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The Trek Nation - The Naked Now

The Naked Now

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 23, 2007 - 10:22 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Naked Now' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While the USS Tsiolkovsky monitors a collapsing star, it loses contact with Starfleet, which dispatches the Enterprise to find out what has happened. The crew cannot make contact with the Tsiolkovsky and beams over to find the ship in chaos and the entire crew dead. LaForge touches one of the bodies and, although the Enterprise transporters decontaminate him, brings the contagion that afflicted the Tsiolkovsky aboard. Everyone who touches anyone so infected begins to act intoxicated. Soon nearly the entire crew has been contaminated, and as the star begins to collapse, Wesley Crusher takes over engineering with force fields and a voice synthesizer, disabling the bridge controls. However, Wesley is able to divert the ship when a chunk of the exploding star heads directly toward the Enterprise, and his mother finds an antidote based on one used by the crew of James T. Kirk's Enterprise many years earlier.


Analysis: I'm sure that someone thought they were doing a nice homage to the original Star Trek by recreating the circumstances of "The Naked Time", but the second episode of The Next Generation was not the time for such a storyline, nor was it faithful enough to the original to be terribly interesting. On the original series, the pathogen had different effects on different people: sure, it made Chapel lose her inhibitions about telling Spock she loved him and turned various other crewmembers flirtatious, but it made Spock cry and Sulu run around with a sword...lustfulness was hardly the primary effect. On The Next Generation, the virus seems to affect nearly everyone sexually except Wesley, who is presumably too young.

The result is that one week into the new show, nearly all the major characters have been paired off. And while this might have been enormous fun down the line, when we knew these characters and their quirks and who had a secret crush and who had a sordid past, it's bad news here. We already know from "Encounter at Farpoint" that Deanna Troi and Will Riker were once lovers, but do we really need to see her swooning in his arms and being carried off to sickbay like a damsel in distress? We already know things are complicated between Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, but is it really desirable to toss them together romantically so early on, before they've begun to work through all the issues that make things difficult between them? And while I'm happy to know that Data is programmed in multiple techniques of pleasuring, is it necessary to find that out while Yar is looking for little more than a humanoid vibrator who won't make demands on her?

Oddly, Yar and Data are the pairing that work best for me in this mess, and that's largely because of the poignancy of knowing how short-lived their relationship will be. What's supposed to be mindless sex ends up becoming a defining moment for Data later on, when he is required to define himself as human and the loss of Tasha has changed the significance of this event for him. In many ways they are the most balanced pairing, since there is no romantic neediness attached to their coming together; she wants to feel sexy and comfortable, he wants to feel human, and neither suggests that there is any cause for resistance or judgment. Deanna and Beverly, on the other hand, both make needy appeals to their men - Deanna demonstrating for the second week in a row that she can barely function when people around her are experiencing strong emotions, making one seriously wonder how she can be a ship's counselor, and Beverly begging Jean-Luc to liberate her from lonely widowhood. Given how admirably Riker and Picard hold up after being infected, it's really annoying to see these two women turn so ditzy so fast.

As I said, a few seasons in, this episode could have been so much fun: I desperately wanted an affliction like this to hit the Voyager crew when Janeway was walking around prune-faced and sleeping with holograms while Torres and Paris took years to admit what they wanted. But it's too soon for the Enterprise-D sexual tension to mean anything to an audience; we don't know these characters as individuals, really, let alone as couples, so there isn't any glee in watching Beverly let her hair down with Jean-Luc the way there would have been later, when we had a pretty good idea the captain had had feelings for his best friend's wife. And as pleased as I was when Will and Deanna finally got married in Nemesis, it would have made much more sense to drop the Imzadi stuff at the beginning, let them explore relationships with other people and slowly built up a romance between the two of them; Troi's long affair with Worf wouldn't have annoyed me later on if we hadn't had it planted in our heads that Riker was her true love.

Ironically, the highlight of the episode for me is the much-maligned Wesley Crusher, who behaves no worse here than did Kevin Riley in "The Naked Time" (and better yet, Wesley doesn't sing). He takes over engineering and declares himself the captain, but his primary interest is in seeing what he can make the ship do, and when he realizes the ship is in trouble, he's the one to realize that Data can probably save it even while intoxicated. Plus he's the one to put it together that his repulsion field can work to protect the ship from the stellar matter hurtling toward it (and I must say that the star-chunk needs remastering as badly as any original series effect, even the Doomsday Machine).

It can't be good news when the second episode of a new series is borrowing story ideas from the old one, and this can't precisely be called an homage because it doesn't even have its details straight. I find it very difficult to believe that both Picard and Riker couldn't name the captain and most of the command crew of Kirk's legendary Enterprise. And how come no one at Starfleet looked up likely complications from investigating a collapsing star when they sent a ship off to do so? It's boring, because we already know how it's going to end, and it's trivial, because already we can see how easily this crew can be diverted from duty. I feel badly having to be so negative about Next Gen in these early episodes, because it really did become extraordinarily good...but the first half of the first season of this show reminds me of the last half of the third season of its predecessor.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.