Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The First Duty"

4 stars

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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191 comments on this post

Wed, May 11, 2011, 6:58am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 12, 2011, 12:42am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 12, 2011, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, May 13, 2011, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, May 13, 2011, 7:57pm (UTC -5)
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!
Fri, May 13, 2011, 7:58pm (UTC -5)
" 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.
Sat, May 14, 2011, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
"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.
Wed, Jun 1, 2011, 9:36am (UTC -5)
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...
Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 1:47pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
@ 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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Sep 8, 2011, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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 (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Oct 28, 2011, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
@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.
Thu, Dec 15, 2011, 12:30am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 2:18am (UTC -5)
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!
Thu, Jun 28, 2012, 9:15am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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.
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 11:04am (UTC -5)
When Picard yells at wesley I keep rewinding while telling Picard to yell at him some more
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
@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.
Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 7:08pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Feb 16, 2013, 12:43am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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).
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 10:19am (UTC -5)
"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.
Wed, Jul 24, 2013, 7:35pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Dec 1, 2013, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 4:26pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
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)
Fri, Jan 3, 2014, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
@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).
Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
'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.
Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 10:41pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
I hope that reads OK. I rushed it before heading into meeting.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 10:49am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)

@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.
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 7:18pm (UTC -5)
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").
Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 8:19am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 6:08pm (UTC -5)
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!
Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 11:48am (UTC -5)
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 enjoyable episode. Finally Wesley is portrayed as "human."
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 3:17am (UTC -5)
"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 (UTC -5)
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?
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Great episode, and one of Picard's finest speeches. And although Robert Duncan McNeill plays Nick Locarno and Tom Paris, I don't think of them as the same character at all. Maybe Paris is Locarno's older cousin or something, LOL. In any case, it's too bad Paris got watered down into Mr. Goody-Good McBlandsville on Voyager (which is the same thing that happened to the Maquis characters too, esp. Chakotay... bleh).

I also forgot that Wesley and Josh went to CALGARY, of all places. (And they probably only name-dropped it cause of the '88 Olympics, haha). Of course, if you were actually going to the Canadian Rockies, then Whistler, Jasper or Banff would make more sense as destinations. Or maybe they went to Calgary and did a side-trip to Banff. WHATEVER. I just have a little inner *squee* when something Canadian is mentioned...especially on Star Trek!
Fri, Oct 24, 2014, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
The dilemma of the episode felt a bit too easy, with Locarno coming off as a big jerk (talking about friendship and team loyalty yet pinning blame on the member that died) and with Picard warning he would tell otherwise.
Sun, Feb 15, 2015, 5:15am (UTC -5)

"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."

Well, if he had real honor, then shouldn't he have taken the blame from the beginning, instead of in the end when he had nothing to lose from it. On the contraryy: As Whimsy pointed out above, taking the blame in the end was really working in Locarno's favor.

He ordered his squadron to perform a forbidden, extremely dangerous maneuver only for the show, and one team mate died while practicing it. One could argue that it had been the duty of every team member to object to the maneuver and to report Locarno's orders to a higher authority within Starfleet. But as squadron leader, Locarno was also responsible for the actions of the squadron, and he certainly was responsible for the effects of them carrying out his orders.

Locarno was loyal to his team, but he put this loyalty above his loyalty to Starfleet as a whole, since he compromised Starfleet's virtues ("The first duty is to the truth") and put Starfleet's reputation at risk (if the truth about Albert's death had been found out, the ensuing scandal about a group of the Academy's top graduates would have brushed off on the Academy and Starfleet as a whole).

Moreover, Locarno put his loyalty to the team above the good of the individual team members. He sacrificed Albert's reputation to save the reputation of the rest of the team. And of course, this rest included himself. So essentially his loyalty was more to his personal interests than to the team or anyone else. If it had been about the team, then he should have taken full responsibility from the beginning, thereby being loyal to the team (the others' reputations and career chances would remain mostly intact) as well as to Starfleet (by sticking to the truth, since it really was his responsibility).

On the other hand, Wesley chose to come forward with the truth at a point when he had everything to lose from it. He and the others had just been acquitted and he could have just gone on with his career (though with a big guilty conscience). But he put Albert's reputation and the principles of Starfleet above his friendship to Locarno and the remaining team mates. Wouldn't you agree that Wesley's actions are much more honorable than Locarno's?

Oh, and by the way: What does "DLPB" stand for?
Sun, Feb 15, 2015, 5:32am (UTC -5)
Two more things about this episode:

1) A recurring theme in Wesley's arc is his search for a father figure. In "Family", we learned that his father being a Starfleet officer was what made Wesley want to join the organization himself. In "Final Mission", he explicitly told Picard what had been hinted at many times before: That his main motivation for pursuing perfection in Starfleet was to make Picard proud of him. Here, we see that after leaving the Enterprise and joining the Academy, Wesley has found a new father figure in Locarno. When his old father figure Picard comes back at the table, Wesley is faced with a conflict, because these two fathers represent different ethical convictions: Picard's loyalty is to the society (the Federation) as a whole and to its principles, while Locarno is loyal to his friends (to a certain degree), whom he knows and cares for personally. Wesley is conflicted by this because he is not sure yet what his own ethical beliefs are. While on the Enterprise, he had taken Picard's side ("I'm with Starfleet, we don't lie"). But in the light of this episode, it is probable that this had not been because this was his own conviction, but as another attempt to impress Picard and to be accepted by the senior crew. Then at the Academy, he probably leaned towards Locarno's side for the same reasons. At the end of the episode, he has returned to the previous stance, but this time he has come to these beliefs because he sees that it is right. Though part of his decision might still be due to his fear that Picard will not respect him anymore if he keeps on lying...

2) What was the deal with Albert's father? I understand that he probably was supposed to be in pain, but his facial expressions and the way his torso rocked left and right while walking gave me the impression that he was having a stroke. It was mildly irritating.
Sun, Feb 15, 2015, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
More honourable than Weasley, grassing his team up and risking everyone's career for a stunt that they all participated in.

I am not buying the silly "We pressured him into it" as that was a deliberate red herring by the writers.
Tue, Feb 17, 2015, 10:35am (UTC -5)
DLPB are my initials. My name.
Sat, Mar 14, 2015, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
Moore and Shankar's audio commentary on this episode on the S5 blu ray set is outstanding. The most interesting bit is that they were dead set on not having Wesley betray his friends but they were voted down. Moore especially states that there's no way Wesley would turn on his friends the way he does at the end of the episode. I don't know how that would have worked out had they gotten their way. Anyways, if you haven't heard the commentary you should really seek it out. Moore always gives good commentary and he and Shankar knock it out of the park here.
Fri, Apr 3, 2015, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Just a few little things I noticed. An interesting thing about this episode is that you never see what the dead cadet looks like. No photo or anything.
That door, unusual to have that in star trek. Sometimes it makes a noise when you open it, sometimes not. It was also incredibly rude (& unbelievable) when Wesley asks Pic & Mum to leave. Could you imagine that? Asking a vastly superior officer to piss off?
Finally, weird to see Wesley walk on the grass at the end at a military institution.
Wed, Apr 29, 2015, 9:58am (UTC -5)
Easily a four star episode. I agree it would make a top 10 list for the whole series. I've never been one of the Wesley haters, but this episode did make him a much more believable, well-drawn character. I also liked the hint that was dangled out for us that Cadet Picard had had a similar crisis which he weathered with Boothby's help. Seeing Star Fleet Academy was cool, and I liked the attention to detail where the flag was flown at half mast. I also really liked the Academy logo that was on screen briefly when the footage from the satellite was shown at the hearing. "Ex astra, scientia" is the motto, the founding date is given as MMCLXI, and the logo design has a vintage look that would not be out of place in TOS episode. Great attention to detail on the part of the show's production designer!

@ Paul M. "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.

Yes! THIS exactly! It's what made TOS great. To me, the weakest points of TNG come when it's suggested that all of humanity has somehow evolved to attain nearly-Picardesque perfection. A large part of what makes Picard a strong and compelling character is what viewers could presume to be the relative rarity of his qualities. It's just not believable that, in the next 300 years (or even another 3,000), society will somehow have been perfected. Unfortunately, there will always be petty bureaucrats, criminals, con men, would be despots, etc. among us. Look at our own history...Improvements in technology and economics have made life far better for most compared to 300 years ago, and most of the brutality that was commonplace then (public executions, genocide, colonialism) is now morally unthinkable (at least among most modern Western cultures), but our modern society is still very FAR from perfect. Will humanity continue to improve in the future? I certainly hope so. But perfection does not seem realistic to me.
Tue, Jul 7, 2015, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
Like Jammer I'm a bit torn between 3-1/2 and 4 stars, I can't think of any improvements but don't think of it is being among my favorites despite it being STNG at its best.
This episode has some of the best acting and it is easy to forget the writing. Even minor characters like the pudgy Vulcan really come off as completely authentic.
The story itself is well tailored to Wesley. Here is basically a perfect kid, capable and brilliant who finds himself following the leader. You can witness Locarno putting the screws on Wesley and you see how the other members got caught up in it. Something similar happened to my brother in the army.
As for an alternative ending, I think Wesley would come clean since Picard already knew.
Small comment about Robert Duncan McNeill's dual role. I recall seeing a "Voyager" preview and the producers mentioned that they were looking for a Robert Duncan McNeill type character and eventually decided why not reuse him. I agree with other posters a great continuity payoff would be to retool Locarno and add some backstory about how he was able to graduate. Fanboys love nuance like this and you can see how much discomfort renaming him caused.
Tue, Jul 7, 2015, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
They wouldn't have to retool him into a graduate. Ace pilot dropouts with Daddy issues can join the maquis and end up in jail.

The official version is that the writers found Locarno to be irredeemable. It's BS. If they couldn't find a way to redeem him they are pieces of trash writers who should be fired and replaced with fan-fic writers.

The ACTUAL answer is that the writer for THIS episode would need to be paid royalties for every episode of Voyager that they reused his character in.
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Well, two episodes in a row now where I have to disagree with the majority. Is "The First Duty" the best Wesley episode? Well, it's certainly the best one thus far. It's also the best Boothby episode, given that he appears, what?, two more times over on VOY. Is it perfect? Like with "Cause and Effect" I have to say no.

"The First Duty" is better than "Cause and Effect," however. It has wonderful world-building (which, again, I love in my Trek), great performances, a magnificent Picard Speech (it's too bad Wil Wheaton didn't take that advice to heart in his real life) and a nicely multi-layered guest character in Locarno. Where it stumbles, and this is really getting repetitive, is its depiction of Wesley.

