Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The First Duty"

****

Air date: 3/30/1992
Written by Ronald D. Moore & Naren Shankar
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise returns to Earth so Picard can deliver the commencement address at Starfleet Academy, but upon arrival the crew learns that cadet Wesley Crusher and his flight team, an elite group on campus called Nova Squadron, has been involved in an accident during a flight exercise that has resulted in the death of one of their team members. An investigation has been opened to find out what caused the deadly crash. As we follow the courtroom-like proceedings of the hearing (and the young cadets' ominous conversations behind closed doors), it becomes clear there is more to this accident than they have claimed.

After years of being a punch line on this series because of his ridiculous tendency to always be a step ahead of the adults on the show, at long last we finally have a believable episode where Wesley Crusher isn't so goddamned perfect. (Though it's still so unthinkable that Wesley could do something wrong that his mother doesn't even consider, for one second, the possibility that he has lied when the evidence clearly indicates that he might have. She instead believes the evidence must surely be false.) No, here Wesley is a grounded human being looking at the real possibility of his future going up in smoke.

"The First Duty" is in the storied tradition of the courtroom drama, and on that level it's effective. The facts are clearly laid out, the evidence is sensibly and logically presented, and the parts where the cadets get caught up in the inaccuracies (i.e., lies) of their story generate real suspense, especially with the intimidating Admiral Brand (Jacqueline Brookes) overseeing the proceedings. You see, the rest of Nova Squadron doesn't want to come forward with the whole truth, so Wesley finds himself caught uncomfortably between his conscience and his comrades. The leader, Nick Locarno (Robert Duncan McNeill, whose character here would later be slightly retooled into Tom Paris on Voyager) makes a convincing-sounding argument that the team should be placed higher than any individual on it. (His argument, of course, leaves out the part about being willing to sacrifice their integrity — not to mention the reputation of the dead pilot — but I suppose no cover-up is perfect.)

Enter into this fray Picard, whose own forensics into the matter (at first to help clear Wesley) lead him to discover what Nova Squadron was actually trying to do and now is trying cover up. This leads to a tense confrontation between Picard and Wesley where he lays out what he knows and tells Wesley that he must come forward with the truth. It's a classic Picard speech that draws a moral line in the sand and says, hey, there is no gray area here. It's the sort of earnest speechifying that makes TNG uniquely what it is — and it works powerfully here.

In addition to its solid storytelling, I like how "The First Duty" adds to the canvas of the TNG universe. I believe this is the first time we actually see Starfleet Academy, and it comes across as a real place inhabited by real people — right on down to Boothby (Ray Walston), the curmudgeonly old groundskeeper who remembers Picard from his academy days and offers useful tidbits of wisdom and insight — about mistakes made in the past, as well as the present.

Interestingly, I remember hearing or reading somewhere (not sure where; maybe it was a BSG commentary track) that Ron Moore's original script for this episode had Wesley not coming forward with the truth, and instead the incident was covered up. That ending was rejected by the bosses, but what a fascinating alternate episode that might've been — and a very different one. Whether it would've been better or worse, I can't say. But I can say that the actual version of "The First Duty" is a standout TNG outing and a captivating morality play, and easily the best Wesley Crusher episode ever made.

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53 comments on this review

grumpy_otter - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 6:58am (USA Central)
Agree completely--this is a great one, and not just because Wesley basically tells his mother to back off. I love having Beverly put in her place.

The Kolvoord Starburst is very cool--and watching them piece together how it really happened was awesome. Joshua Albert's father did a wonderful job, and meeting Sito Jaxa here was great. I had actually seen "Lower Decks" before seeing this one, so realizing the continuity was there was nice.

The entire supporting cast was great--but I hate the loss of continuity with Locarno. Every time "Locarno" was onscreen, there was a "clunk" (not Paris) in my brain.
Destructor - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
Oh my God, that sickening look on Wesley's face when his mother says she'll do anything, and then he whispers: "Mom, please... don't try to protect me." and you see this shock in Beverly's eyes like... oh my God... is he lying? No-one with a mother should not relate to that scene.

Anyway, amazing episode, in my top ten easily. FOUR STARS.

