The Enterprise crew become infected with a neurological condition which leads to diminished self-judgment, that has already led to the deaths of a scientific investigation crew. Infected, Wesley Crusher takes over engineering, thus endangering the ship from a collapsing star that the science team was investigating. Eventually, the crew regain control of engineering and with Wesley’s help, are able to come up with a way to repair the ship before it is destroyed. The crew is cured by Dr. Crusher.
Teleplay by J. Michael Bringham. Story by J. Michael Bringham and John D.F. Black Directed by Paul Lynch
As much as any episode, this one has got to be responsible for the general dislike of Wesley Crusher. He is comes across so smart in this episode – able to build a portable tractor beam, to trick the entire engineering staff (of only two people!) into leaving using his creepy recordings of the Captain’s voice, and then takes over the ship, putting it in critical danger. But then after endangering the entire ship, he also saves it! First, he suggests Data as the one who can replace all the “control chips” faster than anyone else, and then actually invent a whole new use of the tractor beam to (doing, in a drunken state, what the chief engineer says would take hours) save the ship.
Nearly everyone else comes across completely useless, especially Captain Picard. You never see him get infected until Dr. Crusher comes to see him (although of course there other characters on the bridge who are infected), but well before that he seems completely incapable of responding intelligently or creatively to anything that is happening. It’s not helped at all by the fact that Patrick Stewart looks really uncomfortable trying to play the “drunken” version of his character, with his scenes neither funny nor dramatic.
Tasha is also really unusual in her uninhibited state, with the attempts to “sex her up” just coming across icky. On the other hand, Geordi and Dr. Crusher fair a bit better, handling their scenes in a more real way. The character who is seems internally the strongest here is Commander Riker, who is infected but never becomes truly disabled. I guess that guy can really hold his liquor. I used to not think of much of Jonathan Frake’s acting but looking back at these early episodes again I can see much more clearly the high quality of his performance.
The real problem with The Naked Now is that it is just unwelcome. One friend of mine at the time said that it didn’t bode well when the second episode of a series borrows its plot from a prior series and does it badly. I have to agree. The episode is meant, obviously, as an homage of sorts to the original series Naked Time, but where that episode was funny, moving, and revealing, this one just feels feels forced and shallow. At this extremely early stage, what I’m looking for isn’t everyone’s inner hurts and pains being spat out from the screen, but rather a straightforward adventure, where we can see these characters in action. That is sadly denied here. It feels instead like you’re on a first date with someone you’re interested in, and instead of just having a nice dinner together, you find you have to counsel your new date through the baggage he or she carries from their last relationship.
So in summary, The Naked Now would have been improved if it had come later, had been funnier, and not treated Wesley Crusher as if he was the smartest person on the ship by several notches.
Shout Outs to the Past
Well, obviously the episode borrows its premise and many of its elements from The Naked Time, a first-season episode of the original Star Trek. It also specifically references the events of that episode, including a mention of Captain Kirk and the original Enterprise.
Anticipating the Future
• Chief Engineer MacDougall is the first of several chief engineers this season, a practice that will end when Geordi takes over the role starting in Season Two.
• Data and Tasha’s “encounter” in this episode will be referenced again from time to time, mostly after Tasha’s death.
• This is the first indication (and rather a sudden one it is, I think) that there is between Picard and Dr. Crusher. There is a slow burn on that relationship that ultimately doesn’t go as far as I would have liked.
• Likewise, we get another taste of the relationship between Troi and Riker, but no more backstory information.
• Troi calls Riker “Bill,” instead of the more usual “Will”. This doesn’t happen very often. Maybe it was because she was drunk.
• Tasha raves that Troi always wears such beautiful clothes when she’s off duty. I guess that’s good because I think she looks terrible in her on-duty clothes, but I guess it is better than what she wore in the pilot.
• Data seems pretty quickly “won over” by Tasha, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t seem infected prior to entering her quarters. I think it’s one of many indications that Data does in fact feel some level of emotions, contrary to constant cries otherwise.
Dialogue High Point
There is nothing brilliant here, I think, so I’ll go with what I think is probably the most memorable line. After everyone has recovered, Tasha returns to the bridge, and tells Data where it’s at:
“Data, I’m only going to tell you this just once. It never happened.”
It’s sort of how I feel about the episode.