The Rewatch 193: The First Duty

Series: Star Trek: TNG
Episode: 5.19 The First Duty (3/30/1992)
Rating: 4/5
Redshirt Status: 0/1/35

Notable Guest Stars:
Ray Walston (Boothby) – Wiki states that he is most known for My Favorite Martian, but I know him best as Luther Billis in South Pacific (1958)

Robert Duncan McNiel (Nick Locarno)- He’s Tom Paris.  Also a well known director of television, including shows like Chuck.

Jaqueline Brookes (Admiral Brand)- She appeared on several soap operas over the years but her main call was the theater.  She also appeared in the 1993 horror film The Good Son staring Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood.

Walker Brandt (Jean Hajar)- Brandt does a mix of acting and producing.  Her first role was in the comedy City Slickers with Billy Crystal.

Shannon Fill (Sito Jaxa) – Fill will appear again as Jaxa later in the series.  She had a relatively short career in film.  She also had a career in figure skating.

Review:

This episode is kinda of weird.  Mostly because of stuff that came after this episode, so if you were (or are) watching this for the first time it wouldn’t be known to you.  But lets start with the basics of the episode.

We start the episode with the Enterprise coming Home for the Starfleet Acadamy Graduation ceremony.  This episode really develops what the Acadamy is like.  We learn it is run by an Admiral, known as the Superintendent of the Academy.  At this time that is Admiral Brand, who happens to be an acquaintance of Picard’s.  She’s the one who informs Picard that Wesley and his team of flight pilots have had an accident.  Wesley was injured, not severely, but another member of the crew died as a result.

The episode covers the investigation into the accident, trying to figure out what all happened.  There are five members of the Nova Squadron.  Nick Locarno is the senior classman and squadron leader. He’s charming and appears to be genuinely nice.  Other then Wesley he’s the most developed in this episode.  Jean Hajar,  a female cadet is almost a background character.  Sito Jaxa will be developed further in a later season. Also there is the ghost of Cadet Albert, the one who died.

Nick attempts to lay blame at Albert’s feet, which makes the others uneasy, as it is untrue. Locarno had decided to do an illegal maneuver, which caused Albert’s death. It was an accident, but Locarno definitely doesn’t want the attention. Wesley struggles with the situation through out the episode, and his lack of truth giving makes both Beverly and Picard disappointed in him as they figure out the truth.

Eventually Wesley tells the truth.  Picard is glad, although he knows Wesley is going to have a hard time as he is seen as betraying his squadron.  The moral of the episode is supposed to be that the first duty of an officer is to tell the truth, which Wesley finally does.

Nick Locarno does get suspended.  He ends up taking full blame of the situation, which is slightly redeemable. Since he was basically threatening other members of the team to stay quiet and actively trying to coverup that it was his idea, he’s not completely redeemable.  Which brings us to why this episode is weird.  You see, Voyager is coming.  In Voyager we have a charming young pilot named Tom Paris.  Tom was a Lieutenant in Starfleet when he was involved in a flight accident.  Two people were killed.  Eventually he came forward with information that caused him to be kicked out of Starfleet.  Sound familiar?  He’s also played by Robert Duncan McNeil.

The whys and hows of Nick Locarno turning into Tom Paris seem debatable, and I have seen several different stories.  The most consistent seem to be that there were two main reasons why Tom Paris was born.  The first is that it was not fiscally seeable.  This episode was written by non-staff writers, so royalties would have to be paid out each time they used Locarno.  Also, the writers begin to think Locarno was not really all that redeemable.  Still, they liked the idea of someone in that kind of situation redeeming himself. Thus, Tom Paris was born.

After you watch Voyager, it’s a little weird to watch this episode. While their backstory is similar, if you watch enough Voyager, Tom is different. So, you recognize Robert Duncan McNeil as Tom, yet it definitely is not Tom you are seeing.

I’m not sure how to grade this. I’m giving it a 4 because it’s a good episode, its just not one of my favorites.  The actors do an excellent job, and this fleshes out several of them, and Starfleet as a whole.

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Ronald D. Moore (staff writer)  Naren Shankar (non-staff writer)
  • Directed by Paul Lynch
  • This episode is the first appearance of the Starfleet Academy despite being mentioned in all series.
  • This episode influences several episodes afterwards, as well as the development of the character of Tom Paris, who is a regular on Voyager.
  • First appearance of Boothby, though he was referenced in Season 4.
  • The writers argued about the moral of this story.  Different writers thought it should have been to be loyal to your team, while others stick with the Truth. Michael Piller ended up being the deciding vote
  • Moore and Shankar wrote this influenced by Shankar’s experiences in ROTC

Pros

  • Its nice to be on Earth.
  • Pretty location sets.
  • Development of Academy

Cons:

  •  I wished they had developed some of the other Squadron members more.

Screencap via CygnusX1.net

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