Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 20): The Arsenal of Freedom

Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

The Enterprise visits the uninhabited planet Minos to discover more about the disappearance of the USS Drake. After arriving to the planet, they are hailed by an automated sales message, from a hologram, requesting that they buy arms on the planet. On the planet, the Away Team learns that though the planet is uninhabited, it still possesses active and somewhat sentient weapons systems that not only targeted and destroyed the Drake, but are now also targeting the Enterprise.

Picard inexplicably beams to the planet’s surface leaving Geordi in charge of the ship. After fleeing from an attack drone, Picard and Dr. Crusher end up stuck in an underground base while Riker, Yar, and Data try to stay alive above ground. Geordi is being attacked by a cloaked weapon outside of the planet’s orbit. Picard learns that the underground bunker is where the planet’s defense system is located. Eventually Picard figures out how to turn off the planet’s defense systems – by agreeing to buy one from its hologram salesperson – while Geordi successfully fends off an attack in the planet’s atmosphere.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Captain’s Log Stardate 41798.2

The Enterprise is sent by Starfleet to investigate the disappearance of the USS Drake. The Drake was itself sent to investigate a mystery on the planet Minos which began when long range censors had indicated that all intelligent life on the planet disappeared.

On the bridge, Riker tells Picard that the communication logs indicate the Drake reported arriving on Minos but was then never heard from again. Data tells Picard that the citizens of Minos gained fame as arms merchants. Data says the people of the planet manufactured sophisticated and highly advanced weaponry – even selling to both sides of on-going wars.

Riker tells Picard that he went to the Academy with the Captain of the Drake. Riker says that whatever happened must have happened quickly or he would have reported it to Starfleet. Troi asks Riker how the Drake’s captain handles stress and Riker replies that Captain Paul Rice is confident, to the point of arrogance, but that he carries it well because he is usually right. Riker relays a story about Rice writing in an answer, for an Academy exam, when he did not like the three multiple choice options provided. Riker says that the test now has four possible answers.

Yar asks Riker if he was offered command of the Drake and he says that he was. Riker says that at the time he was offered the position on the Drake, he thought it would be more advantageous to be first officer on the Enterprise, instead.

Data reports that the ship’s scans of the planet indicate that there are no signs of intelligent life on Minos. The various members of the bridge speculate upon what may have happened to the people of Minos. Yar says that even in the worst disasters, there are almost always survivors. Data suddenly announced that the ship is being hailed. Picard puts the message on screen. It becomes clear after a moment that the message is an automated advertisement for the plant’s military arms.

Minos – the arsenal of freedom. Perfection in highly advanced weaponry.

Data eventually has to explain to Picard, who attempted a few times to talk to the advertisement, that it was a pre-recorded message. Picard gives the command to shut the advert off. Picard says that if an automated advert is still operational, other automated devices – including weapons – may also still be operational. Riker assembles an Away Team to assess the dangers lying on the planet and to shut off any potential dangers the planet may possess.

Minos is heavily forested. The Away Team consists of Yar, Data, and Riker. Riker explains how they plan to investigate. Picard tells Riker to keep the channel open. Data then replies that their communications are being monitored. The Away Team finds melted titanium. Riker asks Yar what could do that and she says that it is beyond their technology. Next, Data finds a large and undamaged piece of military equipment. Riker speculates that it is a demonstration model for a potential buyer.

Riker runs into Captain Rice and begins asking him questions. Picard cuts in and informs him that the ship’s censors indicate that the only life signs on the planet are the Away Team. Rice asks Riker who sent him to Minos to look for him. Data and Yar arrive and Data says that Rice is not giving off life signs. Rice again asks Riker who sent him.

Riker: Your mother. She’s worried about you.

