is settled, there will be no evacuation. He then gives Data an electrical shock, knocking him out. The crowd leaves, as Ard'rian tries to revive Data. Troi and Picard beam over to the Sheliak ship. Picard asks for some flexibility, saying they need three weeks. The Sheliak refuse, saying they will kill all the colonists if they are not removed. They then beam them back over to the Enterprise. On Tau Cygna, Data reawakens and says that actions speak louder than words, so some drastic action is needed. He modifies a phaser using parts of his own circuitry, so it will work in the radiation, and tells Ard'rian to let Gosheven know he intends to destroy the aqueduct.

Data destroys aqueduct

"Things can be replaced. Lives cannot."

Picard puts the Enterprise on yellow alert and tells the Sheliak they will have to go through him to get to the colonists. He then decides to look through the treaty for something that will help. On the planet, Data is at the aqueduct. He stuns four guards as a demonstration of his firepower, and then demonstrates a stronger setting, firing it at the aqueduct and vaporizing the entire flow of water up to its source in the mountains. He then tells the colonists that one android with a hand phaser has destroyed their aqueduct, while hundreds of Sheliak are on their way, with the weapons to eradicate their entire colony from orbit; they will not even see the faces of their killers before they die. The choice is theirs. Kentor speaks out, saying they must leave. As they start to leave, Data comforts Gosheven, hunched mournfully over the aqueduct, where the water has started to flow again. Data reminds him that the aqueduct – and by extension, the colony it sustains – is merely a thing, that can be replaced while lives cannot be.

Looking through the treaty, Picard sees something. He hails the Sheliak, and requests third party arbitration, as is his right. He nominates the Grizzelas, who are in the middle of their hibernation cycle for another six months. The Sheliak start to protest, but Picard cuts them off. They hail him back, but Picard makes them wait before answering. They grudgingly agree to give him the three weeks.

Data is preparing to leave, when Ard'rian approaches and says the plan is going well. She asks if he feels anything for her, but he reminds her he has no feelings at all. She looks downcast before Data kisses her, saying she appeared to need it. He returns to the Enterprise, where he goes to the ready room. Picard is listening to his concert, and comments how he has managed to combine two disparate styles successfully. This Picard considers highly creative. Data is forced to admit that he has learned to become more creative.

Memorable Quotes

"Gentlemen, we're giving you an assignment. The one thing I don't want to hear is that it's impossible."
"I need the transporters to function despite the hyperonic radiation."
"Yeah, but that's im– yes, sir."

- Riker, Picard and La Forge

"Data, telling us you're going to fail before you make the attempt is never wise."

- Beverly Crusher

"What is your memory capacity? How many operations per second? I have a million questions."
"I am afraid I have no time for a million questions."

- Ard'rian McKenzie and Data

"This is not a law, it is a treaty! It is designed to smooth relations between races, not to act as a strait--"
(The Sheliak cut him off)

- Picard, in an early attempt to negotiate with the Sheliak

"Now, how are we progressing, Mister La Forge?"
"About like you'd expect, sir."
"Splendid. Splendid. Carry on."

- Picard and La Forge, not making any progress with the transporters.

"He wants the impossible...!"
"That's the short definition of 'captain'."

- Wesley Crusher and La Forge

"Use that fancy positronic brain of yours. Carry out your mission."
"Sir, if I do not succeed, how violent is the Sheliak reaction likely to be?"
"The treaty is the only thing preventing them from eradicating the colony the moment they discovered it."
""Ah" is right, Data."

- Data and Riker

"That was the stun setting. This is not."

- Data, shortly before vaporizing the water supply to the village.

"This is just a thing... and things can be replaced. Lives cannot."

- Data

"Pursuant to Paragraph 1,290, I hereby formally request third party arbitration of our dispute."
"You have the right."
"Furthermore, pursuant to Sub-section D-3 I name... the Grizzelas to arbitrate."
"Unfortunately, they are currently in their hibernation cycle. However, they will awaken in six months, at which time we can get this matter settled. Now... do you want to wait? Or give me my three weeks?"

- Picard, taking advantage of a clause in the Treaty of Armens and Sheliak

"Wait! Negotiation is permiss...!"
(Picard signals to cut the transmission.)
"You enjoyed that."
"You're damned right!"

- Sheliak, Riker, and Picard

"Captain, they are hailing us."
(No response)
(another long pause)
"... on screen."

