In the Battle of the Sector 001, when Picard came to Earth to engage Borg after violating his direct order, he had a special coordinate in mind which could blowout the Borg cube and Starfleet had no idea about it.

Then, there's this thing called luck which rolled in the favor of Mankind and Riker was seen saying, "Admiral's ship's been destroyed." After that, Picard wasted no time to broadcast "I am taking command of the fleet." and gave everyone a special coordinate to fire. And, everything went smoothly and quickly. No conflict. No discussion. No thought of conspiracy from Picard (there was a reason why Picard was given orders to stay out of it). How can this happen?

What does protocol say? I don't think Picard was just below the rank of Admiral. Why didn't other seniors object? Specially, when Picard wasn't fit for fighting against the Borg (in the eyes of Starfleet). And, why did everyone follow Picard's order?

Here’s the Battle of Sector 001 in case you have forgotten:

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    When I saw the movie I assumed it was simply Picard having a really good reputation, both as a starship captain and as a veteran of Borg fights, coupled with the admiral's death. But now that you mention it there ought to have been a few more admirals there (or officers between captain and admiral) considering they knew the Borg were coming well in advance. Maybe the others simply had no problem with Picard being in charge of that battle.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 17:09
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    @Ixrec, in most Navies, the next rank following Captain is some form of admiral. In STTNG, Commodore wasn't used after 2364, and in the real world, a Commodore is (usually) an office held by a Captain or Admiral who holds command over a squadron of assets. For instance, my CO on the submarine was a Commander, so his Commodore was a Captain.
    – user51340
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 18:49
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    A Captain in motion outranks an Admiral who doesn't know what's going on.
    – Compro01
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 19:40
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    @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433: It's a reference to the second maxim. Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 21:01
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    By being the captain the flagship of Starfleet, Picard would be the most senior captain present. Only an admiral would outrank him.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 22:21

5 Answers 5


Citing the event's of Equinox, we know that

"Starfleet Regulation one hundred ninety one, Article fourteen. In a combat situation involving more than one ship, command falls to the vessel with tactical superiority. I looked it up this morning." - Janeway

In First Contact, we're told that the Enterprise-E is the most advanced ship in the fleet. So that would mean that, the Admiral's ship having been destroyed, command falls to Picard simply by being in command of the most powerful ship present.

Picard first took command of the Stargazer in 2333 and was promoted to Captain some time before 2355, and the Battle of Sector 001 took place in 2373: after at least 18 years as Captain, including 9 of them commanding the flagship, he's one of the most senior and most reputable captains around anyway.

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    "the Enterprise-E is the most advanced ship in the fleet" - whatever this means for the U.S.S. Souvereign. Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 12:37
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    @O.R.Mapper USS Sovereign wasn't present at the battle of sector 001.
    – Tritium21
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 19:13
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    @O.R.Mapper the quote actually says "tactical superiority." Can't have tactical superiority in a battle you're not in. Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 22:49
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    @AdrianoVaroliPiazza: One might argue your tactical superiority is absolute in a battle you're not in, if your tactic is to survive ;) Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 10:42
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    "Most advanced" is not the same thing as "most tactically superior". A smaller, weaker, older ship can be in a tactically superior position than the most advanced ship in the fleet if the smaller ship can sneak up behind it and shoot it when its shields are down. While that's normally just an argument for pedants, we're talking about Starfleet Regulations here; semantics are important!
    – TylerH
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 17:14
  1. All the other captains, and definitely not those of lower rank, wouldn't be privy to the rationale behind the orders Picard and the Enterprise were given by the admiralty.

  2. While perhaps not the highest ranking captain by seniority, he would still be recognized as the captain of the flagship. In pragmatic terms, this is a very powerful position. (Frankly, I've often questioned why his rank is only captain. Presumably it's mostly so as not to confuse the audience.)

  3. He's not requesting, he is ordering.

    PICARD: This is Captain Picard of the Enterprise. I am taking command of the fleet.

    and he is invoking the full weight of the names Picard and Enterprise

  4. Possibly, just The fact he's in command of the most powerful and undamaged ship tilts the scales too. Furthermore, As @Tom pointed out, there's later evidence (retcon?) that there's a regulation to this effect.

  5. In a battlefield situation, and especially if other captains are concerned with their crippled ships, no one is going to question an experienced captain filling a leadership vacuum. The captains would recognize that it's more important to act as a coordinated force and follow the leadership of any competent leader than to start questioning chain of command.