I agree that there definitely was an attempt made here to make Wesley a little less than perfect, possibly even actually human. However, they just couldn't help themselves, could they? Even when they actually make the attempt to bring the character down a peg or two, they still had to make him special. Wesley is the only member of Nova Squadron to have any reservations about what they're doing? The only one?! Right from the get-go we have the whole "humanize Wesley" angle destroyed. I'm not saying they had to have another Nova Squadron member be as hesitate as Wesley all along, but at least something was necessary. It couldn't be Locarno, since he's the ring leader of the cover-up; that would be rather odd. But couldn't at least one of the others have at least a moment's doubt? Couldn't one of them say something like "maybe Wesley's right" only for Locarno to immediately re-persuade her? No, we can't have that, can we?! That would mean that Wesley wouldn't solely occupy the moral high ground among the four of them. And that's just not acceptable, isn't it?! God, enough already! I'm sure some people will think that I'm letting my rather visceral hatred of Wesley Crusher influence my perception of this episode, but I don't think so. Just one brief moment of doubt from another conspirator is all I'm asking for; I don't think that's too much. It would have been extra nice if it was Sito who had the hesitation since she later appears (as a character we're meant to have a great deal of sympathy for) in "Lower Decks."

Now, let's talk about Boothby for a minute. I'm not quite sure what I think of this character. I like the idea of him as he was originally conceived - as a kind of figure Picard looked up to in his youth but who doesn't remember Picard all that well. Eventually, however, he becomes a kind of mentor figure to just about everyone who attends Starfleet Academy. I think I remember from one of his VOY appearances that its said that "he has the ear of every Captain in the fleet." Why? I don't think he's detrimental to this episode, but the transformation is already apparent. Instead of being someone who Picard happened to know years ago and looked up to, he's now someone who had a tremendous impact on Picard's life, has followed Picard's career with great interest and has his finger on the pulse of virtually everything that happens at the Academy.

Ultimately, "The First Duty" is a damn fine episode with a great moral conundrum at it's core and some wonderful world-building. It's just a shame that they couldn't help but put Wesley up on a pedestal (even if it they did it differently this time.)

There, I made it through an entire review of "The First Duty" without mentioning the Locarno/Paris controversy.... oh shit!

Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 10:17am (UTC -5)
@Luke - In regards to the hesitation...

Sito does get upset even before Wesley that Nick blames Josh for the accident. I actually think Wesley feels the most hesitation not because he's the most moral but because he LITERALLY has his parental figures breathing down his neck. It's harder to lie in front of Jean Luc Picard.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Saved By The Bell: The Academy Years? Hardly. This is a well constructed, mature, suspenseful morality play essayed through the medium of a courtroom drama.

I don't get the idea that Wesley is being played out of character. He spent his time on the Enterprise acting beyond his years, mentored by the father figure Picard. Locarno also promotes him above his years, while offering a similar role model to look up to. That Wesley's moral compass shows him that his direction is wrong - even if it requires the riveting attention of Picard to kick him into acting on it - seems utterly grounded in what we have seen before. For Wesley to have covered up the truth would have corrupted the character beyond repair. 3.5 stars.
Thu, Mar 3, 2016, 6:31am (UTC -5)
"I think I read where they changed "Locarno" to "Paris" so as not to pay royalties."

To who? All series are owned by the same company. Do you mean to a specific writer? That's not how IP works. Whoever told you that is fuzzy on what "royalties" means.
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 11:38am (UTC -5)
I usually loathe courtroom dramas but I thought this one was plausibly done. The only slight issue I have with the episode as a whole is this:

Imagine that the rehearsal went well and nobody died and they performed the starburst at the ceremony. It's still a forbidden manoeuvre, isn't it? Did they think that the Academy authorities would cheer wildly and tell them it didn't matter? Or would they be up in front of an Inquiry on charges of being so stupid?
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
"Imagine that the rehearsal went well and nobody died and they performed the starburst at the ceremony. It's still a forbidden manoeuvre, isn't it? Did they think that the Academy authorities would cheer wildly and tell them it didn't matter? Or would they be up in front of an Inquiry on charges of being so stupid?"

Are rules always just? The Kolvoord Starburst was banned 100 years prior. If the maneuver could have been performed safely in the 24th century, it may have shown Starfleet that the rule was obsolete.
Sat, Mar 19, 2016, 4:00pm (UTC -5)

Good point. I didn't consider that. Now when I see the episode I won't spend most of it thinking: 'Hang on a minute...'

Thank you!
Use Google.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 10:24am (UTC -5)
"I think I read where they changed "Locarno" to "Paris" so as not to pay royalties."

To who? All series are owned by the same company. Do you mean to a specific writer? That's not how IP works. Whoever told you that is fuzzy on what "royalties" means.


Actually, you could have just used Google and found out that the original writer would have had to be paid for EVERY episode that "Nick" appeared in. Use Google before commenting.
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 10:59am (UTC -5)
Mr. Use Google., there's no need to be rude.

Memory Alpha lists numerous *possible* reasons for not making Paris and Locarno the same character including royalties, but no official reason was ever given by the creators.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 12:00am (UTC -5)
Dorn played Klingon defense attorney for Kirk. He wasn't Worf.
Russ was on bridge as extra in The Motion Picture. He wasn't Tuvok.
So why not McNeil as Locarno in Next Generation. He wasn't Marseille lol.
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 12:12am (UTC -5)
@ Dougie,

Dorn was, in fact, Worf in Star Trek VI. Colonel Worf.
Thu, Nov 24, 2016, 12:33am (UTC -5)
I agree with Trajan's comment, thank you for finally pointing that out.

To me, this is a huge fallacy in the story. What was the plan if Nova Squadron HAD successfully completed the Kolvoord Starburst?

Everyone acts as if they would suddenly all be given a free pass as long as the maneuver was successful. As Picard put it: "Locarno would graduate a living legend".

But wait a minute - They all knowingly engaged in a highly dangerous and illegal flight maneuver. They all knowingly lied and filed a fraudulent flight plan.

Why would the academy ever let them fly again after a stunt like that? Their flight privileges would be revoked permanently, and they would have severe reprimands placed on their permanent records, which would follow them around everywhere. Good luck getting a captain to trust one of them at the helm of a ship after that.

Basically, it would have ruined their flight careers, their team would be disbanded, and Locarno might not have even been allowed to graduate at all.

So was it really worth it?

Chrome stated: "If the maneuver could have been performed safely in the 24th century, it may have shown Starfleet that the rule was obsolete".

Okay - They might eliminate the rule in the future, but that has no bearing on the present, where Nova Squadron willingly disobeyed a standing regulation that banned the maneuver.

As others stated, I also wondered where Troi was during this entire episode. Even non-betazoids could see that they were hiding something. Troi would have known instantly that they were all lying, and a great scene would have been Troi coming to Wesley's room and having a heart to heart discussion with him.
Thu, Nov 24, 2016, 7:22am (UTC -5)
"Okay - They might eliminate the rule in the future, but that has no bearing on the present, where Nova Squadron willingly disobeyed a standing regulation that banned the maneuver."

They might get a slap on the wrist, but public opinion would've been on their side IF they were successful. At least, that's what they were banking on. Picard's dialogue you mentioned implies that Starfleet would've been dumbfounded enough by them pulling it off that they'd let it slide.
Thu, Nov 24, 2016, 10:30am (UTC -5)
"Public opinion would've been on their side IF they were successful"

Yes, that has merit, especially when you go back and listen to all of Boothby's comments about Nova Squadron. Basically, they were considered super-celebrities on campus, so they were betting that the massive celebrating that would ensue would dwarf the one that Boothby talks about when "Nova Squadron won the Rigel cup", and this would put enormous pressure on the faculty to be lenient.

Whether that would actually happen or not is debatable, especially when you see what a hard-lined approach Admiral Brand took.

It was a gamble, and Locarno (as well as the others) may have been caught up in their own fame, and thought they could get away with almost anything. Wesley even alluded to this during his final speech to the inquiry: "We thought we could do anything".
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 2:59am (UTC -5)
"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." - that's one thing that ruined the scene for me. Why would they have doors that look exactly like 20th century ones, 400 years from now?! Do we have anything today that looks the same as it did in the 1600s? I don't have a problem with doors that don't automatically open (which by the way, aren't futuristic - we have these doors today), but the handle and latch looked too old fashioned.
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 4:58am (UTC -5)
That was Nova squadron's punishment right out of the gate.....doors that don't automatically open....
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
I read an interesting Robert Duncan McNeill comment somewhere where his take on his two characters was that Paris made mistakes but under it he was fundamentally a decent guy. In his opinion, Locarno was fundamentally a bad guy. Also, as an aside, it's a fun affirmation when performers dwell on their characters' motivations as much as fans do.
Sun, Feb 5, 2017, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
"Why would they have doors that look exactly like 20th century ones, 400 years from now?! Do we have anything today that looks the same as it did in the 1600s?"

Sure we do. I live in a house much of which was built in the around 1450. We have plenty of latch doors - the "handle" is a lever that lifts up a latch - the design of which goes back to the medieval period. Many of the buildings in my college at university were of roughly the same age and had big ring handles which will also have been familiar to people in the Middle Ages and probably back to Roman times and before.
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 5:05pm (UTC -5)
I personally choose to watch this one with the fantasy backstory in my head that Tom Paris somehow got away with using a fake name (Locarno) at school, to avoid being identified as Admiral Paris's son (since he hated being in his shadow so much). Then, after being expelled, he continued to spiral (into the Maquis, etc) until eventually ending up on the penal colony, then Voyager.

That's literally the only way I can watch his Locarno scenes without my brain screeching to a halt, haha. It's not just the same actor-- it's the same CHARACTER, in basically every detail but name.
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Thanks, Diana. That's a very plausible explanation and one I would be comfortable with.

I think it's a joke for them to tell us that (in canon) that these two characters are different people who just happen to both be master pilots. Give me a break.

Locarno IS Paris, who made a mistake, got sent to the penal colony, and was then recruited by Janeway because of his incredible piloting skills.

I thought Locarno's plea for leniency for the others on his team was a noble thing to do...unfortuately, Wesley left Starfleet, Sito was sent on a rotten mission that she didn't return from by Picard, and we're never told what happened to the fourth member of the team (Jean Hajar).
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 1:23am (UTC -5)
I loved that Uncle Martin was the groundskeeper. Very fitting that he should still be hanging out on earth looking out for us foolish earthlings even after all this time.
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Maybe Boothyby really is and has always been a member of species 8472 this whole time.....that's why they made sure to replicate him on Star Trek Voyager: In The Flesh.

