I'm sure it's happened numerous times. One time is in "Night Terrors," where Data is talking to Picard in the captain's ready room. Picard is slowly losing his mind (just as the rest of the crew is), and he is speaking to Data about this:

PICARD: It appears that I am not immune to the strange forces that are at work on this ship.

DATA: Yes, sir.

PICARD: It's a terrifying prospect to lose control of one's mind. When I was young, I remember watching my grandfather deteriorate from a powerful, intelligent figure to a frail wisp of a man, who could barely make his own way home. Mister Data, it is my responsibility somehow to see that this ship is guided to safety. I will need to rely on you from now on. We may need to count on you for our very survival.

DATA: I will do my best, sir.

Data then leaves before an official dismissal is given.

Is it technically wrong for a subordinate officer to leave before the senior officer dismisses them?

  • If a senior officer is unfit for duty, does the junior officer in effect become ranking?
    – user31178
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 6:39
  • 12
    Since Data came into the Captain's cabin without being ordered to attend, he's not under orders to remain (which would require a dismissal).
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 12:05
  • I've never watched the series, or most of the franchise, but some more context would be useful in attempting an out of universe answer. How formal was the encounter? Was Data summoned, or did he just walk in? Did they salute each other? Did Data stand at attention? If Richard is right that Data wasn't ordered to report to his superior officer, and if they didn't salute, and Data didn't stand at attention, military "customs and courtesies" probably wouldn't require a formal dismissal.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:07
  • Video of the episode - the scene starts at about 20:45 - dailymotion.com/video/…
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:11
  • 3
    I think @Thaddeus would be perfectly suited to answer this question, as he was in the Navy. My personal, civilian take is that the encounter was totally informal (no saluting, for instance), so a formal dismissal wasn't necessary. This might be compounded by the fact that Picard tacitly admits that he is temporarily unfit for command due to his mental state.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:15

5 Answers 5


Star Trek protocol is more or less taken from the US Navy. I don't know any specifics there but from my experience with the army (not US) when the commanding officer gives an order and this order requires the subordinate to leave the room then things like "dismissed" are just implied.

This one:

Mister Data, it is my responsibility somehow to see that this ship is guided to safety. I will need to rely on you from now on. We may need to count on you for our very survival.

Sounds like an order so Data acts according to the protocol.

It would be great if someone with more experience with US Navy protocols could second this with real facts from there.

  • 4
    yes, that's how I was about to reply. The conversation ends in an implicit dismissal of Data, assigning him to his duties. An explicit dismissal would be superfluous in that case.
    – jwenting
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 11:59

As ex-military personnel, I can attest to interactions between officers varying widely depending on the nature of their relationship, how long they have served together, the reason they are meeting and the need for or the lack of formality between them.

I find the Federation to be very similar to military protocol on modern military ships where the crew is both familiar with the officers and have decent relationships with each other.

As such, there is very little of what is often perceived by civilians as "military protocol" apparent to the viewers. Most people are only familiar with military environments where very junior officers or enlisted men are working with very senior leaders or in environments where discipline is rigidly enforced, such as schools, boot camp or other training agencies.

In the field, there is an already understood rank structure and everyone is clear on their place in it. Thus there is far less of the saluting, command shouting such as "attention on deck!" when the Captain/Lead Officer appears somewhere.

Depending on the military operation it may be counter-productive or actively hazardous for lead officers to be saluted. For example: in an army outfit in the field, no one salutes. This makes it more challenging for snipers to figure out who is in charge and chopping off the "head of the snake" as it were.

As to Data and dismissal, this scene is fairly reminiscent of a crew where there is mutual respect of each other, an understanding of ability and very little need to stand on strict military ceremony and protocol.

If Data were a brand new ensign assigned to the ship, meeting the captain for the very first time and then given this terrible responsibility, Jean-Luc would have never shown any kind of weakness or given the kid a moment of anything other than crystal clarity on his need for Data to be as available as necessary for this mission.

And he would have certainly dismissed him to remind him of his role in the operation. This would have been as much for (new) Data's comfort as for the captain's need to appear as in control as possible.

Perspective matters when viewing military operations and while the Federation may appear very lax, it is because they have such a great degree of mutual respect they can get away with appearing very casual.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard is no slacker when it comes to discipline. For a time he refused to come to the poker games with the crew considering it fraternization, something Captains were not known to participate in. He only did it at the suggestion of his Counselor who thought it would improve his relationship with his command crew.

And it did. But each Captain/Leader leads according to their personal style.

