Monday, December 6, 2010

Battling The Unstoppable Foe: "The Arsenal Of Freedom" Is Cool!

The Good: Good plot, Excellent effects, Acting, Character
The Bad: Forced conflict in the b-plot
The Basics: A fun episode that puts the Enterprise in a series of combat situations against robot drones. High action, low thought.

One of the high points of Star Trek The Next Generation is easily the late-arriving, action episode "The Arsenal Of Freedom." It's not a terribly highbrow episode - though attempts are made to make it seem like more in a few moments of dialog - but it's one that stands up upon repeated viewings, which is more than most of the first season episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation.

"The Arsenal Of Freedom" refers to the planet the Enterprise arrives at, Minos. Minos is a weapons depot and upon entering orbit, a holographic salesman materializes and invites the crew to a demonstration. Beaming down to the surface, which is devoid of animal life, the crew soon comes under attack. Riker is incapacitated by a hologram of the captain of a ship lost in the area, Picard and Crusher fall in a deep hole and Data and Yar are attacked by a flying robot. Unfortunately, the Enterprise soon comes under attack in orbit of the planet by a weapon it cannot even see. Geordi, in command of the Enterprise, is forced to abandon the Away Team, leaving them in a hostile situation with robot drones attacking the crew and Dr. Crusher in shock and dying from the fall.

The resolution to the episode is rather simple, a la Star Trek, but it fits this episode well. As I mentioned before, this is not Star Trek The Next Generation's big attempt to create something meaningful and intelligent. Instead, this is a chance for us to see Riker, Yar and Data running around a jungle shooting their phasers.

But it's not all lowbrow action, either. Interspersed with the battle against the adapting robot drones is a series of wonderful dialogs between Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard. As Picard tries to keep Crusher conscious, we see a role reversal that works very well for the two characters. In fact, those scenes are some of the best acting in the entire first season of Star Trek The Next Generation.

In general, considering what the actors were truly up against, this episode has all around good acting, with the trio on the surface believably conveying shooting at the enemy drones. It's a good study in acting.

In this episode, Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden, who play Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, have a chance to play off one another and insinuate some real chemistry into their relationship. Both Stewart and McFadden are subtle with the subtext here and it works very well. It offers Stewart a real chance to illustrate the humanity of Picard toward Crusher and he pulls it off expertly. For her part, McFadden does a convincing job of making the audience believe in the severity of her character's wounds.

Similarly, on the Enterprise plot, LeVar Burton gets his first chance to play at command through Geordi. Burton has extraordinary dignity as an actor, but Geordi is a notoriously shy character who lacks confidence. "The Arsenal Of Freedom" gives Burton a chance to infuse some of his own inner strength into his character and he does it with a reasonable does here.

In fact, the only real disappointment of "The Arsenal Of Freedom" is the petty junior high attitude of some of the crewmen on the Enterprise. While Geordi is in command, an officer of a higher rank bemoans having to take orders from him and basically acts juvenile and pointless.

But if you're looking for a Star Trek The Next Generation episode that anyone may sit down and enjoy, this is one of the best. Great for when you're in the mood for solid action.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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