Original Air Date: October 5, 1987
Writers: John D. F. Black and J. Michael Bingham
Director: Paul Lynch
“I put it to you all, I think we shall end up with a fine crew… if we avoid temptation.”
The Enterprise is running at Warp-7 to rendezvous with the S.S. Tsiolkovsky, a science “research vessel” which has been routinely monitoring the collapse of a red super giant star as it devolves into a white dwarf. However, something has been going wrong aboard the S.S. Tsiolkovsky. The Enterprise receives a strange communication filled with rowdy voices having a “wild party” and a woman sends a seductive message –”Well, hello, Enterprise, welcome. I hope you have a lot of pretty boys on board, because I’m willing and waiting. In fact, we’re going to have a real blowout here.” And then an emergency hatch is blown out aboard the Tsiolkovsky. As they approach, Riker beams over with a boarding party consisting of Data, Geordi, and Lt. Tasha Yar (for some reason, they are not wearing protective suits). All of the Tsiolkovsky crew are mysteriously dead. Someone aboard the Tsiolkovsky had tampered with the temperature controls, and there are frozen bodies lying strewn about the research vessel. Meanwhile, the Tsiolkovsky remains in close orbit of the red giant while the star faces an impending collapse (sound like a familiar plot?).
Back aboard the Enterprise, Geordi begins perspiring and behaving erratically –he appears to be confused and intoxicated. He easily escapes from sick bay and runs into Wesley Crusher who is toying with a new machine that allows him to use a repulsor ray and voicebox technology which allows him to mimic people (like Captain Picard). Later, Geordi is found by Lt. Yar gazing off into space in the observation lounge, claiming there are “wild things” coming into his mind. Lt. Yar helps Geordi return to sick bay where his mysterious sickness can be further researched. It is revealed that Geordi has been stricken with some unknown “polywater intoxication.”
Soon, this strange contaminant spreads to the whole crew by mere touch or proximity. Crewmen are seen dancing and kissing. The “training division” has apparently ordered a mandatory lecture on metaphysics, and Data mentions a “rather peculiar” limerick about a woman from “Venmus” (neither Data nor Worf seem to understand the limerick in an amusing gag). Regular order has quickly broken down aboard the Enterprise. Wesley Crusher contracts the disease from Geordi, and then uses his machine to mimic Picard’s voice and instill himself as captain while taking over the engineering bay where former engineers now behave like drunken children. It causes pure chaos as Picard loses control of the ship. In one of the more infamous scenes in this episode, Lt. Yar saunters through the ship, kissing random men, and then infamously seduces Data (apparently Data has also contracted the disease somehow?) Data claims he has been “programmed in multiple techniques, a broad variety of pleasuring…”
Riker and Data dig back through old records from the original Enterprise where they discover the vaccine developed by Dr. McCoy in “The Naked Time.” Unfortunately, the vaccine is ineffective when employed by Dr. Crusher –even against Data. With time running out, Picard is infected and the nearby red giant suddenly begins to explode. Riker, who has been infected but is not displaying symptoms for some reason, leads Data to commandeer the engineering bay from Wesley. In doing so, Data needs to replace all the missing “isolinear chips” which have been haphazardly strewn all over the ground –the chips are needed to boot up the ship’s engines and escape the coming planetary explosion. Before the job can be finished, Riker begins to succumb to the disease and Data and Wesley seem to be at least somewhat lucid as Wesley uses his repulsor beam to push the Enterprise far enough away in order to escape. In effect, he saves the ship from destruction. In the end, Dr. Crusher alters the old vaccine originally created by Dr. McCoy (details are never given) and it miraculously works –the whole crew is inoculated.
As things return to normal, the crew are left with some awkward memories. Picard declares, “I think we shall end up with a fine crew… if we avoid temptation” (cue the odd glances between Data and Lt. Yar, and between Riker and Deanna Troi). The Enterprise speeds away at Warp 3, Heading 294, Mark 37… engage!
