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Old September 17 2012, 06:15 PM   #1
hux
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O'Brien

i keep hearing that O'Brien wasn't a commissioned officer

first of all, i don't even know what that means specifically - i'm not de rigueur with military ranks and positions so can someone explain what non-commissioned means exactly

and secondly, what was the point of it in the case of O'Brien - he was a member of both crews (TNG & DS9) so why wasn't he just an officer - i believe i'm right in thinking that he was originally mentioned as a lieutenant but they later changed this to a non-commissioned officer so there must have been a point to this (what was it)

why go out of the way to make his character a non-commissioned officer - what was the thinking here
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Old September 17 2012, 06:36 PM   #2
Use of Time
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Re: O'Brien

We've batted this topic around a few times before with mixed results, rationalizations and wild guesses. I can answer your question regarding NCO's. A non-commissioned officer in the military is essentially an E-5 or above. They have more responsibility and will be placed in charge of others but ultimately responsible to a commisioned officer. Same kind of thing seems to go for Star Trek but it can be at the mercy of the storyline sometimes.
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Old September 17 2012, 08:44 PM   #3
kythe
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Re: O'Brien

I've wondered why he was called "chief" O'Brien even in TNG. What was he chief of, since Geordi Laforge was engineering chief?
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Old September 17 2012, 08:51 PM   #4
Chris3123
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Re: O'Brien

kythe wrote: View Post
I've wondered why he was called "chief" O'Brien even in TNG. What was he chief of, since Geordi Laforge was engineering chief?
On the Enterprise, he was the Transporter Chief.
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Old September 17 2012, 08:58 PM   #5
MacLeod
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Re: O'Brien

Chris3123 wrote: View Post
kythe wrote: View Post
I've wondered why he was called "chief" O'Brien even in TNG. What was he chief of, since Geordi Laforge was engineering chief?
On the Enterprise, he was the Transporter Chief.
Well only from about S2-S6.

But I think these are also true about the actor

He is the only actor to appear in both the pilot and finale of two ST shows (TNG & DSN)
He has made more apperances in ST than any other actor except Michael Dorn. Not bad for what was a bit part in the pilot.
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Old September 17 2012, 09:33 PM   #6
kythe
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Re: O'Brien

Chris3123 wrote: View Post
kythe wrote: View Post
I've wondered why he was called "chief" O'Brien even in TNG. What was he chief of, since Geordi Laforge was engineering chief?
On the Enterprise, he was the Transporter Chief.
Oh, thanks, I didn't realize that.

I had just been having this discussion with my 12 year old, and I explained to her that O'Brien was Chief Engineer on DS9. Then we were watching a TNG episode where someone called him "chief" and I was confused.

See, now that I know, I don't have to be embarrassed in front of my kids anymore. I feel so nerdy.
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Old September 17 2012, 09:41 PM   #7
R. Star
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Re: O'Brien

Well his rank was Chief Petty Officer, this was stated directly in DS9. That would make him a senior Non-Commissioned Officer. Basically if he was in the modern navy he'd have stripes on his sleeve.

Though his insignia both in TNG and DS9 widely varied, leading to much of the confusion on the issue. The fact that he often bossed officers around didn't help any. I just figured Sisko firmly stated that O'brien answers to him and him alone.
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Old September 18 2012, 01:44 PM   #8
Timo
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Re: O'Brien

In today's armies, where being a soldier is a paid job first and foremost, a non-commissioned officer is somebody who joins the force for a specific length of time to get the money (and the training and working experience that may also be of use in civilian life), then gets out and goes on with his life - but unlike the regular grunt, this somebody decided to go through the effort to get into a commanding (and better paid) position during his stay in the military, and thus became a Petty Officer or even a Chief Petty Officer (which is navyspeak for various sorts of sergeant). A commissioned officer chooses the military life as a lifestyle, gets higher-level, "academic" training that is of very little use in the civilian world, and either stays in the force till advanced age, or at least can be recalled to perform his (fairly non-physical) duties at a much greater age than any of the enlisted folks.

Or at least this is the original setup, long since outdated by various developments. Essentially, it dates back to the days when nations only paid for a central core of officers to be full-time soldiers, and drafted/hired/otherwise acquired the rest of the fighting force as needed.

Nevertheless, the idea of the enlisted men as the "ordinary folks", the "not really soldiers save for the circumstances", persists. And O'Brien being an engineering specialist makes him even more the non-soldier; him being a family man of some age and gravitas, still more so. That's his dramatic role in this context. Basically, officer characters are paid for sending people to die; enlisted characters are paid to die. The sympathies of the audience are correspondingly guided. Although a "sarge" like O'Brien falls somewhere in between, being forced to send underlings to die, his motivation in a scene is still that of surviving the mission imposed upon him by the officers, and helping his men survive it as well, in a fatherly or even motherly way. Of course, him being an engineer takes away some of this stereotype, but it surfaces now and then, in episodes like "The Ship".

