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First Flight (episode)

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"First Flight"
ENT, Episode 2x24
Production number: 050
First aired: 14 May 2003
49th of 97 produced in ENT
49th of 97 released in ENT
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 97 released in ENT Remastered  
678th of 728 released in all
NX alpha
Written By
John Shiban & Chris Black

Directed By
LeVar Burton
Unknown (March 2153/2143/October, 2150)
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When he is told of the death of an old rival, Archer reflects on his days in the NX test program.

Summary Edit

Enterprise detects a nebula of what they believe to be dark matter. Although it is not visible at the moment, Captain Archer recalls an experiment where Vulcans excited dark matter using metreon particles, and Archer decides to give it a try in a shuttlepod. Archer's excitement at discovering the nebula is dampened when Admiral Forrest contacts him and informs him that an old comrade, A.G. Robinson, had died in a mountaineering accident.

After Trip Tucker loads six spatial charges onto a shuttlepod to excite the dark matter, the two briefly discuss Robinson and how he survived all the warp trials only to die in a random accident. Trip offers to come along, but Archer would rather go alone. Before he can go, T'Pol arrives and insists on accompanying him due to ship regulations prohibiting the captain from leaving the ship unaccompanied.

As they had to the first set of coordinates to launch the charges, T'Pol asks Archer about Robinson having gotten the basic details from Trip. Although Archer initially claims that he doesn't want to talk about it, he finally begins to tell her about him and how they were in the NX test program along with a couple of others and that they both wanted to be be the pilot of the first flight to break Warp 2...

Commander Jonathan Archer meets with Commodore Forrest and proudly announces that he achieved a 92% efficiency in the warp reactor simulation. But he is disappointed when Forrest tells him that Robinson had been selected to pilot the NX-Alpha. Archer is clearly disappointed, but promises to fully support Robinson's flight. That night, he has a drink with Robinson and several other pilots at the 602 Club. Taking him aside, Robinson tells Archer that he did not get the assignment because he is too by-the-book and that Starfleet want someone with more than just piloting ability take command of the first starship.

T'Pol is confused, as she had thought Archer and Robinson were friends but it sounds like they were opposed to each other. Archer admits they were more rivals than anything at this point, but they both enjoyed the competition. T'Pol points out that Robinson was right, in that it takes more than piloting abilities to be a Captain. Archer agrees, and T'Pol notes that he has developed the necessary skills. Archer is bemused that T'Pol just gave him what came close to a compliment, but tells her than the test flight didn't go to plan.

Flight director station, NX Control

Jonathan Archer supervising the flight of the NX-Alpha in 2143

Two weeks later, however, Robinson easily breaks the warp 2 barrier. But when he ignores orders to drop to impulse, he accelerates and the ship explodes shortly after reaching warp 2.2. Robinson, fortunately, survived by jettisoning an escape pod while at warp.

At this point, Archer and T'Pol launch two of the charges but fail to get a reaction. They decide to move deeper into the nebula, and T'Pol asks what happened next. Archery notes that Robinson did indeed enter the history books as the first Human to deploy an escape pod at warp. However no-one was very happy.

The Vulcans immediately claim that this proves that Humans are progressing in warp technology too quickly, and that the warp program will have to be postponed and the warp engine built from scratch. Archer expresses outrage at the idea, and he is joined by Lieutenant Charles Tucker, an engineer working on the NX Program.

Later in the 602 Club, Archer and Tucker agree that it isn't the engine at fault, but rather the intermix ratio. However Forrest arrives with bad news... on the advice of the Vulcan Advisory Council, Starfleet Command has decided to put the NX Program on indefinite hold and wish to begin designing a new engine from scratch, a process that will likely take years if not decades.

Later, after Forrest has left, Robinson arrives after his debriefing. Archer and Tucker ask him what he told Starfleet and the Vulcans and he tells them he told the truth. This just adds to Archer's anger, as if Robinson had claimed pilot error they could have had a chance to save the NX-program. Robinson tells him that he had no intention of taking the blame and wants Jonathan to admit that his father's warp engine design is not sound. Archer is incensed and the two get into a fight which is shortly broken up.

The shuttlepod's systems are affected by the dark matter. T'Pol in unsure if they should proceed, but Archer tells her that taking risks is part of their job, something Robinson taught him. He admits that the fight turned out to be the beginning of his friendship with AG, who may have been responsible for nearly derailing the program but was also partly responsible for getting it back on track.

