14

I always wondered if the gap between his time as Captain of the Stargazer and Captain of the Enterprise was because he was barred from captaincy.

19

In the Season 2 episode The Measure Of A Man, we learn that Picard had been brought to a court martial over the loss of the Stargazer, but that he was absolved of any and all charges brought at that time. So, he was briefly in trouble - but not in a career limiting way.

From the TV shows and movies, we don't have any clear indication of what Picard did between the Stargazer incident (Battle of Maxia) in 2355 and his taking command of the Enterprise in 2364. There is one hint that he may have been in command of another ship in the season 4 episode Legacy, as he describes his first encounter with Tasha Yar and mentions "his ship" responding to a distress call. Other than that, the shows are silent on these nine years.

There is an expanded universe novel, The Buried Age, that covers this gap and also provides some more details about the Battle of Maxia. After the court martial Picard returns to archaeology and takes a break from command. At some point he returns to a desk job at Starfleet, and finally applies for command again and is granted command of the Enterprise.

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    Out-of-universe, I believe it's standard practice for any naval captain that loses his vessel to undergo a court martial to ascertain the facts of the case. It does not indicate he was believed to be at fault. – Darren Sep 10 '19 at 7:46
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    @Darren, that's awesome to know. I always have to remind myself just how much Star Trek chain of command is modeled on naval forces and maritime law – m1gp0z Sep 10 '19 at 13:46
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    @Darren you appear to be correct from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court-martial : "Most navies have a standard court-martial which convenes whenever a ship is lost; this does not presume that the captain is suspected of wrongdoing, but merely that the circumstances surrounding the loss of the ship be made part of the official record." – Sam Sep 10 '19 at 15:31
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    @Sam, I often am :) – Darren Sep 10 '19 at 15:31
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    @DarrelHoffman if Patrick O'Brien's well-researched Napoleonic novels are any evidence, this was historical practice for combat losses as well--have to make sure that the combat was carried out competently & without cowardice. (Not to mention it's a good opportunity for Monday-morning quarterbacking and settling political scores.) OTOH, modern USN practice is a Board of Inquiry which may or may not lead to a court martial (see USS Indianapolis and Charles McVay III). I think the BoI was introduced in the late 19th century & would've been a court-martial prior, but not 100% sure there. – Tiercelet Sep 10 '19 at 17:41

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