``The First Duty''
Stardate: 45703.9
Rating: ** 1/2

Edited Length: 45:27
U.S. Airdate: April 12, 1992
Nielsen Rating/Rank: [12.1/2]

Guest Stars
Ray Walston: [Boothby]
Robert Duncan McNeill: [Cadet First Class Nicholas Locarno]
Ed Lauter: [Lt. Commander Albert]
Richard Fancy: [Captain Satelk]

Special Guest Star
Jacqueline Brooks: [Superintendant] "Admiral Brand"

And Guest Starring
Wil Wheaton: [Cadet Third Class] "Wesley Crusher"

Co-Producer: Joe Menosky
Co-Producer: Ronald D. Moore
Co-Producer: Peter Lauritson
Producer: David Livingston
Supervising Producer: Jeri Taylor
Executive Producer: Michael Piller
Written by: Ronald D. Moore & Naren Shankar
Directed by: Paul Lynch

[end credit]
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Executive Producer: Rick Berman

[closing credits]
Associate Producer: Wendy Neuss
Executive Script Consultant: Peter Allan Fields

Walker Brandt: [Cadet Second Class Jean Hajar]
Shannon Fill: [Cadet Second Class Sito]
[Richard Rothenberg: Cadet]


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Extended Synopsis (by Tim Lynch) ------------------------------------

As the Enterprise heads to Starfleet Academy for Picard's commencement address, Picard receives word of an accident in which Wes was involved while he and his flight team, the Nova Squadron, were practicing maneuvers. He's fine, but one of the team members, Josh Albert, was killed, and an investigation is underway, headed by Admiral Brand, the Academy superintendent. Picard offers to help, but there's no need.

Picard explores the grounds before the hearing, and finds the old groundskeeper Boothby, who helped him through trying times when he was a student there. Boothby dismisses Picard's attempts at thanks, saying that what Picard's done with his life since is thanks enough, and that he didn't do anything. "You knew what you had to do, what was the right thing. I just made sure you listened to yourself." Meanwhile, the squadron leader, Nicholas Locarno, gives the squadron a pep talk before the hearing, saying that everything will be fine-as long as they stick together. Nick testifies, saying that while in a "diamond-slot" formation, they entered a maneuver called a Jaeger loop, and that nine seconds later, Josh Albert's ship crashed into another cadet's, causing the eventual destruction of all five ships.

Cadet Hajar, the cadet whose ship Josh crashed into, testifies that the ships did not deviate from their flight plan-and when pressed, admits that they did, but by amounts small enough that she didn't feel it was important. She also claims not to have seen Josh break formation, being unaware of a problem until her proximity alarm went off. Cadet Sito, who was in the rear, also claimed not to have, saying she was flying only on sensor readings at the time-but when pressed, cannot even describe the orientation of Josh's ship. Nick breaks in, saying that lately, Josh had been having "difficulties" in formation flying, and that he must have panicked. Admiral Brand is very disturbed by this news, and adjourns the hearing until the following day, when data from Wes's flight recorder should be ready. "Everything's fine," Nick tells Wes. "Trust me."

As Picard, citing Wes as "one of our own", asks Geordi and Data to examine the evidence themselves, Wes protests Nick lying at the investigation, saying that he said no one would have to lie. Nick responds by saying that he didn't lie, that Josh probably did panic and "we all know it". Reluctantly, Sito and Hajar agree. Nick says that the only data recoverable from Wes's recorder is all before the collision, so that as long as Wes doesn't volunteer extra information, all will be fine. And after all, as Sito points out, if they said what really happened, they all might as well start packing. Nick tells Wes that he knows what it's like to count on a team for his life, since he's been out in space.

Despite qualms about this, compounded by Josh's father apologizing to Wes for Josh letting them all down, Wes sticks to the story when describing the recorder's data. He adds nothing, and when asked whether the ships remained in formation just after the Jaeger loop, firmly says yes. Data from a navigational satellite around Saturn is then shown, proving without a doubt that the ships were not in formation seven seconds after the loop was completed. "What is your explanation, Mister Crusher?" "I have none, sir."

