In which Picard and Beverly fall down a hole.
Memory Alpha says: On a planet famous for its munitions industry, the crew of the Enterprise is threatened by a deadly automatic weapons system. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
This is a very TOS-feeling plot. Perhaps, indeed, it has too much of the stamp of TOS on it, via Roddenberry, because according to M.A.,
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.
Which is a good example of Gene Roddenberry not fully understanding what was good about his own show, and what would eventually become my most loved aspect of TNG and DS9: heavily character-driven episodes. What can I say, I watch it as a Space Soap. It’s nearly as good as Coronation Street.
Oh, and the sand in the pit where Picard and Bev are? Infested with fleas, so just you remember that in these scenes. Both of them are absolutely crawling with fleas. With that, on we go!
- I wonder who picks out the neo-classical names for planets, like here, Minos. I always think that the Vulcans were pretty good sports about accepting a human name for their planet, particularly after it was explained to them ‘Yeah, we named you after an urgly blacksmith god with a gimp leg whose really hot wife was always cheating on him.’ The Klingons thought a father-god who ate his children was considerably more metal, and amusingly ironic considering what they did to their own gods, but insisted on spelling it their own way. Did you know that, before the convention of naming planets after Roman gods became sort of calcified, the guy who discovered Uranus really wanted to call it George? After the king, not just because George is a cute name.
- Anyway, Minos doesn’t sound like an apt name for a planet known for its weapons manufacture. In fact, you know what would seem much more apposite? VULCAN. Or at least Hephaestos. I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend Myths RETOLD. Mythology of many lands narrated with drunken incoherence by a skinny shirtless hipster in a hat.
- My local pizza shop is called Minos, by the way, and they do a DAMN good Quattro Staggioni </siskovoice>.
- So Rice rewrites multiple-choice tests because he’s SUCH A BADASS. This is, of course, essentially just copying Kirk’s Kobayashi Maru hack.
- The leer Riker gives Picard when he says he thought it would be ‘more advantageous’ to work on the Enterprise almost defies description, but let’s just say, vintage early Creepyriker. Also, we later learn that the Drake‘s top speed is Warp 3. As if Riker could be contained by a sissy-ass ship like that!
- Everyone suggests reasons why there might be no intelligent life left on the planet, and I jump up and down yelling ZOMBIE RISING. Look, I know zombies are just a fad, I know it’s just like the whole pirate thing we had a few years ago, but I still really enjoy a good zombie story and live for the day when a Federation ship has to render aid to a planet having its own World War Z. That would be a far better way for Tasha to get killed than the black slime planet.
- Is that a didgeridoo on the BGM?
- This guy is spectacularly creepy, and he’s another Hey It’s That Guy! who has probably been in more B movies than I have had hot dinners. I could go and look him up, but hey, you have the Memory Alpha link up there.
- It takes Picard a surprisingly long time to catch on that it’s a recorded message, but I suppose humans aren’t used to commercials any more.
- Okay. So Riker picks two people for his away team, Tasha and Data. Tasha says she recommends a minimum complement and he says ‘Oh? I would have thought otherwise.’ He just picked only two people! Anyway, she doesn’t want to risk a lot of people until they work out what killed everyone off. A trifle more cautious than they were in ‘Datalore,’ then.
- Off they go!
- Picard considerately recaps after the opening credits, for people who got home late. There is a gloriously wobbly crane shot pulling back through the Planet Hell soundstage set (nicknamed by the actors because it was always either far too hot or far too cold), which has been dressed as a sort of half-assed forest with a lot of dry ice mist. Picard calls the planet heavily forested, but the forest has no canopy and the rocky horizon is easy to see. And although the atmosphere of Minos appeared green from space, the visible sky is blue. I like it when nothing quite matches up.
- Data has found a huge thingy covered in Spanish moss. Everyone is very impressed.
- Ensign Tsu or Tzu or Zu or Zhu I’M NOT LOOKING IT UP has a swell perm.
- Rice has terrible acne scars, and the first thing Riker does to greet him is strike a Jaunty Captain Morgan pose. Anyway, Rice is obviously and immediately sinister because he just stands there in the treeline instead of stepping out to shake Riker’s hand or have a manly backslapping hug.
- ‘Your mother.’ I would like to hear some good space-themed Your Mother jokes, but in the meantime these are my favourite ones:
- ‘The name of my ship is the Lollipop.’ Data’s confused expression is endearing, and the fact that Lollipop is Riker’s go-to fake ship name is even more so. It’s a good ship! What’s your go-to fake ship name? I think I’d veer towards Tintin and say the Karaboudjan or the Unicorn.
- Whatever AI is running the Rice hologram is not very good at bluffing.
- I don’t quite know why Riker shouts so angrily at what he knows is only a hologram, or why he steps halfway round a small palm tree to do so. But I do know that the little flying hologram projector that they then see is made out of a shampoo bottle and a L’Eggs pantyhose container.
- REPORT! REPORT!
- Riker has been enveloped!
