Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Arsenal of Freedom"


Air date: 4/11/1988
Teleplay by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Story by Maurice Hurley & Robert Lewin
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Investigating the disappearance of the USS Drake, the Enterprise away team beams down to the remains of a destroyed civilization on the planet Minos to search for answers. Instead, they come under attack by an advanced weapons system that first employs deceptive intelligence-gathering tactics before turning to simple but unremitting brute force. When Riker is incapacitated by an energy field, Picard beams down, leaving Geordi in command of the Enterprise.

Here's an episode of TNG that drops all pretense of significance and simply exists as action and watching the characters work the crises. The results are pretty good; it's one of the season's better outings, and certainly one of the best-paced. The weapons that attack the away team are like levels in a video game, where after you destroy one, another comes 12 minutes later, except this time stronger and smarter. The episode benefits from its three-pronged plot approach. Riker, Data, and Yar must play infantry in fending off the weapons on the surface; Picard and Crusher fall into a deep hole and the captain must treat the injured doctor as a patient; and La Forge gets his first big test in command when the Enterprise is attacked by an invisible weapon orbiting the planet.

All the plot threads work, but the most interesting is Geordi's on board the Enterprise. He must assume big responsibilities and make tough calls in a dangerous situation. All the while he must put up with Lt. Logan (Vyto Rugins), the Enterprise's chief engineer (or should I say this week's chief engineer, since there's a different one nearly every week on season one), who outranks Geordi and tries to bully him into ceding command to him. If the episode has an evident flaw, it's that Logan is too much of an obvious progress impediment in needlessly challenging Geordi. Someone needs to tell him that instead of repeatedly coming to the bridge he needs to be doing his damn job. And I tend to grow impatient with any scene where Troi counsels the commanding officer with compliments and suggestions, coming off like a kindergarten teacher. Just imagine that in the current-day military.

The episode has some nifty set-pieces, including a prudent saucer separation and the ensuing tactical action. The solution to the problems on the surface are handily wrapped up with what on TOS would be Kirk Outsmarts the Computer [TM] — except in this case it's Picard and the computer is designed to be outsmarted in this way.

Previous episode: Heart of Glory
Next episode: Symbiosis

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15 comments on this review

Aaron - Sun, May 6, 2012 - 11:38am (USA Central)
"No. The name of my ship is the... Lollipop. It's just been commissioned. It's a good ship!"

Hawk - Sun, Aug 5, 2012 - 2:56pm (USA Central)
"Someone needs to tell him that instead of repeatedly coming to the bridge he needs to be doing his damn job."

Logan only came to the bridge twice, once on his own initiative at which time he was sent packing, and once invited by LaForge to take command of the saucer section.

"The solution to the problems on the surface are handily wrapped up with what on TOS would be Kirk Outsmarts the Computer [TM] — except in this case it's Picard and the computer is designed to be outsmarted in this way."

It was Beverly Crusher's key comment that saved the day when she told Picard to simply turn off the machine.
Shane - Sun, Aug 19, 2012 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
I was also bothered by Logan's visits to the bridge. Unnecessary when they could have used the com and I think it would have been more meaningful visually if a larger-than-life Logan appeared on the viewscreen to challenge Geordi.

Anyway, other than that this is an enjoyable episode with some really fun moments and some good stuff with Geordi.
Rikko - Tue, Sep 25, 2012 - 6:44pm (USA Central)
This is my favorite episode of the entire season. It's not preachy, doesn't have unintended sexism and the 3-ways story is just fun. I like it because it is like an adventure. Not too dark, not too stupid either. And there are some very good lines (recalling from memory there was 'making peace...by superior firepower'and the aforementioned 'lollipop' ship). Even the guest star was perfect for his role. A Really good ep, for sure.
xaaos - Mon, Nov 5, 2012 - 3:14am (USA Central)
The projection impersonating Drake's commander was rather spooky and creepy. Nice acting :)

A good episode, loved the scenes between Geordi and Logan. But the firing scenes were kinda slow paced.

