(written from a Production point of view)
Geordi La Forge leads the Enterprise-D into battle while Captain Picard and an away team are trapped on planet Minos, taking fire from a dangerous automated weapons system.
Arriving at Minos in the Lorenze Cluster to investigate the disappearance of the USS Drake, the USS Enterprise-D enters orbit. Data explains to the bridge crew that the Minosians became famous during the Ersalrope Wars as arms merchants, manufacturing and selling highly advanced weaponry - to both sides in the war. Discovering no life signs on the planet's surface more evolved than plants or animals, they are surprised by a hail from a peddler, which is soon realized to be an automated message from the time of the Wars. Commander Riker, Natasha Yar and Data transport down to the planet's surface to investigate, Picard cautioning them that if the automated message system is still functioning, then there may well be automated weapons systems as well.
The away team searches the area. Yar finds a piece of melted tritanium and Data uncovers an undamaged high-tech weapon mounted in a ruined structure. Riker comments on the finds, and Yar mentions that whatever weapon melted the tritanium is beyond current Federation technology.
Suddenly, Captain Paul Rice, the commanding officer of the USS Drake, appears from behind the bushes and engages Riker, who personally knows him and attended Starfleet Academy at the same time, in conversation. Back on Enterprise, they confirm there are still no lifeforms other than the away team, but that there is an energy build-up close to the commander. Captain Rice asks Riker about the abilities of the Enterprise, which raises suspicions in Riker's mind, and he soon realizes that he's not speaking to the real Captain Rice. Rather than give away any information about the Enterprise, Riker gives Rice false information about the USS Lollipop, calling it "a good ship." Riker then reveals to the fake captain that he knows Rice isn't real, having among other things not called him "Will" even once, and Rice is quickly replaced by a weapon device.
Before the away team can be beamed back to the Enterprise, the weapon fires on Riker, encasing him in a bubble of energy. Yar quickly fires back and destroys the weapon, but the bubble does not disappear. Data and Yar examine the bubble holding Riker in stasis, and contact Captain Picard to tell him that Riker has been trapped by a force field.
On the surface, Picard and the others theorize about the reason why the weapon put Riker in stasis rather than kill him. Data is instructed to try and use his phaser to cut away the bubble, but just as he starts, the Enterprise hails the away team, informing them that another energy reading has appeared, and that it is moving towards them. Suddenly, the second weapon arrives and fires, chasing Picard and Crusher from the area. They fall into a deep underground cavern. Picard lands well and is unharmed, but the doctor is almost buried in loose sand and rocks, suffering significant injuries.
Meanwhile, Data and Yar battle with the second weapon, discovering that it has learned and adapted from its previous encounter, and is now evasive and much more difficult to destroy. However, the combined effort of the two is enough to destroy it. Finally noticing the disappearance of the captain and the doctor, Yar and Data try and contact them, but their combadges aren't functioning. Yar decides to go off and try to find them, leaving Data with the still immobile Riker.
Back in the cavern, Crusher is nearly unconscious, with a broken arm and heavy bleeding. Picard also discovers that their communicators are malfunctioning. Realizing the need to tend to Crusher, Picard begins to treat her broken arm by using a twig from a branch nearby to fashion a splint and stopping the bleeding by tearing a piece from Crusher's lab coat for a makeshift bandage. Yar returns to Data after failing to find the captain and doctor, and Data informs her that he has figured out the precise setting needed to dissolve the bubble around Riker. He fires his phaser and Riker is released, disoriented, but unharmed.
Back on the Enterprise, La Forge receives a report that they can now beam up the entire away team, but suddenly the deflector shields raise automatically, just before one of the weapons starts firing at the ship from almost point-blank range. The blast rocks the ship, but the shields hold. Just before their weapons can target the device and destroy it, it vanishes from the sensors, appearing seconds later behind the ship, and firing again. Realizing that the shields won't be able to stand up to this much punishment indefinitely, and that the away team can't be transported back with the shields up, La Forge is left to ponder his options.
