Some episodes are there just for character development, the story or action presented is just flavor. This is one of those stories, one that really gave background to several of the core characters. Airing originally on April 11,1988, this is Arsenal of Freedom.
Stardate 41798.2 The Arsenal of Freedom
The Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the USS Drake and arrive at planet Minos, known in the past for their highly advanced weaponry. Upon arrival, they discover that the entire planet is devoid of life yet some of the technology below may still be functioning as they get a hail from an automated weapons merchant. They must now investigate the planet in order to find out what happened to the USS Drake and determine if any further threat exists.
After beaming down, the away team find wreckage and weaponry they don’t recognize and soon Riker is greeted by an old friend, Captain Rice. Something is odd about Rice and he soon finds out that this isn’t his friend but a projection of some sort that is trying to gain intel on the team. After defining the hologram the team is attacked and Riker is encased in an energy field that Data and Yar are unable to break through. (Bearded Riker wouldn’t have been so easily captured.)
Picard and Dr Crusher beam down to the planet to assist, leaving Geordi in charge of the ship. But of course, Picard and Crusher falling into a pit with Yar and Data under fire on the surface above. Doctor Crusher is severely wounded and if Picard can’t get them out in time, she will die. Don’t worry though, She’s a Doctor and she tells him what to do so it’s all good.
Meanwhile the Enterprise is attacked by an invisible enemy and they are unable to beam the away team up from the surface. Chief Engineer Logan (yep…another one) challenges Geordi’s command claiming that since Logan outranks him, Geordi should relinquish command to him immediately. Geordi basically tells him to eff off and, as the invisible enemy attacks the ship, he realizes that the only way to save the ship is to split it up and send Logan with the saucer section to protect the families while he and his bridge crew take the ship into the atmosphere to expose the enemy so that they can fire upon it.attack.
Down on the Planet, Picard discovers a computer screen that activates the automated salesman. After much discussion and the imminent threat to the rest of the crew, Picard figures out that if he ‘buys’ the latest program that they were selling, he can shut it down and save everyone. Because, of course he does.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
The story itself is fairly throwaway, what they were trying to do was show the dangers of rampant wholesale of weaponry and military hardware but it got lost in the noise. There is a ton of character development for several characters, however so it manages to save the episode from being labeled a bad one, it’s just not a good one. For Riker, we learn that he had been offered his own command (of the USS Drake in fact) but turned it down to take the First Officer’s position aboard the Enterprise.
Picard and Doctor Crusher also get some great moments together when she is wounded and he must help keep her alive. We learn that Crushers Grandmother was one of the colonists that helped keep a colony alive and that Crusher herself lived on the same ill fated colony driving her to become a doctor in Starfleet.
Most importantly, Geordi is given a chance to be in command and not just for a shift but in a battle with an unseen force. He has to really dig deep and even gets challenged by the newest Chief Engineer. Standing his ground he really proves himself to be a capable commander, fully cementing him in as the fourth in command of the ship, despite his Lt. Junior Grade rank.
There is a great moment in Picard’s ready room where Troi talks with Geordi about the crew and how they handle the stress of the situation. She gives him great advice that he clearly takes allowing him to grow.
I love moments like this as they really show how the characters interact and develop. It is a truly important aspect that many tv series are never able to accomplish.
I really dig Geordi’s character and love to see his character development. I was also a big fan of the actor who portrays Geordi, Levar Burton as he was on one of my other favorite tv series, Reading Rainbow. I particularly loved the Reading Rainbow episodes where he visits the set of the tv series. It was pretty incredible.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
Clearly Riker is a fan of Shirley Temple as he references ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’ when the fake Captain Rice asks him about his ship.
We see the first time the Enterprise separates since the pilot episode. This, thankfully, is not something that is abused in the series. Of course it was probably an expensive effect to pull off.
We meet yet another ill fated Chief Engineer marking the 3rd one this season. I don’t think Chief Engineer Logan lasted long after this particular incident.
We get to see use of the Battle Bridge in this episode and this time in a legit battle!
We never do find out what happened to the USS Drake, I guess they all died.
Riker Beard Countdown B minus 6 Episodes until Beard Emergence.
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Late To The Game 4/28/2019 (Originally published 02/14/18)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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