Agreed about the Paris/Locarno thing. I basically imagine they are the same character.
bigpale - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
I think I read where they changed "Locarno" to "Paris" so as not to pay royalties.

So they were trying to screw Moore and Shankar? Berman...figures.
Patrick - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 12:42am (USA Central)
I agree with Destructor, this episode deserves four stars even. This episode had my stomach in knots 19 years ago when I first saw it, when Picard lays down the law.
Latex Zebra - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 4:03am (USA Central)
I remember watching the first episode of Voyager a couple of days after it aired in the states (My Comic Book Dude had a copy DHL'd over to him) and I just couldn't get my head around the fact the Paris had the wrong name and couldn't have been with the Maquis.

Yet I had no problem with Gul Dukat being Gul Macet and 3 or 4 other characthers within Trek.

Oh, great episode easily a 3.5.
Paul - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 2:47pm (USA Central)
Yeah, it's too bad they retooled Locarno to Paris. His Voyager backstory would have all the more resonance with this episode in mind.

There's a hint even in Tom Paris' name -- Locarno is a town in Switzerland.
Cleanse - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:26pm (USA Central)
I always loved this episode, and I think it easily deserved 3.5 stars.

If anyone is interested on the changes from the original script, there's a detailed discussion on the Memory Alpha page for this episode, including quotes from Ron Moore and Michael Piller about the ending.

As for Locarno/Paris, an alternative explanation offered by the producers is that they thought that Locarno as a character was irredeemable.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:57pm (USA Central)
Why am I not surprised about the news about Moore's ending? Sigh. I can tell you this, such an ending would have really pissed me off.

As it stands, this is the episode which makes me frown at the whole Sisko/Eddington arc in DS9--first duty is to the truth becomes first duty is to the uniform. Yeah, I think Picard should have stuck around that station to supervise, dismiss and eventually incarcerate Sisko. But hey, instead he got a medal!
Grumpy - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:58pm (USA Central)
"...an alternative explanation offered by the producers is that they thought that Locarno as a character was irredeemable."

That makes perfect sense, given how often Jammer wrote about Voyager's aversion to storytelling risks. That show would've been much more interesting with a preening jerk at the helm instead of the Rebel Without a Clue viewers were forced to watch.

Interesting how the main critiques of this episode are of choices that *didn't* get made.
Paul - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 7:16pm (USA Central)
"As for Locarno/Paris, an alternative explanation offered by the producers is that they thought that Locarno as a character was irredeemable."

If that's the case, I'd say it is a pretty weak explanation. Why would he be irredeemable? At the end Locarno showed us he's not a completely rotten apple. Delta Quadrant is a perfect place for some redemption methinks.
Stef - Wed, Jun 1, 2011 - 9:36am (USA Central)
It is a little worrying watching Locarno as a likable character here, and then watching a few early episodes of Voyager where Paris was probably the best character.

They Voyager totally destroyed the Paris character turning him into a bad 1-line delivering chump.

I heard back in the day, that Voyager was supposed to be a less captain-oriented show, and Paris was supposed to have at least equal footing, if not the main character. They wanted to have him Kirk his way across the Delta Quadrant. But then that was shelved when Mulgrew came on board.

The first few Voyagers were quite Tom heavy I seem to remember.

Anyway, back to this episode.

I've been in Wesley's position at school (Nothing like the death of person, just a stupid gang-fight when we were 10, those happy days where everyone jumps in and no one really gets hurt).

There are times when you know that keeping quiet will win through, and other times, like this one, where owning up is the only answer. Plus of course there was the "permanent record" threat, and I was still young enough to take it seriously and wanted to join the airforce, so...
pviateur - Mon, Aug 22, 2011 - 1:47pm (USA Central)
If Starfleet isn't a military outfit why were Wesley and his friends flying fighters and doing military style maneuvers?

I did not find Brand intimidating at all.
Elliott - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 6:37pm (USA Central)
@ pviateur :

Because Starfleet requires an expertise in militarism without condoning its use. It's akin to the man who owns a gun he never plans on using or, hell, the Jedi who fight in only the most extreme of circumstances. If you teach a child how to use a gun, but also to abhor it's use, you minimise the danger to that or any other child's life, for if he should need to use it, he can, but will (hopefully) never use it unless he needs to.