I do really like that they continued to bring this actor back once in awhile on different shows.
Jason R.
Sat, May 13, 2017, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
The decision to change Locarno into Paris for Voyager seems almost... spiteful. Like they just couldn't bring themselves to throw fans the smallest bone. The character was "irredeemable"? What poppycock. They could redeem a psychopathic killer (Sueter) but sure, the guy who lied about a botched training accident is beyond redemption. Boooo!

I understand them wanting to pursue a more episodic feel for Voyager and not to go down the DS9 road of having a grand soap opera. But the problem is that it was antithetical to Voyager's premise to make it episodic and pretty much ruined it from the getgo. This small decision to spit on series continuity turned out to be an omen of things to come.
Mon, Jun 5, 2017, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Whereas this is a fairly strong episode dramatically, I can't get on board with four stars. I'm not sure why: perhaps it's because I'm not certain where the science fiction is. I've probably given other episodes a pass where the same thing is true, so it must be something else. I quite like it; for me it merely falls short of the greatness everyone else seems to see in it. I didn't warm to any of the cadets; that doesnt help, I guess.
Mon, Jul 31, 2017, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
It bothers me that Wesley only stood up to tell the truth AFTER judgement was pronounced. In other words, after the judges had "played their hand" and he could make a calculated decision.

I think I have discovered the best way this episode could have ended, while remaining true to the cliche of the courtroom drama:

Admiral Brand asks "Do any of you wish to add to your testimony?" Awkward silence, camera focused on Wesley's face. She's about to pronounce judgement, but is interrupted momentarily by Boothby who enters the courtroom and shuffles to a seat in the back. Wesley makes eye contact with him. Then he looks at his feet, and stands up and confesses.

This would have been much more noble, and would also have given Boothby's character the meaning for which he was originally intended (when Picard first mentioned him many episodes ago): he is supposed to be a force which kept Picard grounded.
Wed, Aug 2, 2017, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
"It bothers me that Wesley only stood up to tell the truth AFTER judgement was pronounced"

On the flip side of that, you could also make the case that Wesley stood up and confessed DESPITE the fact that they were only getting the equivalent of a slap on the hand for the actions they had taken, because there was simply not enough evidence to prove what the judges already knew really happened anyway.

While Locarno kept beating the idea of 'protecting the team' into Wesley, he should have responded with:

"What about protecting the team's honor and telling the truth? What good is our team if we have no integrity and lie about what we've done and try to cover it up? How is a team like that even worth defending?"
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 12:51am (UTC -5)
I like this episode, but I'm probably in the minority in NOT liking Picard's speech to Wesley or Wesley confessing. That always bothered me. At the end of the day, no one forced that guy to participate. It's a shame he died, but that's the risk they all took. I wanted Wesley to stick w/the lie and not confess. Picard's speech had me rolling my eyes at the time.

I've always liked my characters a bit darker and w/some edge, which is probably why ST: DS9 is my favorite. Darker characters. Less goody-goody actions. More human dilemmas and moral questions. That said, this is a good episode!

I loved Nick Locarno. He was interesting and definitely not irredeemable, IMO. think the royalty reason is the probably the real reason why he was not brought onto Voyager. RDM did a great job w/Nick. I really liked the character and was happy to see "him" on Voyager when it premiered. At the time, I thought "Tom Paris" was "Nick Locarno" since I didn't remember "Nick Locarno" was the name of the character on TNG. I just assumed it was the same character from this episode. I thought it was cool that they brought back the "character" and gave him a role on the new series, esp since he was such an interesting character. It wasn't until I saw this episode again that I realized they were two different people. LOL! I like to think of them as the same person though.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 9:17am (UTC -5)
I liked Picard's speech and Wesley confessing. What I didn't like was Picard threatening to tell if Wesley didn't. I always felt that Picard should have given Wesley the option to save face and lose Picard's respect or to tell. It felt like Picard took the agency out of Wesley's hand.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 10:32am (UTC -5)
On the other hand, Wesley may not have confessed if Picard hadn't made that threat. He was pretty far deep into the lie at that point anyway.

"At the end of the day, no one forced that guy to participate. It's a shame he died, but that's the risk they all took. I wanted Wesley to stick w/the lie and not confess."

The episode makes it pretty clear that Joshua would not have participated had he not been pressured into it by his team. They all took the risk, but him alone taking the blame for a risk they all took is pretty shameful.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 10:47am (UTC -5)

"PICARD: You knew what you had to do. I just made sure you listened to yourself. Goodbye, Cadet."

I think it's Picard looking out for his own.

If the truth would have ever come out, who recommended his entry into Star Fleet?
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 12:59pm (UTC -5)

Picard was totally looking out for Wes, I just think the threat was excessive and that the choice should have come from within.

@ Chrome - "On the other hand, Wesley may not have confessed if Picard hadn't made that threat. He was pretty far deep into the lie at that point anyway."

That depends on how the writers wrote his conscience :P

It's a minor point, but I would have preferred that Picard guide him to what was right, not strongarm him. In the end his 2 choices were tell the truth or call Jean Luc Picard a liar to his face. I'd have preferred that his choices were tell the truth or lose Picard's respect is all.

Minor complaint.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
I have to agree with Robert. Wesley getting away with it should have been a potential outcome, and letting Picard down should have been the reason why he would come clean. Picard is supposed to be his conscience here, not the head of an investigation that independently found out the truth. I rather think that the whole subplot of the Enterprise crew researching what happened should have been excised from the plot. Or if it happened, maybe it would have been neat if Picard had refused to hear the final report and had Wesley in his office without actually knowing if he was guilty or not. That way he could truly give Wesley the chance to come clean on his own without knowing whether he'd have to do something about it if he didn't.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 1:26pm (UTC -5)

"It's a minor point, but I would have preferred that Picard guide him to what was right, not strongarm him. In the end his 2 choices were tell the truth or call Jean Luc Picard a liar to his face. I'd have preferred that his choices were tell the truth or lose Picard's respect is all."

I understand this, it isn't a new idea here as several people have brought it up over the years. But I can't imagine a scenario where Picard wouldn't report Wesley to Starfleet. This episode drives home how principled Picard is because of his past at the academy. So, really it's a matter of Wesley getting a false choice or Picard revealing his intentions.
Tue, Sep 26, 2017, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Enthralling episode -- reminds me of "A Few Good Men" in a way. A court-room battle, Wesley's guilty conscience, and a solid speech from Picard -- so many great elements here.

I guess Locarno and Tom Paris from VOY are cut from the same cloth - so not a stretch for McNeill to act them both. Almost immediately when Locarno showed up in the episode, it was pretty clear he wanted to make sure Wes hid something.

But mainly, this is an episode where Wesley is truly just an ordinary dude stuck in a situation where he has done wrong and needs to do the right thing. He'll upset Locarno but even worse, he'll upset Picard and himself. The Boothby character was a nice touch tipping off Picard on Locarno, I think (saying the squadron members would do anything for the team etc.).

It all plays out in a very believable way -- Dr. Crusher can't believe there could be anything fishy and so is standing behind Wes who is trying to push her away -- nice dynamic there to create some tension/intrigue.

A strong 3 stars for "The First Duty" -- a good story, good characters but I don't see this as an exceptional TNG episode worthy of 3.5 or 4 stars. I'd agree this is the best Wesley episode so far as he's portrayed most realistically (though not hard to make an improvement from earlier portrayals). Good episode for Picard too.
Wed, Nov 29, 2017, 6:55pm (UTC -5)
2.5 stars

Not particularly crazy about this one. Took a while to get where going. The mystery and inquery regarding the accident pretty flat. I’m also someone not all that crazy about cadets—for that reason didn’t like Valiant or Red Squad and dreaded rumors of an Acadeny Trek series over the years. I’ve always liked Wes so his portions worked better than the other three cadets who didn’t do much for me. Locarno I couldn’t stand. He came off as your typical popular “jock” who has an entitled attitude and looks out for himself Known plenty of those guys in high school

The best scenes in the episode featured Picard and Boothby. Overall the episode checked off all the things you’d expect in a story like this which was far from original. It has been done many times before—a military cover up and duty. It was merely dressed up here with Star Trek accoutrements but that didn’t do much to elevate it in my opinion.
James PH
Sat, Jan 27, 2018, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
Picard isn't just threatening Wesley, but he's doing so by reminding Wesley that he, Picard has a duty to the truth as well. He can no more cover for Wesley than Wesley ought to cover for himself.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
I never noticed this before, but Picard didn't reveal to Wesley that he in fact had evidence of their attempt at the Kolvoord Starburst. In his panicked conversation with Locarno, Wesley even says there's no evidence. So had Wesley not confessed, Picard would have shown that the Saturn NavCon image matches the animation of the maneuver (which wouldn't necessarily stand on its own merits), but they also know from the flight data recorder that Wesley opened his ship's coolant interlock, which is necessary to "ignite the plasma." Just imagine how that scene would have played out!
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
Good points Jeffrey, but it was obvious that Admiral Brand and Cpt. Satelk in the inquiry were FULLY aware of what Nova Squadron did from the very beginning.

There was never any question. However, as judges they had to remain impartial and approach the case based on actual evidence and the testimonies of the team.

Throughout the entire inquiry it was very obvious that the questions were based on their suspicion of what really happened, up to and including the Vulcan captain nodding his head at the end when Wesley finally admits the truth.

In other words, they already knew, and the data used by the Enterprise regarding the coolant interlock was fully available to the official investigators as well.

In fact, I would garner that the investigators, knowing exactly what to look for, were aware very early on that the coolant interlock was opened, and that this was in line with a Kolvoord Starburst maneuver.

It was the Enterprise, with their bias toward Wesley, that took a long time to finally come to the truth.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
"In other words, they already knew, and the data used by the Enterprise regarding the coolant interlock was fully available to the official investigators as well.

In fact, I would garner that the investigators, knowing exactly what to look for, were aware very early on that the coolant interlock was opened, and that this was in line with a Kolvoord Starburst maneuver. "

If that were true, then Picard's threat to expose Wesley would be meaningless. Also, the investigators could've found more damning evidence if they exactly what Nova Squadron was trying to do like you suggest. Thus, I'm sure the scenario depicted here is that Starfleet Academy suspected Nova Squadron of coercing one of its members to do something against Academy/Starfleet rules, but they didn't have enough evidence to really disregard the possibility that it was an accident during a routine maneuver.
Peter G.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
I like Davy's theory. The tone of the episode would seem to suggest that the Enterprise really discovered something new, and it would be strange to consider that the teleplay is actually portraying the Enterprise crew as being slow on the uptake despite feeling like great detectives.

