Cadet First Class Nicholas "Nick" Locarno was the leader of Starfleet Academy's Nova Squadron in 2368. He was expelled from Starfleet Academy after causing the death of a fellow cadet and forcing those under him to cover up the accident.
Shortly before commencement, on stardate 45703, the Nova Squadron flight team was involved in an accidental collision trying to do the highly controversial and banned Kolvoord Starburst maneuver for the graduation ceremony on the Academy Flight Range near one of Saturn's moons, Titan. Cadet Joshua Albert was killed in the crash, while the other members of the team were able to activate their emergency transporters to escape their doomed ships.
Locarno convinced his team members – Wesley Crusher, Sito Jaxa, and Jean Hajar – that the accident was Albert's fault and persuaded them to ultimately cover up the fact that they performed a prohibited maneuver and lie at the subsequent hearing. However, the truth was discovered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard who believed that Locarno wanted to end his Academy career in a blaze of glory and that he convinced the other team members to learn the Kolvoord Starburst for the commencement demonstrations, allowing Locarno to graduate as a living legend. Outraged and furious, Picard confronted Wesley Crusher about it, asking him to either come forward or else he would do it for him. Locarno, who had always insisted that everything he did was for his friends and the team, took full responsibility for the accident and was subsequently expelled from the Academy. Locarno made a passionate plea to the inquiry board which saved the other members also from almost certain expulsion. (TNG: "The First Duty")
|Members of Nova Squadron|
|Nicholas Locarno • Jean Hajar • Sito Jaxa • Wesley Crusher • Joshua Albert|
Nicholas Locarno was played by actor Robert Duncan McNeill.
Locarno was the inspiration for Star Trek: Voyager's Tom Paris. In interviews, the producers of Voyager claimed Locarno's actions made him irredeemable, and therefore a new character was required. (TNG Season 5 DVD) Voyager Producer Jeri Taylor has stated, "We had liked the idea of a character like Tom Paris ever since we had done "First Duty" and had Lecarno [sic.]. We didn't make Lecarno the con officer, because he was somewhat darker and more damaged. We felt Lecarno couldn't be redeemed and we wanted to be on a journey of redemption." On the same occasion Taylor confirmed that McNeill had always been the first choice for the character, "We knew from the get-go we were going to read this guy," thereby squashing the contemporary rumor that it had been a stroke of inspiration from Executive Producer Rick Berman. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 27, issue 4/5, p. 62)
Robert Duncan McNeill said in a 1997 interview that while they may seem similar, Locarno and Tom Paris were actually quite different. He remarked, "Locarno seemed like a nice guy, but deep down he was a bad guy. Tom Paris is an opposite premise in a way. Deep down he's a good guy. He's just made some mistakes."  Having had almost a quarter of a century to think about it, McNeill stood by his assessment when he reiterated in 2020, "I think Locarno was a bad guy who pretended to be a good guy. Deep down inside, he was rotten. In contrast, inside Tom was a good guy who pretended to be a bad guy. He sort of wanted everybody to think he didn't give a damn and that he was a lone wolf, but deep down he wasn't like that." (Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration, pp.55-56)
Taylor even proceeded from the assumption that McNeill was to reprise the Locarno character for Voyager, as her preliminary story notes of 3 August 1993 during the development stage of the new series showed and where he was mentioned by name as one of the main protagonists, reiterated in her story notes of 10 August. However, by the time a preliminary version of the series' "Writer's Bible" was drafted at the end of September, the character's name was, for whatever reason, changed into that of Tom Paris. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager, pp. 178, 186 & 208)
"The First Duty" writers Ronald D. Moore and Naren Shankar never bought into the "irredeemable" argument however, stating on a later occasion that they were "bummed" that the very same actor McNeill was recast as Tom Paris, instead of reprising his role as Locarno as they could see no valid reason as to why Locarno's actions should have been irredeemable whereas Paris' equally serious actions were not – especially since the character of Locarno confederate Sito Jaxa (also played twice by the same actress) was very much redeemable in TNG: "Lower Decks".
The question of who is redeemable and who is not, later on played an even bigger role in Kurtzman-era Star Trek when Star Trek: Discovery's Michael Burnham committted an act far more heinous than Locarno's by singlehandedly causing an all-out war, but who was releatively easily redeemed nonetheless, a fact not lost on the show's critics.
A photo of McNeill as Locarno was later used as a photo of young Tom Paris on Admiral Owen Paris' desk in the Voyager episode "Pathfinder". His uniform from this episode was later sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
In the Star Trek novella Revenant, Nicholas Locarno joined the privateers of Celtic - a private starship - in 2380 where they boarded a vessel taken by the Borg. Locarno joined the boarding party, but it turned out that the away team had been sent there to be assimilated by the Borg. He subsequently allowed himself to be assimilated with the other members of the crew.