Saturday, August 8, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Arsenal of Freedom"

After three talky episodes, it is good to see an action oriented installment. “The Arsenal of Freedom’ is not very popular among fans for a number of reasons. I will admit its flaws are bothersome myself. But it was so different from most of the rest of the season’s moralizing with little else exciting, the episodes has to be given some props.

If we must talk about flaws, then we must talk about flaws. First, the special effects called for by the script were too ambitious for the time period. The machine pictured above is a flying laser that adapts every single time it is defeated, so the next comes on stronger Think of it as a non-sentient Borg. The CGI was probably impressive during the episode’s first airing, but not so much now. Neither is the computer display on the weapons system control panel. The screen showed blips that represented the away team and the flying laser, but they looked like something off an Atari 2500.

I understand the planet Minos has been dead a long time, so the technology is far outdated. But does it not seem odd that the flying lasers and an invisible weapon attacking the Enterprise in orbit or so far advanced, yet the computer screen graphics would not pass muster on my Nintendo. It did not make sense.

Second, is it not strange that an old weapons system still performs perfectly? I cannot even get a portable CD player that had been packed away when I left Virginia to work anymore and it has only been dormant for five years. Obviously, they built stuff to last on Minos.

Third, Picard and Crusher. The two become trapped in a cavern with Crusher seriously injured. For the briefest of moments, there are hints of romance. At least, Crusher appears about to reveal feelings for Picard. He seems oblivious and/or ambivalent. Take your pick which. Word has it writer Robert Lewin had scripted a much more intimate scene, but Gene Roddenberry nixed the idea of a romance between Picard and Crusher. He had his drinking buddy Maurice Hurley, rewrite the script. Lewin left the show, either because of frustration with Roddenberry’s lack of interest in character development or because of Hurley’s rewrite. Lewin is not the only writer to complain about Hurley, so take from that what you will.

Finally, while I am going to save most of my thoughts about Denise Crosby and Tasha Yar for “Skin of Evil,” I will note this episode is the straw that broke the camel’s back. She decided during filming to leave the show. I do not know id it was her part in ‘The Arsenal of Freedom’ per se, but it was the point she decided she could not take it anymore. More on Crosby and Yar later.

Something that gets overlooked in all the criticism of “The Arsenal of Freedom’ is what a fine Geordi-centered episode it is. The character is highly undeveloped throughout the first season. Here is the rare exception. He takes command of the Enterprise, mentors an inexperienced replacement bridge crew, and destroys the invisible weapon. It will be a long time before hegets to do anything like that again. the second season will have him move to engineering where he will become a more integral character, but he is still going to have to grow into that. For the longest time, he will still be Data’s sidekick and little else.

One final good point is they managed to avoid getting too preachy over the weapons system destroying the entire civilization of Minos. Oh, they tried. Minos armed both sies of a major conflict, their motto was peace through superior firepower, and, really, are weapons manufacturers just evil incarnate? They should have been florists or something instead. Yet all those points were drowned out by the action, thankfully. So there was not much meat here, but it was fun to watch. Bonus points for the used car salesman like hologram played by the late, great Vincent Schiavelli.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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