O'Brien

Discussion in 'Deep Space Nine' started by hux, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. hux

    hux Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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
     
  2. Use of Time

    Use of Time Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  3. kythe

    kythe Commander Red Shirt

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    I've wondered why he was called "chief" O'Brien even in TNG. What was he chief of, since Geordi Laforge was engineering chief?
     
  4. Chris3123

    Chris3123 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    On the Enterprise, he was the Transporter Chief.
     
  5. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  6. kythe

    kythe Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, thanks, I didn't realize that. :o

    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.
     
  7. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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".

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Use of Time

    Use of Time Commodore Commodore

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    ^ 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.
     
  10. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. hayesc0

    hayesc0 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    actually his position was chief of operations his rank was chief petty officer he has the same position as data in operations department
     
  12. M.A.C.O.

    M.A.C.O. Commodore Commodore

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    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
     
  13. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  15. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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? :devil:)

    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!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  16. od0_ital

    od0_ital Admiral Admiral

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    There was also TNG 'Disaster', where while trapped on the bridge, Ensign Ro was ready to defer to "Chief" O'Brien because of his rank, 'til he pointed out that Lieutenant Commander Troi outranked him.

    Point is, TNG played fast & loose with O'Brien's rank & titles, and DS9 did they best they could to correct it and keep it consistent.
     
  17. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    "Ready to defer"? It sounded more like Ro believed her own combination of commissioned rank and command-colored uniform ought to make her the queen of the hill, until O'Brien insisted that Troi's higher rank trumped everything else. Which probably wasn't formally true or anything, but O'Brien apparently didn't want Ro running things.

    After this exchange, Ro makes all sorts of suggestions, which O'Brien counters with those of his own, and Troi then shoots down with her cleverly formulated "orders" (which are more like suggestions). Ro seems to be making a point of not directly addressing Troi at all; it is only towards the very end that she deigns to address the superior officer as "Sir" (rather than the derogatory "Counselor"), while O'Brien is always eager to formally honor the Lieutenant Commander and support her "decisions".

    This is actually one of the more intriguing and enjoyable cases of the writers making use of the ranks and relative hierarchical status of the characters; O'Brien fits right in as the formal underdog who nevertheless gets to pull all the strings.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  18. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    It's been a while since I watched "Disaster" but it seemed to be a case of O'Brien running the show. But that might be a case of O'Briens choices were more inline with the goals Troi wanted to achieve, namely the survival of the entire ship and crew. WHilst Ro was prepared to sacrifice the stardrive section.
     
  19. hux

    hux Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    as interesting as the discussion about what rank O'Brien actually was, it's not something that concerns me personally (as far as i'm concerned he was a non-commissioned officer and i'm happy with that) but what i don't understand is why - what was the thinking here

    lets ignore the rank question and assume that he was always an NCO.....why was this?......was it something to do with his military background - it's easy to think of starfleet as nothing more than the military wing of the federation but it was also primarily the institution that dealt with the exploration of space so in this instance, was O'Brien an experienced military man who in peace time, decided to change career or was it due to not attending starfleet academy so he was purely commissioned based on his skill set (why not attempt to become an officer when it was clear he wanted to stay in starfleet)

    maybe i don't fully understand the military stuff (if that is the thinking behind it) but i still cannot fathom why they made him an NCO - why bother with this - what's the point - and the writers seemed to want to make this a noticeable thing about his character - what for

    does it really make sense for NCO's to still exist in the context of starfleet - and on the exploration flagship in particular - what is it i'm missing

    thanks that was helpful
     
  20. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, that wasn't the case originally. Chief of Operations was indeed O'Brien's rank--something he declared (rather firmly) several times to the Cardassians in "Tribunal":

    O'BRIEN: My name is Miles O'Brien. My rank, Chief of Operations...

    While Starfleet's commissioned officer grades generally corresponded with those of the US Navy, the same couldn't be entirely said for the enlisted grades, probably due to writer unfamiliarity with them and/or a need to continue calling O'Brien a chief after his promotion, so we end up with O'Brien having an invented Starfleet-only noncom rank of Chief of Operations.

    It wasn't until later that they tried to give O'Brien a more traditional rank and came up with Senior Chief Specialist in "Shadowplay."