Friday, February 7, 2020

Star Trek: The Arsenal of Freedom

Episode: "The Arsenal of Freedom"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1, Episode 21
Original Air Date: April 11, 1988
Image result for arsenal of freedom
via Memory Alpha

The USS Drake has gone missing and the Enterprise travels to the planet Minos to find it.  They are greeted by a holographic salesman hawking advanced weapons systems.  The system is so advanced, in fact, that it killed all of the planet's inhabitants and is now hunting the away team.  Meanwhile, the Enterprise, left under Geordi's command, is also under attack by the automated defense force.

The story started with promising elements, including development of the Picard-Crusher relationship.  While on planet, the two fall down into a pit.  The doctor is badly injured and the captain, in an interesting role reversal, must attend to her wounds.  The original intention was for Picard to be hurt and for Crusher to confess her deep feelings for him while trying to save him.  Roddenberry nixed the idea and rightly so, I think.  There are several feeble attempts at a Picard-Crusher romance in Season 1 and, while it's sweet in a way and entirely believable, I'm glad the writers never followed that path too far, or made too much of any romance among the principals.  Things do develop for some later on... but it's handled in such a way that it doesn't hijack the entire narrative for the series.

Otherwise, the episode actually gets kind of boring at times, an unforgivable sin for science fiction.  The Geordi story is probably the more compelling one as he is challenged for leadership by another officer, Lieutenant Logan who outranks him but only appears in this one episode so obviously that can't happen.  Deanna also urges Geordi to be encouraging towards those under him, Picard style.  He handles both situations beautifully, just as we all knew he would!

A final story note: in the beginning, we learn that our dear Riker had actually been offered command of the Drake before coming to the Enterprise.  Again, one of our heroes passed up a promotion in order to remain a part of our story.  Also worth noting, this is not the last time a ship Riker was meant to lead is destroyed, in a way justifying his choice.  But again, worth asking, how often do people pass up promotions in the real world military?  At the very least, it defies credibility.

Acting Notes

Image result for vincent schiavelli
via Memory Alpha

Vincent Schiavelli plays the part of the Peddler, the holographic salesman.  Schiavelli was born November 11, 1948 in Brooklyn, New York.  Over a 30+ year career, he established himself as one of the best character actors in Hollywood.  In film, he had roles in several high-profile pictures, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Ghost.  I first became aware of him when he made a guest appearance on Moonlighting as the love interest of Agnes, played by Alice Beasley, Schiavelli's real world wife at the time.

He also appeared in a ZZ Top video:

A man of many talents and interests, Schiavelli wrote three cookbook/memoirs and starred in a PBS cooking show called Chefs of Cucina Amore.  His work in food was well-regarded, earning him a James Beard Journalism Award in 2001.  Schiavelli suffered from Marfan syndrome and served as honorary co-chair of the disease's national foundation.

He died in 2005 of lung cancer.  He passed away and was buried in Sicily, the ancestral home of his grandfather.  Schiavelli spent much of his later life there.  Much of his food writing draws from his time in Italy.


  1. Yeah, this is another episode that was fumbled from the opening scene. Science fiction is almost overwhelmed with Man vs. intelligence weaponized machines and this was the best they could do?
    I'll give the writers one slight credit for trying to tie Minos, "Arsenal of Freedom" motto to the American military/industrial complex. I'm a retired soldier with a combined 21 years in the active army and National Guard but I know the strength of a society hardly ever comes from its ability to kill and destroy.

    as for Schiavelli's Marfan syndrome, I was checked for that back in the nineties. While I was cleared of that, I found out in 2018 I have a different heart condition equally bad.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you for your service.

      It blows my mind that Americans still fail to heed Eisenhower's warnings about the military/industrial complex. The man was a 5-Star General and also President of the United States. He knew what he was talking about, folks!

      Sorry to hear of your condition. I first heard of Marfan back in the '80s when Flo Hyman died.

  2. Memorable for the Picard/Crusher arc. Also: "The U.S.S. Lollipop. It's a good ship."

  3. One of these days, I'm going to stream this series.

    I loved One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and thanks for posting the music video. I haven't heard ZZ Top in a long time and didn't realize that Schiavelli also was in it.

    1. I can't say I knew this song before but I like some of their older stuff.

  4. I just watched an episode of 'Community' with Burton in it.
    yeah, That's all I have to say about this episode.

  5. I enjoyed that episode and Schiavelli was great. He always performed as an interesting character. We have known several people with Marfan's syndrome. He seemed like such a gentle soul, and focusing his talent in food preparation is a great view of the rest of his life.

    1. I love a good character actor. As I write this I just watched Brad Pitt - character actor genius trapped in the body of a leading man - finally win a long-deserved acting Oscar.