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I'm currently watching season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I count four Chief Engineers! Sarah MacDougal, Michael Argyle, Charles Logan and Leland T. Lynch.

Was one the chief and the others his (or her) assistants? Was this ever properly explained?

  • Oh that? Yeah they just drew straws to see who was going to do the job for the week, except MacDougal she got sacked permanently for letting drunk Wesley take over the ship. – IG_42 Aug 27 '18 at 21:43
  • Haha! Shouldn't Argyle have been sacked, then, for letting Kozinski propel the ship three galaxies away without any realistic chance of getting home?😂😂 – Alex Jones Aug 27 '18 at 22:04
  • A bit later in the timeline, in one of the ST:TNG novels (I think it is the Destiny series) the author describes Picard as being very picky with his Senior Officers and Command Staff and having gone through several officers in a single position trying to find one that can meet his standards and handle the position with ease or required skill. Whether or not this is true for the early episodes of TNG is another matter though. – JayV Aug 27 '18 at 22:14
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    He couldn't have been THAT picky, or he wouldn't have had Troi ( who seemed more interested in her leisure time and didn't even wear a proper uniform) as senior counsellor! – Alex Jones Aug 27 '18 at 22:26
  • There's letting a starfleet officer at the engines after the top brass already twisted Picard's arm to let the guy do it in the first place and then there's getting tricked by an intoxicated teenager into losing control of the entire ship. – IG_42 Aug 27 '18 at 22:44
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This was addressed in the TNG episode Where No One Has Gone Before. It would appear that the Enterprise has (at least for the first few episodes) multiple Chief Engineers. Later on, Geordi seems to have been made the sole Chief Engineer with various Assistant Chief Engineers under his command.

KOSINSKI: A ship's engines should be a concern of the ship's captain...

RIKER: They are, sir. Which is why they make their first officers directly responsible for engine condition and performance.

(indicating Argyle)

Guided, of course, by one of our chief engineers, Lieutenant Commander Argyle in this case.

Out-of-universe the show had staffing issues and couldn't seem to settle on a permanent actor for the role until the decision was taken to bulk out LeVar Burton's character.


On a related note, it might interest you to learn that the ST Encyclopedia identifies Lt Cdr Lynch as Assistant Chief Engineer.

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And Argyle as a Chief Engineer, lending credence to the idea that in the early period of the ship's operation that there were multiple people with that title

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  • Thanks. I also realised Logan couldn't be the chief, because Argyle, Lynch and MacDougal all outrank him as Lieutenant Commanders, whereas he's only a lieutenant! – Alex Jones Aug 27 '18 at 21:37
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    @AlexJones - Chief Engineer is an appointment, not a rank. Harry is head of the Operations Department despite only being an Ensign. – Valorum Aug 27 '18 at 21:39
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    @Valorum it is still unusual to have such a junior officer be head of department. Though it's also unusual for Kim to still be an Ensign by the end of the series. – OrangeDog Aug 28 '18 at 11:45
  • Wasn't there also some production lore where Roddenberry didn't really want engineering to be a focus of the show? If the initial plan was to intentionally not invest in engineering-related story development, this can explain the rotating cast of engineers instead of just starting with a primary cast member taking on that role. But, this is just a really vague recollection on my part (ironically, from something I believe I've read in a different answer), so I'm not really sure. – Ellesedil Aug 29 '18 at 23:10
  • @Ellesedil - It was the opposite. The studio weren't keen to have an Engineering set but Roddenberry (who'd gotten burned over TOS scrimping on sets) wrote in a scene in Engineering so that they'd have to build it on day 1 of TNG – Valorum Aug 29 '18 at 23:14

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