David Warner, sadly deceased earlier this week, is loved for its wicked turns. Of hour after hour at bandits of timeof tron at Batman: The Animated Series‘Ra’s Al Ghul, the legendary career of the actor is paved with it. Bbut perhaps his finest hour on television comes from his third and final star trek role in The next generation.
The “chain of command” is based on twopartner amid The next generationis the sixth season. This is one of the best on the show, and beloved for a haunting turn by Patrick Stewart, playing a Picard who is captured and brutally tortured by the Cardassians – an interrogation conducted by Warner’s sinister Gul Madred. It is left as vulnerable as we may ever see the great hero Jean-Luc Picard, which ends the story with admitting how close he was to giving up.
Picard is nearly broken by Warner’s Madred, who turns in a truly mesmerizing performance that catapults him to the highest level of GNTthe best guest stars. Madred is actually not in “Chain of Command” at this point – he doesn’t appear until the climactic scene of the first episode, and the second intercuts his torture of Picard with the action aboard the Companywhere substitute captain Jellico (Ronny Cox) tries to bolster-work his way through negotiations with another Cardassian, Gul Lemec (John Durbin). But the second Warner enters the scene, Madred is immediately captivating.
He wanders into the dark little office/torture room that becomes the main stage for the back half of “Chain of Command,” barely entering the sharp pockets of light as he verbally and, sometimes technologically with a device implanted in Picard’s chest, needles the good captain until he’s a writhing wreck. Madred’s presence is gracious and terrifying – Warner’s voice for the character is almost barely a whisper, precise and controlled as he fully tugs at Picard’s strings again and again. That’s really what makes Madred so compelling and frightening, beyond the fact that he brutally tortures our hero: he’s nuanced, meticulous and detailed but never brash and booming, a dominance held in his total control and absolute, not only on Picard but on himself. There’s a single scene in which Madred breaks that facade – when Picard mocks his childhood as a starving orphan on Cardassia – but it’s only for a moment. Even then, as Picard celebrates the discovery of a gap in Madred’s armor, Warner’s low-key and commanding presence keeps him a threat until the episode’s climax.
It’s a fantastic performance in isolation, but what really makes Gul Madred shine as a character is that he’s not the only Cardassian villain in the room. Although they barely share the screen With the exception of a scene near the end of both parts, Gul Lemec is a vital foil for Madred who creates a greater whole, abstract as would be the Cardassian’s trademark.s representation when they really entered Trekis honored in Deep Space Nine. Durbin’s Lemec is everything Warner’s Madred is not: grandiose and pompous, sneering and theatrical. There is almost a camp element to Durbin’s turn, practically vogutalk about the Company conference room as he spews demands and insults at Jellico, Troi, and Riker, his hands spread dramatically as they dance caressing from chair to chair. If Madred lurked in the shadows, Lemec leapt into the light, embodying Cardassian arrogance and arrogance.
They are both fantastic performances in isolation, but in symbiosis they paint an incredible picture of wwhat the Cardassians were capable of, like both beings and as characters for star trek with whom to work – the sly murderous and calculating, the pompous warriors. Even barely sharing the screen, Durbin and Warner’s dual roles feel like a performative dance, a duet of opposites, each contrast making the other performance shine just as brightly even as they move away from each other. ‘other. Durbin’s proud and furious performance Lemec makes Warner’s picks as Madred feel all the more cold, calculated and scary, and in turn, this sinister and subdued performance makes Lemec’s rage and arrogance d all the more powerful.
I returned to “Chain of Command” last night in the wake of Warner’s passing, expecting to remember his performance, and his alone – one of all-great times of star trek prestigious guests. But I was surprised to find that he only hits his the highest heights thanks to an equally commendable performance in Durbin: two incredible actors who set the stage for what the Cardassians could be, ready for them to rise in Trek‘s annals as one of its most fascinating companies a few years later.
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