I will say though, I found the idea of spectacular air-shows in the style of the modern military to be beyond the purview of real Star Trek. I have no difficulty in chalking that one up to the writing credit.
Jeff O'Connor - Sun, Sep 4, 2011 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Discussion about "The First Duty" so often becomes discussion of the Locarno/Paris name change first and foremost, heh.

Voyager was conceived as a ship running into Adventures of the Week (AotW) with a far less perfect crew than TNG's. The story of redemption is very much a Tom Paris thing. It would have been every bit as much a Nick Locarno thing. So yes, to this day it kind of irks me.
TH - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 9:37pm (USA Central)
I love this episode. Especially Picard's title speech about the First Duty. From reading your review, I'm not sure where the half-star was deducted from. I'd give it a 4.
Captain Tripps - Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
"If Starfleet isn't a military outfit why were Wesley and his friends flying fighters and doing military style maneuvers?"


Those were more likely training shuttles than fighters. I took the whole thing to be simply a show of pride in their training and skills as pilots.
12 angrymen - Fri, Oct 14, 2011 - 1:56am (USA Central)
I had trouble with the punishments meted out. Surely all the cadets involved would be expelled for commiting perjury at the inquest/trial, even if Wesley later fessed up? I found I was more intrigued by the mysterious incident in Picard's past which was raised during one of his conversations with Boothby.
TH - Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - 3:01pm (USA Central)
@12angrymen Perhaps in real life, they would; but on TV, you have to accept that they must show that Wesley's decision to be honest has to result in tempering his punishment a bit because he made the right choice. If he lost everything anyway, the moral of the story would be "you might as well cover it up, because telling the truth isn't going to get you anything". Not a great lesson. Similarly, if Wesley got off light and everyone else was expelled, Wesley would look like the Tattler who confessed just for his own benefit and screwed over the rest of his team. I think this was the only way for the episode to come off properly.
Paul - Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - 12:30am (USA Central)
Upon rewatching it recently, I was struck by how good this one really is. In a way, it doesn't even feel like a TNG episode. The plot, the characters and acting... it is a beautiful ep, one of TNG's very best.
Josh B - Thu, Dec 29, 2011 - 12:21am (USA Central)
The royalties thing is more complicated than just one payment that they screwed Moore & Shankar out of. The WGA has rules on "character payments" that basically say that if you write an episode with a particular character, and that character gets used again in future episodes, you are owed a fee for the use of your character. (Though, inexplicably, some shows like Grey's Anatomy got around this by declaring themselves soap operas, which are immune from that rule).

So if you follow that to its logical conclusion, if they had made kept the character as Locarno for Voyager, Moore & Shankar would have been paid residuals for every single episode of Voyager that featured the Locarno/Paris character. I agree it would have been cool, but I can also see why TPTB wouldn't have wanted to shell out all that residual money when instead they could just rename the character.
JackBauer - Wed, Apr 25, 2012 - 2:18am (USA Central)
What disturbed me the most is that Josh and Wesley went to Calgary. They should have been expelled for going to that crap hole of a city of begin with!
John - Thu, Jun 28, 2012 - 9:15am (USA Central)
Wesley's actions seem a bit too out of character for me. But then I always hated his 'normal' character so probably a good thing.

It's also all a bit hokey and simple but the drama is there and it builds well.

Ultimately the ending does feel a bit of a let off for Wesley and Co but I guess this is as raw and real as TNG was allowed to get.
Independent George - Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - 1:01am (USA Central)
"I had trouble with the punishments meted out. Surely all the cadets involved would be expelled for commiting perjury at the inquest/trial, even if Wesley later fessed up?"

If I recall correctly (and it's been many years), once Wesley confessed, Locarno took full responsibility, officially stating that the other cadets were only following his lead and that he deserved the brunt of the punishment (and they obliged). Of course, this makes the official story about Locarno being "irredeemable" an absolute joke.

