I'm specifically referring to the episode(s) Gambit. In the absence of Riker and Picard, Data takes command of the Enterprise and Worf is second in command.

This seems wrong however, because he is not the next highest ranking officer on the ship. While he was outranked by both Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi, neither of them would be considered for a command position unless it was absolutely necessary because they were needed elsewhere and had limited bridge experience.

More notably, Geordi would seem to be a more logical choice. He had outranked Worf for around 5 years as he was apparently promoted to full Lieutenant at the beginning of season 2 and Lt. Commander at the beginning of season 3. Worf remained a Lieutenant Junior Grade until Season 3 and made Lt. Commander at the beginning of Generations.

Also, LaForge had commanded the Enterprise on at least one occasion prior to this incident.

Why not have Geordi as first officer? I'm looking for an in universe reason.

  • 4
    Command is not a function of ranks as I recall. 2nd in command is a position...not a rank. I seem to recall a similar question in the past.
    – Paulie_D
    Jan 5, 2018 at 23:12
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    Yes. Troi has a higher rank (full Commander) but Lt. Commander Data remains Second Officer. Theoretically he can't order her to do things but his requests carry the authority of the captain (who can order her).
    – Valorum
    Jan 6, 2018 at 0:12
  • 2
    Rank is largely a determinant for the jobs you can do. But your actual job is not determined solely by rank. And who you answer to is determined by your job and theirs. Jan 6, 2018 at 2:20
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    Geordi is Chief Engineer - probably needed to keep the warp coils humming along
    – HorusKol
    Jan 6, 2018 at 3:23
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    @RonJohn, they allowed a child to fly the thing, why not put a LCDR in charge?
    – geewhiz
    Jan 6, 2018 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


There's a few things going on here;

The position of First Officer is at the gift of the captain and doesn't necessarily go to either the next highest ranking person on the ship, nor the person who current holds the next chain-of-command rank down (hence why Data was passed over in TNG: Best of Both Worlds, Part II). This means that Data can choose whoever he wants.

In the absence of both Picard and Riker he selects the ship's current Third Officer, his direct subordinate Worf, to be his First Officer over LaForge. Geordi theoretically holds a higher rank but he's evidently more useful remaining as Chief Engineer.

In TNG: Gambit, Part II Data makes it abundantly clear that he has the power to give the role and take it away as he sees fit.

DATA: If you feel that you are not capable of carrying out this role, I can assign it to Commander La Forge and return you to Tactical. I would not enter it as a reprimand on your record... simply as a transfer.

WORF: I would... prefer to remain at my current post.

  • Suppose that Commander Riker were to die and Captain Picard made Reginald Barclay the new first officer. Could Data, Geordi, Dr. Crusher, etc., refuse to obey his orders (this assumes that Picard doesn't directly order them to obey him)? Maybe it's similar to asking whether Geordi (as chief engineer) can order Data around. Clearly he does, though it's unclear (probably doubtful) that Geordi could order Picard or Riker in the engineering room. Perhaps Data is obeying not because he's technically obligated to, but because Geordi is "in charge." Jan 6, 2018 at 1:51
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    After all, what if Picard assigned Riker to an engineering team? It's unlikely, but possible. Riker taking orders from Geordi would seem weird, but Geordi is in charge (and heck, he even commanded Q without fear of being turned into a radish if the latter were to regain his powers). Jan 6, 2018 at 1:56
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    @HamSandwich - It's one of those weird situations. A superior officer can't give an order to a more senior officer. It has to be phrased as a request. But it's a request that can't be refused because the implication is that you can just get on the blower and ask the captain to re-ask it.
    – Valorum
    Jan 6, 2018 at 2:11
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    @HamSandwich To give you some perspective from the real (US) Navy, it is absolutely the captain's prerogative to assign whoever he wants to whatever positions on his ship. However, if he were to demote a senior CDR who had been previously nominated for command, or assign someone as low ranking as Barclay to be his First Officer, Picard would certainly be hearing from his boss about that. As regards officers ordering each other around, the CO (Commanding Officer) has the authority to organize things as he wants when his ship is underway. Whether he remains in command long is another story.
    – kingledion
    Jan 6, 2018 at 5:20
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    "An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody." Jan 6, 2018 at 16:02

Could it be as simple as the fact that Medical/Support (I'm putting Troi here) personnel are not line officers in the Star Trek universe? Engineers are line officers, but as Chief Engineer, you want Geordie doing HIS job and not running around the bridge.

Consider the US Navy, you have Chaplains, Doctors, Lawyers (JAG), Paymasters, all of whom hold a commission as an officer, but are not line officers and are therefor ineligible for command at sea.

  • 2
    Except that we know that that isn't true. On multiple occasions we see Troi and Doctor Crusher in command
    – Valorum
    Mar 22, 2019 at 10:00
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    @Valorum Whilst the part about the line officers may not be true this answer does also say those officers were probably more useful doing their normal jobs which seems like an important point. One which is said in your answer too.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Mar 22, 2019 at 10:10
  • The question is then, when are they chosen? Is Data on the bridge? Is Worf or Gordie? It could be that they can command, but are not preferred? It could be a matter of scraping the bottom of barrel for an officer, or it could be that they have to give the command to a "Named" cast member and not some random Lt from down the hall.
    – GB - AE7OO
    Mar 22, 2019 at 10:10
  • Sometimes I really wish SE required a "named" reason for down votes. Or better yet, require the down voter to do better. Personally I think the last line of my comment is the real reason. Let's be serious, Dr Crusher is one hell of a doctor and can also run anything from a star ship sick bay to Star Fleet Medical, but none of those positions require the same, call it temperament. And don't get me started in regards to Troi. And it has nothing to do with being female, just look at Janeway. Picard, Riker, and Worf have all commanded star ships and Geordie was offered a command.
    – GB - AE7OO
    Jun 14, 2019 at 14:03

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