Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 119 (The First Duty)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Wesley Crusher started out as a regular character during the first few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He seemed to annoy most regular viewers mostly because he as this gifted kid that always did something really smart and saved the day, usually showing up several people that had professional training, such as the chief engineer. Eventually, he left the Enterprise to study at Starfleet Academy.

Here he is, a year or two later, part of the Academy’s flight squad. The Enterprise is arriving for the commencement ceremonies where the flight squad will be performing and Captain Picard will be giving the commencement speech. Before the Enterprise arrives, though, the flight squad is in an accident. Wesley and three others make it with only minor injuries, but one member of the five-person squad dies. The Enterprise arrives in time for the inquiry, which is led by the admiral in charge of the Academy a Vulcan captain.

It turns out that the leader of the flight squad is pushing the rest of the survivors to cover up the truth. They were actually going to perform a stunt that was prohibited by the Academy because it is so dangerous. (The last time it was attempted, no one survived.) Eventually, it comes to light what happened and Picard puts it together. He gives Wesley two choices: Either Wesley can tell the Admiral what happened or Picard will tell the Admiral what happened. Eventually, Wesley chooses to admit what happened. The leader of the squad takes most of the blame for what happened and is expelled; the other three members have the previous year’s credits revoked.

This was the first indication that Wesley Crusher is capable of making a big mistake. It can be hard to live up to the potential that Wesley has. A lot of responsibility and trust is placed on him, not only by the Academy, but also by Picard and the entire crew of the Enterprise. To boot, every person that age wants to fit in. The trouble is that he’s a little too eager to please the leader of the flight squad and is willing to cover up what happened rather than tell the truth and face the consequences. Had Picard not found out and called Wesley on it, the flight squad would have gotten away with it. (I have to wonder how they would have explained it had they gone through with it. Someone might have said something and brought charges against them anyway.)

Someone who hasn’t watched Star Trek: The Next Generation a lot before this episode probably won’t get all of the references. For instance, when Wesley was getting ready to leave for the Academy, he mentioned Boothy, the groundskeeper, who appears in this episode. (He reprises the role in Star Trek: Voyager, where Robert Duncan McNeill stared as Tom Paris, although I don’t recall if they had any scenes together.) It’s still possible to enjoy the episode, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning of the series if you’re planning on watching the entire thing. This is one of those episodes that you really shouldn’t watch out of order.

I give the episode four stars. If I was buying the series on VHS, I’d buy this one. However, if I do buy the series, I’ll probably buy it on DVD.

IMDb page

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