The Chief Engineers Star Trek Fans Forgot

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

If you ask fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation who the show’s Chief Engineer is, they’ll instantly reply, “Geordi La Forge.” Thanks to his warmth and charm, Reading Rainbow star LeVar Burton quickly won audiences over even before his character was promoted to Chief Engineer in Season 2.

What the fandom typically forgets about, though, is that the show had several different supporting characters with that engineering job title, including one who might have become a permanent character if not for a strange letter-writing stunt.

Geordi La Forge Wasn’t The Original Engineer

At this point, casual Star Trek fans might be wondering why Geordi La Forge wasn’t the Chief Engineer in season one. The short answer was that he was a helmsman at the time, and having a blind man steering the ship was admittedly a very funny bit.

He didn’t get the new gig in engineering until Season 2, and the show never addressed why one of its main characters suddenly got a completely different job after the first season (imagine how weird it would have been if Star Trek: The Original Series had Sulu go from flying the ship in one season to running engineering in another season).

MacDougal Was Quickly Forgotten

Before this Star Trek spinoff had Geordi LaForge in his new job, the first season brought us several different Chief Engineers, many of whom are (if we’re being honest) just not that memorable. For example, we are introduced to Sarah MacDougal in “The Naked Now,” and she doesn’t really do much aside from tossing out some technobabble and losing control of engineering to the obnoxious child prodigy Wesley Crusher. This particular engineer is never seen on the show again.

Leland T. Lynch Wanted Everyone To Know His Name

Leland T. Lynch is a Chief Engineer that we only see in the episode “Skin of Evil.” That was the episode where Tasha Yar was killed for no reason, so you probably don’t remember this guy (that’s what grief will do to you). If you rewatch the episode, though, be sure to notice his strange habit of referring to himself by his full name (“Leland T. Lynch”) when Picard calls down to engineering.

Logan Was A Plot Point

Another Star Trek Chief Engineer who only appears for one episode is Logan, the guy who obnoxiously tries to take command from Geordi La Forge in “The Arsenal of Freedom.” Honestly, we would have loved to see this guy pop up again sometime after season one. After all, not only did Geordi prove the other man wrong by successfully commanding the ship through a crisis, but he ended up effectively taking Logan’s job in Season 2.

Argyle Found A Creative Way To Get Fired

As Star Trek nerds, we had to save the story of Chief Engineer Argyle for last because it is so weird. Compared to the others on this list, Argyle appeared quite a bit: he physically appeared in “Where No One Has Gone Before” and “Datalore” and was mentioned in “Lonely Among Us,” and “Galaxy’s Child.” 

According to Wesley Crusher actor Wil Wheaton (who admits he might not be remembering this accurately), Paramount was considering making Chief Engineer Argyle a permanent character if the fans wanted that to happen. Soon, they received letters from fans talking about how much they loved the Argyle character.

LeVar Burton Was The Right Man For The Job

Just one problem: many of these letters arrived before his first episode, implying that either Argyle actor Biff Yaeger or one of his friends was soliciting fans to write in (some of those fans claimed they were even sent mail asking them to write to Paramount).

Allegedly, the premature letter-writing campaign caused Paramount to back off their plans to make Argyle a permanent character. Regardless of how it happened, Star Trek: The Next Generation made Geordi La Forge the permanent Chief Engineer starting with Season 2, and the rest is franchise history. Ironically, only by taking this character away from his position as helmsman was this Star Trek spinoff able to start heading in the right direction.

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