Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Naked Now   Rewatch 
April 10, 2020 9:39 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

(from MA) The crew of the Enterprise is subjected to an exotic illness - a sweaty pandemic, if you will - that drives them to unusual manic behavior, akin to a type of alcoholic intoxication. Based directly on TOS’ The Naked Time (MA).

Traditionally cited as one of the worst Trek episodes of all time, watching this episode is nearly as uncomfortable as watching Sub Rosa. This episode introduces us to Dr. Beverly Crusher and her son Wesley, and we very briefly meet one of the transient Chief Engineers of Season 1, Lt. Cdr. Sarah MacDougal.

The episode was largely written by TOS veteran writer D. C. Fontana, on whom I’ll ask CoB to drop a bit of science on in thread should such an assignment appeal. She based the episode on John D. C. Black’s TOS episode The Naked Time, as noted above. The Naked Time is a longterm favorite in the TOS canon and one assumes that the idea here was to provide a similarly playful introduction to and elaboration of the TNG characters. Unfortunately, the tone deaf attempt at risqué comedy between Tasha Yar and Data, the bizarre decision to introduce Dr. Crusher as a giggling flirt, and the grating foolishness of bringing Wes Crusher to the screen for the first time as a grinning drunken child left has first time viewers gaping in cringey confusion since the initial air date.

Memory Alpha notes that the script was subject to an on-the-fly rewrite by Gene Roddenberry and that Fontana requested her name be taken off the credits. She is instead credited as J. Michael Bingham. I think it’s reasonable to infer that she was just aghast as we are.

If you’ve never seen the episode, brace yourself. If you have, well, your call.

In my recollection of initial viewing on broadcast the episode was greeted with derision, incredulity, and disbelief, as well as a lot of laughter at the expense of the show, including empty beer cans being hurled at the TV. It was far from a promising start and did not bode well after the bumpy ride of Encounter at Farpoint.
posted by mwhybark (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
hm, for some reason I don’t see the link to the series prior episode. Did I miss something in the UI again?
posted by mwhybark at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2020

But, but, but... Wesley saves the day! C'mon! Who doesn't love episodes where Wesley saves the day?
posted by Fukiyama at 9:58 AM on April 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

mwhybark, the episode needs to be tagged as a Rewatch in order to have that link. (I've made that same mistake myself several times.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was the first episode I saw, because I didn't really know anything about Star Trek and hadn't even heard of this new shop until it was my dad's custody weekend and he and his roommates acted like it was a big deal.

At age 10, I was suitably impressed. I still think this holds up as a silly, rough around the edges but enjoyable episode. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's really stupid, but unremarkable compared to some of the other stuff coming up. It was acceptably suspenseful and I wasn't bored with Wesley episodes (and maybe because of my age, I never hated the Wesley character).

Kind of strange to have this as the second episode, since a good bit of it was trying to have Data play against type, but we've barely got a type for them to play against. Brent Spiner really hadn't figured out how he was going to do things, but I think within just a half season or so he's pretty much the Data that he'd end up as.
posted by skewed at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

The one thing I remember bothering me was that I never once believed Tasha Yar was into dudes.
posted by emjaybee at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2020 [10 favorites]

So If you're going my route and also listening to the Greatest Generation podcast to supplement the terrible first season this episode is where so many of the running gags on the podcast originate because there's just nothing better to do with this absolute TURKEY of an episode, then make fun of it. Ah Shimoda, we hardly knew ye!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:37 AM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

In the first season, they couldn't quite let go of the idea the chief engineer should be Scottish. So we have MacDougall in this episode (without an accent), and then later – introduced as "one of our chief engineers" – a nonentity called Argyle (with an accent, sort of). It all made more sense in Season 2 when Geordi got the job.

