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July 13 2024


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The Arsenal of Freedom

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 24, 2007 - 9:10 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Arsenal of Freedom' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is sent to investigate the disappearance of the USS Drake, a ship whose command Riker was offered but gave up to serve under Picard. The current captain, Rice, is a friend of Riker's, but when an away team beams down to Minos after the ship receives a hail offering to sell them weapons, Riker discovers that Rice can't even remember his first name. That's because it isn't really Rice, of course, and the entire native population seems to be extinct. Even so, Riker is trapped in an energy field, Picard and Crusher are trapped in an underground cave, and remote sensors fire both at Yar and Data on the surface and at the Enterprise in orbit under the command of LaForge. Over Lieutenant Logan's insistence that as the highest-ranking officer, he should take the bridge, LaForge orders the saucer and engineering sections to separate and sends most of the crew to safety, returning to hunt for the away team while evading high-yield weapons. On the planet's surface, Crusher is badly wounded and Picard tries to keep her conscious while investigating the alien machinery left on the planet. He realizes that the attacks are intended as demonstrations of weapons for sale, though they have destroyed the people who built them. After offering to buy the entire system, he and the away team are able to disarm the weapons.

Analysis: "The Arsenal of Freedom" is one of the more didactic episodes of The Next Generation - Greed, bad! Greed in the name of war-mongering, even worse! - but it has nice character moments and good pacing. It's at its best when it forgets to mention what happened to the residents of Midas and sticks with what's going on now. To some extent the characters don't get to stretch much, since Yar, Data and Riker are in charge of playing Space Invaders with the alien drones while Picard and Crusher talk medicine and LaForge tries to work out a solution that will please both engineers and bridge crew, but it's nice to see them all getting a chance to really shine at what they're supposed to do well.

The LaForge story feels the most forced, since a chief engineer we've never seen before is suddenly demanding to take charge of the ship and marches in acting like a playground bully. Troi, whose string of thankless moments continues, doesn't try to intervene here, where her skills as a counselor might do some good, but instead waits until Geordi asserts his authority and then drags him off for a private talk to evaluate his mental state, concluding this embarrassing encounter by telling him to act confident. Thanks a lot, Deanna! Logan is inconsistent, first insisting that LaForge needs to protect the crew, then objecting to LaForge's apparent plan to abandon the away team, but LaForge ends up acquitting himself nicely with the help of Worf and a woman at the helm who quickly disappears from the series. It looks like LaForge is being groomed for a bridge position, so it's strange to see him squabbling with an engineer whose job he will soon have.

There are some uncomfortable moments in the Beverly-and-Jean-Luc storyline of the sort that will recur throughout the series as the writers try to have it both ways, teasing at romantic entanglement while also keeping both characters free to get it on with other people - it was a running joke for awhile that every time the ship was in serious danger, Crusher would start to say, "Jean-Luc, I have something to tell you" - but "The Arsenal of Freedom" mostly ducks out and lets Crusher show her strengths, practicing medicine in a crisis with her head while Picard has to be her hands and feet. We get a bit of backstory on Crusher, too, that doesn't have to do with her dead husband, involving her grandmother's role in a planetary colonization gone wrong, where she was forced to heal the injured using what was at hand - mostly roots and herbs.

Riker spends far too long in the thankless position of being immobilized while Yar and Data try to figure out how to free him, but he makes up for it by challenging the man whose command he might have had. Though initially friendly to Rice, Riker is warned by the crew that the man gives off no life readings, so Riker starts saying more and more absurd things, telling Rice that his mother sent the away team to look for him and claiming that his own ship is the Lollipop, a good ship. It's kind of silly how Riker gets caught in the energy field: Picard tells Riker to signal to beam up, rather than simply telling the helm or transporter room to get Riker out of there now as Kirk would have done. The end of the episode is rather pat and a bit confusing, since it involves Picard negotiating with a hologram at the same time LaForge is trying to fight his way back to stage a rescue. I'm still not sure whether LaForge won a tactical victory or whether the drone weapons simply left the Enterprise alone in the atmosphere once the bidding for the machinery ended successfully. The holographic salesman played by Vincent Schiavelli is a treat, but warnings about how the people of Minas built a weapons system that will destroy their own star system if Data tries to have it destroy itself land rather clunkily. It's more entertaining to watch the visuals, as LaForge separates the saucer and dives into the planet's atmosphere while Picard clears roots and branches off computers and big laser-looking devices.

Because I know this time around that we're going to lose Tasha Yar very soon, I keep looking at her character to see what they could have done differently and what wasn't working. She really doesn't come across as a very strong chief of security - can't stop the captain from beaming down into an extremely dangerous situation, can't disarm the drones without Data's help, and doesn't seem any more knowledgeable about the nature of the weapons systems they're facing than any of the other away team members while the engineers on the ship make better guesses. But she's still got a much more interesting part than Troi, who sounds like a petulant mother when she tries and fails to stop Picard from beaming down, then lectures Geordi like a high school guidance counselor about how to win friends and influence people. And since Crusher spends most of this episode pretending to have the shakes and falling asleep, it's not like the other women are outshining Yar. I was very sorry Denise Crosby chose to leave, though I liked the show much better in later seasons when she wasn't around, so I can't help wondering what TNG would have become had she stayed.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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