Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #6: The Naked Time

This week is Thanksgiving. THE number one holiday devoted to giving thanks. I’m pretty thankful for Star Trek, and I can be pretty sure that you are all thankful for me. I was pretty shitty to last week’s episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before. I think with good reason. It’s a shitty episode. I’ve spent some time reading about it in the interim though and maybe I was a little harsh. I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise nearly as long as I remember, but not being familiar with TOS episodes I’m looking back from someone watching this all for the first time fifty years later. I knew that going in. I don’t want to be too much of an asshole about it. I was reading about reactions from people who first saw the episode in the sixties and how much sci-fi fans lost their shit upon seeing it. I couldn’t believe that. I know it was fifty years ago and people were dumb and had much lower expectations when it comes to TV, especially genre fare. I kept on reading and it started to make more sense. Gene Roddenberry’s was one of the first positive visions of the future. Before Star Trek, there wasn’t anything about folks out in space just for the sake of it. These people aren’t going to distant planets to fight or conquer they’re there just to see what's out there. Even if they often have to fight and are in danger and encounter all kinds of nasty stuff, it’s still at its heart an inherently positive look at science-fiction. So even if a lot of the episodes suck I can see why they captured people the way they did at the time.

It is optimistic, but only to a certain point. Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of space exploration took into account that we’d have to go through a bloody eugenics war in the 1990’s.

All that being said, I was not looking forward to this episode because I was pretty sure it was gonna set new records in terms of sucking. I stated the name of this episode incorrectly last week. I said it was The Naked Now not The Naked Time. A nerd was kind enough to point that out. Not saying that in a derogatory way. I’m watching Star Trek and then telling you what episodes are better or worse, so that’s pretty much who this is by and for. The Naked Now is an episode of Stat Trek TNG that pretty much redoes this very same plot, and boy does it suck. It’s one of the worst episodes of that show’s run. I assumed that this one would be even worse than that because the calibre of casts are so different, the TNG cast being a shit-ton better. Have to say pleasantly surprised. So here we go with Naked Time!

Recap

The crew is at PSI 2000. A planet that’s about to die, and they’re there to watch it die. Also to pick up a science crew that’s been sitting there to study the dying planet. But oh no! The science crew is dead. Their station is all frozen over, life support was turned off. A woman has been strangled to death. A guy froze death while taking a shower fully clothed. Spock is checking it out with Joe Tormolen who sees a bunch of dead folks and decides now's the time to take his gloves off and itch his nose. Spock then tells the idiot to be careful not to expose himself to anything. But really that should be considered away team behaviour 101.

Spock, I think this mannequin is dead! 

They get decontaminated and get checked out. Both Spock and Tormolen seem fine so McCoy lets them go on their way. McCoy takes some ethnocentric potshots at Spock and that’s it. From what they can tell the science crew died because they all went space bananas. They all just sat there and let themselves die. Nobody knows why. All the while Tormolen keeps on looking at the hand that was exposed on the planet while a rattlesnake sound plays. They’re thinking it might be space madness, but they can find no cause.

We go to Tormelen, Sulu, and a dude named Reilly in the rec room. Tormelen is being a bit nuts. Going on about how humans have no business in space. He pulls out a butter knife and while Sulu and Reilly are trying to wrestle is away he ends up stabbing himself. But oh no, now Reilly has the rattler disease. Even though Tormelen’s wounds aren’t all that serious he dies. I don’t know how they could have been all that serious considering he was only holding a butter knife. Still. He’s good and dead. McCoy doesn’t know why. Seems his body just gave up on living.

Ha!

Sulu and Reilly both now have the rattling disease. Sulu abandons his post to hit the gym and Reilly starts ranting about how great fucking Irish people are. Spock sends Reilly to sickbay where he goes and flirts with Nurse Chapel (giving her the rattle disease in the process). Here’s where we get the scene the whole episode is based around. SULU IS RUNNING AROUND SHIRTLESS WITH A SWORD! It’s awesome. He chases a bunch of folks before making his way to the bridge to win the heart of Uhura. Spock gives him the old Vulcan nerve pinch and knocks him out. Turns out the rattler disease is something that lowers your inhibitions and makes you embrace long suppressed parts of your personality. Tormolen got the disease and became a wuss, Sulu fancied himself a swashbuckler and that came out, and Reilly is Irish, he embraced insufferably reminding everyone that he’s Irish.