It does seem like an odd choice to make episode 2 a story in which the actors would deviate from characters that had barely begun to gel.
posted by zadcat at 12:22 PM on April 10, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure that I'd claim that this was one of the worst Trek episodes--there's a fair amount of competition for that, as you'd imagine for a franchise that has notched up some 778 (as of this writing) of them, according to MA--but it ain't good. I just rewatched "The Naked Time", and while it has its moments that didn't age well (such as Kirk mourning the fact that he can't sleep with Yeoman Rand--dude), and some that may depend on having some longstanding affection for the characters (Chapel confessing her crush on Spock, and Spock's subsequent futile attempts to regain emotional control), there are still a lot of great moments, such as Riley being the most obnoxious asshole in the history of Starfleet (personal note: my farmer grandfather, whose ancestors were all Irish, loved "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen", which is really a pretty bleak song if you listen to the lyrics--basically, Kathleen is depressed because America is awful), and especially Sulu hamming it up shamelessly. (It wasn't until much, much later in life that I got what Uhura said when Sulu called her a "fair maiden": "Sorry, neither.")

But this is not that episode, and if the intention was to reuse the same plot device to show both the inner conflicts of the present crew and how they'd handle a dire emergency, it fell flat with unbelievably clumsy writing. We heard the effects of the polywater being compared to alcohol so often that you could be forgiven for mistaking this as an SF-flavored double-length afterschool special. Yar talking about how badly she needed to get some--right after she brings up the rape gangs of Whateverthefuckitscalled IV--is cringy enough, but then we find out that not only does Data apparently have a unit, but he's been programmed for pah-LEZH-oor, which makes you wonder about what Dr. Soong's original business plan for his android foundry was. (Not that there's anything wrong with that--humanity has evolved beyond kinkshaming, right?--but that's what we've got the holosexdecks for.) In the TOS version, Spock and Lieutenant Patient Zero are wearing personal protective equipment when they beam down to Psi 2000 (LPZ contracts it when he takes a glove off to scratch his nose--spookily pertinent to COVID-19, there); this crew just waltzes right in. And, probably worst of all, Wesley, who up to very near the end was actually doing a pretty good impression of the average teenager who'd just had his first beer or six, suddenly shows that he's better at figuring out the solution space-drunk than the Chief Engineer is sober. Maybe the posters can start a # of Times Wesley Saves the Ship count; it may not be that often in the 176 episodes of TNG, but once was more than enough, in this context.

Good points? Well, Worf didn't do anything stupid or get jobbed, and we start to realize that Data has superpowers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:45 PM on April 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

"Acceptably suspenseful" is about the highest praise I can think to bestow, as well.

TNG was always willing and often able to pull off horror, or at least creepiness, in a manner that other Treks rarely did—as I'm pretty sure I've remarked upon elsewhere in Trek FF. The initial investigation of the Tsiolkovsky has some of that creepiness. We will see TNG go to that "space travel will totally kill you" well a few times. (Though perhaps the scariest Trek episode remains TOS's "The Doomsday Machine".)

But yeah, I think I would tolerate this whole concept a lot more if it had been foisted upon us in season 2. I doubt I'd put this in my bottom five of all-time TV Trek, but very possibly in the bottom ten.

Worf gets his first true LOL line here, though, aided as always by Dorn's delivery:

"And there was a rather peculiar limerick being delivered by someone in the shuttlecraft bay. I'm not sure I understand it. 'There was a young lady from Venus, whose body was shaped like a–'"
"Captain to security! Come in!"
"Did I say something wrong?"
"I don't understand their humor, either."

- Data, Picard, and Worf

Interesting continuity tidbit from MA:
- Although literature for many years had referred to the original USS Enterprise as "Constitution-class", this was the first episode in any series that actually used it in its dialogue, thus making it canon for the very first time.

Maybe the posters can start a # of Times Wesley Saves the Ship count; it may not be that often in the 176 episodes of TNG, but once was more than enough, in this context.