Chief Engineer Lieutenant Logan arrives on the bridge and, hearing La Forge's plan of staying in orbit to try and rescue the away team, demands that La Forge relinquish his command to him; a higher-ranking officer. However, La Forge is more interested in trying to destroy the weapon, so he ignores Logan and tells Worf to compute the predicted attack path of the weapon, firing in the dark against their cloaked opponent. Logan continues to interfere, and La Forge sends him back to engineering, saying he's in command until relieved by either Commander Riker or Captain Picard.
Back on the planet, a third weapon device has been released, and this time it is equipped with its own deflector shield. Data comments that the weapon continues to upgrade itself after every encounter. With the combined firepower of their phasers, the officers only just manage to destroy the weapon. Data tells the team that the weapons appear every twelve minutes, which gives them all the incentive they need to be off the planet by that time.
In the cavern, Picard continues to make sure Crusher doesn't fall unconscious. He discovers that she's got another, more serious wound on her leg, which is bleeding heavily. Searching for a clotting agent, Crusher notices some roots nearby. At the doctor's instruction, Picard breaks a piece off and tastes it to learn how bitter it is, and notices some discoloration when he applies some of its liquid to his hand. Crusher slips in and out of consciousness much to the concern of Picard, who needs her help to treat her as he crushes the root and applies it to the wound. To help her stay awake, he asks her to relate how she knew to use roots she'd never seen before. Crusher explains how she and her grandmother Felisa Howard were present during the Arvada III colony disaster, and it was during this time Felisa learned how to use herbs and roots for medicinal purposes after regular medical supplies had been exhausted. This inspired Beverly to a career in medicine. The root stops the bleeding, and although Crusher is still in shock, he tries to do his best for her by elevating her legs to settle her down.
Back on the ship, La Forge and the bridge crew are ready for their first test shot. The Enterprise's phasers and photon torpedoes are fired simultaneously, but they miss completely. This is confirmed by the weapon firing on the ship once again. With the crew reporting increasing damage to the shields, and the weapon continuing to fire unabated, La Forge appears increasingly frustrated. Everyone on the bridge is now looking to him for orders. La Forge then calls for Logan to come to the bridge.
As soon as Logan arrives, La Forge calls for the Enterprise to go to warp and leave orbit of the planet, surprising everyone on the bridge. He then orders Logan to take command of the saucer section of the Enterprise, to ensure the safety of the majority of the crew by taking it to Starbase 103, while La Forge takes the stardrive section back to the planet. La Forge retreats to Picard's ready room to devise his strategy. Counselor Troi enters and gives him some advice on how to properly command the two young junior officers Solis and T'Su, telling him that it is he they will draw strength from. She advises him to show confidence in them, just as Captain Picard showed confidence in La Forge when he left him in command of the Enterprise. La Forge gratefully accepts Troi's advice. When La Forge and the bridge crew have relocated to the battle bridge, the ship separates, leaving the saucer section behind.
Meanwhile, back in the cavern, Picard uncovers an alien viewscreen. A holographic projection of the same salesman as they'd seen before appears and begins extolling the virtues of the "Echo Papa 607," the Minosians' ultimate achievement. Picard is shocked to be told that the attacks on the away team and the Enterprise have simply been part of an automated "demonstration" of the weapon. Picard tells the salesman to abort the demonstration, but the salesman says they have to see what the weapon's capabilites are in order to be convinced of its worth. Beverly volunteers that the salesman program doesn't understand anything other than what its been programmed to sell – it has no idea that its parent civilization was wiped out.
The salesman continues to explain the system: after each encounter with the enemy, the central unit learns and adapts its weapons to combat them. Once it is activated, the Echo Papa 607 is unstoppable. The captain realizes that this is all too true: it was the Minosians' own weapon system that destroyed their civilization. The unit then signals that the final weapon device is about to be launched.
Commander Riker and the others locate the hole the captain and doctor fell through, but there is no way for them to reach each other. Then Data states that he can safely jump down the 11.75 meter drop without damage. This surprises everyone, but without hesitation, the android officer drops down the hole, and easily lands firmly on his feet. Riker and Yar take up defensive positions in an attempt to prepare for the final weapon, though neither of them has any ideas as to how to fight it.
