Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992): S05E19 – The First Duty


Introduction

“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.

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.

Outline

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” manoeuvre. 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 manoeuvre 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 manoeuvre, 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.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Paul Lynch.
  • Writer(s): Ronald D. Moore and Naren Shankar.
  • Release Date: 30 March 1992.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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