TNG: S1E21: “The Arsenal of Freedom”

In which salesmen are pushy, my ignorance is revealed, and I unveil a new counter.

Heh heh. “Arse.” This blog may contain strings unsuitable for British minors.

The Enterprise is going to the Lorentz cluster looking for the vanished cruiser Drake, which itself was trying to solve the mystery of why all life on Minos suddenly disappeared. I feel like you should be sending a science vessel along at the limits of instantaneous communication range, so that the Enterprise can do a live streaming of all logs and records to it. That way, if (when) the same fate befalls the Enterprise, Starfleet will at least have some idea of what led up to the disaster. You and I know that the Enterprise will survive it, and it certainly has the best chance to survive in-universe, but it seems kind of foolhardy to bank on that.

Apparently, the Minoans were arms merchants during something called the ‘Erselope wars,’ for which I had to look up the spelling. Also, it is apparently the ‘Lorenze’ cluster and they are called ‘Minosians’ which shows a blatant disregard for history and physicists, so I will be spelling the other things however I please if they come up again. Also, in case you were wondering, I am drinking Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout by New Holland brewing. Yes it is 11%, and no, I haven’t eaten much today. Why do you ask?

"Welcome to Minos. You want guns, we got guns! You want plagues, bombs, poisons,  robots, or uinkind words, we got those too. Our prices are so low you're practically stealing from us. If you steal from us, we'll blow you up, though."

“Welcome to Minos. You want guns, we got guns! You want plagues, bombs, poisons, robots, or uinkind words, we got those too. Our prices are so low you’re practically stealing from us. If you steal from us, we’ll blow you up, though.”

Riker and the captain of the Drake served together, so Riker fills in Picard on how Captain Rice tended to think. Rice was somewhat of a modern-day Kirk – he took a certain multiple-choice test, but rejected all the options and substituted his own. Apparently that test now includes Rice’s answer. However, since he didn’t have a TV show about him, Rice is now probably dead on the planet below. Also, someone mentions that Riker was offered the Drake but thought it would be better for his career to serve on the Enterprise. Riker comes off as cocky and ambitious, but it is better to serve in heaven, apparently, than to reign on a ship that gets blown out of the sky by an automated used-car saleseman.

An automated hail comes on, and I’m getting shades of the Magrathean answering machine/defense system from H2G2 and the philosophy of A. E. Van Vogt’s Weapon Shop series, but without the actual depth to it. Minos seems less like a Traveling Shop that sells the perfect self-defense weapons and more like the wholesaler you go to once you have your island volcano lair, or whatever the space equivalent of that is. Dark-side-of-the-moon-base, I guess.

Yar beams down with a minimal away team, on the logic that it’s a terrible place full of murder, so you want to lose as few people as possible. By that logic, it’s just the ship’s XO, the completely unique non-sociopathic Soong-type android, and the ship’s chief security officer. Two of the crew that are most likely to survive, but all three who would devastate ship’s operation if they all died.

Riker finds Captain Rice, but it seems pretty weird, particularly since Rice isn’t actually giving off any life signs except for some low level energy readings. Given that the planet is heavily forested, there’s plenty of life, just no human life. Also, he’s just about the worst implemented AI program ever. ELIZA seems more human than this thing. Riker starts yelling and then a drone encases Riker in an energy field. Since that field persists after Yar blows up the drone, that’s pretty amazing. Since it’s put him in stasis but not necessarily killed or even injured him, Starfleet could really benefit from that technology.

"It hurts, Jean-Luc. Don't stop."

“It hurts, Jean-Luc. Don’t stop.”

So having lost the XO, the first thing Picard does is hand over the bridge to Geordi, take the CMO with him, and beam down, because Starfleet is terrible at TacOps. Picard and Crusher run away from some more drones and fall down a hole, taking their 7-season-long will-they-won’t-they arc to level two out of, like a thousand.

Data has been shooting Riker with a phaser at various modulations until one of them disrupts the stasis beam, with a brief interruption to teach us that the drones are learning and adapting. When Data finally frees Riker, the Enterprise gets ready to beam everyone aboard, put the planet to aft and burn space when the shields come on automatically as an object appears off the bow and fires. This might not seem like much until you recall exactly how little automation ever existed in TOS, and how useful automation can be. Like, for example, if during an alert condition an object appears and starts charging an energy weapon. Just as a for-instance. In the time it takes for Worf to register that she ship is reacting to a threat, the treat fires, and depending on how durable the ships is that day, this could have taken out a massive front section of the ship. Be it noted – the Enterprise has the capability to engage defense systems automatically given certain stimulus.Sadly, the ship can’t return fire because the target keeps cloaking using hit-and-run tactics.

Interestingly, the current chief engineer (since the others have all died) outranks Geordi and comes up to the bridge to say so. But Geordi is wearing the red uniform and was given command by Picard. This is another case where my glaring ignorance about military structures comes into play – who’s right? Geordi is a Bridge officer and was given command by the Captain. Logans duties are elsewhere, but he outranks LaForge. People who know military protocol, tell me these things so I can determine if Starfleet operates on modern military protocols or made-up ones.

Down the hole, Picard tries to keep Crusher from going into shock. She directs him to rub the sap of a random plant all over her wounds, and then in order to try to keep her warm, he uses the phasers to heat up the metal walls… oh, no wait. he leaves her alone to go get lost down a potentially endless series of tunnels. Above the planet, they Enterprise loses the fight against the space-based threat and runs away long enough for Geordi to get ready to separate the ship like they should have done in “Heart of Glory.” Logan The Engineering Douchebag, who earned his name from calling out Geordi on the bridge in the middle of a combat situation gets the saucer section and to take the civilians to the nearest starbase. Since it doesn’t have warp nacelles, one wonders how long it’s going to take. Although they still ahve subspace communications and a fusion plant, so they’ll at least survive until someone comes to pick them up. I imagine they’ll just make a new stardrive section if the rest of the Enterprise gets blown up. And in the meantime, the saucer section could easily be used as a luxury liner for intra-system cruises.

Picard manages to find the control system for the adaptive unmanned weapons system. They turned it on, and then it killed the entire planet. Now the automated salesman talks about how amazing a weapons system it is, but refuses to turn oft the ‘demonstration.’ Seems like the best course of action would be to say you’ll buy it. Then there’s no need for further demonstration.

Fun fact – Data can easily survive a drop of 11.5 meters without any damage whatsoever, provided he was expecting it, so once he, Yar, and Riker find the hole that Picard fell down he joins them. Geordi, in command of the battle bridge, gives the two conn officers a brief pep-talk in preparation for his last plan of attack.

Oh good, Picard picks up on the simple solution, and says he’ll buy the device. Again, they should definitely salvage that stasis-field projector, it would save them from having to kill a lot of people.

Geordi’s plan involves takjing the stardrive section into the atmosphere so they can see the disturbance it makes in atmo, then target that and kill it since, for some reason, the spacefaring drone doesn’t shut off when the demonstration does.

Times the Enterprise Goes Way Too Close To A Celestial Body: Hmm, a difficult question. I’m not sure “The Naked Time” counts, since the only effect the experienced was gravity. Since this time they actually dipped into atmosphere, we’ll call this 1.

Did we miss something awesome?