Reilly, who at this point might as well be the Notre Dame logo, has taken over the ship. He’s got full control of the engines and he’s singing old Irish drinking songs over the ship’s PA. Meanwhile, everyone is drunk and going apeshit and the ship is spiralling out of control towards the dying planet’s atmosphere. Just like the typical Irish piece of shit.


They're trying to get into the engine room. If they don’t then they ship is pretty much screwed. Spock gets the drunk disease from Nurse Chapel and has a drunken breakdown. They make it in and the drunken Irishman Reilly has turned the engines all the way off, which is very bad news. Turns out the Enterprise is like the 86 GrandAm I had when I was 16. You can’t just start it up. It’s gonna take at least 30 minutes before you can safely take that thing out of the driveway. Also like my old GrandAm the driver’s seat recline is broken so Kirk needs to keep an old plastic stepstool behind to keep it upright.

They need a proper formula to restart the engines. Unfortunately, Spock and Kirk both have the drunk disease so are alternating between Spock saying “I love you, man” and having slap fights. That part is the realest of all the drunken behaviour on the episode in my opinion. The doctor discovers an antidote to being space drunk and starts giving it to folks just as they’re about to try the extremely risky engine restart. Which works of course. So they’re able not to crash into the surface of the dying planet which is nice. And also they accidentally discover time travel, which is a huge fucking deal that they all seem pretty nonchalant about.

Did This Episode Suck?

NO! This episode rocked. I have to say that I was super pleasantly surprised. I don’t know why this episode was so much fun and the TNG episode is such a dumb drag. Maybe I have to rewatch that one. Perhaps it is fun and I was just in the wrong headspace the first dozen times or so I watched it. But this one is great. It’s silly, but it’s fun. I like Spock really struggling with emotions. He’s come across as a jerk the first few episodes, but he totally redeemed himself for this one.

Reilly playing the drunken Irishman is a little much. I don’t know if we’ll ever become a (mostly) peaceful spacefaring people, but if I have one wish for the future it’s that people stop being proud of being Irish. I’m not saying it’s a bad country. If you're from there cool, be proud. If your parents are from there, cool be proud. BUT, the concept that hundreds of years in the future long after individual nations have existed on Earth there's still going to be assholes running around proud to be Irish is gross. If you've never met the person who is from Ireland then you need to stop basing your personality on that before we meet aliens. In fact, why don't you go ahead and stop. Stop it now.

Sulu makes up for Reilly. He’s shirtless with a fencing sword. It’s awesome, and you can tell he’s having a blast doing it. His enthusiasm is contagious.

I don’t know if the writers of this episode have never seen a drunk person in their life or what. Yeah, it lowers your inhibitions, but not everyone who's drunk wants to sword fight or take over a ship or stab one’s self. Most people just want to get more booze.

Shit head of the episode award goes to these three people. A knife fight breaks out and these three idiots just sit there and stare. They don’t even look all that excited about it. By the looks on their faces dudes just stab themselves every day at lunch.

THEY ARE WATCHING A KNIFE FIGHT

I never noticed how much the Reavers from the Firefly universe seemed to borrow from this. I don’t know if that’s parallel thought or what. The idea of folks gone mad in deep space. The Firefly version is a fair amount darker, but it came around 40 years later and Joss Whedon doesn’t seem to be quite the Pollyanna about the future that Roddenberry was.

My biggest qualm with the show is that I like the idea of space madness better than just some stupid infection. People gone mad because they’re too far out in the expanse of space is a cool concept. That's badass and I’d love to see that done. I doubt TOS does it, but I guess I’ll see as we go along.

Worse Trek

This is a pretty good episode. It’s fun and it is so in a very Trekey way. There’s a first season episode of TNG with a similar name. It’s called The Naked Now and it's dog shit. So if you watched this one and you want to see a similar episode except awful check out that one. For some reason, Data also succumbs to space drunk disease. It’s really just awful.

Better Trek

You know this was a good episode. I don’t know if I can think of an episode off the top of my head that does a concept like this better. I guess check out DS9’s Babel. In it, O’Brien picks up a mysterious illness that makes him speak gibberish. You think he’s just a bit stressed, but it turns out the gibberish disease is contagious and almost everyone ends up with voles getting their tongues. I wouldn’t say it’s a better episode, but it’s pretty good. One of the better early DS9 entries at least. But first watch The Naked Time, because it’s some damn good Trek.


That’s it for this week. Next week we get to visit one of my least favourite Star Trek plot devices, the mirror universe in The Enemy Within.

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