"The royalties thing is more complicated than just one payment that they screwed Moore & Shankar out of. The WGA has rules on "character payments" that basically say that if you write an episode with a particular character, and that character gets used again in future episodes, you are owed a fee for the use of your character. "

That makes it worse, in my opinion. The WGA negotiated and fought for those rules for a good reason: to ensure that writers are paid for their work. The powers that be found Moore and Shankar's character so compelling that they even sought out the same actor for the role several years later, and then used the exact same backstory, but basically changed the name to avoid paying royalties. If they didn't want to pay for the character, they were more than welcome to invent one of their own... but either couldn't or wouldn't.
dan - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 11:04am (USA Central)
When Picard yells at wesley I keep rewinding while telling Picard to yell at him some more
JoshB - Mon, Dec 3, 2012 - 3:28pm (USA Central)
@Independent George (great name, btw. I just put up my Festivus decorations.),

I agree in principle -- however, the creation of characters in a writer's room is MUCH more complicated process than who gets credit for the episode. The stories are usually all 'broken' by the entire room, meaning every writer contributes to how each scene will play out. Once that has been agreed to, only then do the writers go and write their draft. So Moore & Shankar, for all we know, may not have named *or* created the Locarno character.

It's also possible (but unlikely) that the episode was also rewritten by other members of the staff (like the Executive Producers/showrunners) after the writers have turned in their first draft.

What I'm getting at is that it's entirely possible that the character, name and backstory of Nicholas Locarno were created by Michael Piller and Rick Berman, who were running TNG at the time. So even though Moore & Shankar may have written the episode, the character might have been originated by the people who eventually went on to create VOY. And IF that is the case (and it's a big IF), then I would understand why they would change the character name to get around paying 7 years worth of residuals for a character that they created.

As I say, a pretty big if.
Qermaq - Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - 7:08pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode. Writing and acting are superb. No comedy relief forced into anything. I like how the doors of the Academy dorm rooms have knobs as well. Refreshing to see them have to get off their butt to answer the door.
supfriends - Sat, Feb 16, 2013 - 12:43am (USA Central)
So the first time I watched the episode, I thought that Locarno had a point, talking about putting the squad first and all.

The second time I watched it, I got to the point where he threw Josh Albert's reputation under the bus and lost all sympathy for the guy.
Jammer - Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
Note: I've upped the rating on this episode to four stars. That's really what it should've been all along.
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 9:34pm (USA Central)
Interestingly, now that Jammer has upped the rating for this episode, we get a remarkable feat -- a season with four 4-star episodes and zero 3.5-star episodes (according to Jammer's ratings).
langtonian - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 10:19am (USA Central)
"easily the best Wesley Crusher episode ever made".

It has to be said, there isn't a whole lot of competition on that one. It was refreshing in this episode to see Wesley undergoing, at long last, some actual character development and moving beyond being the infallible, perfect creator's pet.

As for the Tom Paris/Nick Locarno issue, I always think of them as being the same character and ignore the difference of name. After all, they are essentially the same character, with the same actor. The excuse that Locarno was irredeemable is just BS.
mephyve - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 7:35pm (USA Central)
It began to irk me that Wesley was written as the boy who could do no wrong but this episode came too late for me to enjoy it. If they had scuttled him while he was a regular cast member it would have been ok. Bringing him back for a one shot to crush the Crusher kinda sucked. Character development is about growing from your mistakes and redeeming yourself. We never got to see Wesley develop.
Whimsy - Sun, Dec 1, 2013 - 1:11pm (USA Central)
Frankly, I'm annoyed that Locarno gets even a little redemption in Wesley's unchallenged comment that Locarno "did what he said he'd do all along." Sure, Locarno made an "impassioned plea" so the others could stay, but he did that at absolutely zero risk to himself, and on the contrary, to quite a bit of personal gain. Either they all got kicked out (Locarno included) or just Locarno gets kicked out. Either way Locarno leaves Starfleet. All he really did was look to the future and see that burning bridges with the team mates he cajoled into break the rules wouldn't get him anything, while going through the motions of heroism would (both with the team, and potentially with others he tells the story to in the future). It was smart and methodically manipulative, but by no means redeeming.
Jons - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 4:26pm (USA Central)
They didn't really change the character of Locarno/Paris. Paris was in prison after having lied about a pilot error which caused the death of 3 other pilots.