Rice takes this in stride and asks Riker to tell him about his ship. He asks Riker if the name of his ship is The Enterprise and Riker replies that the name of his ship is The Lollipop. Rice replies mechanically that he has no knowledge of that ship. Rice continues badgering Riker for answers, Riker continues evading them, and eventually Riker points out aloud that Rice has not Riker’s first name a single time and he asks Rice if he knows it. Rice does not answer. Riker calls him a fake. Suddenly a flying machine in the trees above them turns off the hologram image of Rice. Riker reports this to Picard and Picard orders them to beam back to the ship.

Before Riker can beam away, the machine hits him with an energy field that immobilizes him. Picard starts shouting to Riker to report, asking what has happened, when Yar and Data report to Picard that Riker is encased in an energy field.

Picard: Is he alive?
Data: Unknown.

On the bridge, we learn that the energy field is preventing the ship from beaming Riker back up. Picard asks Data and Yar to speculate about Riker’s situation. Data replies that typically such an energy field encasement is for storage. They suggest that this implies that someone may be planning to come along and collect Commander Riker. Picard tells Data and Yar that he plans to beam down personally along with Dr. Crusher. Picard gives command of the bridge to Geordi. Troi tells Picard that she takes great exception to his decision to beam down. He replies, “noted,” and goes anyway.

On the planet, Data has learned more about the energy field. It was developed for war on Minos. The weapon takes the form of someone trusted to gather information from a subject. If the subject resists giving the needed information, it is designed to hold the subject captive until a more thorough interrogation can occur. Picard asks Data if he can remove it and Data is unsure and also unsure about the danger removing it might pose to Riker. Picard says to proceed anyway as they have no choice.

On the ship. Worf reports indications of energy readings in the area of where the Away Team is located. Geordi informs Picard. Some flying machines arrive to the location of the Away Team and begin firing upon them. Dr. Crusher and Picard fall into a deep hole on the planet’s surface, which leads into a cave system. Crusher appears to be hurt while Picard seems to be fine.

On the planet’s surface, Yar is battling a flying machine. One of them seems able to anticipate her movements so she calls for assistance from Data. Together they take it down with their phasers set to kill. After, they realize that Picard and Dr. Crusher are missing. They also notice that their comms devices are no longer working.

In the cave, Picard and Dr. Crusher, who is conscious, decide that her injuries are quite serious. Picard attempts to beam himself and Dr. Crusher back to the ship. Their comms devices are not working, either. Picard field dresses her injuries – namely a broken arm – using sticks from inside the cave and fabric from Dr. Crusher’s jacket.

On the surface, Data is able to use his phaser to free Riker from the energy field he is trapped inside.

On the ship, someone from the bridge tells Geordi, who is in charge of the ship, that they are now reading vital signs from all five members of the Away Team. Geordi gives the command to beam the Away Team onto the ship. At the moment this happens, the Enterprise itself comes under attack. Geordi says aloud that they cannot beam the Away Team up with shield in place.

The object in space is able to appear and completely disappear. As a result, it is able to take shots at the ship’s shields and then vanish before it is subject to return fire. The Chief Engineer arrives on the bridge. He criticizes the plan to disable the attacking vessel for long enough to beam the Away Team aboard. The Engineer tells La Forge that in view of the present crisis, he believes Geordi should relinquish command to himself. He argues that he outranks Geordi and he states that Picard did not anticipate the ship coming under attack.

The Chief engineer tells Geordi that they have to break orbit now. Geordi asks Worf to analyze the firing pattern such that they can anticipate its location. The Chief Engineer, Mr. Logan, again insists that command of the ship be given to himself. Geordi pushes back forcefully and tells him to return to his duties and provide the ship’s shields with as much power as he can, so that the ship can hold out for as long as possible.

On the surface, Data, Yar, and Riker come under attack again. The flying machines continue to upgrade. This time, the machine has added a deflector shield. Using all three phasers, the officers are able to defeat it. However, Data notes that upgraded machines continue arriving at precisely twelve minute intervals. They do not believe they can defeat an upgraded machine from the one they just faced. They set out to find the rest of their team.

