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The Naked Now
Why remake a good classic Trek episode when you can have sex with an android...?
The Enterprise investigates a science vessel orbiting a sun that’s going supernova… call it a ticking clock, if you will, or maybe even ‘Chekhov’s sun’ (that a writer’s joke not a classic Trek reference). Everyone on board is dead, but it sure looks like they had one heck of a party on the way out! LaForge gets infected with a virus that he successfully manages to spread to Wesley after Dr Crusher proves incapable of operating any kind of quarantine procedure. Riker, remembering that the Enterprise-D’s mission is currently to rehash classic Trek storylines, has Data zip through the records and find the script to “The Naked Time” so they can find out what’s going on. Now that’s officer thinking!
But oh no, Bones’ rehashed treatment doesn’t work and now Picard and Dr Crusher are flirting and Yar is responding to the threat to the ship in the way all Starfleet Security Chiefs are trained to do: she prowls the decks checking out the man-candy, before taking advantage of Data’s full range of functionalities. Meanwhile, can you believe that our cardigan-wearing brat is going to be almost single-handedly responsible for destroying the Enterprise-D? Okay, he helps save it in the end... but only after leading a mutiny against Picard in the cause of extra dessert. How they get to offering him a chance to try out for Starfleet Academy within a year of this debacle is beyond me.
Do you believe this is really Star Trek yet...? Wait, don't answer yet, because you haven't seen us regurgitate ideas from the original show anywhere near as obviously as this episode is about to. When you've already committed to remaking a classic Trek episode, you'd think you'd pick one with a solid sci-fi story like “The Devil in the Dark” or “City on the Edge of Forever”, wouldn’t you...? But no, let's take “The Naked Time”, because that way we can arrange for the worst Security Chief in Starfleet to get busy with our eager-to-please android.
'Sickbay' does a lot of work in this episode. It has a set as well, of course, but there's a lot more talk about the sickbay than there is time spent there - not to mention, very little attention put upon keeping sick people quarantined in the sickbay, which apparently is not Starfleet's strong suit. Perhaps they have too much respect for human liberty to keep the crew locked up… or perhaps it’s just that discipline on the Enterprise-D needs some work.
Riker at one point asks for a 'sonic driver', which is probably not intended as a backhanded Doctor Who reference, but who knows….
The writers also seem to have difficulty knowing how an exploding star should be threatening a star ship, and the wishy-washy phrase 'star material' does a ton of work in the script, although it is only spoken aloud once, in the Captain's Log at the start of the final act.
Generous to talk about 'acting' in this episode... the on screen talent has been hamming it up most spectacularly since the show began, so asking them to overact even more than they have been is quite the tall ask! But this cast is willing to boldly ham where no ham has gone before.
Patrick Stewart actually makes a good job of a bad script, and comes across as having reverted to a teenager in his scenes with Gates McFadden. Indeed, despite all this talk of 'intoxication', it rather feels as if everyone is reverting to horny teenagers rather than getting drunk, as such. Literally nobody gets beaten up, which (having worked for a while in a pub) is pretty much a given when everyone gets into a state that's "Like intoxication but worse. Judgment almost completely impaired...", as Riker puts it. That is a great description of the writers of this episode, though.
One plus point: playing Data for humour hits far more than it misses in this show. The line "If you prick me, do I not leak?", lampooning Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, is delivered brilliantly by Brent Spiner, who is equally good at playing the bemused puppy dog when Tasha Yar decides that sex with an appliance is what was missing from her life. Personally, I think she could have benefited from some rudimentary training in security protocol, but what do I know about Starfleet procedure!
And let’s say hello to Brooke Bundy as Chief Engineer Sarah MacDougal… and goodbye, because we never ever see or hear from her ever again. In the remastered episodes of TNG there is an attempt to retcon her into an unseen long-term role via an Okudagram, i.e. one of those lovely panel displays that Michael Okuda made for the show, but otherwise this is it for MacDougal. Oddly, the script has her full name - Sarah MacDougal - which is unusual, as most of the screenplays refer to the crew members either by their surnames (Picard, Riker, Troi) or forenames (Beverly, Tasha, Geordi, Wesley) but almost never both.
Models, Make-up, Mattes
The star of this episode is the USS Tsiolkovsky, which uses the unique model of the USS Grissom that was made for the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, three years earlier. Sternbach and Okuda dub this the Oberth-class, but this name is not used on screen anywhere to my knowledge, so its more supra-fanonical than canonical in the sense of being established by any credible on-screen references. It's a 28-inch model (just over 2 feet) and thus wildly different in scale to the six-foot Enterprise model, which probably explains why it is mostly composited into shots a little clunkily.
The make-up team have a blast with the frozen ice effect that they'd waited, oh, a whole episode before reusing, but it's a decent practical effect, all in all. There's also a ton of walking around the decks, which shows off Sternbach and Okuda's gift for crafting futuristic displays that look way more functional than they truly are.
Oh, and the library search is full of delightful fan service too!
Seeing the outline of a Klingon battle cruiser (supra-fanonically, the D7) still makes me smile.
Much less satisfying are the visuals of the 'star material', which in its on screen appearance is basically a slightly glowing chunk of rock. The production crew make amends for this in Star Trek: Generations, with a much more convincing depiction of a supernova with its 'level 12 shockwave'. Still, in this episode we not only have to deal with the 'star material' looking terrible, but it is also so tiny that it's hard not to balk at the sheer bad luck that it's coming straight at the Enterprise.
At least the Tsiolkovsky blows up nicely, although it would have been even more spectacular if Wesley had been on it at the time.