As the stardrive section of the Enterprise returns to Minos, La Forge tries to give the two young officers (Solis and T'Su) some encouragement just as Troi suggested.
Back in the cavern, the final weapon is launched, and Data attempts to reprogram the targeting settings. Finding no alternate targets for the weapon to lock onto, however, Data draws a blank. Crusher suggests that they just turn the machine off. The idea is so simple, Picard hadn't even considered it. He demands the peddler turn off the machine. Again, the peddler seems not to understand, insisting that they have to see everything the machine can do. Picard says they've seen enough, and quickly agrees to "buy" the Echo Papa 607. Satisfied, the peddler congratulates Picard on his decision and disappears. The effect is immediate – the display screen goes blank, the final surface weapon deactivates, and the dampening field blocking communications is released.
However, things are not so good on Enterprise. The previous weapon sent after the ship is still functional in orbit of the planet, and is chasing the ship. La Forge orders the ship into the planet's atmosphere, where he hopes atmospheric friction and turbulence will reveal the weapon's presence, despite its cloaking device. As the Enterprise descends, the shields begin to fail and the Solis begins to lose helm control, but just in time, T'Su detects a disturbance to starboard. The plan works perfectly as Worf instantly locks phasers on the weapon manually and obliterates it with ease. Celebrating their victory, the bridge crew quickly returns the Enterprise to standard orbit and T'Su reports the away team being transported aboard.
When Captain Picard and Riker arrive on the battle bridge, La Forge rises from the captain's chair to relinquish command but Picard refuses. At first La Forge doesn't understand but Picard tells La Forge that when he left, the Enterprise was still in one piece and that he would appreciate it being returned to him in that same condition. So La Forge, delighted that he will remain in command for a bit longer, orders Solis to lay in a course for a rendezvous with the saucer section while Picard and Riker look on and T'Su reports that sickbay says Dr. Crusher will be fine.
"What happened to all the people?"
"A dissatisfied customer?"
- - Deanna Troi, Worf, Data, and Geordi La Forge
"Captain, we are being hailed."
"How can that be, from a planet with no people?"
- - Data and Riker
"If you need a little something 'special', be it for one target, or multiple targets, we got it, you'll see it, here on Minos, where we live by the motto, 'Peace through superior firepower'."
- - The Peddler, in the automated message played to the Enterprise
"Minos, the arsenal of freedom. Perfection in highly advanced weaponry. Versatility, flexibility, and everything one hundred percent guaranteed! So, lock onto my signal and beam on down! Because we don't just provide weapons, we provide complete weapons sys-"
- - The Peddler
"That's a heck of a sales pitch."
- - Geordi La Forge, on the Peddler
"Who sent you here to look for me?"
"Your mother. She's worried about you."
- - Rice's hologram and Riker
- - Riker, upon beaming down to Minos
"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
"What's the armament on your ship?"
"Ten? I don't understand, ten what?"
"Commander Riker, your answers make no sense."
"You haven't used my first name once, Paul. You remember it, don't you?"
- - Rice's hologram and Riker, who is becoming suspicious
"You can't fight what you can't see."
- - Logan to Geordi La Forge
"Mr. Logan, you will take command... of the saucer section."
- - Geordi La Forge
- - Worf
"So what went wrong? Where are its creators? Where are the people of Minos?"
"Once unleashed, the unit is... invincible – the perfect killing system."
"Too perfect... You poor fools – your own creation destroyed you!"
- - Picard, realizing the truth about Minos, and The Peddler
"Captain, Data's going to join you down there."
(Data jumps 11.75 m down into the cavern, landing on his feet, unaffected)
"At your service, Captain."
- - Riker, Picard and Data
"Relinquishing command, Captain."
"As you were, Lieutenant."
"Mr. La Forge, when I left this ship, it was in one piece. I would appreciate your returning it to me in the same condition. Do you concur, Number One?"
- - La Forge, Picard, and Riker, just as Picard and Riker arrive on the battle bridge
- Revised final draft script: 22 January 1988
- Second revised final draft script: 25 January 1988 
- Premiere airdate: 11 April 1988
- UK premiere airdate: 20 February 1991
Story and script
- 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 big emotional scene, with Picard and Crusher trapped in a cavern, was conveniently interrupted by a handy plot development before it could go beyond anything but the vaguest of hints. Originally, Crusher was going to reveal her true feelings to the gravely wounded Picard, but matters were switched so that Crusher was the injured party.