My Thoughts on “The Naked Now”
An obvious homage to the classic episode “The Naked Time,” “The Naked Now” is a silly circus episode filled with plot-holes and screwball sexuality –but it still manages to elicit glee. The low point of this episode is obviously the oddball seduction of Data by Lt. Yar (there is also a bizarre grunting noise made by Picard while Dr. Crusher attempts to seduce him which is a close second). Perhaps little more need be said on this account, but I still had a lot of fun with this goofy adventure –it offers a smiling nod to long-time fans of TOS. This raucous romp gave me a few good laughs!
The following are a few questions I had about this episode: Why does the Enterprise remain in orbit around a collapsing red giant if they know the other nearby ship is empty and an explosion is imminent? Why not just leave the area to avoid a crisis? While they wait around, Wesley Crusher takes over the engineering bay and prevents escape anyway. Also, I guess the security aboard the Enterprise-D is as loose as the original Enterprise, especially if a young boy can easily take command of the ship in mere minutes. And how exactly can Data catch the “polywater” disease? Why don’t the Enterprise instruments register a disease was present in Geordi? Why did the crewmen not wear hazmat or contamination suits when they boarded the Tsiolkovsky as in “The Naked Time”? Will Wesley’s repulsor ray and voicebox technology ever reappear in future episodes? So many lingering questions from this one.
John D. F. Black wrote the original script for “The Naked Time,” the fourth episode of TOS, and thus he was given writing credit for this episode. However, the initial idea of copying “The Naked Time” in TNG came from Gene Roddenberry who asked DC Fontana to draft a script. Roddenberry wanted to introduce the “wants and needs” of characters in the show. Upon submitting a draft script, DC Fontana was dismayed to find her script had been significantly revised by Gene Roddenberry, who inserted a great deal of sexual content. DC Fontana submitted a strongly worded memo and asked to have her name concealed in the credits as a pseudonym “J. Michael Bingham.” “The Naked Now” is based on an incomplete teleplay by Roddenberry entitled “Revelations.” In “Revelations,” Geordi infects Lt. Yar while making unsuccessful sexual advances toward her.
Director Paul Lynch (1946) is a former newspaper cartoonist and photographer before becoming a film and television director. He directed five episodes of TNG and later five episodes of DS9.
Star Trek Trivia:
- In one of the few moments of background for Lt. Tasha Yar, she reveals that she was abandoned at the age of 5, and escape a harsh upbringing at the age of 15.
- Data reveals he has skin and pores and apparently “leaks” something akin to blood when pricked, along with “other” normal human bodily functions.
- Brooke Bundy appears for the sole time as chief engineer Sarah McDougal in this episode. Geordi La Forge was assigned the post on a permanent basis in season two.
- The SS Tsiolkovsky ship model was a redress of the USS Grissom from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). Michael Okuda created a plaque for the Tsiolkovsky that stated that it had been created in the Soviet Union. A copy was subsequently sent for display at the Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics in Kaluga, Soviet Russia. The USSR disintegrated in 1991, four years after this episode was produced.
- Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) was a Soviet rocket scientist.
- According to Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes sharply criticized this episode, going so far as to call it the worst segment of TNG, saying he felt “totally ashamed” by it.
- There is a rare moment in this episode wherein Deanna Troi addresses Riker as “Bill.”
- This episode marks the first appearance of the 24th century medical tricorder.
- Gene Roddenberry apparently made an unexpected cameo (of sorts) in this episode. Around the fifteen-minute mark, as Data explores the database for info, a brief picture can be seen of Roddenberry’s head superimposed onto a parrot. This is a reference to his nickname “the Great Bird of the Galaxy” as created during the initial run of TOS.
It’s indeed noteworthy to look back on this episode now, after how successfully far TNG has come in revitalizing Star Trek. The intentions may have been good. But it was creatively better to see TNG’s era for Star Trek explore a lot more in the future rather than remaking the past. So The Naked Now wouldn’t be on my re-watch list. Thank you for your review.
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