- It still feels absolutely weird that Geordi is the guy you leave in charge, at this point, when the top three guys are all off the ship.
- So Picard heads down to make matters worse I guess.
- Jonathan Frakes is doing a very good job of staying perfectly still and not blinking, which really isn’t easy. This must have felt really goofy to shoot.
- Tasha, are you finishing Data’s sentences for him?
- Data’s phaser looks really scuffed.
- Geordi’s visor and Worf’s pageant sash in one shot; SO MUCH BRASS
- And of course I enjoy Data calmly standing still and continuing to zap Riker while everyone else runs.
- And then this happens.
- DOWN TO THE OUBLIETTE OF FLEAS!
- yay, Tasha and Data kill the L’Eggs bot with teamwork!
- Oh God, poor Gates McFadden, half buried in flea-ridden sand.
- How did she manage to get so badly hurt when he’s just a little dirty?
- Have you ever noticed how women in TV and movies are allowed to get cuts and bruises on their foreheads, but very rarely to get a black eye, bloody nose, swollen cheek or split lip? The forehead is allowed, because it’s kind of decorative, but the pretty features of the face aren’t allowed to get messed up. Medical shows don’t usually follow this rule, but action and adventure ones usually do. My ideas about this aren’t properly formed, they’re just at the level of saying ‘Hey, I have noticed this and think it’s weird.’
- Brent Spiner is doing weird things with his hands this episode, shaking out his wrist after holstering his phaser, then having to steady the belt holding that and his tricorder – it seems to be badly balanced.
- Chief Engineer Logan, another in the season one parade of nonentity engineers. They do try to give Logan a personality here by making him crabby and high-handed – and evidently he shares my confusion at Geordi being in charge. You know, I don’t meant to give the impression that I think Geordi is incompetent, I just don’t find him authoritative. Maybe he’s just too short? Anyway, I guess Logan didn’t last long after this.
- HA Data just FLUNG Tasha through the air to get her out of the line of fire, it was AWESOME and STUNTDOUBLETACULAR.
- Riker’s hair is messed up, and Tasha and Data’s teamwork is no longer sufficient to kill the L’Eggs thing! They have to get Riker in on it as well, and they’re all steadily firing phaser beams at it as it hovers in the air, and I want Data to say ‘Don’t cross the beams. It would be… bad.’ Although maybe I should give Egon’s lines to Riker, since he was the one saying ‘Your mother’ earlier.
- Back to the oubliette of fleas, which looks incredibly uncomfortable for Bev even without biting parasites.
- If her leg is bleeding, why isn’t the sand around her leg wet?
- Gates McFadden is doing a very nice job with the shivers of a person getting chilled with shock – and poor Picard is having to pound medicinal roots like he’s Ayla or something.
- ‘Let’s see if we can get lucky.’ You, Geordi? Never. Sorry. Your future plans pretty much rely on Data never, ever getting a girlfriend or boyfriend so he’s available to be your platonic life partner, don’t they?
- I love how PETULANT Worf is about missing. Ha ha ha, and how utterly grossed out Logan is at being put in command of the saucer section.
- ‘You can’t fight what you can’t see,’ says Logan, and the BLIND MAN he’s talking to nobly refrains from saying ‘No shit, Sherlock.’ Hey, has Geordi tried looking through a plain glass window for whatever’s been shooting at them? Precedent kind of says he should be able to see it.
- Yeah, what did you want to see him about, Deanna? Just to praise him a bit? Okay, to warn him that the bridge officers are freaking out. Right, so get O’Brien to the battle bridge. O’Brien does not freak out.
- Time for recycled footage from ‘Farpoint’! Which just increases the anime giant robot sequence feeling of this for me. And the Enterprise‘s butt flies off to Minos, pinhead to the rescue!
- Picard! Encourage Beverly to sing to you to keep her awake! I suggest ‘Frère Jacques,’ in part because I recently watched ‘Disaster’ from season five.
- First mention of Beverly’s grandmother – is this the same grandmother who was getting ravished by the candle ghost?
- And just as the enigma of Beverly is getting a little less enigmatic, Picard finds a blinkenlight and the plot’s back on.
- Echo Papa 607 would be a good name for a jazz band for Riker.
- Data’s going to jump, and hopefully not to land on Beverly. The low-key way he hops down is wonderful.
- Why not tell the salesman that the two people on the surface are propective buyers, not targets, and if they get hurt he won’t make the sale?
- And a woman with shock and concussion thinks of just turning the machine off, when a super-smart android and an uninjured starship captain didn’t.
- That explosion blew Ensign Tsu’s hair back.
- I’m sorry, I can’t get over how stupid the stardrive looks without its head.
How lame is it that the solution to the whole plot was ‘just turn it off’? And now the captain has to be given a flea bath, and you know how he hates baths!
Anyway, next time it’s ‘Skin of Evil,’ so Tasha’s gonna die and Worf’s gonna get a better job. Also this. That is printer’s ink thickened with Metamucil that they’re dragging him into.
What were you up to this week, O’Brien?