20. The Arsenal of Freedom

How about…

another Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference? First the Last Outpost and now Minos. How many times will the Enterprise go to Magrathea?

Data’s smart remark? He tells Riker their communications are being monitored. Riker asks by whom, and Data says, since there’s no intelligent life the better question is “By what.” OK not helpful! By what then!!

… Tasha’s remark about technology? They find melted metal, and Tasha says whatever melted this metal is beyond our technology. Really?

… the robot that projects an image of Captain Rice? How does this work? It knows how to make an image of Rice because Riker trusts him, but it doesn’t know how to act properly. But in essence it does read Riker’s mind enough to create a simulacra of Rice. So why does it have to interrogate him if it can read his mind enough to make the image. Perhaps they should work on refining their mind reading gear. That way they can skip to the end. A little robot flies by and bam they know everything they need to know.

… Picard going down to the planet? Terrible idea. It’s like he’s giddy because Riker can no longer stop him and he goes running off. Diana tries to stop him, but he ignores her.

… Diana in this episode? She’s awesome. She tries to make Picard see sense, and she give Geordi good advice. I wonder why she isn’t left in command.

… the terrible aim the hovering robots have? Every time they sneak up, they shoot and miss. Or is it arrogance. They know they’re going to win so they always fire a warning shot.

… the hovering robot’s adaptations? So the hovering robots become better with each encounter. The second learned to dodge phaser fire. This is surprising because that means in the course of killing all the intelligent life on the planet, these things never faced phaser fire and learned to dodge. Moreover the third incarnation shields. Why not shields and dodging? Do they delete everything they learn and start with some basic strategy package for every new engagement? Why do they only come one at a time?

… Riker looking silly when he calls down to Picard that there is nothing to hold on to despite the massive vines right in front of him that are almost blocking his view?

Tasha Yar

In this episode Tasha Yar is great. She actually seems like the head of security now. I liked her in Heart of Glory, and she continues to improve. When she told Riker how to organize the away team, she was professional and knowledgeable. The way she dealt with the hovering robots, blowing up the first one and then giving orders to Data on strategy for the second, made her seem like an experienced soldier. Plus her overall attitude is so much better than when the season started. I’m glad they’ve finally figured this character out. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with her from here.

 Chief Engineer Logan

What a character.

He looks like Liev Schreiber and acts like William Shatner. He storms the bridge demanding that Geordi get them out of there before the ship is destroyed, and when Geordi does decide to go after his next failed attempt to fight, Logan is critical of the decision to leave Picard behind. Hey, Logan. I get you. Some punk kid jumped the org chart because he’s friends with the boss. But you really should try to be consistent.

Also don’t take potshots. I’m assuming that’s what happened when Logan said, “You can’t fight what you can’t see.” Awkward. Because he’s blind. Geordi that is. Not Logan.

 Intelligent Life

Characters are careful to say that there is no intelligent life. Yet there are four encounters on or above the planet. Riker encounters holographic Rice, Picard encounters the automated salesman, Yar encounters the hovering robot, and the Enterprise encounters the big hovering robot in the sky. Given these encounters, I was reminded of the discussion we had after 11001001. What makes something sentient?

After all, there are two holograms just like Minuet and two robots just like Data.

I suggested that a person (sentient being) was an entity possessing

  1. intelligence,
  2. consciousness,
  3. a will, and
  4. the ability to transcend its programming

I thought this was a nice place to check in on these criteria and see if they still hold up, and I would argue that they do.

automated salesman: he speaks so that gives the appearance of intelligence, but he isn’t conscious or aware. In fact, he doesn’t seem to get what’s going on around him. His former showroom is now an underground cave. His civilization is gone, and I’m sure the Minos currency isn’t quite what it used to be. Still he cares about one thing and one thing only. The sell. The very thing he was programed for.  He demonstrates no will, and he cannot at all transcend his programming. The fact that caused the destruction of all intelligent life on Minos.

Captain Rice: He speaks, but he doesn’t seem aware of what’s going on around him. No consciousness, no will, and no transcendence at all. He’s just a trap used by a hovering robot.

The hovering robots: They adapt, but show no sign of any of these criteria.

Finally, the hovering robot in the sky: the only thing we know about it is that it uses hit and run attack strategies that it remembers from past engagements. Plus it kind of looks like the things that were sent out to kill the away team on the planet.

So my guidelines still hold up. However in correspondence, John wrote to me, “I still don’t think there are always black and white divisions we can make…”

I realized we should be prepared to be wrong, be prepared to miss something.

So what do you think about this fifth criteria?

5) and/or anyone who demonstrates attributes that provide a reasonable doubt about their lack of sentience

 Pragmatic Picard

Next I’d like to talk a bit about the solution to this whole problem. Picard agrees to buy a weapon. These things wiped out the entire planet, and all it took was a sell. Really is a shame no one on Minos thought of that. I guess the path to Minos’ destruction lay in the fact that they were arms dealers, unethical about how they made sells, and unable to lie.

If Picards behavior is presented as a good solution, and I think it is, then there’s no point in reasoning with it or convincing with a thing is not sentient.  After all, if it cannot move beyond it’s programming, how’s it going to stop? It’s OK to lie to save thousands of lives (he believes the entire crew of Enterprise is still above the planet), right?

We just laugh at it and think OK that was easy.

But it also means that the ends justify the means.

If our behavior is guided by the kind of entity we’re dealing with, then sometimes it’s OK to behave immorally. It means that your behavior towards a rock doesn’t need to be moral or just because it’s just a rock.

But what if it’s a cat?

Is biological life superior to computer or inorganic life?

Is it OK because it’s just a lie? In which case do we have to create a schedule of immoral activities and determine which can be an end that justifies the means and which can’t.

I’m interested in how pragmatic Picard is. I propose to closely observe this in forthcoming episodes.

Morals, messages and meanings

  1. Ethics should guide business
  2. Careful with trust – Just because a thing looks like something you should trust doesn’t mean you should. Riker was a little too accepting of Captain Rice’s oddities until Picard told him it was an illusion.
  3. A fisherman dies a watery death – people who sell weapons eventually die by weapons.
  4. Ask yourself if you should – When working hard to perfect something ask yourself whether or not it should be perfected. The natural consequence of a perfect killing machine is the death of all things it’s meant to kill.
  5. Don’t always rely on technology – Dr. C’s herbalism savings throw may have saved her life.

Does it hold up?

It’s not horrible. I could watch it a second time easily, which is something I can’t say about Heart of Glory.

Still from a production standpoint, no. Not crazy about the soundstage.

The acting was passable, and the scenes with Picard and Dr. C were good. Tasha Yar was good, and Troi was good. I wish the Star Trek creators made better use of Troi.

From a story standpoint, the “no” gets bigger. It’s a mess because Picard going to the planet doesn’t make much sense, the hovering robots don’t make much sense, and Chief Engineer Logan makes little sense.

However, I love the end when neither Picard nor Riker take command of the Enterprise. It’s such an emotional way of saying that Picard has faith in Geordi’s ability without making it sentimental.

 

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