While it's logical on some level to consider that Starfleet command knew what happened and wanted to see if their cadets would perjure themselves, the plot of the episode does somewhat hinge on what the intention of the jury is. For instance, if we thought even for a moment that they knew all about it but were in fact hoping not to have enough evidence, then this would be an episode about a de facto cover-up and Starfleet brass lying by omission. On the other hand, if they didn't know what the Enterprise figured out quite quickly, then it makes them look instead like head-in-the-clouds bureaucrats who aren't in touch with what really goes on in Red Squad. Does the tone of the episode suggest one of these in particular? It doesn't feel to me like a cover-up type of episode. I could accept that this is an episode about clueless brass, although even this aspect isn't highlighted. If I had to guess, though, my assumption would be that the intent of the episode is to show that the cadets tried something so obscure, and covered it up so well, that even a serious investigation wouldn't expose anything suspicious. This would mean that the brass would legitimately believe that Red Squad is innocent of any wrongdoing, or perhaps at most have only a lingering doubt, not justified by any facts. The teleplay would have to show that the Enterprise crew picked up on something really minor and realized what it meant. In fact I'm willing to suggest that this is the intention and that if anything the clue about the coolant interlock was a writing error as it didn't come across as innocuous enough. As Davy points out, you'd think admirals would be able to see that as well as anyone. So I think the technical content wasn't quite able to to live up to what the episode needed, which was a *really* obscure clue leading Geordi to conclude what really happened.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

The typical TNG episode relies on the Enterprise crew, being the dream team that they are, being able to solve a complex problem using critical thinking and methods typical officers aren't capable of. So, I wouldn't say the Starfleet brass were "clueless", they probably just aren't nearly as talented in this particular case of engineering forensics and may miss minute details that extremely talented officers like Geordi and Data pick up on naturally. Yes, the interlocking mechanism was a clue, but you really needed a lot of good engineers and an experienced pilot like Picard to put the pieces together.
Peter G.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

In case I wasn't clear, I was suggesting "clueless brass" as a possible intention of the episode, but this isn't what I think was intended. I think the brass were intended to be shown as competent and the Enterprise crew as superlatively gifted in solving the mystery. It's just that the technical detail Picard and the others used to actually solve it seems to me like something the brass should also have been aware of after a detailed forensic investigation. I mean, you're telling me that a Vulcan didn't notice that detail out of place? So I'd call that a minor design flaw in an otherwise very solid episode.
Jason R.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
Locarno told Wesley that Picard had nothing and if they just kept to their story things would be alright. I presume he was essentially correct. For whatever reason, there simply wasn't enough evidence for Starfleet to take definitive action, and Picard's theory was just speculation.

Picard couldn't have changed the outcome of the hearing. So really whether the Enterprise crew were better or worse investigators than Starfleet is beside the point. Picard was the only one who could convince Wesley to tell the truth.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:39pm (UTC -5)
"Picard couldn't have changed the outcome of the hearing."

That's if you take Locarno's opinion of the situation at face value. But, like I said earlier, if there's any weight at all to Picard's threat to expose Wesley, there has to be at least a possibility that Picard coming forward with a good theory would be very bad for Nova Squadron.

@Peter G.

I still don't think it's bad writing because we're not talking about the other side of the equation where Locarno is a trusted and respected cadet whose smooth-talking was good enough to obscure the facts to the academy. The Enterprise crew didn't know anything about Nova Squadron, so they weren't susceptible Locarno and co.'s pleas of innocence heavily based on moral character.
Peter G.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
@ Jason R.

I was addressing the issue of what Starfleet potentially knew already. I think the episode makes it clear that there wasn't enough evidence to directly implicate anyone and that it would be up to Wesley whether the cadets got caught or not. Although some people to seem to take away that Picard was threatening outing the cadets, I agree with you that Locarno might have been right that there was nothing conclusive. So the question about what Starfleet knew isn't really about whether Picard's speculation would affect the outcome of the inquiry (as you put it, the tone of the episode seems to be that only convincing a cadet to come clean would amount to anything) but rather about whether they, too, felt stuck knowing what happened but unable to prove it.

I personally feel like if they did know it would change the tone of the episode, because if that had such a positive suspicion then you'd think they'd confront the cadets with it and ask them to come clean, and also you'd think that at least the dead cadet's family could be privately told that it probably wasn't their son's fault despite the claims of Red Squad. Even if the inquiry cleared the cadets of wrongdoing it would seem to me rather wrong to allow a father to feel like his son failed the team just because they knew something they couldn't prove.

It seem to me more likely that they really didn't know. It's more of a curiosity to try to figure this out, since as Jason points out the episode mainly hinges on Picard's relationship with Wesley.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
"if they did know it would change the tone of the episode, because if that had such a positive suspicion then you'd think they'd confront the cadets with it and ask them to come clean"

Right, if they knew so much, the prosecution would've asked way more pointed questions and pulled out the Kolvoord Starburst simulation to really press their case. Like you said, it would be a terrible injustice to Joshua's family if Starfleet suspected that NS was attempting the maneuver but didn't question them on it.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 5:01pm (UTC -5)
Once again, go watch the end of the episode where Wesley stands up and finally confesses.

Next to Admiral Brand, you see the Vulcan (Cpt. Satelk) NODDING HIS HEAD YES as Wesley finally speaks the truth, because he already highly suspected (and knew it was highly probable) that the Kolvoord Starburst had been attempted.

However, as impartial judges, the fact that they highly suspect something doesn't mean they can come out and start asking accusatory questions. Instead, they have to meticulously build up a case based on evidence and testimony.

In my opinion, the questions in the inquiry were certainly geared to probe and find out if something was being covered up.

They asked in the beginning whether Nova Squadron had deviated from the flight plan at all, to which the team responded "No." Since they don't want to simply come out and accusingly ask a high-level flight squadron if they broke the law, they slowly start probing by asking more general questions. Getting a "no" response in regard to any deviation from the flight plan is, legally, no different than if they asked outright if they engaged in the maneuver, since a "no" in either case means they've perjured themselves if it turns out they had.

The judges very carefully continued their subtle probe, asking the question first before displaying evidence. For example, right after Wesley's initial testimony they show the satellite image taken which clearly shows they were not in the stated flight formation at all and instead shows a Kolvoord Starburst formation.

This part I actually didn't understand at all. How can a high quality image from a Satellite which knows exactly what time and which direction it was pointing be deemed as "insufficient evidence"?

Putting that aside, if they don't have sufficient evidence that the Kolvoord Starburst occurred, and the team already testified that they remained in a 'diamond slot' formation, then they can't simply come out and ask the team if they attempted it, otherwise they're already suggesting the team lied.

As to Chrome's points about the Enterprise being the elite investigators, I would point out that they started out by trying to defend Wesley, which is why Geordi didn't seem to put two and two together regarding the coolant system, otherwise he would have figured it out much sooner.

That was my point. They were biased against protecting Wesley, whereas the inquiry's team had the satellite image of the Kolvoord Starburst formation AND the data about the coolant system being opened.

Additionally, this was a very popular, highly skilled, flight squadron which likely had a completely clean record up to this point, and so they also had to give them the benefit of the doubt since nothing in their histories indicated that they would commit such an act of dishonesty.

You stated it would be an 'injustice' for them not to ask more questions, however if the team had already lied repeatedly about deviating from the flight plan then what good will it do to ask them directly about the Kolvoord Starburst if there is no more evidence?

Without further evidence, the judge's hands were tied. Additionally, as judges they have to suspend judgement and leave open the possibility that the team is telling the truth and the 'data is faulty' until it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt that something illegal occurred.

That's my take, I think everyone above makes good points about the episode though, especially considering that it's just a Hollywood script at the end of the day.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 5:33pm (UTC -5)
"Next to Admiral Brand, you see the Vulcan (Cpt. Satelk) NODDING HIS HEAD YES as Wesley finally speaks the truth, because he already highly suspected (and knew it was highly probable) that the Kolvoord Starburst had been attempted."

Like I said, I agree that Starfleet suspected *something* was being covered up, but I doubt they knew any specifics, which is why the questions weren't more probing than they could've been. Starfleet would have to have laughably inept judges to suspect NS of attempting the Kolvoord Starburst but ending the hearing without asking any questions about it.

"That was my point. They were biased against protecting Wesley"

Sure, they thought Wesley was innocent so they wanted to help him by finding the out the truth. In Enterprise crew's mind, finding out the truth meant exonerating Wesley. But when they found out the truth wasn't in Wesley's favor, they certainly didn't work to cover it up. That's part of why Picard threatened to expose Wesley if Wesley didn't come forward with the truth himself. Picard would obviously take The First Duty seriously even if Wesley didn't in the end.
Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
"Starfleet suspected *something* was being covered up, but I doubt they knew any specifics"

So basically, the Enterprise senior staff could figure it out, but no one at the academy (the center of the flight training program) would have any clue? Isn't the academy where the event happened that caused them to ban the formation in the first place?

An inquiry would most certainly bring in experienced pilots and experts to review the data. Is it even possible for a long-time pilot to see the satellite image formation and not recognize it immediately as the Kolvoord Starburst?

And this is the 24th century - Couldn't the computer (with one single inquiry) match up the formation with the Kolvoord Starburst? This is also another snafu with the script, since Geordi indeed states they ran several simulations. Either the computer doesn't know about the forbidden formation, or (like I already stated) it was brought up, but immediately dismissed by the senior staff initially because they naturally assumed Wesley and the team were telling the truth.

I find it very unlikely that the center of cadet flight training wouldn't be able to figure out what was happening based on the image alone, which would then immediately cause an expert to start asking all of the right questions (like what was the coolant interlock status).

Admiral Brand stated near the end that there simply wasn't enough evidence to continue moving forward with the inquiry; this doesn't mean they didn't know what happened, however without any evidence they can't simply continue badgering the cadets with questions, hoping they will suddenly change all of their previous answers.

Admiral Brand: Did you deviate from the flight plan?

Nova Squadron: No

Admiral Brand: Did you attempt the Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver?

Nova Squadron: No

Brand: Are you sure? Are you sure you didn't attempt the Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver, because it really seems like you did?

Nova Squadron: No

Tom Cruise walks in....

Tom Cruise: Did you order the code red....err.... did you attempt the Kolvoord Starburst! DID YOU ATTEMPT THE KOLVOORD STARBURST!!!!!

