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Star Trek TNG - Season 5 - Episode 19

Star Trek TNG - 5x19 - The First Duty

Originally Aired: 1992-3-30

Wesley is involved in a cover-up at Starfleet Academy. [DVD]

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 6.64

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- Data claims to have graduated in the "class of 78." Since it is now 2368, as dated from "The Neutral Zone" in which Data says it is 2364, did Data really graduate ninety years ago?

- Robert Duncan McNeill plays Locarno in this episode. He later plays Tom Paris on Voyager. Just like how Marc Alaimo started off as a Cardassian Gul Macet and later went on to play a Cardassian Gul Dukat, why did they have to create a new character, with a nearly identical background, of the same species, played by the same actor? Twice? Because the name sounds cooler?

Remarkable Scenes
- Picard discussing the accident with Beverly.
- Boothby appearance.
- Everybody blaming the accident on Josh.
- Wesley having to listen to Josh's father apologize, further intensifying his guilt.
- The Vulcan guy proving that the team was lying.
- Boothby describing Locarno and his team to Picard.
- Picard discovering the cover up and yelling at Wesley.
- Locarno trying to convince Wesley to shut up about the truth.
- Locarno taking the fall in the end.
- Picard talking to Wesley in the end.

My Review
A fine story. Nice to see Wesley again, and definitely nice to see Wesley screw up. A good change of pace overall for TNG all things considered and I would definitely say this is Wesley's finest episode. This episode deals with groupthink and the concept of following a leader blindly. Locarno maintains his greatness throughout the episode. First as a charismatic leader trying to convince his team to help him graduate in style, then as an intelligent leader orchestrating a cover up, then as an honorable leader taking the fall for everyone. I only wish that they had used Locarno in Voyager instead of Tom Paris. At the very least to remove the confusion of two characters played by one actor.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Pete Miller on 2006-07-18 at 5:25pm:
    Notice that the 'groupthink' episodes always involve the trigger happy cadets at starfleet academy
  • From DSOmo on 2007-09-30 at 4:51am:
    - When talking to Boothby, Picard claims to have graduated in the Class of '27. The episode "Encounter At Farpoint, Part 2" establishes that Data graduated in the Class of '78. In "Redemption II," Data states that he has had twenty-six years of experience in Starfleet. Let's suppose that Data's experience with Starfleet began with his entrance into Starfleet Academy. In "Datalore," Data tells Lore that he spent four years at the academy. That means twenty-two years have elapsed since Data's graduation. Since Data graduated with the Class of '78 and twenty-two years have elapsed, this season of Star Trek: TNG must be happening somewhere around the year '00. Now if Picard graduated in the Class of '27, seventy-three years have elapsed since his graduation. If Picard was twenty at the time, he must be over ninety years old!!! This all makes very little sense until you remember that Data quoted the year in the episode "The Neutral Zone" as 2364 (also mentioned in the Problems section above.) Evidently something is wrong in one of these figures.
    - Starfleet Academy banned the Kolvoord Maneuver a hundred years ago due to a training accident. Yet Locarno convinces Nova Squadron to try it. What was he trying to accomplish? Did he think Starfleet wouldn't reprimand him if the maneuver was successful? A banned maneuver is a banned maneuver! But Locarno's actions are believeable. College seniors can do strange things.
    - The dormitory doors at Starfleet Academy have regular door handles and hinges, yet every time someone opens one, the door gives a little "erp erp" sound. If the doors are human-powered, doesn't it seem like a waste of energy to have them "erping" every time they are opened?
  • From djb on 2008-04-16 at 6:49am:
    According to Memory Alpha, the reason they didn't use Locarno's character in Voyager was budgetary: the writers of this episode would have to have received royalties for every episode of Voyager. Presumably, this is a similar situation with Gul Dukat in DS9.

    Responding to Dsomo's inquiry about dates, I would postulate that the only erroneous date mentioned would be Data's "class of '78" statement. This is especially likely since it was stated in the pilot. If the end of season 1 was 2364, then the end of season 5 should be around 2369. If Picard graduated in '27, that would place Picard's post-graduation service with Starfleet about 42 years, and make him about 64 years old. Granted, Patrick Stewart was only 51 when this episode aired, it's clear from Boothby's estimated age (something over 100) that the average human lifespan has been somewhat lengthened by the 24th century. Data's 26 years of experience as of the beginning of season 5 (2368 or 69) would place his graduation somewhere around 2346.