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    Yeah i think the reason Picard is still a captain is purely for the audience to see him on the enterprise. As we see in nemesis i believe when janeway get back they toss her right up to admiral which is probably where in reality Picard should be. Being the captain of thr flagship also probably means he is the highest ranked or very close to the highest ranked captain in the fleet as well
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 18:21
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    @Himarm - He's still a captain as he chooses to be and Starfeet has no up-or-out policy. "Don't let them promote you. Don't let them transfer you. Don't let them do anything that takes you off the bridge of that ship, because while you're there... you can make a difference."
    – Compro01
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 19:39
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    @Compro01, okay, but why the CO of the Enterprise needs to be a captain has no explanation except the one I proffered. Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 5:36
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    Is the Enterprise E the fleet's flagship in any authoritative sense? There's still no flag office on board, much like the Enterprise D. See scifi.stackexchange.com/a/105263/25379. Also, strictly speaking, there's no indication that the Enterprise needs to be commanded by a Captain. But frankly, Picard has done such a fantastic job in the position, there is no reason to put anyone else there. Combine that with the fact Picard is probably refusing promotion, and the issue of why a captain is not really that big of a mystery.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 9:59
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    @jpmc26, all true, but the point being made is that Picard could remain in his position of CO of the Enterprise and still hold a higher rank. Just like Riker could have remained and held the rank of captain. The reason the writers never did this is likely just one of not raising more questions in the unenlightened audience. Compare to how, at least IMO, the timing of Sisko's was promotion to captain was partly so there wouldn't be Cmdr Worf reporting to Cmdr Sisko. Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:03

As far as exact reasons go, I will offer that we do not know Picard's linear number. In the workings of the U.S. Navy at least, all officers are issued a linear number that is used to determine with finality who is the senior officer between two persons of the same rank. When two submarine commanders get into a dispute (these will always be Commanders unless someone died) the person with the lowest linear number has seniority and can choose to keep or defer command authority in joint endeavors. Linear number 1 is reserved for the President of the United States.

So it is quite possible that Picard actually pulled rank on all other units in the engagement. But of course, the real answer is more nuanced.

These ships are commanded by people, and Picard's trustworthiness had been called into question. The final blow had to be dealt by Picard of course, for the fiction. But what happened in-universe was that, at the very moment all was about to be lost, a single voice delivered an answer, and every single commander responded to that voice with absolute trust.

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    I think this is the right answer. There are multiple references in the show of the Enterprise as "the flagship", whose captain outranks other captains. Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 19:40
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    @BenCollins, it is true that the Enterprise specifically is a major asset and a one-of-a-kind crew, with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles. It stands to reason that Picard would have considerable seniority to warrant such a mission, but lacking proof of that I personally favor a combination of seniority and trust. Of course we do what Picard says, why would we do anything else? I have personally served under officers I could kick in the crotch; but I have also served under people I would walk through fire for.
    – user51340
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 19:51
  • "Linear number 1 is reserved for the President of the United States" lol just in case they make him a Navy Commander Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 10:40
  • @SeanBoddy: "a one-of-a-kind crew, with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles" - I am not so sure about that statement. I think it's noted in some note in the TNG Technical Manual (?) that the producers acknowledge the show focuses on the Enterprise, but other ships and their crews certainly experience just as interesting adventures. This complies with my thought that certainly, the Enterprise is just one among many vessels, not any more or less special than them. (After all, wouldn't it be quite depressing if the rest of the big universe were boring in comparison to what we see?) Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 14:45
  • @Lightness - if you missed it, every officer of any rank has a linear number. This includes everyone from a new Ensign to the saltiest Admiral.
    – user51340
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 16:03

Nobody had time to stop and say "hey, wait a minute… we need to contact Starfleet to get their approval for this change in authority!". The ships were in the middle of a huge battle. They had minutes.

So someone steps up, someone reputable, someone known for having been one of the most famous captains in the fleet for the past several decades, rocking up on the Federation flagship, and with intimate knowledge of the Borg to boot.

And there's no Admiral in sight.

You think anybody's going to question Picard when he jumps into the Admiral's chair and takes command? No. He was showing leadership and everyone went along with it because that's precisely what anyone would have done. In that situation, and at a time like that, you'd have to have had a real beef with Jean-Luc Picard to question his de facto authority, especially as being nitpicky enough to be responsible for leaving the fleet without effective leadership for any protracted period of time was likely to get you, and all of your crew, killed.

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    And given that the backdrop for this particular fracas is Earth and Starbase One, it's probably even more urgent... Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 6:27
  • @Shadur: Technically, we have no idea whether Starbase One exists in this timeline :) Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 17:01
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    And even if someone had felt justified in objecting to Picard's assumption of command, it would still have been foolish to do so unless that person also had a better idea. Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 18:41
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    This is probably the best answer because of the human (or whatever) element. If I'm a captain with my bridge on fire, no leadership or co-ordination in the fleet, I'm gonna answer the first commanding voice I hear with "Aye, sir!". Any plan is better than no plan. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 8:40
  • @PointlessSpike: Right! No different from when you're camping and someone randomly decides to take charge. Unless you have a good reason not to, you go along with it. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 11:39

Additionally - Riker's statement when they learn they won't be involved in the battle is also indicative:

"Your past experience with the Borg makes you the perfect man to lead this fight"

The other captains (and given the damage to the fleet, it is possible that some captains have died and there are lower ranking officers in command) would know that as well and defer to Picard's experience also.

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    You have to be careful when referencing answers using above and below. Sorting is different for different people and can change with voting. Use the share link of the answer you are referring to and include that in an edit.
    – Matt
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 3:19

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