"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 would 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
|Sarah MacDougal The first time we saw the chief engineer was in the third episode "The Naked Now", with Lieutenant Commander Sarah MacDougal (played by Brooke Bundy). This was the only episode that this character appeared in.|
Argyle 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.
|Logan Lieutenant Logan (played by Vyto Ruginis) seemed to replace Argyle for the episode "The Arsenal of Freedom". This was the only episode this character appeared, which is no surprise, considering that he acted like a dick while Geordi was in command of the ship.|
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.
In the second season the Enterprise-D got a permanent and exclusive chief engineer, namely Geordi La Forge. No other officer was ever referred to as "chief engineer" of the ship for the rest of the series. Likewise, no other ship featured in Star Trek ever seemed to have more than one chief engineer at a time. This includes Voyager where the question whether Carey or Torres would become the ship's chief engineer was a big deal in VOY: "Parallax". On the other hand, Voyager is a lot smaller than the Enterprise and may not require more than one chief engineer.
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.
Besides the chief engineer, Starfleet also has the role of an assistant chief engineer. This seems to be a deputy chief engineer who takes the place of the chief engineer during his or her absence, rather than a mere assistant. This is evidenced by the two crew members who were identified as assistant chief engineers during the first season: Shimoda and Singh. Shimoda was in charge of main engineering when the intoxicated Wesley appeared and locked himself up in TNG: "The Naked Now". Singh took part in a meeting with the senior staff in the conference lounge and obviously replaced Argyle in TNG: "Lonely Among Us". The fact that one or more assistant chief engineers are available weakens the theory that there may be multiple chief engineers as well. But we could imagine that there are two or three chief engineers with one or two assistants, which is not too big a staff for the Enterprise-D during its first year in service. An average ship might have one chief engineer with two assistants working in two or three shifts to ensure 24/7 attention to engineering issues.