- Worf and Picard

"Captain. We can do it. We can modify the transporters."
"It will take fifteen years and a research team of a hundred..."
"Mister La Forge... I believe we will postpone."

- La Forge and Picard

"Captain, when the treaty was first negotiated, the Federation sent 372 legal experts. What do we have?"
"Thee and me?"

- Troi and Picard

Background information

Story and script

  • Melinda Snodgrass commented, "I wanted to take Data one step further in his development as a human being. I wanted to stress him and have him face a situation where logic isn't enough, to show that in order to command you have to have charisma. You have to learn how to wave your dick and hope your dick is bigger than the other guy's." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 186)
  • According to a line cut from the episode, Tau Cygna V held sufficient amounts of an elusive sub-atomic particle called teremi-thoron, which interfered with transporter signals. The original script, including the cut lines, can be viewed here.
  • The title of this episode is from the poem "The Wants of Man" by John Quincy Adams. In the context of this poem, the term "ensign" means a flag or symbol, not the Starfleet rank.
I want the seals of power and place,
The ensigns of command,
Charged by the people's unbought grace,
To rule my native land.
Nor crown nor sceptre would I ask,
But from my country's will,
By day, by night, to ply the task
Her cup of bliss to fill.


Dalai Lama entourage

The entourage of the Dalai Lama visiting the set.

  • According to director Cliff Bole, US$200,000 was cut from the episode "at the last minute". The most prominent result of this was that more romantic overtones between Data and Ard'rian McKenzie were removed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101)
  • Although this episode aired after "Evolution", it was actually the first episode produced during the third season. (Star Trek Encyclopedia 2nd ed., p. 137)
  • During filming, the entourage of the 14th Dalai Lama visited the sets and had pictures taken with Brent Spiner. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 101) One of these pictures appeared on the original UK VHS release of this episode. While the Dalai Lama had been touring the western US, his schedule precluded him visiting the set in person.[1]
  • Behind-the-scenes stills show that Thomas F. Denove was the director of photography for the scenes aboard the Sheliak ship, suggesting that regular director of photography Marvin V. Rush was either busy elsewhere, or had not yet been hired to replace Edward R. Brown, who left the show at the end of the previous season. Rush was the only credited director of photography on the episode, though Denove would later fill the role in the following season's "Half a Life".
  • First UK airdate: 16th October 1991

Cast and characters



  • Director Cliff Bole remembered: "That was one of those shows where we started off with these delusions of grandeur, and at the last minute, had to cut $200,000 out of it. It's the budget crunch. What happens is you put a show together, all the departments put their budgets in, we go, 'Can't do it', and things get cut accordingly. Sets are the first to go, because they're so expensive. An interesting show, but not our best effort." ("Cliff Bole - Of Redemption & Unification", The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 17, p. 30)
  • A mission report for this episode by Robert Greenberger was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 10, pp. 23-26.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Guest stars


Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double



2255; 2274; Acts of Widdershins; Akira; aqueduct; Armens, Treaty of; Artemis, SS; As You Like It; Bron-Ken, Trenka; Bureau of Treaties; calculator; California; cello; classification R-3; colony ship; Cultural Contact Office; de Laure belt; dedication plaque; diagnostic circuits; director; dog; duotronic; Earth; Eine kleine Nachtmusik; Federation; Federation Drive; Federation-Sheliak Conflict; Template:ShipClass (23rd century); Grizzela; guidance system; H class planet; Iran-Contra Scandal; Heifetz, Jascha; hydrogen; hyperonic radiation; Kei; kiss; lightyear; Mars; neural pathway; non-humanoid; Onizuka; Ortiz; phaser; positronic; positronic brain; pumping station; Ranma Nibunnoichi; reverse psychology; Rhea Gall Force; robotic dog; San Francisco; Septimis Minor; servocircuit; Sheliak; Sheliak colony ship; Sheliak language; Shelia star system; Sheliak Corporate; Sol Sector; Starfleet Headquarters; string quartet; subspace relay booster station; survey craft; Tau Cygna V; Tau Cygna system; test cylinder; transporters; trespassing; tricorder; type 15 shuttlepod; UFP Standards Measurement Bureau; UFP Treaty Office; viola; violin; virotherapy; Vulcan; Urusei Yatsura; yellow alert; Yuri

External links

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