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The Drumhead (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"The Drumhead"
TNG, Episode 4x21
Production number: 40274-195
First aired: 29 April 1991
94th of 176 produced in TNG
94th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
201st of 728 released in all
Picard in interrogation room
Written By
Jeri Taylor

Directed By
Jonathan Frakes
44769.2 (2367)
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An overzealous Starfleet admiral begins a witch-hunt aboard the Enterprise, determined to find a conspiracy, and eventually accusing Captain Picard of treason.



"Captain's Log, Stardate 44769.2. For some weeks we have had a Klingon exobiologist on board as part of a scientific exchange program. Unfortunately, we suspect that he was involved in a security breach and in the possible sabotage of our warp drive."

On stardate 44769.2, a dilithium chamber hatch explodes aboard the USS Enterprise-D and sabotage is suspected. The explosion coincides with news that the Romulans have gained access to information about the Enterprise's chamber, indicating that there is a spy on board. A quick investigation turns up one suspect – a Klingon exchange officer named J'Dan, but he denies any involvement.

Act OneEdit

"Captain's Log, Supplemental. Retired Admiral Norah Satie whose investigation exposed the alien conspiracy against Starfleet Command three years ago, is arriving to assist in our inquiry."

With little progress in the investigation, Starfleet Command sends retired Admiral Norah Satie and her assistants – one of whom is a Betazoid – to expedite the proceedings. A more thorough examination under Satie's direction reveals a hypospray in J'Dan's room modified to scan and resequence classified information into biological tags for transport on an injected body; J'Dan covers this by the fact that he has Ba'ltmasor Syndrome, which requires weekly injections and, thus, would easily hide the transfer of information. With this evidence against him, J'Dan admits to being a Romulan spy, but adamantly maintains his innocence in the explosion. However, Satie is still unsatisfied; she is convinced that J'Dan could not have been working alone.

Act TwoEdit

The admiral begins an inquiry into all personnel and passengers on the Enterprise with whom J'Dan has come into contact during his stay. When she questions young medical technician Simon Tarses, she apparently has her man; her Betazoid assistant, Sabin Genestra senses great fear and guilt from Tarses, as if some sort of lie is consuming him, about which he refuses to come clean.

Simon Tarses

Crewman Simon Tarses is interrogated

Act ThreeEdit

Picard refuses to restrict Tarses's movements based on Betazoid intuition. Before a consensus can be reached he and Satie are called to engineering by Geordi La Forge and Data; the radiation levels preventing them from entering the chamber – caused by the explosion – have dropped low enough for them to enter safely, and their examination shows no foul play to have been involved. The explosion was caused by metal fatigue along an undetectable defect in a hatch cover installed during the ship's last refit at Earth Station McKinley, making it an accident that just happened to coincide with the theft of the chamber's plans rather than sabotage.

But this new development seems not to placate Satie or her assistants, who still believe Tarses was a co-conspirator with J'Dan. Another inquiry against Tarses is launched, this time open to the public, and he is barraged with numerous accusations to try and establish his guilt, including a lie that the explosion was caused by corrosive chemicals to which he had had access, and the exposure of the lie Tarses himself tried to kept hidden – that he put false information about his parentage in his admission form, stating that his grandfather was Vulcan when, in fact, he was Romulan. Overwhelmed, Tarses invokes the Seventh Guarantee of the Constitution of the United Federation of Planets to decline to answer further questions to avoid self-incrimination, on the counsel of Commander Riker.

Act FourEdit

The ruthlessness of the accusations convince Picard that Satie is engaging in a drumhead trial, going on a xenophobic witch-hunt for Romulans and other enemy conspirators. After talking with Tarses and establishing that his lying on his application was his only misdeed, Picard confronts Satie and demands that the hearings be put to rest, threatening to go over her head and complain to Starfleet Command if necessary, only to be rebuffed; Satie has been in full contact with Starfleet Command since the beginning, and they fully approve of her methods. In fact, the next interrogation will have Starfleet Security Admiral Thomas Henry as a witness. In other words, the interrogations can not and will not be stopped, and they will, in fact, expand. Unfortunately, because of his outspokenness against them, Picard is called to the stand the following day.

Act FiveEdit

"Captain's Log, Supplemental. Admiral Thomas Henry, who has worked closely with Norah Satie in the past, has arrived to observe the hearings."

At his interrogation, Picard attempts to appeal to Satie's sense of reason and convince her to end the hearings, but he is met with a thorough nitpicking of his competency and loyalty to Starfleet and the Federation. Worf, who up until this point had sided with Satie in her actions, realizes where the hearing is going and attempts to defend his captain but is also rebuffed with accusations of his father's supposed betrayal to the Romulans. Finally, Picard responds to the accusations laid against him by quoting her famous father's words about the dangers of denying basic rights to one man in the name of protection.

