The First Duty
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"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|
|Directed by||Paul Lynch|
|Featured music||Jay Chattaway|
|Original air date||March 30, 1992|
In this episode, while visiting Starfleet Cadet Wesley Crusher at Starfleet Academy, the crew of the Federation Starfleet starship USS Enterprise 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 didn't 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 7 seconds before the crash shows the squad to be in a different formation than the one they've testified to being in; however, the cadets remain tight lipped. Picard, concerned that things are not what they seem, orders his crew to investigate the accident.
They discover evidence that Wesley's squad was attempting to perform, not the assigned "Yeager loop" but a banned maneuver called the "Kolvoord Starburst", last attempted more than a century previous which resulted in the deaths of all five pilots involved. Picard accosts Wesley and demands to know the truth, but Wesley responds by saying that he chooses to not answer, thus 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 the boy 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, with whom he has been close-knit for a long time. The Admiral decides, in the absence of conclusive proof of any further wrongdoing (aside from 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. Before she can close the hearing, though, Wesley steps up and reveals the truth behind the accident.
Realizing he cannot hide it any longer, Locarno admits that he pressured the squad into performing the banned maneuver to end their academy careers in style, 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, doesn't believe such is the case.
The minor character Sito Jaxa would later appear significantly in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks", where it emerges that Picard requested her assignment to the Enterprise because he wanted to give her a fair chance to redeem herself.
Influence on franchiseEdit
McNeill's Nicholas Locarno would serve 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.
AV/TV club noted this episode for Wesley stepping forward with the truth with Captain Picard's encouragement, even though he must betray fellow cadets. They also note this episode as a study in Wesley's upbringing influencing his actions at Starfleet Academy (which for the first time in Star Trek history is featured in an episode).
Another major point of acclaim is Patrick Stewart's role as Captain Picard in this episode, noting his scenes with Boothby and when he reprimands Wesley. In particular they highlight a famous line from Captain Picard's lecture to Wesley:
The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth— Captain Picard in "The First Duty"
Geek.com rated Picard's lecture to Wesley as the fourth greatest moment in Star Trek overall.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set Season 5, Disk 7, "Memorable Missions" featurette
- "'Star Trek: The Next Generation':The Top 10 Episodes". EW.com. September 20, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- McMillan, Graeme (September 5, 2016). "Star Trek's 100 Most Important Crew Members, Ranked". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- "The top 35 moments in Star Trek history". Geek.com. January 2, 2015. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 5, disc 5, selection 3