Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E21 – The Arsenal of Freedom

In the twenty-first episode of the first season of The Next Generation, the crew investigates the disappearance of an entire culture while Geordie copes with command. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Goddamn, this was another great episode. LET’S TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING.


I love it when dual plots are both as entertaining and revealing as one another, and “The Arsenal of Freedom” did a fine job in keeping me interested throughout. That’s a little bit surprising because I feel like the premise here is similar to things we’ve seen before on The Original Series. The weapons system that the Minos people constructed was so effective that it killed them all; the Enterprise crew merely re-activate it. So there’s no real antagonist here aside from the computer that is just doing the job it was programmed to do. (Is there a way that the Federation marks planets as “dangerous” for others? Like, can someone stick a sign somewhere? Do they just update the mapping files? THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION, CLEARLY.)

What makes “The Arsenal of Freedom” so compelling is the chance to take a typical premise and do something wonderful with it. I’m gonna talk positively about Dr. Crusher and Picard’s roles here, but I must say that I’m really craving more of Tasha. We get these little snippets of promise with her, and I love seeing how she asserts herself within the Enterprise crew. She’s the only character here who hasn’t been the focus of an episode yet, and I’d really like that. As for what I’d like to see… I don’t know. I liked so much that Geordie’s characterization prior to this episode lent weight to his parts on the Enterprise, and the previous episode did wonders to help me understand Worf, too.

The reason I bring this up is because the best part of the sequences on Minos comes through character development. Two particular moments stick out to me, and they both involve Dr. Crusher and Picard. Now, it’s been no secret that there’s some romantic chemistry between these two characters, but HOLY UNRESOLVED SEXUAL TENSION. It’s so much more intense here, and that’s clearly because the writers used one of the most common tropes for bringing out that tension: put one character in mortal peril. Unfortunately, Dr. Crusher is more or less interrupted before she can reveal her “truth” to Picard, and IT’S SO FRUSTRATING.

I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t get that scene where Picard has Dr. Crusher walk him through what he needs to do to stop her bleeding. LIKE… I HAVE READ SO MANY FICS USING THIS SAME TROPE, AND I PRETTY MUCH UNIVERSALLY LOVE IT. I love that he’s keeping her awake while also saving her life, and she’s staring at him with that look and… okay. You get it. I feel like y’all get this. I hope this is not the last we see of this because I’m honestly intrigued by the idea of a romance developing between these two. There’s so much potential, and I loved the acting between Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden here. Just… more? Please?


YES. Y E S. Y’all, this is what makes The Next Generation the kind of show that can be better than The Original Series. While this was definitely not the first time a secondary character assumed command in the Star Trek canon, there’s such care taken to give us a story within “The Arsenal of Freedom” that absolutely matters. Even though this is the second instance where Geordie was left in command, there’s a lot more pressure here for him to perform according to the guidelines of command. Human life hangs in the balance, and the problem is that Geordie has to weight two options, both of which are haunting. Does he stay behind and try to save his friends and commanders, risking the lives of thousands of other passengers? Or does he put the Enterprise before anyone else, saving a large number of lives, but dooming the others to certain death on Minos?

It’s only now, thinking back on this episode, that I realize the writers foreshadowed the eventual conclusion. Early on, Riker talks about Captain Rice’s command and how he was able to beat a test in the Academy by anticipating all his options and then inventing a new one. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT GEORDIE DOES HERE. After Chief Engineer Logan is a big huge jerk face (I may be biased because that actor often plays scumbags), Geordie has to deal with his own disappointment. Which is brutal! It would have been so much easier to dismiss Logan’s concern if his theory about anticipating the location of the invisible weapon had worked. It doesn’t, and as the crew looks to him for further assistance, Geordie isn’t so sure he can offer.

BLESS DEANNA TROI FOR HER PRESENCE HERE. I love that her role justifies her presence on the Enterprise. This ship needs someone for emotional support, and here’s a perfect example of that. She correctly reads Geordie’s reluctance and fear, and then she gives him something constructive that he can do with it. Good advice often works best when there’s some action that can be taken, particularly the kind that involves work you do on your own. So when Geordie comes up with his risky, last-minute plan to trick the weapon into revealing itself, he does so with a renewed confidence, one that reflects in how his crew behaves under such a ridiculous stressful situation.

I really want Geordie to get his own command. I WANT THIS MORE THAN MOST THINGS.

The video for “The Arsenal of Freedom” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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