Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Next Generation, Season 1: The Naked Now

Airdate: October 5, 1987
2 of 176 produced
2 of 176 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise is sent to find out what has happened to the USS Tsiolkovsky, a science vessel that was observing the collapse of star. The Enterprise finds science vessel in time to listen to its apparently intoxicated bridge crew kill themselves by intentionally opening an escape hatch to open space. The crew finds that the rest of the crew has also died, as a result of the same madness. Before long, Enterprise crew members begin exhibiting the same signs. Between a crew that has lost control of their faculties and the nearby star threatening to explode, will the Enterprise survive this mission?


This outfit tests out whether the audience at home is fully functional, too.

Writing

Kevin: This episode is obviously a retread of the TOS episode "The Naked Time." My problem is that this is dipping into the Star Trek history well at its worse. We don't really expand on anything. This isn't continuity; it's almost plagiarism. Especially for a second episode, it seems like a poor decision strategically. This doesn't make me go "Oh, this is still the Star Trek I like." It makes me go "Oh, they're not really adding anything are they?" Also, it suffers the same problem that Naked Time suffers in terms of placement. The characters aren't quite as established as they will become. It's less impactful to see a character act out of character when I'm not sure what that character is yet. Also, this was not the strongest plot to begin with. "Gravity turns water to alcohol" is a stupid sentence 80 years ago and it's a stupid sentence now.

Matthew: The story was indeed a retread. Really, it was merely an excuse to get the characters in a compromising situation, and test their limits.It had the same effect as the TOS episode - it deepened the characters and their relationships. I also agree on the seemingly strange placement - the second episode doesn't seem like the place to throw characters' inhibitions out the window - we don't even know what they are yet.

Kevin: I found Data being affected by the virus, while exquisitely acted, to be pretty silly. Picard even comments that this seems impossible, but no real explanation is given. I found the collapsing star to be a little artificial in the tension building. Also, why is it so easy to so completely disable the engines? Shouldn't those chips have back ups or a lock on them or something? It just strains credulity.

Matthew: To be fair, the engineering staff, including the apparently functionally retarded Assistant Chief Engineer Shimoda, didn't seem to be quite on the ball until Geordi stepped in and whipped them into shape.

Kevin: My last writing gripe is going to focus on Wesley. We get the first example of what is going to become a systemic problem. Wesley is too savant-like. I find it hard to believe no one thought to use the tractor beam to push things in addition to pulling them in the two hundred year history of the device. And when the engineer points out that it will take weeks to lay out the circuits and Wesley pushed a half dozen buttons and makes it happen, it makes Wesley too talented to be a real person, or it makes the engineer look incompetent. Or both.

Matthew: "Science logic" in general seemed a bit strained. Was Data "drunk" before he did it with Lt. Yar? If so, how did it happen to him? The infection hadn't reached the bridge. If not, what explains his actions? Data seems to have a strong predilection towards following orders explicitly. Picard's orders did not seem to allow for the interpretation "Escort Lt. Yar to the bridge AFTER giving her a thorough android boning." The astronomy seemed off, too - just how fast can stellar material eject from a star? It has to be significantly slower than light. Just how likely is it for a smallish piece to hit the Enterprise, given all of space around it? We're talking needle in haystack odds, and of the sort that it seems like you could push the ship with a shuttle if need be in order to skew the angle off by just enough. Conversely, if this piece of stellar core is going that fast and is so massive, how could whacking it with a small ship really change things? In terms of the "repulsor" beam, how much of a pushoff would one object get from another in a weightless environment?

Kevin: That all being said, there are some pretty good moments scattered throughout the episode. I found the teaser to be quite affecting. The horror at what has happened was palpable and genuine. The episode did provide some groundwork for the Crusher/Picard and Riker/Troi relationships, which even if abandoned were nice to see. And for all my other problems with Wesley, his desire to be in on the action is credible and kind of sweet.

Matthew: Crusher and Picard's scene was PRICELESS. It's too bad they didn't get down to business right then and there. But I guess episode 2 of the series would have been premature. Too bad the payoff went from premature to not at all, though.


Acting

Kevin: If the episode has a clear strength, it's the acting, hands down. Gates McFadden nailed flawlessly appearing drunk while trying to not appear drunk. Both Picard/Crusher and Riker/Troi had some nice moments with some genuine chemistry. Denise Crosby got a few nice moments prowling the ship for men, which to be honest, is what I would be doing if I lived on the Enterprise, so I really can't fault her there. Overall, the actors were pretty game for the episode and even as I have problems with the story, they were fun to watch.

Matthew: Brent Spiner showed the writers what he can do in this episode, and they rewarded him with oodles upon oodles of scenes in coming years. These scenes were perfectly pitched, and not annoying for the Data character (unlike some other lame attempts at Data humor in Season One, not to mention Generations). I thought Wil Wheaton did a yeoman's job of acting drunk. But the standout for me was Picard, who proved to be both a very good straight man against the annoyance of his crew, and then got to cut loose a bit on his own.

Production Values

Kevin: It was nice to see the Oberth-class ship, again being used a science vessel. The star was clearly an effect they put some effort into, but it wasn't entirely successful for me. The stellar fragment was also ho-hum for me. It was nice getting to see a lot of Enterprise corridors. It lends credence to the size of the ship.

Matthew: I wasn't as non-plussed by the effects as you were. I liked the core fragment. Any time we see an Oberth class vessel, I'm tickled pink, too. What I found particularly cool was the nice use of sets from the  movies for the Tsiolkovsky, including Ilia's quarters and shower from TMP. The only effect that fell flat for me was the tractor beam lifting the chair. 

Conclusion

Kevin: This is a 2 for me. The acting is really good, but the story is really bad for me. It's a retread of a plot I wasn't crazy about the first time we did it, and if you are going to so obviously reuse a script, at least pick a more interesting one. Some of TNG's best moments will be expanding on prior canon. This doesn't expand, it just recycles. The comedic acting is good, but not enough to drag this out of 2 territory.

Matthew: This is one that, whenever it comes up, I'm always jazzed to watch it. That must mean something is going right, and enough is going right to bring this up to 3 level for me. Despite a weak story, the loads of good comedy, and the production values, push this into average territory. That brings our combined score to a 5.

5 comments:

  1. I don't know... that little pasted down curl on Tasha's forehead really bothers me... although, anything beats her hair in Yesterday's Enterprise.

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  2. I'm still not sure why Riker turned down Troi when she was quite literally throwing herself at him. This is Riker...the manwhore! He could do her and THEN take her to sickbay, LOL. Quite ironic...but shows he is a pretty good guy, at least where his Imzadi is concerned.

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  3. I think it was because she called him Bill, and he thought she was thinking of some other guy.

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  4. Ok, first I agree with every single thing that was said by Matt or Kevin in this blog about this episode. However, I feel like the intent was to create a bridge between TOS and TNG (i.e. the sequel story line, the types of lighting, the inclusion of the Oberth-class ship, etc.) in a way the pilot couldn't or didn't do.

    Additionally (and I'm a top Wesley fan) this could be one of Wesley's most stupid moments in the entire franchise. What has EVER taken WEEKS of laying out new circuits on a Federation starship in the history of starship mechanics??

    It's also worth mentioning that using a tractor beam as a repulsing beam would later be done in "Cause and Effect". Is this a secondary use of Wesley's contribution or just another indication that they easily knew how to do it all along?

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  5. Just watched it on Blu-Ray. The effects come off much better in HD, especially the dwarf star. Lots of great facial detail, especially the scene between Geordi and Yar in the observation lounge. Still not a great episode, but a fun watch either way.

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