Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) – Arsenal of Freedom, and Symbiosis

Captain’s log: stardate 41798.2

Arsenal of Freedom written by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler from a story by Maurice Hurley and Robert Lewin with an original airdate of 11 April, 1988 is a bit of a mixed bag.

The Enterprise arrives at a desolate planet, with no life forms detected Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the rest are stunned when they are hailed. The communication is actually a recorded advertisement featuring a Peddler (Vincent Schiavelli) selling weapons.

It seems the inhabitants sold arms to both sides of any conflict, but finally created a weapon that wiped out the entire planet.

When Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Tasha (Denise Crosby) and Data (Brent Spiner) beam to the surface they encounter a dangerous machine, trapping Riker. Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) beam down to enjoy the investigation leaving Geordi (LeVar Burton) in command.

The assaults resume, and soon the Enterprise is under attack and the captain and doctor are separated from the rest.

It’s fairly well-paced, but the fact that you can tell every set is just that, a set, kind of removes some of the reality from the story. The planet sets (known as Planet Hell by the cast and crew) aren’t as convincing as they could be.

Overall, I enjoy most of the episode, and love that Geordi gets command and that Picard and Crusher get some nice moments together, but there’s something about the episode that bothers me. Perhaps it is the planet sets.

Still, it remains a delightfully more solid than a number of the earlier episodes in the season, and the ending is pretty smart, as the revelation of the only way to stop the attacks comes to Picard.

The rotating cast of chief engineers continues with yet another character, that of Logan (Vyto Ruginis). Happily, this cycle is coming to an end soon…

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Captain’s log: stardate unknown

Symbiosis. This one ends up being pretty annoying at various points in the story, and a reflection of the times in when it was made. It’s basically the Just Say No to drugs story. It aired on 18 April, 1988. Penned by Robert Lewin, Richard Manning and Hans Beimler from a story by Lewin, it explores addiction, and those who enable it.

The Enterprise receives a distress call from a broken down freighter, and brings the crew aboard. T’Jon (Merritt Butrick) and Romas (Richard Lineback) are the ship’s crew, but they seem to have no idea how anything works, or how to repair it. They claim to be carrying a medicinal cargo that will save the lives of countless people on their world.

The longer they are kept from their cargo the more they seem to be suffering withdrawal and the Enterprise crew it’s a drug. Investigating, they discover that the planet that supplies the ‘medicine’ is well aware of its addictive properties, and are keeping T’Jon and his people practically enslaved with it.

Picard comes up with the perfect way to preserve the Prime Directive of non-interference and stop the cycle of addiction.

It’s a great story idea, and most of it plays well, but the whole discussion with Wesley (Wil Wheaton) with the simplistic Drugs Are Bad notion is very much a sign of the episode’s time.

The Human Adventure continues Thursday…

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