The USS Drake was a light cruiser ship. When Riker was XO of the USS Hood, he’d been offered the opportunity to take command of the USS Drake, but he declined in favour of serving on the Enterprise D. Command of the Drake instead went to Captain Paul Rice. Riker was at Starfleet Academy with Rice, and remembers him as a very confident man, almost to the point of arrogance; he managed to get away with this trait because he had a tendency to be mostly right.
When Rice had taken his final test in Advanced Navigation at the Academy, there were three options available; Rice had ignored those three and had come up with his own solution. As a result, he had been awarded the highest score for the test, which was still in use at the Academy, but it now had four available solutions. Based on this profile, Counselor Deanna Troi reasoned that such a man would have a tendency to fight a battle, as opposed to retreat from one.
Data explains to the bridge crew that the Minosians became famous during the Ersalrope Wars as arms merchants, manufacturing and selling highly advanced weaponry – to both sides in the war. Discovering no life signs on the planet‘s surface more evolved than plants or animals, they are surprised by a hail from a peddler, which is soon realized to be an automated message from the time of the Wars. Commander Riker, Natasha Yar and Data transport down to the planet’s surface to investigate, Picard cautioning them that if the automated message system is still functioning, then there may well be automated weapons systems as well.
The away team searches the area. Data picks up that their communications are being monitored. When asked by Picard, “by whom?” Data responds that – seeing that there is no intelligent life on the surface – perhaps the better question would be “by what?”
Yar finds a piece of melted tritanium and Data uncovers an undamaged high-tech weapon mounted in a ruined structure. Riker comments on the finds, and Yar mentions that whatever weapon melted the tritanium is beyond current Federation technology.
Suddenly, Captain Paul Rice, the commanding officer of the USS Drake, appears from behind the bushes and engages Riker, who personally knows him and attended Starfleet Academy at the same time, in conversation. Back on Enterprise, they confirm there are still no lifeforms other than the away team, but that there is an energy build-up close to the commander.
Captain Rice asks Riker about the abilities of the Enterprise, which raises suspicions in Riker’s mind, and he soon realizes that he’s not speaking to the real Captain Rice. Rather than give away any information about the Enterprise, Riker gives Rice false information about the USS Lollipop, calling it “a good ship.” Riker then reveals to the fake captain that he knows Rice isn’t real, having among other things not called him “Will” even once, and Rice is quickly replaced by a weapon device.
Before the away team can be beamed back to the Enterprise, the weapon fires on Riker, encasing him in a bubble of energy. Yar quickly fires back and destroys the weapon, but the bubble does not disappear. Data and Yar examine the bubble holding Riker in stasis, and contact Captain Picard to tell him that Riker has been trapped by a force field.
On the surface, Picard and the others theorize about the reason why the weapon put Riker in stasis rather than kill him. Data is instructed to try and use his phaser to cut away the bubble, but just as he starts, the Enterprise hails the away team, informing them that another energy reading has appeared, and that it is moving towards them. Suddenly, the second weapon arrives and fires, chasing Picard and Crusher from the area. They fall into a deep underground cavern. Picard lands well and is unharmed, but the doctor is almost buried in loose sand and rocks, suffering significant injuries.
Meanwhile, Data and Yar battle with the second weapon, discovering that it has learned and adapted from its previous encounter, and is now evasive and much more difficult to destroy. However, the combined effort of the two is enough to destroy it. Finally noticing the disappearance of the captain and the doctor, Yar and Data try and contact them, but their combadges aren’t functioning. Yar decides to go off and try to find them, leaving Data with the still immobile Riker.
Back in the cavern, Crusher is nearly unconscious, with a broken arm and heavy bleeding. Picard also discovers that their communicators are malfunctioning. Realizing the need to tend to Crusher, Picard begins to treat her broken arm by using a twig from a branch nearby to fashion a splint and stopping the bleeding by tearing a piece from Crusher’s lab coat for a makeshift bandage. Yar returns to Data after failing to find the captain and doctor, and Data informs her that he has figured out the precise setting needed to dissolve the bubble around Riker. He fires his phaser and Riker is released, disoriented, but unharmed.
Back on the Enterprise, La Forge receives a report that they can now beam up the entire away team, but suddenly the deflector shields raise automatically, just before one of the weapons starts firing at the ship from almost point-blank range. The blast rocks the ship, but the shields hold. Just before their weapons can target the device and destroy it, it vanishes from the sensors, appearing seconds later behind the ship, and firing again. Realizing that the shields won’t be able to stand up to this much punishment indefinitely, and that the away team can’t be transported back with the shields up, La Forge is left to ponder his options.
Chief Engineer Lieutenant Logan arrives on the bridge and, hearing La Forge’s plan of staying in orbit to try and rescue the away team, demands that La Forge relinquish his command to him; a higher-ranking officer.
However, La Forge is more interested in trying to destroy the weapon, so he ignores Logan and tells Worf to compute the predicted attack path of the weapon, firing in the dark against their cloaked opponent. Logan continues to interfere, and La Forge sends him back to engineering, saying he’s in command until relieved by either Commander Riker or Captain Picard.
Back on the planet, a third weapon device has been released, and this time it is equipped with its own deflector shield. Data comments that the weapon continues to upgrade itself after every encounter. With the combined firepower of their phasers, the officers only just manage to destroy the weapon. Data tells the team that the weapons appear every twelve minutes, which gives them all the incentive they need to be off the planet by that time.
In the cavern, Picard continues to make sure Crusher doesn’t fall unconscious. He discovers that she’s got another, more serious wound on her leg, which is bleeding heavily.