Archer discovers Robinson in the locker room packing, and convinces him that if they could get the intermix right, the ship would achieve stable warp flight. The two apologize for their earlier words, with Archer admitting that he had problems being objective about the engine but knows that if they prove the findings they can stop the program being scrapped. Robinson points out that the Vulcans will need a lot more than just findings, and reminds Archer they still have the NX-Beta. Archer knows they'll never get clearance, but Robinson never said anything about getting clearance and reminds him that a good captain will need to take risks. Archer is reluctant, knowing this likely lead to dismissal from Starfleet and possibly even prison, but agrees.

Archer and T'Pol fire the second round of charges which again fail, leaving them with only one more attempt to excite the dark matter. T'Pol notes there is no record of Starfleet pilots stealing the NX-Beta. Archer thinks T'Pol doesn't believe him, and she responds that the part of the story she has trouble believing is that he had to be convinced to take the risk. Archer tells her he was quite different back then, an officer who always followed the rules. T'Pol wants to hear what happened, and Archer agrees on the condition she doesn't enter it into the Vulcan database.

Archer and Robinson decide to launch at night, and Tucker quickly agrees to assist on the ground. Trip notes how much he wishes he could go out there too, and Archer promises to have the engineer on his crew if he ever gets his own ship. Tucker disables the tracking sensors and creates false data to make it appear the NX-Beta will still be in its hangar. NX-Beta launches and it goes unobserved by people outside, but the three officers know it won't be long before New Berlin's sensors pick the ship up. Archer and Robinson are unconcerned, knowing they'll be too far away to be caught before then.

Indeed, New Berlin quickly detects the ship and Commodore Forest realizes what has happened almost immediately. On the NX-Beta, Robinson allows Archer to pilot since he got to do it last time. Watching the intermix closely, they receive a communication from Forrest ordering them to return immediately promising he'll do his best to see they avoid criminal charges if they do. The officers cut him off and just as Forrest thinks things can't get any worse two Vulcans enter, ruining any chance he had of keeping this incident from them.

NX-Beta reaches Warp 2, but then starts to have the same engine problems that the NX-Alpha had. Robinson quickly brings it under control and the ship holds steady at Warp 2.5, a new record. Forrest congratulates them, and sternly orders them back to Earth.

Archer and Robinson are hauled to Forrest's office where he furiously reprimands them for their actions, telling them their actions were irresponsible, reckless and verging on criminal. He immediately suspends them from duty and reminds them that they've undermined the program by making it seem like Starfleet can't keep its pilots under control. Archer and Robinson accept they're likely to be kicked out of Starfleet for this, but its a small sacrifice to keep the NX-program going. Every engineer on the staff believes the engines work, and Archer asks Forrest why they're waiting to explore the galaxy.

Archer tells T'Pol that he and Robinson managed to avoid a court martial, but were suspended for three months. However the NX-program continued, and for over a year the Vulcans ran every test they could on the engine before finally confirming the design worked. Eight months later, the NX-Delta broke the Warp 3 barrier and five years later Enterprise was built.

The particle density of the dark matter has increased, so they decide to fire the last two charges. At first, nothing seems to happen... but then, a few seconds later, a new nebula begins to appear. T'Pol admits this is going to cause a debate at the Vulcan Science Directorate, however Archer is enraptured at the beauty of what's happening, and he urges T'Pol to leave the sensors alone and just watch what is happening. He tells her that this sort of thing is why he and AG worked so hard and risked so much. T'Pol notes that Robinson obviously wanted to command Enterprise as much as Archer did. Archer tells her that while there were plenty of candidates, he and Robinson were the final two remaining. Six months before Enterprise's launch, Archer was selected to command the new starship.

Captain Robinson congratulates Captain Archer on getting the much-wanted assignment, joking that he'd rather wait for NX-02 so that Archer can make all the mistakes first. He then leaves to get an early night as he has survival training the next day, but promises he'll see Archer 'out there'.

Archer is sad at the thought that Robinson never did make it into deep space, as he and T'Pol head back to Enterprise. Docking, T'Pol reminds him of the human custom that when someone makes a discovery of merit they have the right to name it. Archer suggests the T'Pol-Archer Nebula, but T'Pol believes the Robinson Nebula would be a more appropriate choice. Archer is touched by her thoughtfulness.

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Memorable quotes Edit

"All the close calls he had flying warp trials and he gets himself killed climbing Mount McKinley."

- Archer on A.G. Robinson's death

"There were just a few of us; Gardner, Duvall, A.G. and me. We all wanted the first flight."

- Archer reminiscing to T'Pol about the NX test program

"You remember what Buzz Aldrin said when he stepped onto the moon?"
"No."
"Nobody does. Because Armstrong went first."

- Archer and Ruby

"Congratulations."
"You mean that?"
"Of course not. I'm waiting for Forrest to realize what a horrible mistake he made."

- Archer and Robinson

"When the first warp five starship is built, its captain won't be able to call home every time he needs to make a decision. He won't be able to turn to the Vulcans. Unless he decides to take one with him."