Beverly attempts to comfort Wes, but her firm belief that the data was somehow tampered with to frame Wes only upsets him more, and he begs her not to try to protect him from any of this. Picard talks to Boothby, and finds that the Nova Squadron is considered heroes by the entire Academy, and that Nick Locarno's personal charm and magnetism is what holds the team together. "If he asked them to do something," Boothby says, "they'd do it. Even if it means going right over a cliff." When Geordi and Data find that Wes's coolant interlock was open just before the crash, and that one of the reasons for doing that is to purge drive plasma (a dangerous move likely to ignite the plasma), Picard realizes that that's exactly what they were trying to do...

Picard calls Wes into his ready room and shows him a simulation of a maneuver known as the Kolvord Starburst-a very flashy, very spectacular, and very dangerous flight stunt. It's been banned at the Academy for over a hundred years, ever since a group of cadets tried it and failed, all five losing their lives in the process. Picard reasons that Nick Locarno wanted his Academy career to go out with a blaze of glory, and that he talked the rest of them into learning the stunt, and then covering up the truth when disaster ensued. When he asks Wesley if that is correct, Wes first remains silent, then chooses not to answer.

Picard is livid, for Wes has already given an answer to the inquiry, and that answer was a lie. Wes protests that it was not a lie, but Picard angrily points out that "a lie of omission is still a lie!" He reminds Wes of his first day on board, when even annoyed at Wes's apparent presumption on the bridge, Picard was impressed at the depth of his knowledge. He goes on to say that ever since he made Wes an acting ensign, he'd always been convinced that Wes would be a superb officer-until now. "The first duty of a Starfleet officer is to the truth-be it scientific truth, historical truth, personal truth. It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet was founded!" And, he continues, if Wes cannot face up to the truth, then he doesn't deserve to wear a Starfleet uniform. Picard presents Wes with a simple choice: either Wes tells Admiral Brand what really happened, or Picard will. Period. End of discussion-and Picard shouts Wes out of the room.

Wes, panicked, tells Nick that Picard knows everything. Nick, upon hearing Picard has no evidence, says there's no problem, that all they need to do is deny Picard's theory. Wes balks at this, unable to call Picard a liar-but Nick lambastes Wes for having the arrogance to decide the fates of all four of them by his own single actions. He says that the team, Nova Squadron, is bigger than any one of them. He says that without hesitation, if he were in Wes's position he'd resign his commission rather than turn the team in, and he urges Wes to do the same.

The hearing comes to a close. Brand says she is very disappointed and disturbed by the inconsistencies between the data and the squadron's statements, and says it suggests that they have been lying. However, since they have no proof, they close the investigation by only giving them each a formal reprimand and terminating their flight privileges. "This hearing is concluded."

"Sir." Wesley rises. "I would like to add something to my testimony..."

Wes confesses all, and tells Josh's father outright that Josh didn't let them down. Nick, when asked if he has anything to add, simply says no.

Later, Picard talks to Wesley on the grounds. Nick has been expelled, and the rest of them nearly were-except that Nick pleaded to take full responsibility, saying that he pressured them all into it. As he said he would, Nick went down for the team. Wes feels awful, but Picard isn't finished. In addition to the reprimand, Wes's credits for the year have been revoked, and he will not advance with his class-he will pay for his actions. And what's more, he'll remain on campus, with everyone knowing what he did. "You have difficult times ahead."

Wes stares at the ground, downcast.

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

"Goodbye, Captain." The two part company.

Highlight Listing:
"The First Duty" - Caught between loyalty to his friends and the need to tell the truth, Wesley becomes involved in a cover-up when his Starfleet Academy squadron suffers a deadly collision.
Advertising Headline:
A QUESTION OF CONSCIENCE! Caught in a cover-up, will Wesley lie to protect his friends?
TV log listing:
Wesley torn between truth and loyalty/STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
Operation SNAFU
About 10 minutes in -- Wes goes to the door. The long shot has him opening the door with his *left hand*. Cut to close up, and the door is being opened with his *right hand*. (UV) Also, about 40 minutes in. Wes is talking to [someone] in his quarters. From behind, his hands are in one position, and when we cut to the front, they're in another position, obviously different. (UV)

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Andrew Tong

Technical design, graphic design, interactive features, HTML & CGI programming by Andrew Tong. || All materials Copyright © 1987-1995 by their respective authors. || Document created: January 28, 1995 || Last Modified: November 09, 2010