  • You may want to give his interactions with Crusher and Sito as examples of more formal interactions. Also, "Yes, Sir" to Nechayev when she is suggesting he not pass up an opportunity to damage the Borg again. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 22:47

I feel like Data was using his best judgement as a senior officer in the situation. Generally, it probably is considered disrespectful to leave before being dismissed (and/or considered protocol to not leave before being dismissed), but Data might have thought it was important enough for him to be doing other things at that moment to try to solve the situation than it was to wait for a not-quite-mentally-stable Picard to dismiss him, at the risk that Picard wouldn't dismiss him then. He would rather try to solve the problem than listen to Picard rambling about scary stuff, and the risk that Picard would do that rather than dismiss him.

Also, it's worth note that Picard essentially gave him control of the ship in that scene, saying he was relying on him: given that Data now had to do his absolute best at solving the issue (which would involve acting quickly, meaning leaving the room quickly), since he was the only one who could save everyone, and Picard essentially gave him permission to do whatever is necessary (including leaving the room). That's the only explanation I can think of.


In fact, Data was already dismissed.

Just moments before the quoted exchange, Picard said

Very well, proceed

and Data was already heading out.

The exchange mentioned in the question is an "add on", as he is leaving - it could equally have happened next time they bumped into each other in the corridor. Data was already dismissed by then.

You could argue that "Oh, Mr Data" summoned him back, and he should then have waited for another dismissal, but I think even in the absence of any other consideration, the specific conversation was clearly at an end and it was one that an underling would not prolong unduly. Aside from being efficient and acceptable to leave at that point, it was also considerate. (Whether Mr Data is capable of such consideration, is separate question :) )


In pretty much every instance where a crewman or an officer is dismissed, there seem to be one of two common features.

  1. The crewman was ordered to come to a specific location or to follow the officer in question

We see this in TNG: Lower Decks

PICARD: Ensign, you're with me
... [later]
PICARD: Well I'm really very sorry you didn't enjoy your time at the Academy, Ensign. As far as I'm concerned, you should have been expelled for what you did. Quite frankly, I don't know how you made it on board this ship. You're dismissed.

and TNG: Ménage a Trois

WESLEY: You asked to see me, Captain?
PICARD: I hereby grant you field promotion to full Ensign, with all the commensurate responsibilities and privileges of that rank. Congratulations. You're dismissed.

and TNG: Yesterday's Enterprise

PICARD [OC]: This is the Captain. Senior officers will report to my Ready room immediately.
PICARD: ... I have decided the consequences of that possibility are too grave to ignore. Dismissed.

and TNG: Journey's End

LAFORGE: Thanks, Ensign. Hey, Wes! There you are. Come here for a second. I've got something I want to show you
LAFORGE: With this kind of an attitude, absolutely not. You're dismissed.

And TNG: Pen Pals

RIKER: Ensign Crusher. Report to the Observation Lounge.
RIKER: Ensign. You're dismissed.

  1. The senior officer wishes to signal (unequivocally, and often with irritation) that the discussion is ended.

We see this in TNG: Gambit, Part I

DATA: On the contrary, Lieutenant. That is precisely what we must do. Since there are no viable alternatives, we will return to the surface and attempt to determine what these mercenaries are doing on this planet. An investigation might reveal some indication of their purpose. Please notify me when you have assembled your search teams. Dismissed.

And TNG: The Schizoid Man

DATA: Yes, sir. I will work on staying within myself.

PICARD: Grand. You're dismissed, Mister Data

and TNG: Force of Nature

RIKER: We're lucky the rift took place as far away from the planet as it did. It gives us some time to consider our options.

PICARD: If there are no more questions, you're all dismissed.

In the specific case of TNG: Night Terrors, it's notable that Picard did order Data's attendance...

PICARD: Mister Data... in my Ready Room, please...

as well as ordering his dismissal

DATA: I believe within six hours we can generate a concentrated burst of energy which might disrupt the Tyken's Rift.

PICARD: Very well. Proceed.

[Data starts toward the door, but Picard stops him.]

After their short conversation, Data evidently doesn't feel the need to drag out an awkward conversation by waiting for a second order to leave when Picard has already made his wishes abundantly clear.

  • I thought there were instances in which officers left before being officially dismissed (or given orders, etc.). Maybe I'm not remembering correctly. Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 19:44
  • @T-1000'sSon - It's pretty inconsistent but my research suggests that almost every example of a dismissal results from an order to attend or the officer getting pissed off with a subordinate. Where officers leave without being dismissed, it's usually because they've been ordered to go somewhere else, are simply returning to their normal duties or where they're quite familiar with the person. Riker very rarely dismisses Troi, for example. Picard almost never dismisses Crusher, etc etc
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 19:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.