Miles O'Brien (Star Trek)

Miles O'Brien (Star Trek)
Miles O'Brien
Species Human
Home planet Earth (Ireland)
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Posting Tactical officer,
USS Rutledge;
Transporter chief,
USS Enterprise-D;
chief of operations,
Deep Space Nine;
chief engineer,
USS Defiant;
Professor of Engineering,
Starfleet Academy
Rank Senior Chief Petty Officer
Portrayed by Colm Meaney

Miles Edward O'Brien, played by Colm Meaney, is Chief of Operations in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Before DS9, he appeared as a recurring transporter chief in Star Trek: The Next Generation. O'Brien is the only major Star Trek character described as both ethnically Irish and born in Ireland.



According to Colm Meaney, at first O'Brien "was just there, not really established as a character, and that went on for a bit."[1] He can be seen as the battle bridge's Ops operator in the first episode (Encounter at Farpoint: TNG). Appearing on and off in more TNG episodes, it wasn't until the fourth season episode "Family" that Meaney's character was finally given a first name.[2] However, Meaney came to like the arrangement of being hired on an episode-by-episode basis, and was hesitant to sign on as a regular on DS9.[3] O'Brien is one of only three TNG characters to move onto DS9, the others being Worf and Keiko.

Character story

Back story

The back story of the character states that Miles O'Brien was born in Killarney, Ireland, Earth in September 2328.[4] He claims descent from Irish King Brian Boru (the founder of the O'Brien Clan). His father, Michael O'Brien, wanted him to play the cello, so he pursued this and was eventually accepted into the Aldebaran Music Academy (revealed in DS9 episode "Shadowplay"). However, a few days before he was scheduled to start classes there, he enlisted in Starfleet. O'Brien can also be seen playing the Cello as part of Data's string quartet early in the TNG episode "Ensigns of Command". In the DS9 episode "Invasive Procedures", it is revealed he has two brothers.

The TNG episode "The Wounded" establishes that O'Brien served as tactical officer aboard the USS Rutledge during the Cardassian War and that he was emotionally scarred by the Cardassians' massacre of hundreds of civilians on Setlik III. In this episode, it is clear that the classic Irish tune The Minstrel Boy plays a major part of his journey as a character: an innocent man thrown into the destructive nature of war. He sings the song in this episode, and much later, in the final episode of DS9 "What You Leave Behind", The Minstrel Boy is the first musical theme to be heard in the flashback sequence.

In the DS9 episode "Bar Association", O'Brien jokingly claims to be a direct descendant of real-life Irish High King Brian Boru (according to Irish tradition, all people with the surname "O'Brien" are descendants thereof). Later, he speaks more seriously of fictional ancestor Sean Aloysius O'Brien, (perhaps a reference to the supposed birth name of John Ford)a major player in one of the first United States workers' unions, who participated in the Coal Strike of 1902 in Pennsylvania, and was shot, then dumped into the Allegheny River. In the episode "Rules of Engagement" we learn that during O'Brien's 22 years in Starfleet he had fought in 235 separate battles and had been decorated by Starfleet on 15 occasions and was considered to be an expert in starship combat.

Story on The Next Generation

O'Brien's first appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation is as the battle bridge flight controller in The Next Generation premiere episode "Encounter at Farpoint." In almost all of his subsequent TNG appearances, however, he is a transporter operator. In the TNG episode "Where Silence Has Lease" when Riker and Worf prepare to beam to the USS Yamato, Riker refers to him as a "lieutenant" and the character is wearing lieutenant collar pips. In later episodes, the collar symbol has changed and O'Brien is referred to simply as Chief. While there has never been an official explanation from the Star Trek producers as to why the character's rank was adjusted, two groups of fans have offered competing theories on the subject.

The first is that it was a reduction in rank and was possibly punitive, since as a Lieutenant, O'Brien had already graduated from Starfleet Academy.

The second is that O'Brien had most likely been a lower ranking Petty Officer who had received a field promotion to Lieutenant during the Cardassian Conflict. Once the conflict was clearly over, O'Brien had been offered two competing choices concerning his career. (1) He could remain an officer and be promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In accepting this option, he would have taken on a high degree of command responsibility. (2) He could revert to being a non commissioned officer and accept a position as a Chief Petty Officer. As the senior enlisted person on a ship or station, C.P.O. O'Brien would have enjoyed the privileges and duties of a senior commissioned officer while functioning as a technical specialist rather than part of the general command structure.

In 2367, he confronted Capt. Benjamin Maxwell, his former commanding officer on the USS Rutledge, when Maxwell attacked Cardassian ships and outposts without authorization and threatened the peace between the Federation and the Cardassian Union (TNG: "The Wounded").

During the Klingon Civil War, O'Brien is assigned to the bridge as tactical officer due to Worf's resignation from Starfleet and the temporary reassignment of officers to other ships in a fleet led by Capt. Picard (TNG: "Redemption Part II").

O'Brien marries Keiko Ishikawa aboard the USS Enterprise-D in the TNG episode "Data's Day". They have a daughter, Molly, who is delivered by Worf in "Disaster".

Story on Deep Space Nine

Colm Meany (right) with Deep Space 9 co-stars Marc Alaimo (left) and Armin Shimerman (center), who portrayed the characters of Gul Dukat and Quark.

