Who would command the Enterprise D, if Captain Picard, Commander Riker, and Commander Data were off the ship?

  • 8
    Whoever the Captain - before going off ship - puts in command, is in command - with no regard for their actual rank, they are the acting Captain. If all three of them disappear / are taken out of commission without warning, seniority might become a thing, but depending on the situation, maybe the chief engineer, who would maybe technically be the next in line, would have more pressing matters to attend to (like preventing a core breach) and the CMO might be dealing with a lot of injured people. So it actually depends on the situation.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 12:42
  • 2
    @BMWurm Don't... fire... the torpedoes! Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 15:27
  • @BMWurm you should make your comment an answer. From the real world analog that Star Trek is based on, it is a better answer.
    – Walter
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 18:42
  • @Walter if I had any proof that it actually would be that way on Star Trek, I would. I put it in a comment, because I have yet to find a quote that would support my claim (haven't found it in the Technical Manual [where it probably wouldn't be found anyway], nor any other source I've looked at).
    – BMWurm
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:52

6 Answers 6


Of the main cast, apart from the three ranking officers mentioned, we also know of several instances of such cases:

  • In TNG 'Descent', Beverly Crusher takes command
  • In 'The Arsenal of Freedom', Geordi La Forge takes command when all the ranking officers are off the ship

More importantly though, it depends when you are referring to. At various stages, several commanding officers were on the Enterprise-D. This list assumes that the Captain, First Officer and Second Officer (whoever they were at the time) were off the ship

Chief Engineers

  • Lieutenant Commander Sarah MacDougal
  • Lieutenant Commander Argyle
  • Lieutenant Logan
  • Lieutenant Commander Leland T. Lynch
  • Lieutenant / Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge

Chief Medical Officers

  • Commander Beverly Crusher
  • Commander Katherine Pulaski

Additionally, once Troi passed her Command test and achieved the full rank of Commander, she too could command the Enterprise.

  • 3
    In 'Disaster', Troi takes command of the bridge. (This is actually before she took the Command test -- it's part of what motivated her to do that.)
    – ruakh
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 17:16
  • 4
    Don't ever let Troi take command. I'm not saying she's unqualified, but pretty much every time she's done so, something horrible happened... Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 17:44
  • Is there an instance where Pulaski is in command? In Thine Own Self, Beverly makes a point of having taken the Bridge Officer's Test as a personal choice, to expand her options.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:13
  • @T.J.L. No I do not believe that Pulaski ever took command of the Enterprise, even in a crisis Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 21:18
  • 2
    It is important to note that in both Descent and Arsenal of Freedom Captain Picard had placed those officers in charge prior to leaving the Enterprise.
    – Xantec
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 22:51

I would say Commander Beverly Crusher, as she is a fully certified bridge officer and has the rank of commander. She took command of the enterprise on numerous occasions (see her Memory Alpha article)

  • 4
    In a real world military, the doctors and engineers are not usually line offices and therefore would not take command under normal chain of command rules. This doesn't mean they can't take command in unusual cases. But, as always, ST:TNG seems to only partially map to a military structure. In the show, she was on the bridge and took command because she was a named actor on the show.
    – Walter
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 18:49

Star Trek ships operations largely mimic modern Navy protocols.

That being said; The chain would be determined by seniority of the surface line officers, that is, the officers who are eligible for command. This excludes the staff corps and restricted line officers, such as supply officers, medical officers, or engineering duty officers. On a destroyer, cruiser, or frigate, the only staff corps would be the Supply Officer and the Disbursing Officer. The Disbursing Officer is a junior officer in the Supply Department who deals with the ship's finances.

So if the Captain is incapacitated, the next in line would be the Executive Officer, followed by the department heads, in order of seniority, then the division officers, in order of seniority. Seniority is determined by year of commissioning. For officers within the same year group, seniority is determined by lineal number, which is a ranking of the line officers Navy-wide.

So if the Captain is incapacitated and there is an Admiral aboard who is staff corps, such as a Medical Officer, command would still go to the Executive Officer, who would be junior to the Admiral.

  • Thank you for giving us a view for the Navy protocol. Although it has been some time, can you elaborate on a scenario when the Captain designates an officer as Acting Captain (outside of chain of command, or skipping a link) (this has been the case in some episodes of TNG, therefore I would like to see if it is mimicked too). Commented May 8, 2020 at 6:42

Presumably,as well as Picard,Riker etc, the ship could also be commanded by Tasha, Worf, Pulaski or whoever the captain chose-even down to Ro or Wesley!


By rank alone, after Picard, Riker, and Data, the next in command would be Deanna Troi. Troy holds the rank of Commander and during the time this character was on Enterprise-D/E, she had her own watch (4th watch).

  • 2
    Crusher outranked Troi, and it was Crusher that had 4th watch shifts. There was a conversation between them that specified that, Crusher specifically took the Command testings to be able to stand bridge watches.
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 22:20
  • 1
    Actually, that is not correct. The episode you're referencing is based around Troi working getting promoted. That episode has NOTHING to do with Crusher taking the 4th watch. That was created by Captain Picard for Deanne Troi. Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 22:30
  • TNG: Thine own self. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Duty_shift
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 22:39

Well I would suppose Geordi, as that was what happened in the Arsenal of Freedom, but he isn't the highest-ranking officer there, so I suppose generally it's whoever Picard/Riker/Data tells to have the bridge before they leave.

  • Could you maybe add a bit more detail?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 13:52

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.