50 – Ensigns of Command

Grade: C

The Ensigns of Command (1989) on IMDb


While in the middle of enjoying a concert, Captain Picard receives a message from the Sheliak, who have not communicated with the Federation for over 100 years. They ask Picard to remove the human colonists from the planet Tau Cygna V, according to their treaty with the Federation. Because the planet has a form of radiation that should be fatal to humans, Picard sends Data down to the planet to convince the colonists to leave.


This is one of several episodes when someone (Picard, Riker, Worf, Data, Troi, etc.) has to convince people that their planet is unsafe or has been claimed by a hostile alien species. It doesn’t take long for this premise to become a Star Trek cliché. This wasn’t even the first time in the series when this happened. Because it happens so often, the storyline needs to include something very compelling to make the episode stand out.

Such is the case witih Ensigns of Command. Here, it’s Data’s turn to try to get people to leave the planet. Obviously, they don’t decide to go immediately, or else this would have been a very short episode. The story here is how Data accomplishes his mission. He tries various methods, but most of them are just attempts to persuade the people to leave. Finally, he resorts to a visual demonstration of what the Sheliak are likely to do to the colony when they arrive.

It’s an interesting display of power, but it left me with one lingering question. Why was it so important for Data to convince everyone? I mean, these are free people who have the right to choose where they want to live. It just looks like they’ve been forced to relocate when really they kept saying over and over again that they wanted to stay and fight the Sheliac. They obviously didn’t have any idea how destructive the Sheliac could be, but I still feel like the Federation forced them out.

The entire episode is OK, really, but there’s nothing other than Data’s decision to modify his phaser that makes this episode stand out in any way. I know I had seen this one before, but I had forgotten almost everything about it. I suspect you’ll have the same experience.

Of Note

When I first saw the title, I almost thought this was the time there were junior officers on the Enterprise, trying to impress the senior officers. But then I realized it couldn’t be that episode because Wesley hasn’t been to Starfleet Academy yet.