    Also, about the doors: I presume that because Wesley had to get up and let people in every time they knocked (instead of saying "come in"), that the doors are locked from the inside and the only way to get in, if you don't have a key, is for someone on the other side to let you in. This is typical of dorm rooms. As for the sound, I can only guess that the door mechanisms are electronic; the sound we hear is the mechanism unlocking. The sound reminded me of the noise some apartment-building doors make when someone buzzes you in. Why use electronic door hardware instead of mechanical? Well, it's a few hundred years in the future! And, they're probably more secure. So, in other words, the door-opening mechanism isn't really human powered; the handle being pressed is what signals the mechanism to unlock, the sound of which we hear whenever someone presses the handle.

    I liked the twist at the end where Locarno takes the fall for his team. His arguments against Wesley wanting to come forward with the truth are incredibly hypocritical, but he actually backs up his rhetoric of team members helping each other, and that saves his character from being a total jerk.

    It was nice to see Wesley do something morally questionable for a change.

    One thing, though: despite the troubled circumstances, wouldn't Wesley make a point of seeing his sort-of girlfriend, Robin Lefler? From "The Game"? I guess Ashley Judd wasn't available. What a shame... That character's involvement would have added a whole new depth to an episode that was already deep to begin with.
  • From Rob on 2008-04-17 at 7:01pm:
    As to what Locarno thought he was going to accomplish...

    I imagine he expected to get an 'official reprimand' while everyone gave him a nod-nod, wink-wink at his audaciousness. The reprimand would be 'required' but would have no actual real-world impact on his service in Star Fleet and his 'made' reputation would probably even improve his prospects. It takes little imagination to guess how easily it would have been for him to convince the others that they could sail through the following three years at the academy as "living legends" and again, any reprimand would have no lasting impact on their assignments following graduation.
  • From John on 2011-01-02 at 10:32pm:
    All the scenes with Boothby are outstanding. Ray Walston was a great actor who never seemed to age. It's hard to believe he was nearing 80 when he filmed this episode. Perhaps it's because he's talked of so fondly by Picard, but he's always been one of my favorite characters.

    The scene where all the team members blame Josh made me kind of sick, but this is the genius of Ron Moore. His writing takes you to the dark places you don't really want to go and forces you to think about a situation.

    I like the "plant" of the Bajoran ensign, Sito Jaxa. Granted, she's not presented in the best light here, but she redeems herself in Season 7's "Lower Decks".

    All in all, a fine episode, and one of my favorite of Moore's TNG scripts.
  • From ADMK on 2012-07-19 at 2:06pm:
    A great episode overall, contributing almost as much to Wesley's character development as all his previous episodes combined. Good to see a young Tom Paris (effectively) too.

    My only problem is how Data misses identifying the likely cause of the accident. It doesn't take Picard very long to deduce that given Wesley's opening of the coolant interlock and the discussed reasons that one might do that (in particular, to purge the plasma exhaust), the team must have been attempting the Kolvoord Maneuver. So why does Data (or even the Vulcan) miss such an apparently straightforward deduction—that Wesley's otherwise inexplicable action correlates with a step required to complete this notoriously dangerous flight-team maneuver?

    The Vulcan can likely be excused, but Data should have already had an encyclopedic knowledge of flight-team history, maneuvers, and incidents, or at least accessed such a database during the investigation. Surely in his millions of calculations per second he would have thought of the Kolvoord Maneuver as a possible, if not the most likely, explanation.

    I wish instead that Data had come to the initial conclusion (in his usual emotionless, matter-of-fact voice), but then Picard could have fleshed out the tale of the banned maneuver and its history, sharing a relevant personal anecdote or other information that Data would have not known or omitted. E.g.:

    DATA: Opening the coolant interlock while in flight is a required step in performing the Kolvoord Maneuver. But that maneuver has been banned by Starfleet for over one hundred years, sir. It is considered too dangerous.

    PICARD: [Thoughtfully] Too dangerous … but perhaps not too dangerous for an Academy senior who had carefully cultivated a reputation for dancing with danger and escaping unharmed. Much like a young [blah blah blah, Picard tells a story].

    GEORDI: [Dramatically] If the flight team was attempting the Kolvoord Maneuver, it's no wonder they act like they're trying to hide something.

    [Dramatic music signals END OF SCENE, and then the rest of the episode proceeds normally.]

    You get the idea. Anyway, still probably an 8/10 in my book!
  • From ADMK on 2012-07-20 at 1:02pm:
    P.S. Meant to add that in paragraph three of my review above I was trying to channel Riker from the episode "Future Imperfect." ("What's the matter, Data? What happened to those millions of calculations per second?")

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