Plot Synopsis: Geordi La Forge leads the Enterprise into battle while Captain Picard and an away team are trapped on the planet Minos, taking fire from a dangerous automated weapons system.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is fairly interesting. The crew is searching a cluster to see if they can find a Starfleet ship that’s gone missing. The planet Minos in that cluster is now lifeless and we don’t know why, all we do know is they were a planet of arms merchants supplying weapons to both sides of a war. Then we get hailed by an automated system from the planet which is one big sales pitch for weapons, and an away team is sent to investigate. Plot A involves the away teams on the planet dealing with the automated weapons system while plot B concerns Geordi being in command of the Enterprise while it too is attacked. Not long after Tasha, Riker and Data beam down they find a fragment of the ship they are looking for, the Drake. The tritanium has been melted, which is evidently beyond our technology. Then for no reason the captain of the Drake appears and stars questioning Riker. Only problem is there are no life signs on the planet. When the fake’s cover is blown he turns into a metal hair dryer-looking thing and incapacitates Riker. For no defensible reason Picard decides to beam down with Dr. Crusher, leaving Geordi in command of the bridge. Not long after they get there the second weapon arrives and Picard and Crusher get separated and fall down a huge pit. The rest of the episode switches between the away team, the captain/Dr Crusher, and Geordi. Plot A is fairly standard, but not uninteresting. Plot B with Geordi for me is the best part of the episode, it’s fun to see how he deals with problems that are outside of his experience. Both plots resolve themselves in a reasonably satisfying fashion.
Favorite Scenes: The nicest scenes are those involving Geordi getting accustomed to command. It’s a shame that this is the last episode we see him take command of the ship, even though he is a perfect fit as Chief Engineer the next season. You find yourself rooting for him, wanting him to succeed and it’s pretty satisfying as he does.
Use of Cast/Characters: Wil Wheaton had this episode off. This episode actually makes good use of most of the cast, which is rare in season one. Geordi maybe gets the most of any single character and has the most development, and is probably the best thing about this episode. Troi’s character is used effectively at key moments in helping Geordi adjust and in how to deal with some of his officers, which is exactly why she’s there. Tasha gets some time with taking command of tactical situations on the planet. She comes across as competent and professional, as she should. Dr. Crusher talks about her background a bit more, getting some development, and is actually the one who figures out how to solve the problem of the automated weapon system. Picard shares the screen with her and has a good support role in this episode. Data serves a purpose in his role, but doesn’t turn into the “answer man” as is sometimes the case. Riker has little to do: he’s immobilized for part of the episode and basically does what Tasha says for the rest of it. Worf has even less, but still is an active part of the plot B storyline. The guest stars are ok. We get our latest installment in season one chief engineers with Mr. Logan; he’s essentially a two-dimensional character whose purpose is to act as a foil for Geordi. The two young ensigns do a passable job as well.
Blu Ray Version: Very pretty planet we see from space throughout the episode. The phaser and energy blasts are also very vibrant and nice to see. Again there are lots of nice details that we see due to the HD nature of these episodes.
Nitpicks: More of the black cards throughout a lot of the teaser and then again at various points during the episode; ugh, pretty hard to miss. Also, not sure how tritanium is “unmeltable,” it’s what the Enterprise‘s bulkheads were made of but wouldn’t a phaser blast from one of our own ships do it? Finally, call me a nitpicker but I just was a little bugged at how the Enterprise, the most advanced ship in the Federation–the best we have–could be threatened by a tiny hair dryer-shaped weapon. I mean come on! Sure the Enterprise can’t be invincible, but in this season they are surrendering and almost being destroyed a heckuva lot.
Overall Impression: This isn’t a bad episode, at least for season one. Plot A isn’t dull and there is some tension here and plot B is genuinely well done. This episode is one that lightly explores the social issue of mutually assured destruction by an ever-increasing arms race, for whatever that’s worth; I do also like the irony inherent in the episode’s title. This episode does have action, and it does have character development at least for Geordi and Dr. Crusher, which is nice. It’s also got some flaws. The biggest hole in the plot is Picard himself beaming down to what we’ve just determined is an extremely dangerous and unpredictable situation. Troi even tries to stop him but gets ignored–there needed to be a better hook to get him down there than this. I mention it here instead of in nitpicks because it’s more than a nitpick, it’s a betrayal of the philosophy espoused by TNG, that of protecting the captain from dangerous away missions. The planet scenes are also really reminiscent of the original series. I rate this episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This episode was originally meant to explore the potential romantic relationship between Picard and Crusher, but Roddenberry but the kibosh on it. In fact it was this decision that led Robert Lewin, one of the writers, to leave the show. Other rumors were that he couldn’t get along with Maurice Hurley, head writer at the time. Either way any of the potential during the Picard/Crusher scenes was wasted. One of the more interesting tidbits though is that the sand that they had to work in was infested with fleas, making it a pretty crappy shooting experience for both Patrick and Gates. The Echo Papa 607 device was created using a L’eggs pantyhose container and a shampoo bottle!
Missable/Unmissable? This isn’t a bad episode. You will do fine to pass this one by if you want, but if you do watch it you won’t be disappointed, particularly if you’re a fan of Geordi and the ensemble feel that should accompany TNG episodes. The next episode is a step up though.