Although we are done with STNG and now out in the Delta Quadrant with Voyager (which is ironic given who is in this episode), that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and catch up on the episodes you missed. You can find the rest here!
Starfleet Academy. A place of learning and of growth, a place where people begin their long careers to Starfleet Captain or remain behind. This episode, originally airing on March 30, 1992 is about the truth, it is about The First Duty.
Stardate 45703.9 The First Duty
Picard and crew are returning to Earth so that Picard can give the commencement address. Unfortunately a tragic event has occurred that involves Wesley Crusher and a cover-up may be in play.
After receiving news that Wesley has been injured in a flight accident, Picard informs Doctor Crusher of the incident. One of the five ships involved were destroyed, killing the cadet in the fifth ship. Picard and Beverly beam down to discuss the matters with the Academy Superintendent, Admiral Brand, and later visit Wesley. It is apparent that something is bothering him but this is easily explained as a result of the crash. Soon his Cadet Leader, Nicholas Locarno, appears and it is clear that something isn’t right.
With the inquiry looming, Locarno coaches his team with what their story is. Locarno presents his events and then, one by one give their statements. They indicate that the squadron had not followed their flight plan as strictly as indicated but deemed it unimportant. When things begin to look off in their story they ultimately blame the accident on the deceased cadet, Ensign Albert. The inquiry breaks but they indicate that there will be more to come. Picard returns to the Enterprise, determined to figure out what happened to Wesley’s squadron.
Nova Squadron discusses their strategy, they intend to continue their blame on Ensign Albert and vow to go down together no matter what. During the deposition, Wesley gives his statement and is proven to by lying as there is evidence to the contrary of his statement.
Picard visits Boothby, the groundskeeper, and asks about Nova Squadron and it’s members. Boothby indicates that Locarno is the leader of the group and the team will follow him in any circumstance. He implies that Locarno may be responsible for this event and his Squad mates will follow him down no matter the consequences. Picard returns to the ship and, after talking with Data and LaForge, he realizes what the Squadron was up to.
Picard talks with Wesley about the incident and challenges Wesley’s resolve. He tells him under no uncertain terms that Wesley will tell the truth of the event or Picard himself will see to it that Admiral Brand knows. Instead of doing what is right, Wesley runs to Locarno and tells him that Picard knows the truth. Locarno indicates that all of the members would rather lie than
The next day, as the inquiry begins to wrap up, Wesley tells the truth about the events at hand. He tells the Admiral that they attempted a very dangerous stunt which resulted in the death of one of their squad. Locarno is expelled and the rest of the team is kept behind a year. Picard talks to Wesley and tells him that, although he has difficult times ahead, he is proud of Wesley for listening to himself.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
The character development for Wesley and Picard is nothing short of genius. The two of them really get a chance to shine and have moments that are both meaningful and impactful. Picard sees in Wesley a son and a version of himself that has a chance to be something more. Wesley is the future of Star Fleet and he does not want to see this brilliant cadet sully himself in a lie. Wesley on the other hand is learning about where he should place his loyalty and ultimately realizes that he needs to listen to himself above others.
Playing out a real ‘human’ episode, this is one of the few that deals with real issues at hand without relying on any of the science fiction genre the show is based on. This episode could easily have taken place on an Air Force base or another Earth based training facility and would have worked perfectly. This in itself is part of what makes it such a tremendous and powerful episode. It is one that transcends it’s genre and speaks to the matter at hand which is Honesty and Integrity.
To me, this is one of the best episodes of the season, if not the series. It is one that, while superficially about Wesley, it is really about Duty and the difficulty of telling the truth no matter how hard the consequences. All in all, the episode is best summed up in the latter part of Picard’s speech to Wesley when he learns of the lie Wesley told.
‘The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based. And if you can’t find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don’t deserve to wear that uniform!’
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
Although mentioned time and again, this marks the very first time we meet Boothby, the Academy Groundskeeper, played by the incomparable Ray Walston.
We learn that Picard himself had some issues in Starfleet Academy and that it was only due to Boothby’s insistence that Picard listen to himself that Jean Luc would make it through to the end. We never really learn what this incident was but it seems that it was a major part of Picard’s education into the man he is today.
This episode marks the first appearance of StarFleet Academy and will be seen again in later Star Trek series.
The Enterprise NCC-1701 makes a nice cameo in Wesley’s quarters in this episode. I wonder if he picked that up in the Academy PX.
Although we don’t see much of Wesley’s squad again we do catch up with one member, the Bajoran Sito Jaxa in a later installment. It is speculated that Locarno, played by Robert Duncan McNeill, would later show up under the name Tom Paris, also played by McNeill, in the series Voyager. This is, of course, not canon but it is fun to speculate.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Cost of Living
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Late To The Game 4/4/2020 (Originally published 10/1/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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