Searching for a clotting agent, Crusher notices some roots nearby. At the doctor’s instruction, Picard breaks a piece off and tastes it to learn how bitter it is, and notices some discoloration when he applies some of its liquid to his hand. Crusher slips in and out of consciousness much to the concern of Picard, who needs her help to treat her as he crushes the root and applies it to the wound. The root stops the bleeding, and although Crusher is still in shock, he tries to do his best for her by elevating her legs to settle her down.
Back on the ship, La Forge and the bridge crew are ready for their first test shot. The *Enterprise’*s phasers and photon torpedoes are fired simultaneously, but they miss completely. This is confirmed by the weapon firing on the ship once again. With the crew reporting increasing damage to the shields, and the weapon continuing to fire unabated, La Forge appears increasingly frustrated. Everyone on the bridge is now looking to him for orders. La Forge then calls for Logan to come to the bridge.
As soon as Logan arrives, La Forge calls for the Enterprise to go to warp and leave orbit of the planet, surprising everyone on the bridge. He then orders Logan to take command of the saucer section of the Enterprise, to ensure the safety of the majority of the crew by taking it to Starbase 103, while La Forge takes the stardrive section back to the planet. La Forge retreats to Picard’s ready room to devise his strategy. Counselor Troi enters and gives him some advice on how to properly command the two young junior officers Solis and T’Su, telling him that it is he they will draw strength from. She advises him to show confidence in them, just as Captain Picard showed confidence in La Forge when he left him in command of the Enterprise. La Forge gratefully accepts Troi’s advice. When La Forge and the bridge crew have relocated to the battle bridge, the ship separates, leaving the saucer section behind.
Meanwhile, back in the cavern, Picard continues to explore the cavern whilst trying to keep Crusher awake by asking her how she knew to use roots she’d never seen before. Crusher explains how she and her grandmother Felisa Howard were present during the Arvada III colony disaster, and it was during this time Felisa learned how to use herbs and roots for medicinal purposes after regular medical supplies had been exhausted. This inspired Beverly to a career in medicine.
Just then, Picard uncovers an alien viewscreen. A holographic projection of the same salesman as they’d seen before appears and begins extolling the virtues of the “Echo Papa 607,” the Minosians’ ultimate achievement. Picard is shocked to be told that the attacks on the away team and the Enterprise have simply been part of an automated “demonstration” of the weapon. Picard tells the salesman to abort the demonstration, but the salesman says they have to see what the weapon’s capabilities are in order to be convinced of its worth. Beverly volunteers that the salesman program doesn’t understand anything other than what its been programmed to sell – it has no idea that its parent civilization was wiped out.
The salesman continues to explain the system: after each encounter with the enemy, the central unit learns and adapts its weapons to combat them. Once it is activated, the Echo Papa 607 is unstoppable. The captain realizes that this is all too true: it was the Minosians’ own weapon system that destroyed their civilization. The unit then signals that the final weapon device is about to be launched.
Commander Riker and the others locate the hole the captain and doctor fell through, but there is no way for them to reach each other. Then Data states that he can safely jump down the 11.75 meter drop without damage. This surprises everyone, but without hesitation, the android officer drops down the hole, and easily lands firmly on his feet. He immediately begins to scan Dr Crusher, and then looks with concern at Picard.
Riker and Yar take up defensive positions in an attempt to prepare for the final weapon, though neither of them has any ideas as to how to fight it.
As the stardrive section of the Enterprise returns to Minos, La Forge tries to give the two young officers (Solis and T’Su) some encouragement just as Troi suggested.
Back in the cavern, the final weapon is launched, and Data attempts to reprogram the targeting settings. Finding no alternate targets for the weapon to lock onto, however, Data draws a blank. Crusher suggests that they just turn the machine off. The idea is so simple, Picard hadn’t even considered it. He demands the peddler turn off the machine. Again, the peddler seems not to understand, insisting that they have to see everything the machine can do. Picard says they’ve seen enough, and quickly agrees to “buy” the Echo Papa 607. Satisfied, the peddler congratulates Picard on his decision and disappears. The effect is immediate – the display screen goes blank, the final surface weapon deactivates, and the dampening field blocking communications is released.
However, things are not so good on Enterprise. The previous weapon sent after the ship is still functional in orbit of the planet, and is chasing the ship. La Forge orders the ship into the planet’s atmosphere, where he hopes atmospheric friction and turbulence will reveal the weapon’s presence, despite its cloaking device. As the Enterprise descends, the shields begin to fail and then Solis begins to lose helm control, but just in time, T’Su detects a disturbance to starboard. The plan works perfectly as Worf instantly locks phasers on the weapon manually and obliterates it with ease. Celebrating their victory, the bridge crew quickly returns the Enterprise to standard orbit and T’Su reports the away team being transported aboard.
When Captain Picard and Riker arrive on the battle bridge, La Forge rises from the captain’s chair to relinquish command but Picard refuses. At first La Forge doesn’t understand but Picard tells La Forge that when he left, the Enterprise was still in one piece and that he would appreciate it being returned to him in that same condition. So La Forge, delighted that he will remain in command for a bit longer, orders Solis to lay in a course for a rendezvous with the saucer section while Picard and Riker look on and T’Su reports that sickbay says Dr. Crusher will be fine.
- After “Angel One“, this is the second and final episode to show La Forge in command.
- This is the first episode of the series to show Worf at the Enterprise-D’s tactical station, a position he would be officially stationed at starting with “Skin of Evil” and would remain there for the rest of the series and Star Trek Generations.