The First Duty

"The First Duty" is the 119th episode of the American syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 19th episode of the show's fifth season. It featured the return of former regular castmember Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher as well as the first of three appearances by Ray Walston as Boothby.

"The First Duty"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 19
Directed byPaul Lynch
Written by
Featured musicJay Chattaway
Production code219
Original air dateMarch 30, 1992 (1992-03-30)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Cause and Effect"
Next →
"Cost of Living"
Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 5)
List of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, while visiting Starfleet Cadet Wesley Crusher at Starfleet Academy, the crew learn of an accident that claimed the life of a cadet.


The Enterprise returns to Earth, where Captain Picard is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Starfleet Academy's graduation ceremony. However, the crew comes to learn of an accident during flight training that has injured Wesley Crusher and caused the death of fellow Nova Squadron member Joshua Albert.

During the deposition, Nova Squadron leader Nick Locarno testifies that the impact occurred as they were coming out of a "Yeager Loop" maneuver. He also says that Joshua was nervous about flying, and that he allowed him to fly because he did not want to end his flying career over nerves. He claims that the accident was Joshua's fault, but admits that in hindsight allowing him to fly was a mistake. However, when satellite imagery from seven seconds before the crash shows the squad to be in a different formation than the one they have testified to being in, the cadets remain tight lipped. Picard, concerned that things are not what they seem, orders his crew to investigate the accident.

Picard discovers evidence that Wesley's squad was attempting to perform a banned maneuver called the "Kolvoord Starburst", last attempted at the Academy more than a century previous that resulted in the deaths of all five cadets involved. Picard accosts Wesley and demands to know the truth, but Wesley responds by saying that he chooses to not answer, indicating that an answer would be self-incriminating. Picard reminds him that the first duty of any Starfleet officer is to the truth, scientific, historical and personal; he gives Wesley an ultimatum: either he comes forward with the truth or Picard would present his reasonably credible explanation of the deceptions. Locarno attempts to coerce Wesley into backing up the lie, claiming that Picard has no evidence, thus tearing Wesley between their friendship and their obligations as Starfleet officers.

At the hearing, Wesley is forced to choose between considerations of his own value of honesty, Picard's trust in him and consideration of Joshua's father, versus Locarno's claim on his loyalty to Nova Squadron and the impact on each member's career. The Admiral decides, in the absence of conclusive proof of any further wrongdoing, other than rendering an incorrect flight plan and allowing a squad member to fly unprepared, to take away the squad's flight privileges and issue formal reprimands. However, before she can close the hearing, Wesley steps up and reveals the truth behind the accident.

Locarno admits that he pressured the squad into performing the banned maneuver, then instigated the lie and pressured the rest of the squad to support it. He is expelled from the Academy, while Wesley and the rest of his colleagues lose their past year's academic credits along with their flight privileges. Wesley is disappointed in himself, but Picard encourages him that while the immediate future will be difficult, he will eventually regain the trust of his classmates and the respect that comes with it. Wes, however, does not believe such is the case.

Reception and impactEdit

The episode received a warp factor rating of 6/10 from[1] It ranked ninth in Entertainment Weekly's list of top 10 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes in September 2007.[2]

The minor character Sito Jaxa later appeared significantly in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", after Picard had requested her assignment to the Enterprise to give her a fair chance to redeem herself. She was ranked as the 86th most important character of Starfleet within the Star Trek science fiction universe by Wired Magazine in 2016.[3]

Robert Duncan McNeill's Nicholas Locarno served as the template for the character of Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager. Originally, producers were searching for a different actor than McNeill. However, after many auditions it was suggested to simply bring McNeill in to play the part since they were using his character as a model for Tom Paris already.[4]

The A.V. Club noted that the episode was the first to feature Starfleet Academy, as well as the first to feature Boothby.[5] The review also highlighted a line from Picard's lecture to Wesley: "The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth." rated Picard's lecture as the fourth greatest moment in Star Trek overall.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Candido, Keith (2012-08-10). "Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: "The First Duty".
  2. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation':The Top 10 Episodes". 2007-09-20. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  3. ^ McMillan, Graeme (2016-09-05). "Star Trek's 100 Most Important Crew Members, Ranked". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  4. ^ Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set Season 5, Disk 7, "Memorable Missions" featurette
  5. ^ Handlen, Zack. "Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The First Duty"/"Cost Of Living"". AV Club. Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  6. ^ Holly, Russell (2015-01-02). "The top 35 moments in Star Trek history". Retrieved 2019-03-24.

External linksEdit