The Arsenal of Freedom
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
11 Apr 1988
Season Ep :
When Worf tries to target the cloaked vessel in orbit, it fires on the ship from almost directly behind. In reply, he fires directly ahead.
Great Moment :
Picard's gentle insistence that Geordi return the ship to him in one piece.
Body Count :
This is the first episode where we see the Enterprise-D fire multiple torpedoes simultaneously from a single tube. Marko Rodriguez, who plays Captain Rice in this episode, also played Glinn Telle in "The Wounded".
The Enterprise-D arrives at the planet Minos in the Lorenze Cluster, having been assigned to investigate the disappearance of the USS Drake. Scans of the planet indicate no life forms there despite it being listed as a civilised and technologically advanced world. The ship is greeted by a holographic projection, an automated salesman who offers a variety of weapons for sale - the chief industry of minos.
Riker leads an Away Team down to the planet where they encounter another projection, taking the form of Captain Rice of the Drake. The projection is being created in an apparent attempt to get information from the Away Team regarding their ship. On discovery the device encases Riker in a forcefield before being destroyed by Yar.
With Riker immobilised within the field Captain Picard himself beams down with Dr. Crusher to lead the Away Team, leaving Geordi in charge on the ship. Data begins working to free Riker, but a new weapon drone arrives soon afterwards. In the ensuing battle Crusher and Picard are seperated from the rest and fall into an underground chamber, trapping them both and breaking Crusher's leg in the process. Data and Yar manage to destroy the second weapon, although with some difficulty since it is a superior version which is able to dodge phaser fire quite well. The weapon discharges have disrupted communications, and Tasha goes to search for the two missing officers manually whilst Data continues trying to free Riker. She is unsuccessful, but Data does manage to free Riker from his imprisonment unharmed.
Geordi is considering beaming up the Away Team when the shields on the ship are raised automatically; a cloaked vessel of some sort fires on the Enterprise-D with a powerful beam weapon. Although the ship's sensors can get some idea of the location of the weapon as it fires, this is insufficient to get a lock on and the Enterprise is essentially fighting blind. One of the engineering officers, Logan, suggests that Geordi relinquish command to him since he is of higher rank and experience, but Geordi declines on the grounds that Picard left him in command so the responsibility remains his. He asks Worf to extrapolate the alien weapon's attack plan based on its previous actions, hoping to be able to get a good enough idea of its pattern to allow the ship to bracket the area and score a hit.
On Minos a third weapon arrives; again Yar and Data manage to hit it with combined phaser fire, but this one proves to be equipped with a deflector shield which their phasers cannot penetrate. Yar suggests that the combined weapons of all three members of the landing party might collapse the shield, and they manage to destroy the drone this way. Data points out that the weapons continue to improve in response to every defeat, and Yar conceeds that since this one took everything they had there may be no stopping the next weapon.
In the underground chamber Picard tries to give Crusher some first aid at her direction. He learns that she has some knowledge of primitive medicine, a result of her grandmother's experience on a Federation colony which underwent some unspecified disaster.
On the ship the weapon attacks again - and Worf's attempt to counterattack it fail. With the shields collapsing under the repeated attacks, Geordi orders the ship to warp out of orbit, abandoning the Away Team. He calls Logan to the bridge, and announces his intentions; he has left because he wants to detach the Saucer Section and leave the ship's civilian population in a safe location before returning in the Engineering hull to finish the battle one way or another in a last attempt to rescue the Away Team. Logan agress to command the Saucer Section. As Geordi goes to prepare, Troi has a talk with him, assuring him that he is handling the burden of command exceptionally well but that he needs to encourage the junior officers a little more since they are feeling the pressure of the situation.
In the underground chamber, Picard discovers that there are some sort of computer systems installed. The holographic salesman reappears, expounding on the virtues of the system; it is essentially a whole weapons factory capable of designing and fabricating weapons tailored to any mission and responding to failure by simply creating superior weapons until the objective is achieved. Picard realises that the Minosians were destroyed by their own creation. The salesman announces that another weapon is about to be launched to deal with the surface targets in what it apparently believes is simply a demonstration for potential buyers. On the surface the Away Team finds the entrance to the chamber and Data jumps down to assist Picard in trying to disable the machine as Riker and Yar prepare to defend against the new weapon when it arrives. Data attempts to reprogram the system but without effect; destroying the machine is suggested, but the significant power system it uses would cause an explosion big enough to kill the Away Team anyway. Picard makes one last appeal to the salesman to deactivate the machine - and realises that the demonstration will end if the sale is made. Picard agrees to buy the weapon system, and the fourth weapon is deactivated just in time.
However, in orbit the attack on the Enterprise continues. Geordi orders the Enterprise into the planet's upper atmosphere; the weapon follows, and its position is finally revealed by the fiery atmospheric turbulence created as it ploughs into the air. With a target finally available the Enterprise destroys the weapon with a single phaser blast before pulling back up into orbit.
The Away Team is beamed aboard, and Geordi thankfully offers to relinquish command to Picard; the Captain declines, gently chidind his officer that he gave him a ship in one piece and would like it returned in the same state. Geordi smilingly orders the ship to return to pick up the Saucer Section.
I like this episode, for several reasons. Primarily, the Minosian weapon system is an interesting concept which is well thought out and well implemented. In fact it parallels the way the Borg operate in many ways, and I can't help but think that it may have been the inspiration for the Borg's method of operation. Both produce an attacker that is easy to destroy, making you think that victory against this foe can't be all that difficult. Then the next one is harder to kill... and the next one harder still... and you realise that no matter how good you are, in the end your opponent will be better. In the case of the Borg this MO was largely abandoned in the end, and they became largely conventional foes who were pretty easily defeated time after time. But as a one off threat the system in this episode suffers no such weakening.
The Enterprise side of the story is also quite well handled. Geordi does a good job against the drone, but is overmatched and comes to realise it. Leaving to deposit the saucer is an intelligent idea, and his ultimate solution to battling the drone is both happily free of technobabble and entirely believable. My only nit here is to wonder why the attack on the Enterprise didn't end when the attack on the Away team did. The salesman's talk implied that the same system was responsible for both attakcs, so one would expect Picard's agreement to buy to end both attacks. I can only assume that it was in fact a different system which attacked the ship.
One aside, I have to wonder what the computer controlling all this think about the way it ended. It made a sale... then the customers left, apparently never to return. Given the way the machine oerates, I wouldn't be surprised to see a fleet of drones turn up in the Federation one day demanding to know where their overdue payment is!