A.G. Robinson was a 22nd century Starfleet officer who was a pilot in the NX Project with the rank of commander. In this capacity, he – along with Commanders Gardner, Duvall, and Jonathan Archer – competed for the position to become the first Human to break the Warp 2 barrier during an historic spaceflight in 2143.
Robinson was a close friend of fellow pilot Commander Jonathan Archer, despite fierce competition between the two to become the first to test the NX-Alpha, one of two vessels designed to break the warp 2 barrier. Although Archer had worked exceptionally hard to attain the privilege of piloting that historic test flight, then-Commodore Maxwell Forrest gave the assignment to Robinson. Robinson later celebrated in the 602 Club, where he met Archer. He told him his belief that the reason Archer had not been chosen for the assignment was that Archer had "tried too hard" to be the first one to make the flight.
During the test flight, as the ship passed warp 2, a malfunction was detected aboard the NX-Alpha and Robinson was ordered by Forrest to abort. Robinson refused the order, believing he could get the craft to go faster. The ship's warp field ultimately collapsed, destroying the craft just as it reached warp 2.2. However, Robinson was able to eject his escape pod in time, becoming the first person to deploy an escape pod while at warp, a feat which landed him in the history books along with being the first Human to achieve warp 2.
Upon returning to Earth, Robinson was berated by Archer and Forrest for disobeying orders and destroying the NX-Alpha. Robinson argued that the order to abort was premature, believing the instability would subside as it had in previous tests. Robinson spent the majority of the next day in debriefing with Starfleet's senior staff and members of the Vulcan High Command. Following this, Starfleet, at the urging of the Vulcans, suspended the program indefinitely.
That night, Robinson met with Archer and one of the program's engineers, Lieutenant Charles Tucker III, at the 602 Club. There, Robinson made clear his belief that the test's failure was the result of a faulty engine. Archer, whose father, Henry, designed the engine, held Robinson responsible for the program's suspension, especially since Robinson did not even suggest the possibility of pilot error, giving the Vulcans reasons to declare that Starfleet's warp did not work. Robinson rebutted by proclaiming that Archer's father "designed a lousy engine." This led to a fist fight in which Robinson bruised two of Archer's ribs and cracked one of his molars before Tucker and other bystanders intervened.
After this incident, Robinson admitted to Archer that he was out of line. Archer, however, believed Robinson to have been correct: the telemetry of Robinson's flight suggested the malfunction was due to an inherent flaw in the engine design, which Archer believed Tucker could compensate for. With Tucker's assistance, Robinson and Archer conducted an unauthorized flight of the NX-Beta to prove to Starfleet and the Vulcans that the engine was sound and the project was worth continuing. The two pilots managed to safely reach a speed of Warp 2.5, with Robinson giving up the pilot seat to Archer to make the record-breaking flight. Though the two were grounded for three months as a result of their actions, they were ultimately successful in convincing Starfleet to resume the program.
After being promoted to captain, Robinson was a candidate to command the first Warp 5 ship, Enterprise NX-01, though he was passed up in favor of Archer six months prior to the ship's launch. In late 2150, he met with Archer – who had just been given command of Enterprise – for a drink at the 602 Club. When Robinson left the bar, he was scheduled to fly, the next morning, to Alice Springs, Australia, for survival training. He expected to be given command of the next NX-class ship (later named Columbia); however, he ultimately never had the chance to command that vessel.
In March of 2153, Robinson was killed while climbing Mount McKinley on Earth. The Robinson Nebula, a dark-matter nebula discovered by Archer and Sub-Commander T'Pol just after Robinson's death, was named in his honor. (ENT: "First Flight")
A.G. Robinson was played by actor Keith Carradine.
In the final draft script of "First Flight", A.G. Robinson was described as "roughly Archer's age, charismatic, confident – maybe a bit arrogant." A later scene description, while Robinson was undertaking the mission to break the warp 2 barrier, remarked, "This guy's a cool one – though we can sense the tension beneath his banter. He knows how important this mission is better than anyone." Robinson was also characterized in the script as "typically unflappable."
Casting the role was initially very challenging. "We really needed a strong actor to play A.G. Robinson," explained Director LeVar Burton. "Everybody agreed from the very beginning that we wanted to really go for somebody really terrific and go for someone with a name. The list came down from Casting and there were some really interesting names on it... and when I looked at the list, there was one name that just really jumped out at me and that was Keith Carradine." The fact that Burton believed Carradine would make a good match for Archer actor Scott Bakula influenced the director's selection of Carradine. "After some discussion, it was decided to make an offer to him, to see if he would come and play," Burton stated. ("LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director", ENT Season 2 DVD/Blu-ray special features)
Keith Carradine himself remembered, "They called my agent. The script came in and [the producers] looked at the character and they all said the same thing to me: 'This is a great part. We need to get somebody really good for this.' I guess my name was in the hat [....] I said, 'Yeah, sure. This will be fun' [....] I just thought it would be fun to do. Everyone I spoke to said that I would have the best time [....] When I took all of that and combined it with the nature of the role, which I thought was a really fun part to play, it was really a no-brainer [....] I just figured it was a hole in my resume that needed to be filled. I didn't want to be the only actor in Hollywood who had never done one! [....] I am really glad that I finally got to be in one." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 145, pp. 51, 52 & 53)
Reception and aftermathEdit
LeVar Burton was thankful to God that Keith Carradine agreed to portray Robinson. "He's been absolutely phenomenal in the part," remarked Burton, during production on "First Flight". ("LeVar Burton: Star Trek Director", ENT Season 2 DVD/Blu-ray special features)