Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 5 Episode 19

The First Duty

Aired Unknown Mar 30, 1992 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
190 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Stardate: 45703.9

Wesley is involved in a cover-up at Starfleet Academy when a cadet is killed and five shuttles are destroyed during a forbidden maneuver performed by Starfleet Academy's best cadets.

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Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Unique, character-driven episode

    The tense, character-driven script for this earth-bound episode features plenty of meaty material for Patrick Stewart and the guest stars, all of which shine. They include Robert Duncan McNeil (who would go on to play Tom Paris in Voyager), Ray Waltson (who would reprise Boothby in two episodes of Voyager), Shannon Fill (who would reprise the role of Sito Jaxa in TNG's seventh season episode, "The Lower Decks") and, of course, Wil Wheaton returning as Wesley. The episode, showcasing the first ever appearance of the much talked about Starfleet Academy, builds the drama without any sci fi gimmicks and yet is probably the best Wesley episode of all; it's certainly one of the most unique and memorable Star Trek episodes of any series.moreless
  • While en route to Earth Enterprise receives a message from Starfleet Academy saying that the vaunted Nova Squadron, of which Wesley Crusher is a member, has crashed during an in-flight training exercise killing one squad member. An investigation begins.moreless

    "The First Duty" is one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation for a number of reasons. First because it relies on actors, well-written dialouge and character development instead of special effects and phaser battles. While the aforementioned elements have worked very well in the past ("The Best of Both Worlds" especially), it's nice to see a change from all of that and see a very well-acted story. Wil Wheaton gives his best performance on the show as Wesley Crusher hands down. Ray Walston is also a high point of this episode. An episode worth your time.moreless
  • A combination of superb writing and excellent performances make this drama worth watching. Kudos to Wil Wheaton.

    No space battles, sci fi gimmicks or weird aliens appear in "The Final Duty". Instead, this is a character-driven drama that, unlike some other TNG episodes, actually tackles reality.

    In another review (to "The Game"), I said that Wil Wheaton was a victim of poor writing; as the guy proved during his 5th season guest appearances (and Patrick Stewart commented in later interviews), he certainly didn't fall short in the acting category. Unlike more contrived "coming of age" stories that the writers forced upon Wheaton during the first four seasons (including a mediocre one with that exact title), this one really does deal with growing up and dealing with the consequences of one's actions.

    The episode would be worthwhile, but not quite superb, if it weren't for a tour de force sequence in the Captain's Ready Room in which Picard really lays down the law for Wesley. In the previous few episodes, it felt like Patrick Stewart and/or the writers were slacking off, thinking they could stick any sort of pompous blather in Picard's mouth and make it come out impressive. Sorry, that doesn't work by this point in the series. But Stewart's raspy, intense delivery here is one of his finest moments in the series.

    Among my 4 or 5 favorite episodes of season 5.moreless
  • Life is not black and white, and neither is this episode.

    It's so rare in television or movies to see a character or storyline that is not black and white. Generally there is an antagonist and a protagonist; a right and a wrong. In this case, the viewer has the rare experience of not knowing what is right or wrong, or what we would do in Wesley's shoes. I'm sure we'd all like to think we'd tell the truth, but telling the truth will not bring cadet Josh back from the dead.

    Wesley is put in a tough position that I would not take on for a million bucks. Loyalty to a truth that will only do harm to his team and put his career on the line, or loyalty to a group of friends who have always been there for him. The fact that Wesley struggled so hard with this was very realistic and well-done. Previously, Wesley has always been the type of goodie two-shoes who gets shoved into lockers. I've found myself wanting to give him a space-wedgie on several occasions. However, in this episode we see Wesley is not perfect and he is capable of lying. Had it not been for Picard's research, we can only assume he would have run with the lie until the bitter end.

    Nicholas Locarno's character is not black or white either. He's the bad influence... he's the liar... but in the end he puts it all on the line for his team. In the end, the only thing gained is truth for the sake of truth. The case is closed, and nobody is in any serious trouble. Wesley's last-minute decision to tell the truth, while noble and bold, still had an effect on living members of a team who trusted him, and did nothing to change the past. So did he do the right thing or not? What would any one of us do in his place? Definitely a 10.moreless
  • Wil Wheaton shines in this guest spot like he never did as a regular.