The only difference is that it happened while he was a Starfleet officer - he actually graduated before. Which makes sense - Janeway would never have recruited (or even heard of!) a former cadet booted out before graduation.
Jons - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 4:28pm (USA Central)
PS: "I heard back in the day, that Voyager was supposed to be a less captain-oriented show, and Paris was supposed to have at least equal footing, if not the main character. They wanted to have him Kirk his way across the Delta Quadrant. But then that was shelved when Mulgrew came on board."

The only reason they wanted that is that they didn't believe a female Captain would be enough to keep the show together. Thank God Mulgrew convinced them of the contrary and Voyager was just as captain-centric as every other Star Trek series. It's what makes them successful (and yes, I loved Voyager and love Cpt Janeway)
Paul - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
@Jons: You're entitled to your opinion, of course.

I think Mulgrew, mostly, did a nice acting job on Voyager. But as was the case for much of Voyager, the writing wasn't very good. Janeway's actions were often quite unjustifiable. Granted, the "real" Janeway didn't initiate the chain of events in "Endgame." But the writing staff's idea that Janeway would change everyone's future for (really) just Chakotay, Seven and Tuvok was typical and really poorly conceived. I know there's a line in the finale about other crew members dying. But Janeway didn't seem to care about all the others who died before "Endgame."

Many of her actions, from killing Tuvix to going crazy on the Equinox to forming an alliance with the Borg, were really out there. Now, the creators could have done something interesting with this and made Starfleet (later in the series, when regular communication was possible) or members of the crew hold Janeway accountable -- while she defended her maverick behavior by citing Voyager's unique situation. But other than some minor conflict with Chakotay, we saw none of this. Like almost all of Voyager, consequences didn't matter -- only that hour's plot did.

This is why Voyager is the fourth, maybe fifth, best series.

Now, Paris as a sort of co-star might not have worked well either, but McNeil usually was one of the show's better actors and was one of the few who was given much in the way to do after the first couple seasons (other than the series' crutches of Seven and the Doctor).
K'Elvis - Wed, Jan 15, 2014 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
As far as I'm concerned, the character in this episode is Tom Paris. The characters are identical except for the name.
Latex Zebra - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 6:24pm (USA Central)
'I will say though, I found the idea of spectacular air-shows in the style of the modern military to be beyond the purview of real Star Trek. I have no difficulty in chalking that one up to the writing credit.'

What utter nonsense.

Elliott - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 10:41pm (USA Central)
Um...why's that?

I should have mentioned in one of my posts that I like this episode for what it makes of Wesley's character, the introduction of Boothby, and the sheen it places on Picard's moral compass, but it skirts that DS9 line of overemphasising Starfleet's military qualities.
Latex Zebra - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 3:45am (USA Central)
Starfleet is, among other things, a military organisation (no getting away from it) It gets involved in war games, officer exchange programs and battle simulations (to name a few.
Having an an air display team is pretty fluffy compared to pitching officers against itself in missmatched battles or putting them in no win scenarios.
Even if you roll your eyes at the idea of Starfleet being a millitary organisation a display team is hardly against the ethics of the Federation.

Latex Zebra - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 8:04am (USA Central)
I hope that reads OK. I rushed it before heading into meeting.
Elliott - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 10:49am (USA Central)
Military readiness, out of necessity is not the same as the brazen, flag-waving, jock-minded display here. The difference is psychological more than substantive, but I object especially to subjecting impressionable teenagers to that kind of mindset.
Paul M. - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
Elliott, don't press the issue. It won't end well for you. :)

James Kirk in Errand of Mercy: "I'm a soldier, not a diplomat."

Scotty in A Taste of Armageddon: Diplomats! The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank!"

