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In the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Episode "Angel One" when Picard gets sick is Laforge really the next highest in command to take control of the ship? He wasn't even chief engineer yet? Why was he chosen?

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In seasons 1 and 2, LaForge was the conn officer (helmsmen) and a junior bridge officer. Early in the series, the producers appeared to pay more attention to the officer's division (uniform color) than they did rank. As a result, he was given more command authority than other officers not stationed on the bridge who out ranked him. Data was the only exception to the division, but he was designated as the 2nd officer, and thus was 3rd in command.

It was never named (in canon) who was officially the 3rd officer of the Enterprise-D (even in later seasons), but in Seasons 1 and 2, it was LaForge who had more on-screen time in command than anyone else other than Picard and Riker. It is not an unreasonable assumption to make that LaForge's status as the highest ranked bridge officer in the command division (after Picard and Riker) made him the 3rd officer of the ship, and hence would be in command if Picard, Riker, and Data were unavailable.

You can see this in "Arsenal of Freedom" when Picard apparently decided he needed every senior officer on the planet with him, and left LaForge in command when he left the ship, despite others on the ship being of higher rank.

I believe this is similar to modern naval traditions in that bridge officers will fall higher into the command structure than non-bridge officers.

  • Also remember that there was an actual Bridge Officers' Test, and officers such as Beverly and Deanna were not even allowed to take command of the ship (at least not under normal, non-emergent circumstances) until they'd taken and passed it. It stands to reason that they were not the only two relatively high-ranking officers on board for whom this was the case, so that already gives LaForge (who we must, by the same rule, assume has already passed the test) a massive head-start in the race. – Lightness Races in Orbit May 10 '15 at 1:38
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit given that test only appeared in canon once, there is little detail on it. It could be assumed that Troi and Crusher, due to the nature of their roles, were unique in the requirement to take such a test before being to be allow to command the bridge. But regardless, it would be a fair assumption to make that the Chief Engineer would have passed the test to be allow to be a department head. In all of the cases of Geordi being in command, the Chief Engineer was still present, including the episode I referenced when the Chief Engineer asked LeForge to give him command. – psubsee2003 May 10 '15 at 6:06
  • While your theory is [remotely] plausible, you can't assume something that is unproven to be true (and for which there is, in fact, zero direct evidence), then make your arguments based on that something. That's literally the opposite to how logical deduction works. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit May 10 '15 at 16:04
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At the start of the show, Geordi appears to be one of several duty engineers on board the Enterprise with Chief Engineers Argyle, McDougall and Logan outranking him in the earliest episodes. After Argyle was disposed of by the show's Producers, the decision was evidently taken to make Geordi the highest ranking engineer on board and then to make him the sole Chief Engineer from Season 2 onwards.

From that point, the ship's command structure became pretty stable;
Picard > Riker > Data > Laforge > Worf. The fact that LaForge outranks Worf seems to be based on the longevity of their rank and his position as Chief.


  • Note that both Crusher and (latterly) Troi were qualified as Bridge Officers but remained outside of the formal bridge chain of command except when acting as OOD or in emergency situations.

  • Note also that that after he was announced to be Chief at the start of Season 2, LaForge was generally the 'captain of his own ship' as far as Engineering was concerned, giving direct orders to everyone below Riker.

  • While Crusher had a bridge officer's qualification before signing on, Troi was not a qualified bridge officer until season 7. It's easy to tell with Troi - she traded the cleavage for command authority. – paul May 9 '15 at 7:30
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    @paul - She still had the cleavage, she just decided to dress less like a lounge act when on duty. – Valorum May 9 '15 at 7:41
  • Yes, they still dressed her up when off-duty. Troi and Crusher would do extremely well as a lounge act. – paul May 9 '15 at 10:43
  • @paul - Yes indeed. Oh mercy. I think I've got a touch of the vapours. – Valorum May 9 '15 at 10:49
  • Geordi was the conn officer (helmsmen), not a "duty engineer". Early in the series, they paid a lot more attention to the color of the uniform. Geordi wore command red until moving to engineering, so was afforded a higher level of command responsibilities due to that and his role as a bridge officer. I don't recall Data ever being in command until after Season 2 when the traditional command structure you mention came into being. – psubsee2003 May 9 '15 at 18:02

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