    Wil Wheaton gets a great episode to show his acting prowess - something which was woefully missing when he was a regular on the show. The writing in this episode and "The Game" have been superb for the character of Wesley Crusher.

    We get an interesting problem with the plot - is duty to one's friends more important than duty to the service (Starfleet)? The answer to Picard is neither, really; but a duty to the truth, which we hear in a wonderful monologue he delivers to Wesley in his ready room. "The first duty" is to the truth, and Picard certainly has lived up to that over the series's run. He opposes Starfleet to uncover conspiracies, and he fights his friends when he knows they're working against the truth. Wesley's realization of this notion is a beautiful thing to watch in the episode.

    The fact that Nicholas Locarno takes the fall for the rest of Nova Squadron is a nice touch, too; they made him seem selfish at first when he asked Wesley to lie, but in the end, he stayed true to his word and took the fall to help his friends. Patrick Stewart does some wonderful acting as usual, this time in the role of Wesley's mentor. He's always been like his father - we even get him sitting opposite Beverly Crusher in the dorm room, like a father and mother visiting their child.

    Boothby was a cool character to meet, and reminded me a lot of Picard's brother from "Family." This is a smart man who may not understand how a warp drive works, but he does know the politics of the Academy and he understands people.moreless
LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton

Wesley Crusher

Guest Star

Ray Walston

Ray Walston


Guest Star

Robert Duncan McNeill

Robert Duncan McNeill

Cadet First Class Nicholas Locarno

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Trivia: This is the first appearance of Starfleet Academy in any Trek series.

    • Admiral Brand says before the hearing concludes that she has no proof that Nova Squadron lied, only suspicions. However, earlier they showed where when Wesley and the others claimed they were in a diamond-slot flight formation, a Federation observation post record showed a completely different formation.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • Picard: Do you remember the first day you came aboard this ship? Your mother brought you on the bridge.
      Wesley: Yes, sir.
      Picard: You even sat in my chair! I was annoyed! Presumptuous child playing on my ship! But I never forgot how you already knew every control, every display. You behaved as though you belonged on the bridge. Then later, when I decided to make you an Acting Ensign, I was convinced you would make an outstanding officer and I never questioned that conviction. Until now.

    • Picard: Boothby. Jean-Luc Picard, class of '27.
      Bootby: I know that. What happened to your hair?

    • Picard: My superintendent was a Betazoid--full telepath. When he called you to his office, he didn't have to ask what you'd done.

    • Picard: (to Wesley) 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! I'm going to make this simple for you, Mr. Crusher: Either you come forward and tell Admiral Brand what really took place or I will!!

  • NOTES (8)

    • A Franklin Mint replica of the Enterprise is seen on Wesley's quarters.

    • Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, and Michael Dorn only appear in the opening scene of this episode.

    • Ray Walston appears as the groundskeeper Boothby in this episode and reprised the role in two episodes of Star Trek Voyager "In The Flesh", and "The Fight"."

    • Ensign Lefler was slated to be in this episode. However, Ashley Judd was unable to appear.

    • Features recycled building shots from "Justice," used as buildings at Starfleet Academy.

    • Later on Voyager, a screen cap from this episode of Robert in his cadet uniform (as Locarno) is used as a picture of Tom Paris from his academy days. It can be seen in Admiral Paris' office in an episode of Voyager.

    • The original script had Crusher refusing to turn in himself or his fellow cadets. Rick Berman felt strongly that having the character do so sent the wrong message while the writers felt the character's loyalty to his friends was a more realistic presentation. Berman eventually won out.

    • Robert Duncan McNeill, better known as Lt./Ensign Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager, portrays Cadet Locarno. It was Robert Duncan McNeill's performance in this episode that inspired the character of Tom Paris on Voyager. McNeill was chosen after other applicants failed to meet the creators' idea of Paris.