- This change worked, but the failure of the scene to make its intended point was frustrating not only to Lewin but to director Les Landau and to most viewers. The scene was further marred by a fact not readily discernible to viewers watching at home; it seems that 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. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages; Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation)
- The closed captioning for this episode replaces the term "Ersalrope wars" with "Romulan wars."
- 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"). (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, p. 56)
- Director Les Landau whose first assignment as director was this episode, remembered, "...the episode..., was in creative turmoil and going through a massive, last-minute rewrite. In five years, that was the only time the company had to shut down because there was no shooting script to be shot. 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." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 21, p. 41)
Cast and characters
- Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode.
- Marco Rodriguez later played Glinn Telle in "The Wounded" and Julia Nickson played Cassandra in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Paradise".
- This episode marks the first Star Trek episode of John Nowak, Patrick Stewart's stunt double. Nowak later doubled Stewart in twenty more episodes and in Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Insurrection. He also doubled Mark Margolis in "A Matter of Perspective" and Robert Picardo in several episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
- This episode marks the third appearance of one of the Enterprise-D's chief engineers, after Sarah MacDougal (TNG: "The Naked Now") and Argyle (TNG: "Where No One Has Gone Before", "Datalore"). In this case, it is Logan.
- The saucer separation was created completely by using stock footage from "Encounter at Farpoint".
- Footage of Jonathan Frakes (William T. Riker) from the scene with Rice was later used in the series finale "All Good Things..." so he could appear younger and beardless.
- This is the last episode in Season One to have red alert sounded and is also the last appearance of the old style red alert flashing lights. The old style red alert lights only flash on and off at the top and bottom, however, the next episode to have red alert sounded which will be "Where Silence Has Lease" will feature the regular lights that entirely flash on and off and will be used for the rest of the show's run.
- An Echo Papa 607 drone, holographically masquerading as Paul Rice, stated the USS Drake had a maximum speed of Warp 3, which would make it the slowest known starship in Starfleet in the 24th century. (That was probably conjecture by the drone's control computer, computed from the speed of ships of their time period.)
- After "Angel One", this is the second and final episode to show La Forge in command.
- This is the first episode of the series to show Worf at the Enterprise-D's tactical station, a position he would be officially stationed at starting with "Skin of Evil" and would remain there for the rest of the series and Star Trek Generations.
- This is the third episode to hint at or explore a potential romance between Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard. The first being The Naked Now and the second being The Big Goodbye. The pilot establishes their non-romantic history and thus is not counted as an episode that explores a romantic partnership between the two characters.
Sets, props, and costumes
- The miniature of the Echo Papa 607 was built by visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, using an old L'Eggs pantyhose container and a discarded shampoo bottle. (Star Trek Encyclopedia, TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "Memorable Missions")
- The prop for the big surface cannon that had been used to melt tritanium, speculated by Riker for being a demonstration model for a potential buyer, was a prop rented from Modern Props. It was later on seen again in ENT: "Demons" as a 22nd century mining laser used on Luna.
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 6, pp. 53-56.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 11, catalog number VHR 2440, 8 April 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 1.7, catalog number VHR 4648, 7 September 1998
- As part of the TNG Season 1 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 1 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Vincent Schiavelli as Minosian peddler
- Marco Rodriguez as Paul Rice
- Vyto Ruginis as Logan
- Julia Nickson as Lian T'Su
- George De La Peña as Solis
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- David Eum as Wright
- Richard Sarstedt as command division officer
- Unknown performers as
- Laurie Creach as stunt double for Gates McFadden
- Dana Dru Evenson as stunt double for Denise Crosby
- John Nowak as stunt double for Patrick Stewart
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Brent Spiner
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Susan Duchow – stand-in for Denise Crosby
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
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- "The Arsenal of Freedom" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Arsenal of Freedom" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Arsenal of Freedom" at Wikipedia
- "The Arsenal of Freedom" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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