The character of Miles O'Brien was transplanted from TNG to DS9 at the beginning of the latter show. In the story, Miles O'Brien transfers from the Enterprise-D to Deep Space Nine, in the DS9 premiere episode "Emissary", to serve as the station's chief of operations. With the help of Jadzia Dax[5], he devised a way of moving the station from orbit around Bajor to the site of the newly discovered wormhole, allowing Bajor to take possession. He would later assume an additional role as chief engineer of the USS Defiant, which is assigned to Deep Space Nine in the episode "The Search".

Here he meets Dr. Julian Bashir, who initially irritates O'Brien (Episode: "The Storyteller"), but the two characters eventually become best friends. In particular, they frequently play darts and fight historical battles in the holosuites.

Miles was reprimanded for violating the Prime Directive when he helped an alien from the Gamma Quadrant referred to as "Tosk", escape from other aliens who had been hunting him in "Captive Pursuit".

In 2370, he is arrested by the Cardassians and charged with supplying weapons to the Maquis. The charges were dismissed when it was revealed to be part of a conspiracy to discredit the Federation (Episode: "Tribunal").

After an accident aboard the station in 2371, O'Brien was temporarily shifted forward in time by a few hours. He died when he deliberately contaminated himself in order to determine the cause of events he had witnessed. He sent his future counterpart back in his place "Visionary".

Miles was temporarily relieved of duty after a visit to the planet Argratha. O'Brien had been falsely accused of espionage and was given the simulated memory of a 20-year prison sentence. O'Brien became paranoid and emotionally distressed upon his return to the station and attempted suicide "Hard Time".

In 2373, he has a son, Kirayoshi, delivered by surrogate Kira Nerys in episode "The Begotten".

At the end of Deep Space Nine, O'Brien and his family depart the station to move back to Earth, where Miles is to serve as an engineering professor at Starfleet Academy. The soundtrack accompanying these moments on screen is to the tune of "The Minstrel Boy".

Mirror Universe

Miles O'Brien of the Mirror Universe was a Terran slave who worked for the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance aboard station Terok Nor. In 2370, O'Brien was working in the station's ore processing center. O'Brien was also occasionally recruited to repair Benjamin Sisko's raider when it was docked at the station. Sisko claimed he hated the name Miles, and instead nicknamed O'Brien "Smiley". Miles was known on the station for being an excellent "tinkerer and putterer".

When Smiley met a Julian Bashir from another universe in the ore processing center, he initially thought that Bashir's "wild" tales of his counterpart being Chief of Operations was simply a ruse to get him to help Bashir. However, Bashir was able to persuade him to help after he realized that anything had to be better than being a slave. Smiley agreed to help Bashir try to escape from the station only if he could go back with him to the other universe. When Captain Sisko defied Intendant Kira Nerys who commanded the station, Smiley changed his mind and decided to join Sisko's crew, deciding that there was something worth staying for after all (Episode: "Crossover").

When Mirror Sisko was killed by the Alliance in early 2371, Smiley took charge of the Terran Rebellion. In order to complete Sisko's last mission, he recruited Benjamin Sisko to take the place of his deceased counterpart long enough to convince Jennifer Sisko to leave the Alliance and start working for the Rebellion (Episode: "Through the Looking Glass").

While he was aboard Deep Space 9, Smiley took the opportunity to download a large portion of the station's database, including the schematics for the USS Defiant. Smiley used the stolen specifications to build a warship, which they named Defiant. After the rebels managed to capture Terok Nor from the Alliance, the Alliance prepared to recapture the station. Smiley once again recruited Sisko in order to help them finish construction of the Defiant in time. After successfully defending the station, Smiley sent Sisko back home (Episode: "Shattered Mirror").

In 2375, Smiley was in command of the Defiant when it pursued Brunt's ship as it stole a cloaking device from the station, and later negotiated Regent Worf's surrender and capture (Episode: "The Emperor's New Cloak").


At various points in TNG, he wears black silver-rimmed insignia, or lieutenant junior grade (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"), black gold-rimmed insignia (DS9: "Emissary"), or lieutenant insignia ("Redemption, Part II"). Thereafter, Sergey Rozhenko calls him a Chief Petty Officer in "Family" (TNG). No explanation has been given for the reduction in rank, other than recognizing it as fact, although such a reduction must be punitive in nature (for a major offense). Eventually, O'Brien receives a distinct senior chief petty officer's insignia and his rank is emphatically identified in "Hippocratic Oath" (DS9).

Because of his rank, O'Brien must address even an Ensign as 'sir' -- a fact that he dryly comments to Bashir upon hearing of Nog's enrollment in Starfleet Academy. He also dislikes being called 'sir', often admonishing crewmen and P.O.s for doing so. However, once Nog did become an ensign in "Favor the Bold", O'Brien is clearly his superior in the hierarchy of the Defiant crew.

Fan reception

O'Brien's character is unique in the Star Trek universe. As well as being a non-commissioned officer, he is also a family man with a wife and children. He is often portrayed as being less patrician, and more pragmatic, than his colleagues. The producers would routinely put O'Brien under intense psychological pressure in episodes jokingly dubbed 'O'Brien must suffer'. O'Brien was regularly chosen for such storylines because it was felt people could empathize with him.[6]


  1. ^ Hal Schuster, The Trekker's Guide to Deep Space Nine: Complete, Unauthorized and Uncensored. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing (1997): 52
  2. ^ Schuster (1997): 52
  3. ^ Schuster (1997): 53
  4. ^ Okuda, Michael & Denise, Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future New York: Bantam Books (1996): Appendix B
  5. ^ Episode TimeStamp: Season 1 Episode 1 Time 00:57:43
  6. ^ Crew Dossier: Miles O'Brien, DS9 Season 5 DVD, Special Features

External links

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