“First Flight” is the fiftieth episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Enterprise, the twenty-fourth episode of the second season.
In this episode, after Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) is informed of the death of his former colleague, A.G. Robinson (Keith Carradine), he relates the story of breaking the warp 2.5 barrier to T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) while investigating a dark matter nebula.
The episode was inspired by the story of the first American astronauts as seen in the film The Right Stuff. Several sets were specifically built for this episode, and a reference to the designer of the Enterprise from the original Star Trek series is included in the story. Three crew-members from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) appeared in this episode, and handed over a flag from the ship to the cast and crew.
Critical reception to this episode was mostly positive, with praise directed at Scott Bakula. However, the episode received the second-lowest number of viewers received by Enterprise at that point, which was blamed on it being aired opposite the series finale of Dawson’s Creek.
As Enterprise is about to investigate a dark matter cloud, Captain Archer is informed by Admiral Forrest that his former Starfleet colleague, Captain Robinson, has died in a rock climbing accident. Archer, seeking solitude, desires to travel into the nebula in a shuttlepod armed with spatial charges to excite the dark matter. Sub-Commander T’Pol, noting that captains are prohibited from travelling off-ship unaccompanied, joins him and while underway, she coaxes him into relating the story of the Warp 5 programme on Earth.
In a series of flashbacks, Commander Archer meets with Commodore Forest, and is informed that although he excelled in simulations, his colleague Commander Robinson has been awarded the test ship, the NX Alpha. Disappointed, Archer goes to the 602 Club, a local bar, bumping into Robinson there. Later, Robinson takes the scheduled flight aboard the NX Alpha, breaking the warp 2.0 barrier. He refuses a command from Forest to stop and instead increases speed; the craft soon destabilises and is destroyed as it approaches warp 2.2, but Robinson escapes. The Vulcans argue that the warp program should be postponed, but Archer wants the program, and his father’s engine research, to continue. Archer, and his new friend Lieutenant Tucker, then go to the 602 Club to discuss the problem. Robinson arrives and blames Archer’s father, and the two end up in a fist fight.
The next day Archer discovers Robinson packing up the contents of his locker. He concedes that it is primarily an intermix problem, but that the engine could still work. Archer and Robinson then steal the NX Beta, with Tucker in flight control, but it starts to suffer the same issues as the Alpha. As Starfleet security detains Tucker, Archer and Robinson manage to coax the engines towards their goal of warp 2.5. Afterwards, Archer and Robinson are reprimanded by Starfleet, and the Vulcans ground the program for a year, but they eventually confirm that his father’s design was sound. Back in the future, Archer launches the charges into the cloud, and T’Pol suggests that it be named after Archer’s close friend, Robinson.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): LeVar Burton.
- Writer(s): John Shiban and Chris Black.
- Release Date: 14 May 2003.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.