Mon, Mar 19, 2018, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
“So basically, the Enterprise senior staff could figure it out, but no one at the academy (the center of the flight training program) would have any clue?”

Yes, but don’t take that so with incredulity. I could make the same argument you’re making about the Enterprise being able to handle the Borg when an entire fleet of Starfleet’s finest Admirals and Captains were decimated. It’s just a conceit of the show; the Enterprise contains Starfleet’s best and brightest and they routinely handle the problem of the week.
Peter Swinkels
Fri, May 4, 2018, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Shouldn't they have all been expelled even if they succeeded in that maneuvre? It's banned, right?
Fri, May 4, 2018, 11:06am (UTC -5)
@Peter Swinkels

If the cadets could prove the maneuver was doable despite being banned, it's likely the startled academy authorities would let it go. At least that's what the plan was. I'll bet you someone in the air force could think of a similar maneuver that was banned before until someone proved it was doable under the right circumstances.
Thu, May 24, 2018, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
This episode is outstanding for the reasons that many have eloquently mentioned above. The plot, the acting, and the suspense are superb, as is the "reveal" of the Kolvoord Starburst. But what seals its 4-star status for me is the final scene. When Picard meets Wesley on the campus walkway, you expect him to say something like "I'm proud of you, Wesley" or "You did well back there," and pat him on the back, because the genre requires the status quo be regained at the end of the episode. Instead, Picard retains the same clipped aloofness and formality that he adopted from the moment Wesley said "I choose not to answer, sir" earlier in the episode. He offers no assurances or consolation. Instead, he deals in consequences: "It's not going to be easy staying here on campus, everyone knowing what you did. You have difficult times ahead." He tells Wesley that he won't be graduating with his class with an undertone of "you deserved worse." Tellingly, Picard's last line is "Good-bye, Cadet," not "Good-bye, Wesley," and they depart with a stiff handshake. This is a mature episode with a mature ending.
William H
Sun, Jun 3, 2018, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Watching this episode this time, I'm more convinced of the notion that Locarno was a thoroughly bad guy than previous times I've seen it. He's thoroughly manipulative, looking out for himself, and I don't doubt that his manipulative tactics led to his team taking on a maneuver that they weren't up to.

The most sympathetic I can be is to say that he may believe his self-serving justifications.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 10:38pm (UTC -5)
One of the best from "Next Gen."

This episode is what spurred my dream of a Star Trek series based on the Academy. I'm not sure why they've never considered that. Ripe material.

Take a group of classmates and follow them through the Academy and their first assignment. Handled well, it could be the best Trek ever.
Tue, Aug 21, 2018, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Sarjenka's Little Brother - a Starfleet Academy series is currently in development.
Fri, Oct 26, 2018, 12:54am (UTC -5)
Funny thing, perspective.

Me watching this, age 13: squirming at the fear of being caught in a lie.

Me watching in 2018, age 39: shaking my head at the arrogant hubris of college-agef cadets.
Wed, Nov 7, 2018, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
This was a good ,solid story.
I agree with the difficulty of casting the same actor as the expelled ,manipulative bastard Locarno and the more noble but still flawed Tom Paris.
Starfleet Academy the tv show-yike-no thanks.
K'mpec Is Still Fat
Tue, Jan 8, 2019, 1:00am (UTC -5)
@Phil Boothsby even yells at some whippersnappers to get off his lawn.
Wed, Feb 13, 2019, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
I always thought everyone got off way too lightly, someone DIED, FFS! They all should have been charged with negligent homicide.
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 8:40am (UTC -5)
10/10 I am feeling happy and appreciative about this. Excellent Picard acting. Crusher not annoying. Wesley not annoying and actually humbled.

Wesley gets redeemed in this episode for all the bratty behaviour we have seen previously. Hey didn't that squadron leader character change his name and get a job on Voyager? ha ha!
Paul C
Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 5:45pm (UTC -5)
Watched this again today. This episode gets better each time. One parallel I didn’t notice was that Boothby & Picard say exactly the same thing. “I just made sure you listened to yourself.”

Thought that was a great bit of writing. Simple, yet effective.

It demonstrates that Picard looks up to Boothby so much that he wants to emulate him.

The punishment is fairly typical - back to day 00. Wesley takes that well. However that is pretty light for a death taking place. Despite impassioned pleas. They should have all been expelled, Wesley was right about that. Locarno should have faced charges for manslaughter. It was his responsibility. Then there was the cover up. All in all, fairly irredeemable actions after years of training in leadership, integrity and taking responsibility.

Wesley shouldn’t need to have been reminded of all that.

Then there was the throwing under the bus. That was pretty despicable. To say that, with his father watching on. Wow.
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
Cracking good episode. One of my favourites.

I have to agree though that a maneuver banned for being dangerous remains a banned maneuver even if successfully executed. There's no way those cadets wouldn't have been in serious trouble even if the Starburst had gone as planned.
Tue, Sep 3, 2019, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
To me it seems a bit of a stretch that Locarno would be able to convince those under his supervision that protecting the team is more important than adhering to Star Fleet principles (truth etc.) .

Ultimately Locarno is expelled and really does take one for the team. This is at least consistent with what he told Wesley to do.

But him, Crusher and all the other cadets are, when first admitted to Star Fleet, presumably sworn to obey certain principles and codes of conduct (similar to the military I'd assume). They then get chosen for things like Nova Squadron where a leader like Locarno can impose his own principles including some that violate what they were initially sworn to? And the team members would all choose to protect the team even if it's so blatantly dishonest? What is really in it for the team members? To do something that looks cool prior to graduation? I guess that's what makes for a good story and Trek is replete with episodes of far more senior officers violating laws etc. I just think it's more of a stretch for these cadets who just had all these principles hammered into them to glibly abandon them for a dubious payoff.
Peter G.
Tue, Sep 3, 2019, 10:23pm (UTC -5)
@ Rahul,

I think we need DS9's Valiant for a more in-depth look at this matter, but in the case of Red Squad I think we have ample room to understand why the others would go along with it. The most obvious reason would be that they're supposed to be the best and want to show it. That alone will cause competitive people to push boundaries. But getting more into the "Starfleet issues" I would argue that Picard's own reasoning is often that officers and crewmen need to use their own judgement rather than just look to a bunch of rules all the time. And one thing to exercise judgement about is with regard to senior or superior officers. When they earn your trust part of the loyalty to Starfleet is going to involve loyalty to your CO. That's actually a necessary part of the chain of command: your loyalty is immediately to your CO, not to some other obscure leaders or dictates. In the military at present you're expected to avoid things like war crimes no matter what you're told, yet I suspect the truth on the ground is that militaries literally cannot function unless your CO has your loyalty and you'll follow what they say for the most part, even if you aren't sure.

In the case of Locarno they likely had every respect for him and went along with it not just as accomplices but as his 'team'. This is not unlike Benjamin Maxwell's crew going along with him against the Cardassians, or even in the films when Picard's crew goes along with him in First Contact to engage with the Borg. It may be against the rules but they trust their Captain more than some red tape. Now if he orders something appalling they should stand their ground, and in FC Worf eventually does that. But in this episode Locarno wasn't going so far that the others would be horrified; the bad result only comes suddenly and by then it's too late. After that point sticking together on the coverup seems ultimately futile given that it means Wesley has to lie to PIcard's face. But the notion of a crew sticking with their CO through thick and thin - no, I think that's very consistent with Trek. They believe it's ok because he says it is, and that isn't necessarily a bad reason.
Wed, Sep 4, 2019, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
@ Peter G.

The problem I have with what you're saying about going along with your commanding officer is that in all the Trek cases aside from this episode, those subordinates were on actual missions and, aside from Red Squad in "Valiant", were graduates of the academy and out in the field. But all those cases had real, concrete objectives and the subordinates had to obey their CO.

In this episode, what's the real concrete objective? To do some BS forbidden maneuver just to be cool? And the CO is not even an academy graduate. And they're all still based at Star Fleet HQ. I think it's an easy "no" for me to say.

This is already a pretty strong episode but it would be much better if Locarno was a graduate of the academy and on a real mission (with or without cadets) and then there is a cover-up (for something like a violation of the PD or a death etc.). It would make the motivations of those following the CO seem much more sensible/realistic to me. This whole drama over doing a forbidden flying maneuver at the behest of another cadet isn't quite good enough.
Thu, Sep 5, 2019, 6:21am (UTC -5)
I don't know if any of you were in the military but there they are really pointing out that you don't have to follow unlawful orders. This is to prevent, for example, war crimes. Even if you only suspect that an order could be unlawful then you can refuse to follow that order and you will not get punished later on (within reason, of course). I have seen people follow illegal orders during my time. It is a far bigger problem than most people would believe. Luckily I myself never had to make the choice to follow or not follow an unlawful order.
I hope Starfleet does have rules against this stuff.

So the cadets are all clearly guilty, they did something the knew was clearly illegal, they got somebody killed and then tried to cover it up. Especially the cover up is a serious crime. They should have been thrown out of the academy. It really shouldn't have mattered what Locarno did but I guess their elite status helped them one last time (or the needs of the script).
Peter G.
Fri, Sep 20, 2019, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
Watching this one now. A couple of details stood out to me more than they had before.

1) When Picard confronts Wesley, it seems like he's giving Wesley the chance to partially redeem himself by coming clean, but it's more than just urging him forward. I believe Picard was definitely going forward if Wesley didn't, so it was just going to be a question of which of them did it. I sort of think that Picard was condemning him either way, and that it would just be even worse if Wesley kept lying. Rather than 'Picard helping Wesley do the right thing', it felt a bit more like "this is your last chance before I completely lose all respect for you."

2) When Nick is talking to Wesley alone after this conversation with Picard, and Wesley says he can't live with the lie, Locarno tells him "who the hell are you?" Many in this thread have taken Locarno's general position to be that of a leader-figure placing the team first, but I have to be honest, I'm getting more of a sense now that it was all about him and that 'the team' was just a fig leaf for his personal glory. Picard's theory from earlier in the episode, that Locarno planned the whole thing to graduate in a personal blaze of glory, should probably be taken as a given, which means it was always about Nick looking amazing, and not about the others on the team. The "who the hell are you" is a total Hitler Youth kind of thing, where the implication is "you are nobody" and that an individual's conscience is irrelevant. I don't think he was being honest when he told Wesley he'd totally be willing to screw himself over the help the team; it was just a convenient thing for him to say. Wesley's comment at the end, that Locarno did exactly as he said he would protecting the team, rings hollow to me because by that point he was dead to rights and the only question was going to be whether everyone saw him for being a scumbag or for salvaging what remained of his public dignity. If I'm right, that he was basically a narcissistic opportunist, his last act wouldn't contradict that and would still fit the mold.
Luke M
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 1:36am (UTC -5)
Wil Wheaton does great work in this episode. Yes Patrick Stewart as Picard is at his thunderous best but it evokes real emotion because you feel Crusher wilting under it all and that's all from Wheaton.

