'Star Trek: The Next Generation': The Top 10 Episodes

Image credit: Robbie Robinson

9. THE FIRST DUTY

LOG ENTRY Picard is on his way to Starfleet Academy on Earth to deliver the commencement address when he gets word that cadet Wesley Crusher — his surrogate son and onetime ensign — was involved in an in-flight training accident with his Nova Squadron teammates that left another cadet dead. During the inquiry that follows, the leader of Nova Squadron, Nicholas Locarno (Robert Duncan McNeill), blames the accident on the dead cadet...a claim that doesn't sit well with Wesley. Picard launches his own investigation on the Enterprise, hoping to shed some light on the accident, and in the process discovers that Nova Squadron was rehearsing a formation flight maneuver so dangerous it was outlawed by the Academy. Locarno wanted the glory that a successful flight during commencement would've brought him, and he persuaded his pilots to help him cover it up. Racked with guilt, Wesley finally comes clean on the stand, clearing his dead friend's name and owning up to the squadron's culpability in his death.

CRITIQUE This somber meditation on the virtues of responsibility also happens to be one of the few good Wesley Crusher episodes. That character has been excoriated by Trek fans for years, but not only is he the catalyst for the events in ''First Duty,'' Wil Wheaton's mature performance finally gives the character some grown-up heft.

TRIVIA Wesley was Gene Roddenberry's middle name. — Marc Bernardin

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