Nova Squadron attempted the dangerous Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with tragic consequences.
- The Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver, attempted by Nova Squadron, was an impressive yet dangerous flight maneuver that resulted in the deaths of all five squad members.
- Nova Squadron’s leader, Nick Locarno, convinced his friends to lie about the maneuver after the tragedy, but Wesley Crusher struggled with the guilt and eventually confessed.
- The ban of the Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver at Starfleet Academy had long-lasting consequences, with Locarno being expelled, Wesley leaving Starfleet, and the tragic deaths of Joshua and Sito Jaxa impacting others’ lives.
An elite group of Starfleet Academy cadet pilots called Nova Squadron performed a dangerous maneuver that got one of their squadmates killed on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In TNG season 5, episode 19, “The First Duty,” Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) struggles with his conscience after he lies about the circumstances of his squadmate’s death. Wesley joined fellow cadets Nicholas Locarno (Robert Duncan McNeill), Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill), Jean Hajar (Walker Brandt), and Joshua Albert in Nova Squadron. Locarno, the team leader, convinced his friends to attempt the dangerous Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver at commencement to impress the higher-ups at Starfleet.
As described after the fact in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The First Duty,” when Nova Squadron secretly practiced the maneuver, their ships collided. The disaster destroyed all five ships, but four of the squad members were able to eject in time. Joshua Albert wasn’t so lucky. After the tragedy, Nick convinces his friends to lie about the maneuver and claim that the crash was Josh’s fault. Although everyone initially agrees, Wesley in particular struggles to go along with the lie. After satellite footage reveals the truth, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) confronts Wesley, pressuring him to come clean. After Wesley confesses, Nick Locarno accepts the blame for the tragedy and is expelled.
Why Nova Squadron’s Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver Was Banned
Locarno arrogantly believed Nova Squadron could do the Kolvoord Starburst.
The Kolvoord Starburst was not only one of the most impressive and complex flight maneuvers, but it was also one of the most dangerous. If performed correctly, the maneuver would result in a spectacular starburst, but even a slight miscalculation or mistake could result in disaster. The Starburst Maneuver required five small ships to cross within ten meters of each other and ignite their plasma trails. The ships would fly in a circular formation before crossing within the circle and flying off in opposite directions to create a star effect. The maneuver required incredibly precise flying and would have been difficult for even well-trained pilots, let alone Starfleet cadets, no matter how talented.
The Kolvoord Starburst was banned at Starfleet Academy in the 2260s after an accident that resulted in the deaths of all five flight squadron members.
Believing they were the best pilots at the Academy, Nick Locarno proposed the Starburst maneuver as a way for the Starfleet Academy cadets to make history and impress important visiting guests. Because the maneuver was banned, Nova Squadron could not officially practice it, and both Wesley and Joshua expressed doubt about being able to perform it. While the cadets only wanted to dazzle their superiors, the survivors ended up with black marks on their Starfleet careers and lost a close friend.
How TNG’s Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver Tragedy Changed 5 Star Trek Characters’ Lives
Star Trek: Lower Decks’ season 4 finale flashes back to the events just before Nova Squadron’s accident, showing Nick Locarno’s obvious enthusiasm and Wesley and Joshua’s reticence. The episode then picks up thirteen years later, as the now disgraced former cadet Locarno puts his plan for revenge against Starfleet into motion. After being expelled from Starfleet Academy, the resentful Nick eventually developed a plan to “liberate” Starfleet’s Lower Deckers from the “soulless bureaucratic captains” and “incompetent commanders” they were forced to serve under. As Lt. Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and the crew members of the USS Cerritos fight to stop him, Nick ends up being killed by the black market Genesis Device he was using as leverage.
Jean Hajar is the only Nova Squadron member whose life after the accident remains unknown.
After Joshua’s tragic death, Sito Jaxa joined the USS Enterprise-D, but she felt the need to prove herself and soon lost her life to Cardassians while on a dangerous mission. Wesley Crusher ended up leaving Starfleet to join the Travelers, and while he never references the accident as an inciting incident, it likely affected his decision. Indirectly, Beckett Mariner’s life and career trajectory were also affected by the tragedy. While at the Academy, Mariner looked up to Sito, and she reevaluated her entire perspective on Starfleet after Sito’s death. The Nova Squadron tragedy had ramifications that continue to echo throughout the Star Trek franchise, thirty years after the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode aired.