For someone who is supposedly so obsessed with the legacy and "myth" of Star Trek, you do seem to conveniently forget everything that runs contrary to your preferred interpretation.
Elliott - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
A lot of those flubs from TOS are easy to write off because 1) Gene Roddenberry's sensibilities changed between the 60s and the 80s and 2) much of the TOS mystique (cowboy frontiersmen and the like) was an angle imposed by the studio. When Gene got to make his show exactly the way he wanted and create a cogent philosophy for his Universe (a philosophy from which the myth takes shape), he was rather uncompromising in his vision.
Paul M. - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 4:08pm (USA Central)
To see a good product, I should not be obliged to follow all the Trek paraphernalia accumulated during the years. I shouldn't have to care what Roddenberry wanted or didn't want and managed to get away with or didn't manage to get away with.

What I care about and what in my opinion is alpha and omega of any TV show are the things right there on the screen.

You are constantly reinforcing your idea of what Trek is and what place its myth has, and whether something is true Trek or not, and yet in the process of this passionate defense of the very core of Trek (as you see it), you commit the most fatal mistake time and again - you start with TNG, outright dismissing evidence from the show twenty years its senior.

TOS is where Trek started, that's where its legacy begins. And in TOS we have a militarised Starfleet quick to draw weapons, we have human governors who murder one half of a colony's population, we have Kirk flagrantly and repeatedly meddling into internal affairs of numerous species, not to mention that a disturbingly high percentage of humans we meet in the show are of dubious morals, often itching for a good lynching of anything they don't understand.

It's not so much humans or the Federation, it's Enterprise and her crew that oftentimes seem to be the only sane ones battling for a better world that is generally infested with idiots, bureaucrats, cowboys and frontiersmen with too short a fuse.

My problem with your eloquent and fun to read analyses is that you cherry-pick the starting point of your grand Trek mythology and insist that anything that runs contrary to this, frankly myopic, view is a perversion of Trek ideals.

And even if that was true, so what? I have no problem watching and enjoying and loving a perversion of an original if it's a quality thing I see before my eyes. And honestly, as someone who's been around the Internet for a long time, it's such a tediously familiar sentiment.

When TNG began, it was the betrayal of Kirk and Spock, when DS9 came along, it corrupted the very essence of Trek, reimagined Galactica was scorned and hated by many as it was only a travesty not worthy of the original (indeed, it was often called GINO - Galactica in Name Only), and today I see the same with Game of Thrones -- a bastardy of everything that is good and holy just because it isn't the carbon copy of the books. As someone who read (and obsessed about) those many years before the show, I can tell you it's all, well, bullshit.

Paul M. - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 4:20pm (USA Central)
ETA:

@Elliott: "When Gene got to make his show exactly the way he wanted and create a cogent philosophy for his Universe (a philosophy from which the myth takes shape), he was rather uncompromising in his vision."

This piece of evidence you offer is honestly quite damning to your case. TNG was a very weak show in its first two years. The first season in particular was often abysmal and hard to watch (though I enjoyed it in all its hilarious glory). The show truly came into its own and became a great drama during its third season after Roddenberry had been forced to take a back seat and relinquish the creative control over the show. Michael Piller, who took over the writer's room, is the guy most responsible for TNG's enduring legacy.
Josh - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 7:18pm (USA Central)
To elaborate on Paul's comments above, there is ample textual evidence from TNG (early and otherwise) that Starfleet has - and always has - functioned as a military organization, even if that remains only a part of its overall mission.

"Code of Honor" clearly establishes Yar as a combat officer, both in backstory and current role on the Enterprise. "The Battle" describes Picard's prior involvement in, well, battle, up to and including note of his "Picard Maneuver", which is further described in "Peak Performance". Why would a non-military organization participate in clearly military action, including the teaching of specific military strategies with the use of said maneuver? Granted, season one is generally abysmal, but then in "Too Short a Season" we see a Starfleet admiral choosing to arm both sides in a conflict to "even things out". In "Conspiracy", the military ethos of Starfleet seems fairly clear (my own interpretation, admittedly), but then in "The Neutral Zone" the ship is dispatched as an envoy to the Romulans.