Wesley's turmoil in this episode is so well drawn and when he says "I can't call Captain Picard a liar!" the whole weight of the history of the show and those two characters comes into play on that one line. Excellent.
George Monet
Sun, Feb 16, 2020, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
I never liked this episode. It required Wesley to act out of character and thus is bad writing. The maneuver didn't make any sense to do because even if everything worked out, they would have been in the same trouble. The trouble they are trying to avoid isn't the death of the boy but trouble for performing the illegal maneuver.

I'm also not sure what this team does exactly or why they exist. I mean they are a team that performs stunts you can see by looking at subspace sensor data. So basically all you see are blips on a screen. Is that really exciting? When teams like the Blue Angels perform you can actually see the airplanes, that's the whole point. Plus a computer can pilot a spacecraft flawlessly everytime.

The writer failed to properly think this episode out.

Yeah the acting was good and learning how to deal with peer pressure can be diffilcult, but the setup for this episode made no sense. Since Starfleet could monitor the spacecraft and would have been constantly monitoring telemetry via subspace, the team was guaranteed to face the exact same discipline whether they succeeded or not. In fact the claim that there wasn't recorded monitoring data already at Starfleet is ludicrous.

This episode also highlights another complete failure of the writers, scope. Starfleet academy should have 250,000 or more cadets given the size of the Federation. They shouldn't be forcing 4 people to compete for 1 spot as they need hundreds of thousands of graduates to staff the thousanfs if not tens of thousands of ships needed to patrol Federation space. But the writers stupidly claim there are only 400 total ships and 250 total cadets.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
Terrific episode, for all the reason already stated, but I like it most when it is bookended with "Lower Decks." Cadet/Ensign Sito gets center stage for a shot at redemption that only Picard could give her, complete with dressing down and character building, and she delivers on his confidence in spades. Terrific choice to bring back a passing character.
Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 12:21am (UTC -5)
@Peter G., I see your point but I think a lot of people in his shoes would be sorely tempted to see Wesley get expelled along with him.

My 10-year-old daughter and I watched this episode because we watched the “Boothby” (Species 2471 or whatever number it was) Voyager episode the other day, and when I mentioned he was on TNG, she wanted to see that—and it turns out this is the only episode he was ever on where it’s actually him. (She was initially confused when it appeared that Tom Paris was on the show using a different name.)

Anyway, I asked her about halfway through the episode whether Wesley should tell the truth or stick by his friends and she said stick by his friends, which I thought was interesting. After Picard’s speech, though, she changed her mind.

One other “from the mouths of babes” note. She has not seen the show Picard because it is rated TV-MA or TV-14 or whatever. But she has seen little snippets when she came into the room before I paused it. She opined that they must be using a “hologram” of Picard in the new show because TNG is “from the 80s” and it’s 2020 now, but according to her he looks exactly the same in both places. I told her Patrick Stewart would be flattered, but that he does look older now—and I showed her a trailer and then she saw what I meant. But he definitely has held up well!

Anyway, great episode, very nuanced and good to see Wesley get dirtied up a bit, although I would have liked to see his mother’s reaction after he confessed. (My daughter said “I guess in the future kids can tell their parents what to do” after Wesley told her not to interfere, LOL.)
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Caught this on tv last night and it's every bit as good as I remembered. Especially liked how Locarno was true to his word and really was willing to throw himself under the bus for the good of the team. A lesser episode would have cast him as a more clear cut asshole, but this one has a nuanced and complicated view of all its characters. And god, the scene where Joshua's father apologises to Wes is just devastating, with some of Wheaton's finest acting on the show. It's a shame to go from this fallible, human version of Wes to the "he's actually a special boy after all!" nonsense in 'Journey's End' but at least we got this terrific episode.
James G
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
A splendid episode, and one that reminds us how flexible TNG can be. The last one was an implausible but engaging time anomaly story, this one is a tense courtroom drama.

I was especially pleased to see Ray Walston in this one, because the very first TV programme I can remember is My Favourite Martian, and that may have been what kindled a life-long interest in sci-fi. The scene where he and Picard talk as they stroll through the gardens reminds me of Picard visiting his brother in France.

Some really good performances by others as well, here. The guy who plays the dead cadet's father conveys a wonderful sense of dignity, sometimes acting just with his face.

But the dialogue between Picard and Wesley is terrific - no familiarity or affection, just the stern formality of a displeased senior commander addressing a cadet. So tense.

I will say that it's odd that these Starfleet vessels practice their manoeuvres so close - a few metres away from each other? Why? Generally when the Enterprise has a shoot-out with another craft they're at least a few kilometres apart. It's also rather odd that the "starburst" trick of igniting plasma still works over 100 years after it was last attempted (and banned) - I guess the technology of space travel hasn't moved on much in that time.

Nice to see a model of the Apollo Command and Service Module in Wesley's quarters.

It's a shame Locarno couldn't have been reused for Voyager instead of being reincarnated as Tom Paris. I would have enjoyed the continuity. I understand this was considered but I think it's fitting that he was expelled, given that he got someone killed then tried to cover it up. I don't think there's a way for someone with that back story to be a regular on the Voyager crew.

Anyway - I think this one is my favourite of the fifth series so far. Superb.
Vladimir Estragon
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
My understanding was that they didn't use Locarno's name in Voyager because they would have had to pay royalties to the author of this episode for every episode of Voyager in which the character appeared, which is pretty much all of them.
Top Hat
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
The same reason that T'Pol isn't T'Pau.
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
But suprisingly NOT a deterrent to the use of Bruce Maddox in "Picard," who evidently did NOT see royalties from her characters use in the series.l, from what I hear. Just in case anyone needs another reason to dislike that show.
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Sigh, the WRITER of "Measure of a Man," Melinda Snodgrass, didn't get royalties from the use of her character....
Top Hat
Fri, Sep 11, 2020, 7:05am (UTC -5)
I wonder why that is. Perhaps a difference in contracts, like if a character is created by a staff writer vs. a freelancer?
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Fri, Sep 11, 2020, 8:33am (UTC -5)
Just because Melinda Snodgrass hasn't been paid doesn't mean she isn't entitled, so she can send CBS an invoice or sue them. According to her (and she is an attorney after all) “Yes, yes. In fact I am owed a character creation payment by CBS according to the Writer’s Guild rules for the use of my character since he has now appeared on screen.”

Now, according to a very quick read of the Writers Guild schedule of minimums, we're talking about something like $633 per episode where a recurring character appears. There could be higher fees in her original contract but we have no way of knowing. As for Paris/Locarno, if the series sequel or spin-off rules apply, then those fees could be a couple thousand dollars per episode at a minimum (at least today, not sure what they were like 20 years ago), but that's getting into a gray area that would require negotiation and interpretation etc.
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 9:36pm (UTC -5)
"I let down everyone: the team, my mom, you (Picard) …"

Uh, Wesley, how about Josh? You know, the friend who DIED because of this foolish stunt? Shouldn't the late Josh have been #1 on your list of people you "let down"?

For such a supposedly brilliant prodigy, you're a pretty dumb guy, Wes.
Tue, Dec 22, 2020, 8:03am (UTC -5)
The current West Point cheating scandal gives a sense of how far off this episode was in the proportionality of the consequences. Getting to finish your time at the Academy on "probation" with the plan for you to still graduate into a career as an officer (assuming that you don't end up instead living on an interdimensional plain with the Traveler) is what you get for cheating on a freshman calculus exam.

Engaging in a forbidden maneuver that gets your wingmate killed? Mere expulsion would be a gift. Try prison.
Matt B
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 1:01am (UTC -5)
@Diana - I like that explanation a lot. My head canon was always that one was a fake name and you have the perfect story for that.

Great episode. Better than I remember.
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 6:41am (UTC -5)
A satisfying episode and a rare look into the workings of starfleet academy, something that I think was neglected by all of the shows. Also brings Wesley down to Earth again but enables his sensibility and morals to develop and shine in a much more believable and relateable circumstance, without needing to delve into the prodigy silliness.

Also: a door with a handle and no bell? what was all that about?!
Lee Jones
Wed, May 26, 2021, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
I don't know why the author of this review claimed that Nick Larcerno and Tom Paris were basically the same character. I believe their similarities were at best, superficial. Both were pilots that committed an error that led to someone's death. Both had initially lied about the accident. And both were portrayed by Robert Duncan McNeill. But there are differences.

It took Wesley Crusher's confession to finally lead Lacerno to take full blame for the accident. Tom Paris had admitted his guilt without anyone forcing his hand. Lacerno seemed to possess a "cult leader" personality. Paris did not. The latter has something of a cynical personality. Lacerno did not.

"First Duty" is a good episode, but there were times when the pacing nearly put me to sleep. Or perhaps I was tired at the time of my last viewing.
Peter G.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
@ Lee Jones,

"I don't know why the author of this review claimed that Nick Larcerno and Tom Paris were basically the same character."

To be fair, I think it's pretty clear that they just wanted Nic Locarno for this show, minus the royalty fees for using the character. That being said, I think it's inevitable that once you have a slightly older McNeill, new writers, and a new setting, it's going to change. Even if McNeill had set out intently to 'do the same thing' it was going to come out different due to the different recipe. Now personally I think he actually did more or less do the same thing, but as you point out it still comes off differently because that's how the scripts went. Locarno came across as full of his own sense of leadership, of having his reputation on the line, and so forth, whereas Paris was in no position of leadership, had basically already lost it all, and had nothing to lose. Even if it was still called Locarno we don't know what he'd be like in other circumstances. So it was inevitably going to be different to some extent (although IMO to a surprisingly small extent).
Sun, Oct 3, 2021, 2:15am (UTC -5)
After the spectacular entertainment of Cause And Effect, we get a more down to earth (literally..) episode. And a very believable, very interesting, very realistic one too. Wesley Crusher finally comes good! The tussle between duty to truth and duty to “the team “ is superbly portrayed, and despite there being no ‘seat of the pants’ drama, there was no moment of boredom either.

