Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Arsenal of Freedom   Rewatch 
June 12, 2020 11:01 AM - Season 1, Episode 21 - Subscribe

Hey whatsup   CMDR_RIKER , this HOT DEAL on Automated Weapons Systems is just 4 u!!! #invincible PeddlerDealz.minos/echopapa

Memory Alpha! Huh! What is it good for?:

• Story writer Robert Lewin had originally meant "The Arsenal of Freedom" to develop the implied romantic relationship between Picard and Crusher. Roddenberry, however, nixed the idea, and Lewin cited Roddenberry's lack of interest in character development as his reason for leaving the show. Other sources have suggested that Lewin's departure may also have been stimulated by friction with Maurice Hurley, who adapted Lewin's story and wrote the episode's teleplay.

• The sand in the cavern was infested with fleas, which made the shoot an utterly miserable experience for Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden, who were under constant attack by the minute bloodthirsty creatures.

• In January 1988, production was shut down for a few days because the script of this episode wasn't available yet. This was the second of two occasions in TNG Season 1 when production was stopped for a few days due to the unavailability of scripts (the other being for "Angel One").

• This is the first of 59 Star Trek episodes across all four Berman-era series to be directed by Les Landau. He remembered that this episode "was in creative turmoil and going through a massive, last-minute rewrite. [...] I was familiar with the sets, cast and crew, so although the script was late in appearing, I had all the knowledge and background to go ahead and do my job. To this day, 'Arsenal' still stands out as one of the better shows, certainly one of the shows with the most production value of any we've ever done. Fortunately, all the elements fell together on that first day. I had the total support of the cast, crew and company to go ahead and do the best job possible. The cast was, and has always been, totally supportive of working with and for me, and I can't say enough about their cooperation."

• After "Angel One", this is the second and final episode of TNG to show La Forge in command. The next time he is shown commanding a starship is in an alternate future in VOY: "Timeless."

"What happened to all the people?"
"A dissatisfied customer?"
- Deanna Troi, Worf, Data, and Geordi La Forge

"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."
- Rice's hologram and Riker

Poster's Log:
Based on my MA research, it looks like the only other times we'll actually see the Enterprise-D go through saucer separation are "Best of Both Worlds" and Generations. The -E never does it, nor does Voyager.

Adding some helpful weirdness and verve to Minos is the brilliant character actor Vincent Schiavelli as "The Peddler". I particularly enjoyed his brief but memorable role in Batman Returns (the second Keaton one, for those too young to instantly know that). Memory Alpha indicates that he "had the distinction of playing prime time television's first regular gay character."

Anyway: a fun and competent episode, and one I haven't seen too often, which is always nice. We get believable away-team action (not always a given in Trek) despite the TOS-like sky. And this is a GREAT character episode for La Forge, both by itself and factoring in what I know of the character retroactively—he develops good plans, he handles everybody well. This may be the episode where everybody (in the senior staff and in the writers' room) decided "Dang, he needs a promotion." When I rewatched VOY, the character I went from "liking fine" to "really liking and appreciating a lot more" was Seven, and I've got a hunch that it'll be Geordi this time. Burton is right up there with Dorn and Stewart in the Nailed the Character from Frame One Regardless of Writers' Missteps Club.

I noticed some really engaged acting, bordering on too engaged, with La Forge and his Irregulars at helm/ops, which may be a sign of a new-to-the-show but good director, as the MA trivia above suggests. A few of these dialogue lines were likewise more compelling or funnier to read on MA than their realization on screen, though others came out just fine (like Picard and Riker's exchange about Geordi keeping command a bit longer at the end).

I'd completely forgotten about the Dr. Crusher Arvada III stuff, which is mentioned only in this episode and is perhaps a representative example of how little this show deals with Crusher's early life. Of course, we will get to know her grandmother (who's first mentioned here) a bit too well in an episode I've largely blocked from my direct memory and know only by its reputation—season seven's "Sub Rosa."

I'm also happy to announce that we never see "Chief" Engineer Logan again, because fuck that guy. I relished his look of disappointment when Geordi says he gets command of the saucer section. "But that's the laaame section," he seems moments away from whining.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
The Peddler's approach reminds me of nothing so acutely as the various phone calls and pop-ups you get in Grand Theft Auto Online that cannot be suppressed, only cancelled, and do not go away until you do the thing that they are pestering you to do (and apparently, sometimes, not even then); it actually does get in the way of using necessary in-game mechanisms to succeed at missions and not die and stuff. I regret ever starting that counterfeiting operation, for instance. (Of course, I realize other, more MMO-ish MMOs are equally or much more intrusive with the in-game spamming, but GTA's what's been on my brain lately.)

"Greatest Generation" episode link.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I always like Vincent Schiavelli in Ghost as the train guy.

That sand was infested with fleas? Gosh, Gates was half buried in it! Sucks for her.

My mom, a nurse, always comments on this one when Dr. Crusher advises Picard to raise her legs. The point of doing that is to have the legs higher than the head, which doesn't quite work when her head and torso is resting on an incline..

I do enjoy this one, though I do think the resolution is a bit hard to buy. Every time I watch it, I always feel like in the dialog with the peddler guy they are dancing around and avoiding any direct questions that could lead them to discovering it's all a demonstration and he can be turned off just like that.