Yeah, I thought about that, but then that opens the door to a Times Troi Gets Assaulted count, and then it'll just get depressing.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:04 PM on April 10, 2020 [8 favorites]

HN, feel free to drop links to the appropriate episodes of said podcast, should the spirit move you.
posted by mwhybark at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I understand their desire to write plots similar to TOS ("hey look it's just like that old show you loved! just new! keep watching!"), but I remember at the time hating it all the more because I wanted *new* stories, not reheated ones. Two-for-two so far, and there's a lot of these coming up.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:14 PM on April 10, 2020

Definitely seems weird to have the #2 episode be both a rehash of a TOS episode and having characters we haven't had a chance to get used to act uncharacteristically. Maybe the idea was that having the characters lose their inhibitions would help us get to know them faster, but it would help if the show knew who the characters were first.
posted by ckape at 3:36 PM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

I forgot quite how much I like Troi's original uniform.

The polywater intoxication thing; I wonder if people were allowed to indulge in actual alcohol (and drugs in general) more often instead of synthahol, that they'd have tolerance/ experience to not completely freak out?

But then Data is susceptible as well, so.

Wesley's tractor beam seems to violate the laws of the conservation (the handheld one, at least) and seems to be able to "push." Can tractor beams cannonically do that?
posted by porpoise at 4:18 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Dumb as hell, but it’s starting to feel more like proper TNG than Encounter at Farpoint. When they’re not being inebriated sex-maniacs, the crew seem to be a bit more ‘on-model’ to their familiar roles. It actually starts off pretty well! But then… woof

As for being worst, the next ep may have something to say about that.
posted by rodlymight at 4:25 PM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

canonically possible. It begins here. Thank Q they didn’t come up with transwarp beaming quite so early.
posted by mwhybark at 4:35 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the fullyfunctional tag.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:34 PM on April 10, 2020 [6 favorites]

only made possible due to ample hani sani. np.
posted by mwhybark at 6:57 PM on April 10, 2020

Given D. C. Fontana basically disowned this episode after rewrites, I wonder how much of it was due to input from Gene's lawyer.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:56 PM on April 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ok, that "fully functional" thing;

Who would be a better human physical lover - Lore or Data (pre-emotion chip).

Who'd be a better human physical lover - Lore or Data (post-emotion chip)?

In retrospect, I really really really dislike Yar's "it never happened" highschool-ey post-response. Did she also hunt down the rando bluesuit she snogged with in the hallway?

Data with the goofy grin, post-coital braggadocio, and post-cure let-down response was 1) waaay highschool-ey and 2) doesn't make a lick of sense.

otoh, I have less strong distaste for Yar talking about evading the rape gangs and immediately jumping Data's bone on rewatch; her wanting "tenderness" kind of explains her desire. Even after escaping, she feels obligated to be an uptight and hard 'Chief of Security' and has got to be repressed as hell (telling in her talking about clothes with Troi).

Isn't Data the epitome of a "safe" rebound/ one-off? He has no emotions, he's physically within the bounds of physical attractiveness, he's willing, and he's completely upstanding.

emjaybee - totally, she was open to having some fun with Troi; but I blame it on the writers/ producers for the titillation rather than a character show that Yar desires tenderness/ emotional vulnerability and trust that her vulnerability isn't going to be exploited.

Now, my question is whether Data has indulged in physical sexual experiences prior or after this encounter - pre- or post- emotion chip.

Or whether he has ever "wanted" to.

If we take ST: Picard into consideration...
posted by porpoise at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

I never thought particularly poorly of this episode, but I was a kid and saw it only in reruns, having watched a great deal of other TNG already. So it was never an early introduction for me, and I had a lot of context for the characters. I knew that it was linked somehow to a TOS episode, but I'd never seen any of those, so I just liked the idea of the connection to the older show I'd heard about but never seen.

People focus on the "fully functional", but "If you prick me, do I not... leak?" is a great line for Data.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:58 AM on April 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

Now, my question is whether Data has indulged in physical sexual experiences prior or after this encounter - pre- or post- emotion chip.