As for Nick Locarno, I guess we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him. Doesn’t he get to serve on Voyager?
Sun, Oct 3, 2021, 3:50am (UTC -5)
Yeah. He even gets to change his name, too ;-)
Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
A few observations based on me just watching this and reading the comments:

1. Starfleet Academy is just that, an academy. Some reviewers seem to think that everyone who serves in Starfleet has to go through the academy. No, it's for officers. Think Westpoint, the US Naval Academy, etc. Enlisted people don't go to academies. There are many more enlisted people than there are officers. Whether or not people think that Starfleet is a military organization, the military model is the only one I can think of that works here.
2. Another point that comes up sometimes is "why are their barbers, bartenders, etc. on the Enterprise? How do they get paid?" I have always assumed that these are civilians who want to explore space but don't want to join Starfleet. They have to contribute somehow. It didn't come up in this episode but I thought I'd mention it.
3. Regarding this episode, absolutely the judges suspected the cadets were attempting a Kolvoord Starburst. They were nobody's fools. They just couldn't prove it "beyond a reasonable doubt" or whatever standard they were using. Their questioning was subtle and clever. Also, they made it clear they had serious doubts about the testimony of the cadets, but all of the hard evidence was blown up. The recording was incomplete. Come on, this is Starfleet academy. They would have some of the best pilots in Starfleet (think Top Gun) who would recognize this maneuver immediately, banned or not. All IMHO but I'm basically agreeing with Davy (from 2018!) on this point.

Great episode!
C.T Phipps
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 2:13am (UTC -5)
I mean Ron Moore's ending would have been terrible and destroyed Wesley's character. If you lie under oath for manslaughter (which is what they're guilty of) then you should be in jail. Certainly, the fellows of Starfleet can't possibly trust you to have their back since if they lie about that then they'll lie about anything to cover their asses.

I mean, their friend is dead and I like to think if my friends got me killed they'd own up to it, the same as if they'd killed me in a drunk driving accident.

Still the best Wesley episode.
Jason R.
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 7:58am (UTC -5)
"If you lie under oath for manslaughter (which is what they're guilty of) "

I am pretty sure you have to kill someone to be guilty of manslaughter. Wesley didn't kill anyone.
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 8:40am (UTC -5)
True. If five people have an illegal race and one dies without interference of the others then they did not commit manslaughter.
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 9:03am (UTC -5)
@Jason R and @Booming

There is a difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The definition of involuntary manslaughter depends on the jurisdiction, but I found a good description:

The unintentional death of another person as a result of reckless actions, negligence, criminal activity, or any person's actions is involuntary manslaughter. There are several examples of involuntary manslaughter, from texting and driving, to using and abusing drugs, and discharging a firearm.

I'd go so far as to say the facts we do have seem to indicate that this is involuntary manslaughter, but that's why we have trials, judges, lawyers, juries, etc. I'm not a criminal lawyer, but Wesley's testimony could have made all the difference in a criminal trial and led to a guilty verdict. Of course, if incarceration was a possibility he may not have testified.
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 9:06am (UTC -5)
I just realized how odd "I'm not a criminal lawyer" sounds!

I meant I'm not a lawyer that practices criminal law.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 10:25am (UTC -5)
"I just realized how odd 'I'm not a criminal lawyer' sounds!"

So you're saying you're NOT Saul Goodman?
Tue, Oct 19, 2021, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
LOL - not in this lifetime!
C.T Phipps
Wed, Oct 20, 2021, 1:25am (UTC -5)
I mean, a squad member died because they were doing a move explicitly forbidden by the Academy (whose equipment they were using) because said move killed five students. Having lost relatives to drunk driving, I pretty much have very little sympathy on the "it was an accident" argument when there is clearly danger that is prewarned about.

They also perjured themselves.

All of this shows a group that absolutely doesn't belong in a non-military or military organization where other people's lives depend on you.
Mon, Nov 8, 2021, 10:07am (UTC -5)
Some excellent points here. I just resaw the episode for the umpteenth time yesterday and I continue to think it's one of the best of the series. Although it makes too much sense for Starfleet to figure out what the cadets were actually doing, it would make NO sense to call them out on it. So I'd say they didn't know although it was obvious that the cadets were doing some shenanigans. I also agree it may have spiced up the episode for Picard not to force Wesley to tell the truth, but a cadet had died and, in reality, Picard would have been forced for the truth to come out. So all in all, an excellently written episode with the characters realistically doing what they've done.
Daniel B
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
{{ That's literally the only way I can watch his Locarno scenes without my brain screeching to a halt, haha. It's not just the same actor-- it's the same CHARACTER, in basically every detail but name. }}

But it's not - it's two different incidents and two different reactions (in the 1st, someone dies because of deliberate recklessness, and the responsible party lies to save his own skin and throws the dead guy under the bus but gets found out by other people; in the 2nd, someone dies because of an honest mistake and the responsible party confesses of his own accord because his conscience gets the best of him).

Did this single individual, who I'll call Tomick Locaris, have *both* of them happen to him? Because they definitely can't be considered the same event.

And Robert Duncan McNeill himself has said he feels like the two characters are only superficially similar - that Locarno is just a selfish individual who never really changed even when he bit the bullet at the end, while Paris is a good person who just made a couple bad choices.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
I watched The First Duty the other day, and one thing that struck me very clearly is they not only wrote Locarno with more of an edge than Paris had (even though he was touted as being the bad boy in the pilot) but they even *shot* his scenes with more edge. Check out a lot of the closeups Locarno has, where he is clearly leading the scene, pushing the tension and drama. Where does that ever happen with Tom "just let me steer the ship and I'm happy" Paris? Paris never challenges anyone, even in the episode where he's sent to the brig. I don't think McNeill delivered quite an Emmy winning performance in The First Duty, but he was solid and sold the character. So we know he can do it, at least decently. My only conclusion is that part of the reason Tom Paris comes off as so different is in the writing, the camera work, the directing. The actor has no control over these things. I disagree with them that they're not really the same character. What Paris was at the start was more like "hey we don't need to establish his personality since it was already done" and so he ended up more friendly-seeming since they gave him nothing better to do. That's my take on it.
Sun, May 15, 2022, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit: If it isn't Tom Paris!!

That team navigator chiclet is just cute as a damn button. Very purdy!

The episode itself, toward the end especially, was riveting. It made for an emotional watch.

Top-drawer quality; four well-deserved stars.
Wed, Jun 1, 2022, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
I am dying to know what Picard did during his academy days that Boothby had to “help him listen to himself to do what he knew he should do”. Anybody know what Picard had to confess to as a student?
Tue, Sep 20, 2022, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
I always come back to this episode, it's well done. One thing I still don't understand is how the cadets didn't expect to be punished if they *did* successfully pull off the maneuver at graduation? People doing illegal things with vehicles still get punished even if nobody gets hurt. So the premise of this episode is a bit hard to believe. Would the Academy have really turned the other cheek if they wowed the graduation ceremony with a highly illegal and dangerous maneuver?

Besides that, the rest of this episode is well written and well executed. The situation is believable and does a good job of introducing us to a bit of life on Earth that we rarely get to see. I wish there was more world building in this traditional Trek era so that we didn't have to wait for the dismal Trek series that took place after in Discovery and Picard.
Jason R.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 8:01am (UTC -5)
"? People doing illegal things with vehicles still get punished even if nobody gets hurt."

Not true in my experience.

You *might* get ticketed for careless driving if you run through a stop sign, for example (although the odds of a cop being there to observe you are remote) but if you run the same stop sign and, say, wipe out a school bus full of children (which happened to a truck driver in Saskatchewan a few years back), you are going to do jail time.

I always point this out in cases where relatively common driver error results in horrible tragedy. My point being that whether you change lanes without signaling a turn Tuesday and nothing happens or you do it on Wednesday and a family of three get killed, the underlying negligence and (presumably) moral culpability is identical.

But something in human nature seems to preclude this understanding. Most people calling for blood when a vehicular tragedy occurs will either 1) Deny that they have been guilty of equivalent negligence (take it from me: everyone is guilty) or 2) Just ignore the point or try to rationalize how this particular act of negligence was oh so different from the stuff that happens 10,000,000 times a day on every highway everywhere.

Getting back to The First Duty, I'd speculate that human nature hasn't changed in 300 years. So if the cadets had put on a beautiful show and no one got hurt, they'd probably just have gotten a slap on the wrist and they knew it.
Peter G.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 8:19am (UTC -5)
Although I agree with Jason R. in principle that there's a double standard always in play based on success or failure, I think the heart of the issue lies with the fact of how everyone viewed Red Squad. Something tells me this is a relatively new cadet squad, since everyone had to be informed about what it was (putting aside the fact that we needed to be told). And what Red Squad was trying to achieve was not just a reputation but a total recognition of their superior teamwork and skill. I think doing a banned maneuver wasn't so much an attempt to get away with something 'illegal' but rather a statement that they're above all other cadets and need to be seen in a different light even in regard to rules.


We see this in play in DS9's Defiant where Red Squad has achieved such distinction that they're doing training exercises on state of the art starships. So maybe the stunt wasn't so much an attempt to wow everyone and to get off with a slap on the wrist, but rather for the exercise to act as a statement that the rule actually shouldn't apply to such an elite squad in the first place. We don't know the circumstances leading to the ban, but perhaps it was due to being used by inadequate pilots. At least, maybe that's what Locarno thinks.
Uranus Mars Venus
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 9:43am (UTC -5)
"? People doing illegal things with vehicles still get punished even if nobody gets hurt."

"Not true in my experience."

In the context of the military, you should rethink your statement. Try flying an F22 in another country's airspace (w/o permission) or just taking the plane out for a little fun (again w/o permission). Good luck w/ that.

Even in a civilian vehicle (like a car), the analogue to what Red Squad did would be the equivalent of 4 cars driving 120 mph down the road (at very close proximity) and then all suddenly criss-crossing one another across 2-3 lanes. Yeah, you're getting pulled over, definitely ticketed, and likely your cars impounded.
Jason R.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 10:02am (UTC -5)
'"Even in a civilian vehicle (like a car), the analogue to what Red Squad did would be the equivalent of 4 cars driving 120 mph down the road (at very close proximity) and then all suddenly criss-crossing one another across 2-3 lanes. Yeah, you're getting pulled over, definitely ticketed, and likely your cars impounded."

Fair point. But still I doubt you'd go to jail if no one was hurt - maybe your license would get suspended and you'd pay a fine. But if you killed someone then you are doing jail time, big difference.