Picard and Dr. Crusher are underground. Picard describes it as an underground structure. Crusher is falling asleep and Picard wakes her up. She says that she must have lost a lot of blood. Picard says that he stopped the bleeding and she informs him that her leg is also wounded. Picard sets her leg, warning her that it will hurt a bit. She groans and then falls back asleep. He wakes her up again. She walks him through treating her injuries. She says the wound needs a clotting agent. She notices some plant roots nearby and asks Picard to inspect them. After verifying that the plant has a bitter taste, and leaves a yellow residue, she tells Picard to spread as much of it as he can onto the wound.

Picard asks Crusher what to do when a patient has lost a great deal of blood from multiple lacerations. She says that the patient is going into shock. She tells Picard to elevate “her” legs and to try to keep the patient warm. Picard elevates her legs. When she asks if he brought a blanket, he says no. He leaves her to warm herself while he looks for a way out of the cave.

On the ship, Geordi continues executing his plan. The ship fires a wide spray of photon torpedoes in the direction from which it has come under fire. They miss. Worf is enraged that they missed. The ship’s shields are beginning to fail. Mr. Logan calls to the bridge to let him know that shields will not hold out much longer. He demands that Geordi tell him something. Geordi appears to be full of doubt and commands Mr. Logan to return ot the bridge. It seems he is preparing to relinquish command. Mr. Logan smugly replies that he is on his way.

On the bridge, Geordi tells Lt. Solis to leave the planet at Warp 5. Logan is now on the bridge and chiding Geordi for leaving the others on the planet.

Geordi: Mr. Logan, you are going to take command… of the saucer section.

Geordi calls together a crew and tells them to report to the Battle Bridge. He tells Logan that he will not risk the one thousand people on the ship.

Geordi goes to his quarters. He is visited there by Troi. She tells him that as Counselor, it is her duty to evaluate the emotional fitness of the crew. Geordi asks her if she senses that he is nervous. She nods and he admits that he is. He explains why. She tells him that he should be proud of how he is handling command thus far. She advises him though that he needs to give guidance and leadership to the young Ensigns Solis and T’su.

Geordi enters the dimly lit Battle Bridge and gives the command to separate the ship’s sections. As the separation is completed, Geordi gives a command to set a course for Minos.

On the planet, underground, Picard reports to Dr. Crusher that they appear to be sealed in. She is getting drowsy. Picard attempts to keep her talking. He asks her how she knew to use those roots for her wound. We learn that Dr. Crusher’s grandmother helped to colonize Arvada III. Picard describes the colony as a great tragedy and asks if Crusher’s grandmother surprised. Crusher explains that when medical supplies ran out, her grandmother learned to use plant life to treat the sick. Crusher says her grandmother taught that to her in turn. Picard says he did not know Dr. Crusher was part of that colony, too. Picard remarks that there must be other things about Dr. Crusher that he does not know and she replies that there are quite a few.

Before we learn what those things are, Picard finds something glowing. It is a view screen. Picard presses a button and the underground bunker where they are located lights up with suddenly activating computer screens. Picard sees a giant screen with three moving dots. He determines that this is a tracking device and it is possibly following the Away Team.

Just then, the hologram projection of the automated salesperson – the one who appeared on screen as the episode began – appears in the bunker with Picard and Dr. Crusher. The hologram descries the military defense equipment they are facing on the planet as “the 607.” The hologram is unable to understand anything other than what it is selling. Picard realizes that the entire planet of Minos was destroyed by the 607. As they are talking, they hear a noise from “the unit’ and the salesperson says that it has analyzed its last attack and has created a newer stronger weapon. The salesperson says that in a moment, it will launch that attack against the targets on the surface.

Picard: Abort it!
Salesman: Why would I want to do that? I can’t demonstrate its abilities unless we let it leave the nest.

On the surface, Data, Riker, and Yar have discovered the hole into which Picard and Dr. Crusher fell. Yar estimates the next attack against them will occur in two minutes. Picard tells them that the attacks are part of a system that is hubbed underground where he is located. Riker says that he cannot climb down and Data says that he can jump the 11.75 meters to the ground below. After Data jumps into the hole, Yar and Riker discuss finding a defensive position on the surface.