And I have to say that the Enterprise without its saucer looks pretty ugly.
DPC - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
One of Yar's better stories, it's a tad cheesy but not in a bad way. It's engaging, entertaining, and the saucer separates.

Loved how Crusher (not WESLEY WONDERBRAT) tells Picard just to shut it off.

And why the remaining weapon still fires on the Enteprise after that when a simple edit to deal with the Enterprise finishing off the weapon before Picard shutting it all off would have perfected that bit...

Loved the Geordi/Logan bits as well.

3 of 4 stars
Landon - Tue, Jan 22, 2013 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
The social commentary of arms dealing wiping out a planet seems as relevant tpdya as ever, I liked it. Very different to see LaForge command the ship, I believe the only time, even though he later got promoted twice. The epispode operates an an adventurous and large scale as many ssn 1 eps do, a p[lus. Creepy scene with Riker former acquaintance. The only thing I didnt like was the unconvincing foret planet set. 3 stars
Grumpy - Fri, Apr 5, 2013 - 11:28pm (USA Central)
"...what on TOS would be Kirk Outsmarts the Computer [TM]..."

Would you believe this was the *only* TOS-style "computer gone mad" story TNG ever did? (Not counting holodeck malfunctions, rogue androids, or artificial lifeforms.) Kirk would've been bored in this century.
William B - Sat, Apr 6, 2013 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
This is certainly one of the more watchable S1 outings. I like the arms deal bit -- it reminds me, oddly, of _Robocop_ (the early scene where a machine is introduced which accidentally kills most of the conference room). I do wish that Picard or one of the crew had come up with the ultimate solution of "buying" the tech rather than having the tech's avatar suggest "Oh, so you want to buy this?"

I wasn't that enamoured with the Geordi material for whatever reason -- his inspirational speech at the end didn't feel all that inspirational to me, though perhaps realistic of what a guy without any such experience could give.

One of the funniest moments in s1 for me is when Crusher says she needs to stay warm and asks if there are any blankets, and Picard says there aren't any and then wanders off to check out the computer. Talk about not taking the bait -- Picard will NOT let any UST onto his ship!

This is the first of three consecutive episodes which feature "Riker in stasis" -- in "Symbiosis" we get the infamous, hilarious shot of him being held by that energy thing, and in "Skin of Evil" we have Armus.

Anyway it's an episode with some good points and almost none of the ep outright bad -- which for s1 is a home run. Still, only 2.5 stars from me.
AJ - Mon, Jun 17, 2013 - 9:44am (USA Central)
I enjoyed Geordi getting some good command time.

However, while I fully enjoy sacrificing reason in the name of interesting narrative, this particular episode had me crying "why didn't the natives just turn it off" for most of the last half of the episode. It was *too* much sacrifice I think.
Corey - Wed, Jul 3, 2013 - 11:34am (USA Central)
@AJ: Probably the natives couldn't GET to the room where the hologram would allow you to buy the system. E.g., they were killed before they could get there, or on their way there. You'll note that Tasha, Data and Riker were never given an option to turn the system off.

While the show didn't say, it seems unlikely that a single system wiped out all intelligent life, there are probably many more spread throughout the planet and perhaps they have different problems. And since the episode doesn't say specifically, for all we know some virus wiped them out - they didn't actually show any Minosian bodies so that we can make conclusions on this topic.

I enjoy this episode and never skip it when re-watching TNG - 3.5 stars from me on the Jammer scale.
SkepticalMI - Sun, Sep 1, 2013 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
Wow, three good episodes in a row, and ending with the best episode since 11001001. Like many 1st season episodes, it has an intriguing high-minded sci-fi concept (albeit in this case a bit cliched): a super powered weapon that wiped out its creators and now is running amok. Unlike most other 1st season episodes, the execution of this concept is consistent and solid.