Now, so far you could certainly argue that Starfleet fills a diplomatic role extensively alongside its military role; arguably this is unintentionally disturbing, as if anything it suggests a weakness of civilian government in the Federation. We tend to see very few civilian diplomats or civilian officials of any kind apart perhaps from the Federation President. In "A Matter of Honor", Riker participates in a crew exchange program with the Klingons, which would be nonsensical outside a military context. In "Peak Performance" the Enterprise takes part in battle simulation. What kind of non-military organization engages in that?

Further examples of Starfleet's military function occur in "The Enemy", "The Defector", "The Best of Both Worlds", "The Wounded" (see both Maxwell and O'Brien), "The Drumhead", "The Mind's Eye", "Redemption", "Unification", "I, Borg", "Chain of Command", "Descent", "The Pegasus", "Lower Decks", "Journey's End", and "Preemptive Strike", along with Star Trek II, Star Trek VI, and First Contact, among others.

It's true that Picard once said that Starfleet was not a military organization, which is only true insofar it is not exclusively so. The argument could be made, however, that its activities are far too broad and appear to crowd out many of the civilian governance functions of the Federation. Picard may be an "accomplished diplomat", but where are the civilian diplomats and politicians? At least on DS9 we got some sense of civilian life on Earth and elsewhere, something given short shrift on TNG.

So, as near as I can tell by Elliott's argument Gene's vision encompasses a Federation run mainly by a quasi-military Starfleet that assumes almost all exploratory, scientific, security, and diplomatic functions, to the relative exclusion of civilians. While organizational hierarchies exist throughout society, a consistent limitation of TNG in particular is a poor depiction of civilian life outside the Starfleet command structure, along with a failure to examine the political significance of military vs. civilian governance (see DS9's "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost").
Elliott - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 8:08pm (USA Central)
@Josh: I appreciate what you say, and it would be foolhardy to claim that the only organisation in the Federation with access to weapons which can obliterate planets has no military function. However, having the function and the capability of performing military service does not make Starfleet a military organisation per sae: at least not in the modern sense of the word. Even in our current system of government (in the US and the UK I believe), the "commander in chief" is not a military officer, nor does he possess any military training. Under particular circumstances however, he performs a military function, deploying troops and engaging in warfare. Would you call the American president a soldier? I don't think so. It's a question of emphasis. If Barack Obama engaged in wargames and target practise, let alone hazarded to field-unit combat games, most people would, I believe, be highly critical of this choice. That is the perspective from which I make my comments. It is an inappropriate emphasis of Starfleet academy's resources to engage in videogame-esque fighter jet games that glorify the "fun" of military weaponry and strategy over the esoteric concerns of diplomacy and exploration.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 3:20am (USA Central)
I've seen kids, like 12 year olds, doing motorcycle displays. Pyramids with kids standing on top of each other as the ride along.
A display in a few shuttles is not disimilar. It's not like kids are being asked to carpet bomb a city and then do a loop the loop.
Josh - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 8:19am (USA Central)
Well, I should certainly hope that Obama is not an active soldier, as "President General" is not a position consistent with democratic civilian government. The same goes for the Secretary of Defence. In Canada, though, the "commander-in-chief" is the Governor General, which although a purely ceremonial title sometimes means that he or she appears in military uniform.
DLPB - Wed, Apr 30, 2014 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
Nick Locarno had real honour. He took the blame and didn't grass his team up. In a real world situation, Wesley would be an outcast for good.

Good episode, though!
trekstar - Sat, Aug 2, 2014 - 11:48am (USA Central)
I thought this episode was awesome but there is something that irked the hell out of me. Where was counselor troi? Where was any Batazoid for that matter? Sorry but the squadron had guilty written all over their faces...Troi would've called BS from the start. Other than that...an enjoyable episode. Finally Wesley is portrayed as "human."
HolographicAndrew - Sun, Aug 3, 2014 - 3:17am (USA Central)
"Troi would've called BS from the start."

Maybe Picard was reevaluating his use of a betazoid after they used one in the Drumhead in the same manner.
Patrick D - Sun, Aug 3, 2014 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
Why all the piling on on Wesley for being "perfect"? ALL the characters of TNG were Mary Sues who could do no wrong (and this is coming from a hardcore TNGer) and not make mistakes. Why is Wesley singled out--because he was a kid?

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