"Chief Engineers of the Week" in TNG
by Anthony Misztal and Bernd Schneider
During the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation, there was never a full-time chief engineering officer for the Enterprise-D. Originally the producers thought that most of the action would take place on the bridge and would rarely go to other areas of the ship, including engineering. The bridge officers would call over the intercom to the other areas and have some voice actor say "Yes sir!" and so forth to save money on new sets. Gene Roddenberry disagreed with this idea and had a change made to the shooting script for the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" to include a scene in engineering; otherwise no engineering set would have been built at all. That set the stage to bring in a new character to act as the chief engineer. Well, it didn't quite work out as planned at first.
List of Chief Engineers in the First Season
In the sixth episode "Where No One Has Gone Before", we were introduced to a new chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Argyle (played by Biff Yeager). This character stuck around a little longer than the others. It almost seemed that Argyle, a sturdy Scotsman in the tradition of Montgomery Scott, would occupy this position permanently. He was mentioned by name in "Lonely Among Us", and helped in the reconstruction of Data's brother Lore in "Datalore".
Note It is interesting to note that in the novelization of "Encounter at Farpoint", Argyle is present as the chief engineer. There was also an interview with Wil Wheaton on a review of "Where No One Has Gone Before" for the website TV Squad. In it he recalls that the character of Argyle was under consideration to be permanently made the chief engineer. Unfortunately it appears that actor Biff Yeager or someone acting on his behalf spammed Trekkies by mail to write letters to the producers campaigning to keep the character. Oddly they were contacted before the episode aired. Wheaton acknowledges the fact that this took place over 20 years ago and his memories about this may be not totally correct.
Leland T. Lynch
The last time we saw a chief engineer in the first season was for the episode "Skin of Evil". Lieutenant Commander Leland T. Lynch (played by Walker Boone) was serving in this position at the time.
This character had the strange habit of saying his full name when answering or placing a call on the intercom. In the Star Trek Encyclopedia he is said to be an assistant chief engineer, however his rank is too high for an assistant.
It is possible that all these four officers were serving as chief engineer of the Enterprise at the same time in 2364. In the episode "Where No One Has Gone Before", Commander Riker says that engineering matters were "guided, of course, by one of our Chief Engineers, Lieutenant Commander Argyle in this case." This blatantly states that there is more than one chief engineer. This line may have been added on purpose in the episode, to explain the fact of why a new actor was coming in to play the role.
An obvious possibility in the case of Logan is that he may have been transferred off the Enterprise due to his arrogant attitude and Lynch took over for him in time for the next episode. This would reduce the number of simultaneous chief engineers to three, or perhaps only two if we surmise that MacDougal may have been present only for a couple of weeks after the ship's launch.
Owing to the sheer size of a Galaxy-class vessel we could imagine that there are multiple engineering departments, each of which is headed by a chief engineer. There may be a chief engineer for the power network, one for the warp engines, one for the computers and sensors, and so an. However, such a diversification of engineering responsibilities was never mentioned in TNG. All chief engineers had the same job title, and their office was in main engineering.
A conjectural reason why there was more than one chief engineer in 2364 could be the fact that the Galaxy class was not only very big but also brand new, full of problems and needed constant attention by experienced engineering expertise and leadership.