“The Arsenal of Freedom”
Written by Maurice Hurley and Robert Lewin and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Directed by Les Landau
Season 1, Episode 20
Production episode 40271-121
Original air date: April 11, 1988
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise travels to Minos to follow up on a mission undertaken by the U.S.S. Drake, which has since disappeared. The Drake was trying to find out why the planet Minos — a world that specialized in arms dealing — had gone quiet.
Upon arrival, the Enterprise finds no intelligent life, no sign of the Drake, and an endless advertisement for Minos’s services as arms dealers. On the logic that, if there’s an automated ad working, there might be someone or something else down there, Riker, Data, and Yar beam down to check it out.
The Drake’s captain, Paul Rice, went to the Academy with Riker. While investigating on the surface, Riker sees Rice — but he’s acting strangely. Soon, it becomes evident that it’s an image of Rice designed to glean information. Once Riker exposes the image as a fake, it turns into a floating metal thingie that encases Riker in a force field. Yar blows the thingie up, but Riker remains encased, in some kind of stasis.
Because the plot calls for this episode to be La Forge’s baptism by fire, Picard decides to beam down, along with Crusher. He leaves La Forge in charge, because the plot calls for this to be La Forge’s baptism by fire, despite “Lonely Among Us” establishing Worf as fourth in command.
While the away team is tending to Riker, another floating metal thingie shows up and attacks them. Picard and Crusher are separated from Yar and Data, and fall down a hole. Crusher is badly injured, and Picard tends to her. Communications are out, so they can’t contact the Enterprise.
Yar and Data are able to destroy the metal thingie — it takes two of them this time — and then Data is able to free Riker. La Forge, however, is unable to beam the away team back because the ship is attacked by an assailant that can cloak itself. Worf can’t get a lock on it, and it’s pounding the crap out of the ship. All attempts to fire on it have failed, and to make matters worse, Chief Engineer Logan — who outranks La Forge by a grade — insists that he should be put in command. But La Forge refuses because, well, the plot calls for this to be La Forge’s baptism by fire.
After the crisis grows worse, La Forge appears to give in by giving Logan command — then he finishes the sentence with the words, “of the saucer section.” La Forge separates the ship and takes the stardrive section back to Minos to deal with the cloaked assailant from the battle bridge.
On the planet, another metal thingie attacks Riker, Yar, and Data, but it takes all three phasers to destroy it this time. Crusher’s arm and leg are both broken, and the latter is bleeding badly. Crusher has to walk Picard through assisting her, all while going into shock. He has to use some roots to clot the wound, and Picard keeps her awake by getting her to talk about how she knew about them — then discovers machinery that is still operative. The salesman comes back and explains that this is a demonstration of the Echo Papa 607, the “ultimate killing machine.” It’s so good, apparently, that it wiped out the entire population of Minos.
Riker, Data, and Yar find the hole Picard and Crusher fell down, and Data jumps down and joins them for no compellingly good reason, leaving Riker and Yar to fend for themselves. It’s Crusher who finally figures out the solution, while falling into shock, no less: turn it off.
For reasons that the script never explains, this shuts off the surface attack, but the Enterprise is still being fired upon. La Forge brings the ship into the atmosphere, and their attacker follows them down, revealing itself by its turbulence. Once that happens, Worf can get a phaser lock and blow it up, at which point the away team is beamed back.
However, Picard refuses to accept command back until La Forge returns the entire ship, so La Forge gets to be the one to sit in the center seat and say, “Engage” at the end of the episode.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is blown off by Picard when she tries to object to his joining the away team, even though she’s absolutely right to do so, then she gives La Forge some good advice on helping the relief conn and ops officers, Solis and T’su, get through the crisis.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard and Crusher bond over talk of going into shock and Crusher’s experiences with her grandmother on the failed Arvada III colony. The scenes between them are as touching and adorable and wonderful as every scene between Sir Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden. The episode, as plotted by Robert Lewin, was intended to focus more on Picard and Crusher, but apparently Gene Roddenberry nixed the notion.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf provides a nice prelude to his forthcoming lengthy stint at tactical by running the weapons console while Yar’s on the planet. When asked by La Forge how fast he can get a weapons lock, he confidently responds, “Fast!”
Welcome aboard: Julia Nickson and GeorgeDe La Peña convey both nervousness and competence as T’su and Solis. Vyto Ruginis sneers a lot as Logan, who is a straw bad guy for La Forge to knock down, and Marco Rodriguez makes no impression whatsoever as what was, to be fair, a fake version of Paul Rice.
But the episode is made by the late Vincent Schiavelli as the sleazy salesman for the Echo Papa 607. Schiavelli, as usual, totally owns every scene he’s in.
I Believe I Said That: “Tell me about your ship, Riker. It’s the Enterprise, isn’t it?"
“No, the name of my ship is the Lollipop.”
“I have no knowledge of that ship.”
“It’s just been commissioned — it’s a good ship.”
The image of Paul Rice grilling Riker, and Riker quoting a very old song…
Trivial Matters: It is revealed that Riker was offered the command of the Drake, but turned it down. This is the first of three commands that Riker is offered over the course of TNG that he turns down. He doesn’t accept a captaincy until Star Trek Nemesis.
Riker’s time with Paul Rice at the Academy was detailed in the novel The Lost Era: Deny Thy Father by Jeff Mariotte. Lian T’su returns in the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers story Wildfire by David Mack.
The script is written by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler, who would go on to write plenty more for TNG and, for the latter, DS9.
Make It So: “Peace through superior firepower.” A strong action episode, a good spotlight for La Forge, some fun Picard-Crusher moments, Vincent Schiavelli being skeevy, one of Yar’s better turns as chief of security, some good Riker bits, and Crusher cutting through the crap with the best technobabble solution of all, to wit, “turn it off.”
The episode isn’t without its problems. It makes no sense, none, that the Enterprise continues to come under attack after Picard shuts the machine off. It’s especially irritating because the fix is simple: rearrange a few scenes.
La Forge’s baptism by fire is horribly contrived. Picard doesn’t even give a good excuse for going down to the planet beyond the script calling for it. Plus, one of Riker’s oldest friends has been killed, and it might’ve been nice if he’d, y’know, mourned him at some point.
But despite that, it’s a fun, enjoyable, diverting episode.
Warp factor rating: 6.
Keith R.A. DeCandido also portrayed Lian T’su in the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers novella Many Splendors, which is but one of his many many many many many pieces of Star Trek fiction. And he’s written lots of other fiction, too. Check Keith’s web site, read his blog, or follow him on either Facebook or Twitter.