This was supposedly done in live action: the planetside drone was a puppet operated in real time...
The revolving door of chief engineers got really irritating at this point.
Interesting how Logan got promoted to Chief Engineer only in the final script revision. Looking at the earlier version at Trekcore, there originally was nothing particularly Chiefish about the character, which was odd as such: why would an underling from Engineering come to challenge LaForge? And why wouldn't a senior officer from one of the supposed "fighting departments", Tactical or Security, be introduced here instead? It wouldn't have been difficult for any character to outrank LaForge at this point...
Oh, well. I would have settled for a more captivating actor for the role of the annoying Chief Engineer.
So long as the saucer didn't need FTL travel
...The funny thing is, the saucer very much did need to travel FTL in order to reach safety in this episode. Had LaForge's plan backfired, the evil probe would quite probably have come after the saucer unless said section were capable of fleeing towards the nearest starbase at a respectable speed. Say, at the same high FTL speed the saucer had used in the pilot episode already!
Speaking of LaForge's solution to the tactical problem, the episode really suffers from plot logic shortcomings there. Picard had already shut down the system that kept the demonstrations going, so the assailant threatening the starship should have vanished as well. OTOH, if the orbital demonstration did not
end when Picard bought the planetside version, then a second and even more powerful starship-killer should have popped up right after LaForge managed to blast the first one!
how the hell does such knowledge apply to a totally alien planet with totally unknown ecosystem
It would explain a lot about Star Trek in general if our heroes already recognized that most of the Earth-like planets out there were in fact copies of Earth (or Earth was a copy of one of them), terraformed by mighty ancient cultures. The sharing of a few key species between the terraforming projects would make sense...