Synopsis: A planet that was basically a giant arms dealer but is devoid of life now is not quite done yet showing off its wares to Riker (and no, that’s not a euphemism).
Memory Alpha Summary: The crew was relentlessly attacked by fleas during filming. Oh, season one!
Review: Although a bit clumsy, I like this episode for its individual parts. Riker’s conversation with his old buddy (who turns out to be a hologram) is great, as Riker inform him that his ship, The Lollipop, has just been commissioned. “It’s a good ship!” Ha!
Geordi takes over the ship after Picard joins the away team for no significant reason other than to get screen time (after all, he could have sent down some redshirts to risk their lives). Watching Geordi command is always fun, as he’s always simultaneously excited and nervous (sadly, we’ll never see this again). Troi also proves herself useful, not by reading emotions, but by counseling Geordi in his new position. Imagine that! It’s too bad Guinan will soon take over this role, rendering her completely useless.
However, there are two major plot holes in addition to other problems. First, Riker and Tasha refrain from jumping into the pit to meet with Picard and Crusher because it’s too far. Data does so, because he’s an android. If he’s that strong, why doesn’t Data offer to catch Riker and Tasha if they jump? Second, when Picard succeeds at shutting down the defense system, why doesn’t the drone attacking the Enterprise also shut off? There’s no explanation.
Also, Logan, our 20th chief engineer so far, first yells at Geordi to abandon the away team in the name of safety. Then, when Geordi decides to run away, Logan rails on him for abandoning the away team. Make up your mind, you pompous prig. Worse yet, Geordi makes an official log entry in which he laments his conflict with Logan off-handedly. How inappropriate! I do feel for Logan, though. He outranks Geordi (as do many others on board) but Affirmative Action for blind people allows this contrivance, or something.
Despite these missteps, the two climaxes save this episode. Vincent Schiavelli is perfect as the peddler. I only wish Picard and Crusher could have had more screen time together in the pit. It seems a writer left the show after this episode because he said Roddenberry discouraged character development. Well, Roddenberry died and this scenario would be much better explored in Attached, during season seven.