Organizational Behaviour Multi-Frame Analysis of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode "The Drumhead"

Essay by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D


Admiral Norah Satie, a well-respected officer within Starfleet, arrives aboard the Enterprise to investigate possible sabotage. Her father had a long and illustrious career as a distinguished judge and she herself had uncovered a widespread alien infiltration of Starfleet two years prior. Prior to her arrival, Starfleet had learned that the Romulans had received detailed schematics of the Enterprise's dilithium chamber in Engineering. Shortly after, an explosion occurred in Engineering. Worf, chief of security aboard the Enterprise, finds a Klingon exobiologist on board who confesses to stealing the plans, but denies involvement with the explosion.

Satie expands her search to anyone associated with the Klingon. Her investigation turns up a medical technician, Simon Tarsis, who administered injections to the Klingon. It is found that his application to Starfleet listed his paternal grandfather as being Vulcan, which is a lie since his grandfather was in fact Romulan. Satie begins an in-depth inquiry into Tarsis'' past.

Meanwhile, an investigation in Engineering reveals that the explosion was caused by a mechanical defect, and not a bomb as previously thought. However, Satie continues probing. Captain Picard attempts to stop her, but Satie turns around and calls Picard to appear before the inquiry. Using half-truths and innuendoes, she calls Picard a traitor. At this point, a Starfleet observer recognizes the 'witch hunt' for what it is and dissolves the inquiry.

Four Frame Analysis

In terms of structure, Starfleet is governed by a simple rigid military-style reporting structure which is good for the tight coordination and control needed to run a starship of one thousand or more people. Because of her high rank, Satie is free to pursue her agenda more easily. And though the goal of Starfleet is "to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life forms", Satie's goal seems to be "to explore strange circumstances and seek out new conspiracies". Unfortunately, these two disparate goals are incompatible and both Captain Picard and the Starfleet observer notice this. This way, both Picard and the Starfleet observer serve as a feedback loop to correct deviations..

Satie is attempting to satisfy a Maslow self-actualization need by pursuing a personal mission to purge traitors and conspiracies from Starfleet, and in the process is also satisfying a need for safety and security from the enemies of the Federation that she sees everywhere. Satie needs Starfleet for her purge mission and Starfleet needs people like her to keep a vigilant eye out for any threats to the Federation, internal or external. During the hearings which are held publicly, Satie plays on peoples' fear, or their need for safety and security, to drum up support for her witch hunt.

Because she is a high-ranking admiral, Satie can use her wide-domain position power to conduct her investigation and call any crew member to stand before a hearing, including Picard. This position power provides her with control over three assets: information (she can distort the truth to make it fit her agenda), networks (her powerful connections in Starfleet Command are supporting her 'witch hunt') and the right to organize (she decides who will sit on her board of inquiry and who testifies before it). To enforce her whims, she has coercive power-- if you refuse to testify at the inquiry, you get thrown into the brig for contempt of court. Because of her long career with Starfleet and her uncovering of a previous conspiracy, she has the power of expert authority. Finally, throughout the inquiry, she uses control over meanings and symbols to distort the truth to provide support for her interpretation of events. Picard, to counter Satie's witch hunt, can draw upon position power (he is still the captain of the Enterprise and can formally complain to Starfleet), network power (he has friends in Starfleet which may outrank Satie), and personal power (his charisma and solid reputation may spare him).

Satie's legitimacy is reinforced by the stories about her father and herself. Her father was a well-respected judge within Starfleet, and even Picard looked up to him as a role model. Her integral role in the uncovering of an alien conspiracy within Starfleet two years prior is also widely spoken of. When Satie puts Picard before the inquiry, the crew begin to feel uneasy. They are aware of the many legendary exploits and integrity of Picard. To legitimize her charges against Picard, Satie mentions the fact that Picard had violated the Prime Directive several times. In Starfleet, general order number one is the Prime Directive-- non-interference in the natural development of any alien culture they encounter, a very powerful representation for everything that Starfleet represents. She uses the Prime Directive to show Picard as a traitor. Finally, the fact that Satie insists on a public hearing is an example of theatrics that are used to show the crew that justice is being served and as a warning against other traitors.


The four frameworks illustrate the various strategies employed by Satie to achieve her goals. Her relatively high position in the Starfleet hierarchy allows her wide latitude in carrying out her witch hunt. She draws from position power, network power, coercive power, the power of expert authority, and control over meanings and symbols. She also uses symbolism to bring her point across with the use of the Prime Directive to paint Picard as a traitor and the use of public hearings to showcase her cause. She uses the crews' need for safety and security to turn them against those who are accused of conspiring against the Federation. Finally, the stories told about her and her father help to reinforce her legitimacy.

To counter such 'McCarthyism', the four framework analysis reveal some strategies. An impartial Starfleet observer is sent to act as a feedback loop to correct any deviations from the goals of Starfleet. Captain Picard can draw on some position power, network power, and some personal power to counter Satie.

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