- A.G. Robinson, to Archer

"Don't worry, you'll get out there some day. If I had my own ship, I'd sign you up in a second."
"I'm going to hold you to that!"

- Archer and Tucker

"We didn't build this engine to make test runs around Jupiter. We built it to explore! If my father were alive today, he'd be standing here asking: 'What the hell are we waiting for?' "

- Archer, to Commodore Forrest

Background information Edit

Shooting First Flight

A.G. Robinson actor Keith Carradine laughing with Director LeVar Burton, during the creation of this episode

First Flight sailors

LeVar Burton with actors Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer as well as a trio of sailors from the USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

First Flight fight talk

Keith Carradine discussing, with Director of Photography Marvin V. Rush, a fight scene from this episode

DVD releasesEdit

Links and references Edit

Main cast Edit

Guest stars Edit

Special guest star Edit

Co-stars Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

References Edit

602 Club; Aldrin, Buzz; Alice Springs; Ariane; Archer, Henry; Armstrong, Neil; auxiliary power; beer; bourbon; Bread Salad; Burger and Fries; Caroline; Chester; court martial; Cyrus; dark-matter nebula; Duvall; EPS grid; escape pod; Fontana: Gardner; Holmes, Sherlock; International Space Station; Italy; Jefferies; Jupiter; Jupiter, moons of; kilometer; logic; Luna; Mount McKinley; midnight oil; mushrooms; New Berlin; NX Control; NX Program; NX-Alpha; NX-Beta; NX-Delta; NX-class; pretzel; O'Herlihy; Potato Gratin; quantum field; rib; Robinson Nebula; Rosalie; Rosti a la 602; Sandwich de Jour; San Francisco; Starfleet Mission Control; Starfleet Museum; Steamed Veggies; Tucker, Charles I; Tucker, Charles II; Tycho Base; Vulcan; Vulcan Advisory Council; Vulcan database; Vulcan Science Directorate; warp 2 barrier; warp barrier; warp drive

Background referencesEdit

Akers, Thomas; Anders, William; Anderson, Michael Phillip; Antarctica; Apollo; Apollo missions; Apollo program; Apollo spacecraft; Bean, Alan; Ariane 1; astronaut pin; Baker, Michael A.; Barry, Daniel T.; Belgium; Bluford, Guion; Borman, Frank; Brandenstein, David; Brown, David McDowell; Buchli, James; Canada; Canadian Space Agency; Casper, John; Cernan, Eugene; Chaffee, Roger B.; Chawla, Kalpana; Chilton, Kevin P.; Clark, Laurel; Clipper ship; Coats, Michael; Conrad, Pete; Covey, Richard; Creighton, John Oliver; Cunningham, Walter; Denmark; Duke, Charles; eagle; Earth; Eisele, Donn F.; Endeavour (OV-105); Endeavour, HMS; Enterprise, USS (XCV-330); Evans, Ronald; European Space Agency; France; Galaxy; Germany; Gidzenko, Yuri; Gordon, Richard F., Jr.; Great Britain; Grissom, Gus; Hammond, L. Blaine; Harbaugh, Gregory J.; Hauck, Frederick; Helms, Susan J.; Hieb, Richard; Hilmers, David C.; Husband, Richard Douglas; International Space Station; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Irwin, James; Jernigan, Tamara E.; Kerwin, Joseph P.; Krikalev, Sergei; Latin language; Lounge, John M.; Lovell, Jim; Luna; MacLean, Steven; Maple; Mattingly, Ken; McCool, William Cameron; McDivitt, James; McMonagle, Donald R.; Melnick, Bruce E.; Microgravity; Mission Control Center; Mitchell, Edgar; Mullane, Mike; Nelson, George; Netherlands; North America; Ochoa, Ellen; Old Britain; Olive Branch; Onizuka, Ellison; Payette, Julie; Payton, Gary; Phoenix; Ramon, Ilan; Rominger, Kent; Roosa, Stuart; Runco, Mario, Jr.; Russia; Russian Space Agency; Saturn; Saturn V; Schirra, Wally; Schmitt, Harrison; Schweickart, Rusty; Scott, David; Shepard, Alan; Shepherd, William; Shriver, Loren; Skylab; South America; Soyuz; Space shuttle; Space shuttle missions; Spain; Stafford, Thomas P.; Sweden; Switzerland; Thornton, Kathryn C.; Thuot, Pierre J.; Tokarev, Valeri; United States of America; Veach, Charles L.; Weitz, Paul, J.; Wetherbee, Jim; White, Edward Higgins; Worden, Alfred; Young, John


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Star Trek: Enterprise
Season 2
Next episode:
"Bounty"

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