La Forge and the star drive section of the Enterprise have returned to Minos. He gives the two Ensigns a pep talk. Picard and Data on the planet overhear another weapon being launched by the machine. Data speaks with the salesman about seeing the program’s schematic. Just then, on the surface, Yar and Riker come under fire and run for cover.

Picard asks Data for ideas when Dr. Crusher suggests just turning the machine off altogether. Picard asks the salesperson to turn it off and he asks Picard if that means he wishes to buy it? Picard says yes. The salesman hologram turns the machine off. The machine attacking Riker and Yar vanishes. Communications are re-established between members of the Away Team, also. Picard informs La Forge that the machine is neutralized. However, Geordi is in the middle of a fight in the atmosphere. He plans to spot the cloaked attacker by its turbulence in the atmosphere. The plan works. The Enterprise destroys its attacker. They lock onto the Away Team and beam them aboard.

Picard and Riker enter the bridge. Picard refuses to let Geordi relinquish command, saying that he gave Geordi the entire ship and that he wants it returned in one piece. Geordi tells Ensign T’su to plot a course to rendezvous with the saucer section. The episode ends with Geordi sitting in the Captain’s chair and issuing the command, “Engage.”

REACTION:

This is a fun episode that seems to have been built around the plot necessity of throwing Geordi La Forge into the command fire. Geordi acquits himself well, of course.

The problem with this episode, though, is that the plot makes very little sense.

  1. Picard beamed himself to the planet surface for seemingly no reason at all. The writers must have known this decision made no sense so they let Troi object to the decision and they let Picard blow her off and say “noted.” Troi represented the audience.
  2. This weapons system went haywire and killed every person living on Minos. But the Enterprise crew were able to turn the system off just by agreeing to purchase a model of the 607? Did nobody on Minos think of just agreeing to buy the weapon as a way to turn it off? This lack of logic really detracted from the message of the episode. Minos created something of a Frankenstein’s monster with their weapons systems and they were destroyed by their own monster. The message was muddled, though.
  3. Once the weapon was turned off, on the planet, Geordi’s space battle should have been nullified. That inexplicably did not happen. We are not told why. If the writers just wanted to have Geordi fight a space battle, couldn’t they have moved that sequence to the moments immediately preceding Picard figuring out how to turn off the machine? That at least would have made sense.
  4. Did the Enterprise crew luck out by beaming the Away Team directly to the location where the machine can be turned off? If they had landed elsewhere, wouldn’t they all be dead? Am I missing something there?
  5. Riker took the death of one of his best friends in stride. Too much so, I think. There’s a lot to fit in here but it might have been nice to get some emotion from Riker – or anyone from the Enterprise – upon learning that everyone from The Drake is dead.

Did Wesley save the day? No! He’s been MIA since failing his Starfleet Academy exam.

Did Dr. Crusher nearly endanger the entire ship via incompetency? No! She actually saved the entire ship, for once. She even walked Picard through treating her shock, while she was in shock. And she even thought to turn the machine off before either Data or Picard did.

Did Picard endanger the entire ship through incompetency? Yes! He left Geordi to fight a battle and stave off a mutiny. I need to make a tally of each bridge member’s catastrophic mistakes. Picard might currently be the leader.

Did Yar fail at her job? Not really. Not overtly. However, her “get out of range” comment, regarding the machine, kind of demonstrates that she’s in over her head at her job. Riker even looked at her as though she is crazy or unqualified.

Do we think that Chief Engineer Logan will keep his job? “Give me the Command, I outrank you” is a tough one to explain to Picard after things work out just fine. I suppose it’s also something that would not be explained later if everything had not worked out in the end.

My favorite part of this episode was the late Vincent Schiavelli‘s Salesperson character. He was terrific in pretty much everything he did and this character was no exception.

All in all, this is an okay episode if you can get beyond some lack of logic from the plot.

One thought on “Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 20): The Arsenal of Freedom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s