For one, nobody (except engineer-of-the-week Logan and, to a lesser extent, Picard) grabs the idiot ball in this episode. Everyone behaves believably as highly trained quasi-military space explorers here. Even the Capt. Rice(? I think that was his name...) illusion scene worked well. It's believable that Riker would immediately be happy to see him and quite trusting. However, it was clear that he was already getting suspicious before being contacted by the Enterprise, and his decision to run with it to try to gain more information was clever as well. LaForge proved to be quite adept at commanding the ship and dealing with the situations that were brought up while still acting reasonably like a junior officer. Even Troi's scene wasn't cringeworthy. And for once, Tasha was given something to do and handled it quite well.

Sadly, Picard once again was the only foolish one. He beamed down for little to no reason (it's a hostile situation, Data is perfectly capable of commanding the away team, and he had no actual skills of use down there). It then looked like it was his fault that they fell into the hole, and he had to be told by a non-command officer who is going into shock that he should try to turn it off. I still cannot get over the fact that the writers are handicapping the main character in this way. Just compare this Picard to a season 3 episode; it's night and day.

But really, that's my only complaint. I can live with the coincidence of falling down the hole that contained the main computer. I can live with the "used car salesman" character. The plot was tense, action packed, and contained quite a few good lines (the good ship Lollipop was a classic). Even Gates McFadden's acting is improving.

As a random aside, I find it interesting that the first season was propping LaForge up to being command material, more so than Worf (the other junior officer in the show). And yet, later on it's Worf that seems to be more command oriented than LaForge. Data made Worf first officer in Gambit, Worf is the first officer in one of the timelines in Parallels, and of course he seems to be command-oriented in DS9. Not sure why the change was made. It's pretty obvious in the first season that LaForge was also the "technical" one, and was an obvious fit to become the Chief Engineer in season 2. But there's no reason he couldn't also be command oriented as well. Scotty, Data, Dax (Science rather than Engineering, but still more technical oriented) all worked as half-technical, half-command type characters, so he could have continued down that path.
dgalvan - Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
Ditto the above positive comments for Geordi in this episode. Geordi comes off as well-suited to command, leveraging his technical acumen that would later lead him to Engineering. And Levar Burton plays it believably. The final tactic of entering the upper atmosphere to make the cloaked robot visible was clever and had an effective triumphant payoff.

In the same way that it makes eventual sense that Sulu ended up with his own ship (Sulu always comes off as competent and well suited to command in TOS, and then gets Excelsior in Undiscovered Country), so it makes sense when we finally see Geordi as a captain during his Cameo in the Voyager episode "Timeless".

I wonder why the writers decided to have no consistent Chief Engineer in season 1 of TNG? Given how prominent a character Scotty was in TOS, you'd think they'd have prioritized the position in TNG. Seems odd that engineering has a random Lt. manning it all the time. They obviously fixed it in Season 2. Still odd that they didn't keep a prominent character there in Season 1.
$G - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
I watched this one today on Netflix! When I was really little I taped this episode and watched it whenever I wanted to see Star Trek. It's probably my most-seen episode of the entire franchise.

Right now I'm part-way through season 5 of my DS9 re-watch, so I was a bit nervous when I got the urge to watch an ep from TNG's (notorious) first season.

But it holds up! It's fun! All three plots work! That shot of the stardrive section pulling a U-turn while the saucer zooms off is still awesome all these years later! 3 stars, hurray!
Thrackerzod - Fri, Mar 6, 2015 - 5:02am (USA Central)
I thought it was strange that Logan was initially demanding that Geordi get them out of there immediately, but later when Geordi does decide they must leave Logan jumps all over him for leaving the away team. Isn't that what he wanted to do in the first place?

I also thought it was awfully darn convenient that there just happened to be a particular type of roots growing in that cavern that could stop Beverly's bleeding and that she just happened to know about them.

All that aside for season 1 I thought it was a pretty good episode.

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