Career Officer
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# 1 Captain Vs. XO Giving Orders
12-10-2012, 05:00 PM
Something just popped in my mind that I've wondered about ever since I first saw TNG in prime time. It would seem that the captain of the ship would be the one giving the orders and the XO might relay the required tasks to complete that order to his team.

I remember on more than one occasion when the evil alien of the week appeared Riker would yell out "Red Alert!" even though Picard was standing right there. Other times Riker would seem to give orders that Picard should have been giving (Keep our bow on the Scimitar, etc.).

I never really noticed this with any ST iteration other than TNG. Riker had a more forceful personality than Picard, so maybe he was overstepping his boundaries and Picard was letting it go. Or maybe the writers liked Riker more.

Any one with military experience have any experiences with orders given like this in the RL military? The XO giving orders the CO should be giving would seem to be insubordination to me. Did anyone even notice this? It drove me crazy.

Porthos is not amused.
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# 2
12-10-2012, 05:36 PM
I think it's a Starfleet-only thing. The XO is allowed to make supplemental orders in battle, allowing the captain to focus on more important aspects, but only so long as the two's plan don't clash.

I'm just guessing
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Join Date: Aug 2012
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# 3
12-10-2012, 09:32 PM
The Enterprise D was a ship of exploration and diplomacy and Picard was a captain that reflected that.
Picard might as well have been an admiral with the pomp surrounding him. His #1 got all the work done while Picard focused on the bigger picture, made the critical/unusual decisions, and represented the federation.

Really, I think he was only an accidental tactician to begin with.

EDIT: Battlestar Galactica has a similar dynamic, leading me to believe this is common practice.

Adama, "Get us out of here."
Tygh, "Scramble fighters! Target the nearest base star! Plot jump! Spin up the FTLs! Recall the fighters! Find out I'm a cylon! Retract landing pylons! Jump!"

Last edited by trahl; 12-10-2012 at 09:43 PM.
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# 4
12-11-2012, 01:44 AM
It was about trust. Picard knew Riker would not do anything to put the ship or its crew in danger..

Besides, Starfleet isn't as rigid in my book as the military, so are a bit more team orientated. Yes the buck stops with Picard, and he has made decisions that Riker disagreed with, but again, he trusts Picard....

Go back and watch the pilot and you will see the more military orientated crew as they do not really know each other, but a few years on you get used to your crew and how it performs etc..

That's how I view it anyways

Last edited by darkenzedd; 12-11-2012 at 01:47 AM.
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# 5
12-11-2012, 04:26 AM
My view is that the Captain sets policy and everyone below him/her carry's that out. So I would imagine that Riker's been given authority by Picard to carry out specific duties, while he maintains an overall view of what's going on. Last thing you want your Captain to be doing is the little detail work, while he has to be focused on the big picture. That's how I've viewed Picard and Riker's relationship and the relationship of CO's and XO's I had in the past 18 years of Naval Service (or at least the good ones).
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# 6
12-11-2012, 08:36 AM
I'm of the mindset that the captain only really needed to do the captain level things. As such, the First Officer takes care of most of the day-to-day ship business, including most issues between the lower ranks. The captain would still probably be informed later on of anything worth bringing up.

The main time the XO might not be told about something, is when it involves a Department Head doing something on the ship that would need the captain's permission. Like engineeering taking the warp core offline for a day to do...whatever.

All of this would generally allow the captain to focus on larger, more important issues and orders.
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# 7
12-11-2012, 08:48 AM
Also depends greatly on the Captains command style. Does he delegate to his subordinates? Does he prefer to have direct control over every decision made during a combat situation?

There's also the issue of familiarity. A crew that has been together for years will be able to anticipate the tactics, commands and thought processes of their shipmates far better than one that doesn't have that level of rapport, thus necessitating a more direct hand by the CO.
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# 8
12-11-2012, 08:54 AM
I thought it was pretty standard. The Captain tells his XO what he wants done, and the XO commands the crew in how to do it.
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# 9
12-11-2012, 09:27 AM
Well, it should be a little more in depth than that.

In general you have the captain setting the policy and path of the ship, they are the diplomat, the big picture person. There are different styles of captains, like all people, some are more hands on, some micromanage, whatever.

The first officer deals with day to day operations, usually with the heads of departments and not crewman, unless required to. They are responsible for the condition and readiness of ship and crew at all times, so there is a lot of damage reports and personnel reports passing by their desk.

In TNG it was very well done.

DS9, being on a station, was mostly right, combat situations on the station were rare. Sisko called the shots, but was far more approachable than Picard. Kira handles the daily docking requirements and a lot of station security and operations. However Kira wasn't Starfleet, so things like personnel reports tended to go through Sisko.

Voyager tended to run right as well, but Chakotay didn't have the presence of Rieker. Very often we see him following the Captain's direction, handing reports and operations. Janeway tended to control battle tactics, which was a sad sad direction of the show, as a Maquis would have done 10x better than Janeway always waiting for their shields were down to 30% before returning fire.

TOS just wasn't well thought out, and ENT was space cowboys with a non-starfleet first officer (though way better than TOS).
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# 10
12-11-2012, 09:34 AM
Originally Posted by trek21 View Post
I think it's a Starfleet-only thing. The XO is allowed to make supplemental orders in battle, allowing the captain to focus on more important aspects, but only so long as the two's plan don't clash.

I'm just guessing
Typical naval tradition- it IS the Captains command but the XO runs the ship. Captain carry's out his orders from fleet command while the XO ensures the ship and crew are prepared for the task.
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