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Old September 18 2012, 03:44 PM   #9
Use of Time
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Re: O'Brien

^ Your first paragraph is waaaaaaaay off Timo. A non-com is simply Corporal through Command Sergeant Major and the Navy has their own parallel. Their specific length of time and "joining to get the money" have aboslutely nothing to do with it. A non-com is simply a level of responsbility and an introduction in leadership that grows with each promotion. Commissioned officers higher level academic training is simply going to college. Granted officers have their introductory training in whatever field they are in but that goes for enlisted as well. Many enlisted personnel get their degrees through the military as well. The military in general doesn't give you much in terms of real world usefullness, i.e. Field Artillery school. That goes for both officers and enlisted though.
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Old September 18 2012, 09:43 PM   #10
C.E. Evans
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Re: O'Brien

R. Star wrote: View Post
Well his rank was Chief Petty Officer, this was stated directly in DS9.
By a Jem'Hadar who may not have been 100% accurate perhaps with Starfleet rank insignia.

But elsewhere in DS9, O'Brien himself actually said (several times) his rank was "Chief of Operations" in one early episode and then "Senior Chief Specialist" in a later one.
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Old September 19 2012, 01:40 AM   #11
hayesc0
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Re: O'Brien

actually his position was chief of operations his rank was chief petty officer he has the same position as data in operations department
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Old September 19 2012, 04:58 AM   #12
M.A.C.O.
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Re: O'Brien

Which makes it all the more problematic when O'Brien was referred to several times as a Lieutenant during his tenure on board the Enterprise. Memory-Alpha has the episodes and references.

It's possible that serving on a Starship allots you a rank and a commissioned benefits. I believe in DS9 Emissary there was a line about people who serve on Starbases are the people who weren't good enough to be assigned to a Starship. DS9 was full of NCO's. If O'Brien was really that good given his service on board the Phoenix and the Enterprise, a field commission promotion could be feasible
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Old September 19 2012, 06:06 AM   #13
Timo
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Re: O'Brien

A few inaccuracies there:

- If somebody's rank is "Chief Petty Officer", this leaves open three or four possibilities, as the rank in real life comes in three grades (CPO, Senior CPO, Master CPO) plus the honorary rank of Master CPO of the Navy (a single individual who's chosen to symbolically represent the entire enlisted force of the service). So even though the mention of O'Brien being a "Senior" (from "Playing God") precedes the Jem'Hadar assessment of him being a "Chief Petty Officer", we don't have to believe the Jem'Hadar were wrong or O'Brien got a demotion.

- The use of words "rank", "rating", "grade" or "position" is complex in the real world, but Trek seems to make it even more complex. In "Tribunal", O'Brien clearly states that Chief of Operations is his rank, not (merely) his position. We just have to swallow this with a grain of chloride of our liking. (Perhaps O'Brien was just saying that his rank was Chief, and then clarified it with his specialty being Ops, and all the torture made us miss the comma in between?)

- O'Brien was never really referred to as Lieutenant anywhere in TNG. Rather, the word "Lieutenant" was once uttered in his presence in an ambiguous manner ("Where Silence Has Lease"), and might just as well have been directed at Lieutenant Worf. In contrast, O'Brien was once clearly claimed to be a Chief Petty Officer ("Family") at his face, a claim not challenged on the spot, and never truly contradicted later, either. It was just his collar markings that varied wildly.

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Old September 19 2012, 09:55 AM   #14
MacLeod
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Re: O'Brien

From Memory, O'Brien started off with one pip in "Encounter at Farpoint" and over his 55 or so apperances on TNG there was some consistancy in his pips, first to Lt. J.G
and then finally to LT. pips.

So his collar markings didn't really vary wildly, it just that the writers decided to go a different route.
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Old September 19 2012, 10:27 AM   #15
Timo
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Re: O'Brien

True enough - there was a steady increase until "Realm of Fear" where the two bright pips suddenly dropped to a single dark one, and then another possible increase during DS9 when the single dark pip was replaced by a plate with three chevrons and two pips. So, ups and downs, but "wildly" might be an exaggeration. "Out of the control of the writers" would be better...

FWIW, the first and only clear-cut TNG reference to O'Brien's rank, in "Family", nailed him as Chief Petty Officer of some grade or another when he was wearing two bright pips. That is, Sergey Rodzhenko used those pips to identify O'Brien as "another Chief Petty Officer", Sergey being one himself. (Perhaps O'Brien was wearing special enlisted pips, deceptively similar to Lieutenant's pips except for some detail that our TV sets don't reproduce? )

The ambiguous TNG reference, from "Where Silence Has Lease", has no good angles showing O'Brien's pips. But he wore two bright ones in the previous episode already, so Riker considering him Lieutenant wouldn't be incorrect. OTOH, Riker is speaking mostly to Worf in that scene. And the specific phrase that includes the rank reference relates to the tactical choice of beam-in location - an issue of relevance both to O'Brien and Worf. And Riker is mostly looking at Worf when saying this. Make of it what you wish... I tend to use it as the perfect excuse to claim that O'Brien's rank was never inconsistent in dialogue!

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