"In the context of the military, you should rethink your statement. Try flying an F22 in another country's airspace (w/o permission) or just taking the plane out for a little fun (again w/o permission). Good luck w/ that."

I concede I don't know about the military context but the examples above of stealing an advanced warplane or flying into another country's borders seem markedly different than merely performing a banned maneuver in the course of an authorized training mission. But maybe someone in the air force could illuminate us.

I mean they didn't steal a starship and fly into the neutral zone.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 10:05am (UTC -5)
"1) Deny that they have been guilty of equivalent negligence (take it from me: everyone is guilty)"
Not me! I don't have a car and never drove outside of driving school. :)

"but rather for the exercise to act as a statement that the rule actually shouldn't apply to such an elite squad in the first place."
An interesting hypothesis. I guess that is why elites are corroding every system. I always found it weird that star trek would have that kind of elite squad. I get that you would want like some kind of close combat or exfiltration elite team and a few other small teams of highly trained specialists but what purpose does a fairly small group of highly trained cadets have? Are they all supposed to become captains in 5 years or will they serve like anybody else after the academy? What effect would one elite cadet/then ensign have a on a ship with 1000 crewmembers?? If they are promoted quicker than other, would that not negatively impact moral?

Top Gun might have given some people a wrongful impression but the punishment for that kind of thing are normally far more severe in the military.

You are not flying your own star ship, you are misusing government property; You are endangering yourself and others; Behavior unbecoming of an officer is certainly in the mix. Those three things alone that would probably get them all court martialed. In any actual academy they would have probably been kicked out.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 10:08am (UTC -5)
here a jag lawyer analyses the movie top gun.
William B
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 10:12am (UTC -5)
I don't mean to be too pedantic, but FWIW Nova Squadron from this episode and Red Squad from DS9 are different entities, even though they are conceptually similar and Ron Moore might have seen them as essentially the same.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 11:38am (UTC -5)
One point that hasn't been brought up is that the episode deals with cadets, and relatively young ones at that. Starfleet likely feels some sort responsibility or obligation for the incident (hell, they provided the ships that caused the accident!) In that context, it makes sense for any sort of punishment to be more lenient or not stick.

William B wrote:
"I don't mean to be too pedantic, but FWIW Nova Squadron from this episode and Red Squad from DS9 are different entities, even though they are conceptually similar and Ron Moore might have seen them as essentially the same."

Funny, I also thought it was the same organization, but OTOH it wouldn't make sense for Nova Squadron to exist after this episode.
Jason R.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 11:38am (UTC -5)
""1) Deny that they have been guilty of equivalent negligence (take it from me: everyone is guilty)"
Not me! I don't have a car and never drove outside of driving school. :)"

Haha me neither. I don't even have a driver's license but probably handled 1,000 car accident cases as a lawyer.

But you know even on my bicycle I have done incredibly stupid things that in the wrong circumstances, could have killed someone other than me.

When you drive daily (as I do on my bike) and are making hundreds of decisions every minute, you are guaranteed to screw up from time to time. Every motorist, every single one, is going to break a rule now and then.

All I can say to the judgy mcjudges calling for blood when a motorist negligently causes a death: there but for the grace of god go us all.
William B
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
I've also tended to read Wesley's side in particular as being kind of the Potential Kid problem, where he has such incredible expectations placed on him as this genius flagship navigator Mozart of time and space son of a fallen hero that he's expected and required to keep doing incredible things, past the point where it's possible. Sito as a Bajoran we learn in Lower Decks has a lot to prove so as to live up to escaping her planet's fate. While elitism in the we should get to break the rules because we're better comes in with Locarno, I get the sense that with the others there's a "we MUST keep overperforming or we have no worth" vibe from the others, which creates the conditions for more desperate daredevilry. Maybe.
William B
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
I'm not really making claims about what punishment they would realistically get, just sussing out the motives.

Jason, ITA with your general point about traffic accidents. I do think as Peter eg says that we're looking at more showoffy daredevilry in this ep, which was also extremely carefully premeditated, than ordinary reckless driving.

That said I agree that the punishment would probably be different if they were successful.
Peter G.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
@ William B,

"I don't mean to be too pedantic, but FWIW Nova Squadron from this episode and Red Squad from DS9 are different entities, even though they are conceptually similar and Ron Moore might have seen them as essentially the same."

Next thing you're going to tell me that Nick Locarno and Tom Paris are different people too ;)
William B
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
@Peter, you know I almost made that comparison myself, ha ha.
Jim Mason
Sat, Feb 4, 2023, 7:26am (UTC -5)
Sorry if this is covered somewhere above, but I’ve always wondered why they planned to do the Kolvoord Starburst thing in the first place. Even if it had gone well and looked impressive, surely the crime was the same? They would have been punished for doing a manoeuvre prohibited by the Academy. Also, if they admitted it straight after the incident their punishment presumably only would have been the same as what they were expecting anyway. I’m not sure why they were so upset at the punishments as they would have received them anyway.
Top Hat
Sat, Feb 4, 2023, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
I think it's actually pretty in character for "young immortal" cocky college-age kids to think that the cool factor will get them off the hook, even if they're dead wrong.
Mon, Mar 20, 2023, 9:37am (UTC -5)
It's striking that Moore tried his best to make Locarno seem good and his position as being as right or more right and I think at least 80% of viewers still think Locarno comes off as a jerk.
Tue, Apr 25, 2023, 5:06pm (UTC -5)
They really made Locarno absolute without quite making him dastardly. On rewatch I'd say that character could've in fact been used instead of the Tom Paris reboot, especially with the plea for his team and a few years' redemption in the private spacing sector.
Wed, Jul 19, 2023, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
I believe that re-using “Nick Locarno” as a Voyager regular would have required payment to the writers of “The First Duty” - something Paramount maybe was loathe to do. Hollywood legal math remains one of the most impenetrable subjects on Earth. I still can’t comprehend how not airing an entire season of Star Trek Prodigy can somehow save a studio money by enabling the studio to write the season off as a tax loss. The Scientology foundational story - Xenu told everyone they had to report for tax audits - makes more sense than studio accounting.

As for the episode itself, it has some wonderfully well-observed moments (the quiver in Admiral Brand’s voice, suggesting perhaps a genuine sorrow that some people are about to literally get away with manslaughter; the doleful gaze of Josh’s father, Picard’s jolting pronouncement that HE will tell Admiral Brand hat happened, if Wesley does not-someone must do the right thing), and it is only after watching it many times that I find there is a nit to pick. Had the Koolvoord Maneuver been pulled off after the cadets were given their diplomas, they still would not be in the clear. Picard said the maneuver was “illegal” - not illegal for cadets, but illegal. Cadets graduate into officers or enlistees-so surely there would have been a punishment for someone who attempted the maneuver after having officially graduated. Either the writers overlooked this, or simply goofed and failed to have Picard say the maneuver was banned for cadets/same-day graduates. When an episode works as well as this one does (I have vivid memories of having watched it when it aired-I was in 8th grade), these flaws are easy to overlook, sometimes for decades.
Michael Miller
Sat, Aug 26, 2023, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
The major thing I don't get with this episode is that they were so afraid of star fleet discovering the truth about them doing the Starburst manuevre, yet if they had succeeded they wouldn't have been detected by sensors? They were going to do it at the ceremony, wouldn't everyone see it then? I don't see how they intended to get away with it had they'd been successful?
William B
Sat, Aug 26, 2023, 8:46pm (UTC -5)
I think Locarno had them all convinced that they would awe people so much by their dazzling performance that they would get, at most, a slap on the wrist and would enter Starfleet as legends. The way I read the episode is that Locarno was probably partly correct - that many, maybe most, would be impressed by their performance. I'm not convinced Picard would be.
Peter G.
Sat, Aug 26, 2023, 9:43pm (UTC -5)
" The way I read the episode is that Locarno was probably partly correct - that many, maybe most, would be impressed by their performance. I'm not convinced Picard would be."

I wonder how much of it was taking power *as* cadets, even away from the instructors. It was evidently the student body that admired them so much, and if all the cadets saw them as legends, the teachers would be put in the uncomfortable position of having to choose whether to condemn the group most admired and skilled, which would have a hugely negative effect on morale, or to go along with it, and effectively have their hands tied. I agree that Picard wouldn't have been impressed, but frankly I doubt the Vulcan admiral would have been either, or various others even.

That being said, I wonder how serious this ban on the Starburst really was:

PICARD: Five ships crossing within ten metres of each other and igniting their plasma trails. One of the most spectacular and difficult demonstrations of precision flying. It hasn't been performed at the Academy team in over a hundred years. Do you know why?
WESLEY: It was banned by the Academy following a training accident, sir.

Although Picard knows about the maneuver, and expects Wesley to as well, this seems to be a piece of ancient history, something maybe mentioned in flight school but that no one living (except Vulcans) has ever done or seen. So maybe the cadets just figured the rule was so old that punishment for it wouldn't really be enforced anyhow? The episode does make it seem like it's an infamous maneuver, but on the other hand Geordi and Data don't think of it when they see the evidence. Maybe that's just a plot device to have Picard have the talk with Wesley. So I think it's at least an open question whether Nova Squad was really doing a taboo maneuver, something that was definitely begging for trouble, or whether they were doing something technically banned, that no one would really have cared about (as an infraction) *except* for the fact that a cadet died. It's like, accidents happen, but if an accident happens *because* you didn't follow proper protocols then big blame can start being laid. Whether the protocol was ever considered to be that important can perhaps be considered secondary to the fact of having tripped up on the wrong side of a line.

That's just me thinking out loud, anyhow. I think maybe the "hundred years" timeframe was a bit much to drive the point home, since it starts making you wonder why anyone other than piloting hobbyists would even know about it. I guess on the balance it does feel like the episode wants you to understand that the maneuver is still infamous, and that Geordi and Data didn't think of it purely because they were unprepared to consider interpretations where Wesley was doing something bad.
Sun, Aug 27, 2023, 12:45am (UTC -5)
One has to ignore the legal question because in an actual military they would have all been dishonorbly discharged. They broke several laws.
Top Hat
Sun, Aug 27, 2023, 6:41am (UTC -5)
The episode tries to cover this with Boothby's line "If it worked, you would thrill the assembled guests and Locarno would graduate as a living legend."

Some dialogue suggests this maneuver is prohibited internally at the Academy, not that it's illegal outright. Locarno is someone who is used to getting by on charisma, and probably tends to ask forgiveness rather than permission. This is in character for a cocky "young immortal" type of person.
Sun, Sep 3, 2023, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
I wish Robin Lefler had been in this episode also.

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