Enraged, Satie interrupts him, accusing him of treason, conspiring with the Romulans, and violating the Prime Directive. She calls men like him a threat to the entire Federation whom it is her job to seek out and destroy, and warns him that she has "brought down bigger men than you--!" In the middle of her tirade, Admiral Henry gets up and wordlessly leaves the room, bringing an informal end to the interrogation. Embarrassed, Sabin declares a recess until the following day, and the room empties quickly, leaving Satie alone, shaken. By turning her father's words back on her, Picard has goaded her into revealing the depth of her fanaticism and paranoia in front of an audience, severely damaging her credibility, possibly permanently.

Picard Worf, observation lounge

"Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."

Later on, in the ship's conference lounge, Picard is informed by Worf that Admiral Henry has officially called off the hearings, and that Satie has departed the Enterprise. Though it is unlikely that she will ever be trusted with such authority again, Worf cannot help feeling guilty for having been deluded into aiding her cause without realizing what she was. Picard, however, sees it as a learning experience; such enemies who cloak their misdeeds with the pretense of serving a greater good are very seductive and very hard to spot, and continual vigilance against them is "the price that [they] must pay" to maintain their freedom.

Log EntriesEdit

Memorable quotes Edit

"The blood of all Klingons has become water! Ever since the Federation Alliance, we have turned into a nation of mewling babies! The Romulans are strong; they are worthy allies! They do not turn Klingons into weaklings like you!" (hints at Worf)

- J'Dan, admitting his guilt of the information smuggling to the Romulans

"On the advice of my counsel, I refuse to answer that question in... in that the answer might serve to incriminate me."

- Simon Tarses

"Sir, the Federation does have enemies! We must seek them out!"
"Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf; I don't like what we have become!"

- Worf and Picard

"You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy: 'With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured...the first thought forbidden...the first freedom denied--chains us all irrevocably.' Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom...and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged. I fear that today--"
"How dare you! You who consort with Romulans, invoke my father's name to support your traitorous arguments? It is an offense to everything I hold dear! And to hear those words used to subvert the United Federation of Planets! My father was a great man! His name stands for integrity and principle! You DIRTY his name when you speak it! He loved the Federation! But you, Captain, corrupt it! You undermine our very way of life! I will expose you for what you are! I've brought down bigger men than you, Picard!!"

- Picard, quoting Judge Aaron Satie, and Admiral Satie, angrily chastising him for it

"Am I bothering you, Captain?"
"No, please come in, Mr. Worf."
"It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter."
"That's good."
"Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise."
"We think we've come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it's all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again."
"I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was."
"Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged."
"I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her."
"Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish--spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."

- Worf and Picard, discussing both the investigations and the misguidedness of Admiral Satie

Background information Edit

Story and script Edit

Roddenberry and Simmons

Gene Roddenberry and Jean Simmons

Production Edit

Frakes and Stewart The Drumhead

Director Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart on the set

Stewart, Goldberg, Simmons, Spiner

Simmons visiting the set in 1991


Reception Edit

Video and DVD releasesEdit

The video sleeve gives the title of this episode as "The Drum Head".

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit


Co-star Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

amino acid; Ba'ltmasor Syndrome; Battle of Wolf 359; beard; Betazed; Betazoid; blood; Borg; Cochrane, USS; communicator; Constitution of the United Federation of Planets; crewman; Cruces system; Delb II; Delb II native; deoxyribose suspension; dilithium articulation frame; dilithium chamber; dilithium chamber hatch; drum; drumhead trial; Earth Station McKinley; elm; emergency confinement field; encephalographic polygraph scan; Excelsior-class; exobiologist; Federation; Federation Uniform Code of Justice; hyposyringe; interrogation room; isolation door; isolinear optical chip; judge; Klingon; Klingon-Federation Alliance; Klingon High Council; lemon; Marcus; Mars Colony; mass spectrometer; matter-antimatter reaction assembly; medical technician; microtomographic analysis; Mogh; neural parasite (24th century); neutron fatigue; Oberth-class; Officer Exchange Program; optical chip reader; outpost; petaQ; Prime Directive; protein; Qo'noS; radiation; roach; Romulan; Romulan Neutral Zone; Satie, Aaron; sabotage; security clearance; Seventh Guarantee; shuttlecraft; spectrometer; spy; starbase; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Security; sub-micron fracture; Tarkanian; tea; T'Pel; tricorder; turbolift; United Federation of Planets; Vulcan; witch

External links Edit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Previous episode:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
Next episode:
"Half a Life"

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