Overall though, it's a good episode. Always a pleasure to see Yar get to do some work with her phaser!
posted by Fukiyama at 11:18 AM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I mostly remembered this for Schiavelli, honestly. My favorite non-Trek role of his would probably be as the ghost in Ghost who teaches Patrick Swayze how to move stuff with his mind. (MA also reminds us that he was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with a bunch of other people that have been in Trek, including... Michael Berryman? Totally don't remember him in that; he'll be coming up in TNG soon.) But there's some other stuff here that's also pretty good, such as Crusher telling Picard how to keep her alive (although I raised an eyebrow at using Random Alien Plant to stop bleeding; it could have astringent/clotting properties and still, you know, kill her) and La Forge's power struggle with the jerkass chief trying to pull rank on him. Props to Julia Nickson as Lian T'Su, whom I wish we'd seen on the show again; she's probably best known for Rambo: First Blood Part II, which she kept from being a complete sausage fest, and gave Rambo an excuse for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, although I'm not sure why he'd need it because there were already the POWs... oh, forget it. She's been in a bunch of other stuff, as well. And the ep concept is certainly solid enough, kind of like the Doomsday Machine if it had had its own version of Clippy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Possibly the best episode of the first season, in my book. Nice character development for Geordi, who gets to carry the role of the up-and-comer in a way they struggle to make work for Wesley. There's a satisfying arc to his conflict with Logan and his relationship with the other characters in the bridge scenes. Troi works her magic as the catalyst for someone recognizing what they want to do. The Picard/Beverly sequence fleshes out their relationship in a way the show will mostly forget about but works well enough on its own. Riker/Yar also have enough chemistry in their dynamic that it makes me wish certain developments later in the season didn't take place.

It even does the Star Trek thing of 'comment on a contemporary topic, in SPACE!' thing in a much less...failing...way than the rest of season does.

What armaments does the Lollipop carry?
posted by StarkRoads at 12:21 PM on June 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is one of those episodes that's very good but slightly infuriating because with a few tweaks and some better (non-roddenberry) writing/interference this could have been a GREAT episode. Also maybe a better actor for Engineer Logan- because he just comes across as a jerk. While I really think making Geordi into Chief Engineer was the best thing for the character- as noted, there are downsides to being taken out of command track.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

While I really think making Geordi into Chief Engineer was the best thing for the character- as noted, there are downsides to being taken out of command track.

LeVar Burton was great with the tech dialogue, though this did mean that his character had to share it with Data and Wesley.

...and eventually the helm of the Enterprise went to a rotating cast of Ensigns Expendable.
posted by StarkRoads at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

What armaments does the Lollipop carry?

I hear they’re pretty sweet.

Or I could give a Riker-like answer of “Five.”
posted by Servo5678 at 5:05 PM on June 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

What armaments does the Lollipop carry?

Marshmallow cannons, peppermint torpedoes, and the mysterious last-ditch fallback defense known only as the Nutmega 13.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

The cheezy visual effects for the killbot and the tactics (or lack thereof) exhibited by Yar and Riker really bothered me this time around. I think this is what I get for spending some time in military contexts in a prior part of my life -- for the same reason I really can't enjoy, say, The Aviator's totally overdone flight sequences (despite that being a really good movie in other ways) because I have flown small planes in real life, the part of my brain that used to think about how to develop computer software to help train soldiers/marines is like "Nope nope NOPE -- GODS NOPE nope nope!" at some of the running-around-and-jumping-and-phasering. Then again, it works to communicate what's important for the story and as I've said before on these things, and that's about the best one can hope for from fiction sometimes (and I probably wouldn't like Star Trek with believably-researched infantry tactics, because that'd be a very different Star Trek produced by people with very different values).

As an aside, if the Away Team is going to draw their phasers and tricorders the moment they beam down, why don't they draw them on the pad? Also: left-handed phaser fire? Is this justified in some of the pseudo-canon technical manual stuff, or just Because Star Trek?

Anyhow, quibbles aside, this works well. I enjoyed Geordi's command work here, although, man that engineer was a jerk.
posted by Alterscape at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Chief o’ the week was such a jerk. “We can’t stay/leave/go back!” He sort of makes sense if you think of him as an externalization of Geordi’s inner critic, but as a crewperson I won’t be missing him when he’s inevitably replaced. What is with the engineers of the Entrprise anyway? It’s like Spinal Tap with drummers.

This has got to be Troi’s best moment so far. Turns out she’s pretty good at this counselling thing and not just a lie detector!
posted by rodlymight at 7:56 PM on June 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Beverly Crusher for the win for telling them they could just turn the fucking thing off. She's the true savior in this episode.
posted by tzikeh at 1:13 PM on June 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

I kind of like T’su. I hope she’s in future episodes, but I don’t have much hope.

This chief engineer just made me long for Singh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:29 PM on June 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I get this episode mixed up with Contagion, the Iconians episode, with the automated system from a vanished civilization that destroyed another Federation starship and nearly destroys the Enterprise, but was ultimately not malicious in intent. I suppose I should also get it mixed up with The Last Outpost, but both this episode and Contagion are much better and more memorable than that episode. In TOS terms it's reminiscent of the The Doomsday Machine (and in Superman terms, Doomsday's main super power was you couldn't kill him the same way twice, which also ties into Echo Papa)

I'm also reminded of Kang's monologue in Treehouse of Horror II, where he predicts a humanity will make board with a nail so big it will destroy them all.
posted by ckape at 10:30 AM on June 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

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