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Miles O'Brien
Species Human
Home planet Earth (Ireland)
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Posting Transporter chief,
USS Enterprise-D;
chief of operations,
Deep Space Nine;
chief engineer,
USS Defiant
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]

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 joined 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 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, 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.

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

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. He simultaneously works as chief engineer aboard 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, but the two characters eventually become best friends. In particular, they frequently play darts and fight historical battles in the holosuites.

A few years after Miles is transferred to DS9, 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

The Mirror Universe counterpart of O'Brien appears in the episode "Crossover". Initially a put-upon Terran slave working in the mines on space station Terok Nor, O'Brien is inspired to join the human Rebellion against his Klingon and Cardassian masters. The mirror counterpart of Benjamin Sisko leads the rebellion, and O'Brien (nicknamed "Smiley") joins him.


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"). Sergey Rozhenko calls him a Chief Petty Officer in "Family" (TNG). 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 enlistment in Starfleet.

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.


  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

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