I can't believe I have an answer for this, but some dialogue in First Contact, when he's responding to the Borg Queen's come-ons, seems to indicate that he hadn't had any afterwards.
posted by COBRA! at 6:33 AM on April 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Really not a fan of the way this show's writers, 2 episodes in, decided they needed to act aggressively to no-homo the awesome and beautiful butch security chief.

Very few redeeming qualities to this episode, but Data's half-recited limerick is surely one.

There's a moment toward the end of the episode, when Dr. Crusher gives the hypo to Picard, where Patrick Stewart is wearing this facial expression that's probably meant to read as goofy-drunk, but instead reads to me as "Is it too late for me to quit this show?" (Thankfully the show got better, and Stewart is still trekking through the stars!)
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:45 PM on April 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

I know it's a terrible episode, but, I do still get a smile out of the Picard/Dr. Crusher scenes. That weird cough-interruption noise he makes at her in the ready room, the little grin and eye-roll he does after the hypo injection scene.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:30 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I remember this episode though I'd never watch it through again. I remember it because at the time my father and I couldn't believe how bad it was. We were asking ourselves what the hell a Wesley is, how does one crush a Wesley, why do Wesley's need to be crushed, and are there a lot of Wesley crushers?
posted by juiceCake at 8:41 PM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Wherever relevant (they didn't do every episode) we need to include the Fashion It So entries for each episode. Here's this one.

Key quote: And Wesley is doing a science project and wearing another goddamn sweater
posted by emjaybee at 12:21 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here begins the hatred of Wesley a Crusher.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do still get a smile out of the Picard/Dr. Crusher scenes.

I've never watched these episodes (I started just before Riker Beard) so starting from the beginning it's super-charming to recognize things I most associate with the show like McFadden & Stewart's chemistry amidst all the iffyness and weird camera choices.

That weird cough-interruption noise he makes at her

So weird! I rewound that scene three time because I couldn't figure out what that noise was and thought Netflix was skipping.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:44 PM on May 14, 2020

Rachel Watches Star Trek
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:24 PM on May 26, 2020

Wesley tricking Picard into giving him an order was kind of funny. Also Data's calm, "It will take slightly more time than we have;" that's some honest peril calculation.

I like how the shockwave threat from the collapse boils down to one chunk of stuff that's headed right for 'em. Wesley using the magic repulsor beam to push off the Tsiolkovsky reminded me of a physics teacher I had who thought it was very important to keep in mind that if we were ever stuck on a frictionless plane, we should take off a shoe and throw it to propel ourselves.
posted by fleacircus at 8:58 AM on May 27, 2020

I think my attitude on this one depends on how I'm viewing it - as the first time I've ever seen these characters, as originally aired? It's terrible, why did they think this was the episode for that?

But as characters I know and understand and it's an opportunity for them to let their hair down and get a bit loose? It's not the worst. It's not _great_, but there are definitely worse episodes.

Except for Wesley. Good god almighty. I think he gets a bit of a bum rap across the series as a whole, but he definitely deserves it in this episode.
posted by Kyol at 7:10 PM on November 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I get the idea of having an episode with continuity ties back to TOS, so that the audience can be reassured that the new show is intended to be more of what was loved from the original. However an episode that makes all these new characters behave Out-of-Character for themselves, as the second episode, when the audience has had very little chance at all to get a feel for who these characters are? That just seems like a bad idea. I know The Naked Time was an early episode in TOS season 1, but there were at least a few episodes between the pilots and that one to let the audience familiarize themselves with who the characters were.

If you're going to have the first non-pilot episode be a TOS callback, I think A Piece of the Action would have been the better choice. Showing how the Space Gangsters from Sigma Iotia II had evolved their society after McCoy left his communicator behind would have been a rich source of story material.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:33 AM on May 28, 2021

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