Monday, January 11, 2010

The Original Series , Season 1: The Naked Time

The Original Series, Season One
"The Naked Time"
Airdate: September 29, 1966
7 of 80 produced
4 of 80 released
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In “The Naked Time,” the Enterprise is in orbit of Psi 2000, a glacial planet in the final throes of disintegration. The Enterprise is to pick up the crew of a research station, but finds that all hands are dead of a strange disease. Unfortunately, the Enterprise crew also catches the disease, which acts to loosen inhibitions and rationality, somewhat like alcohol. Will the crew regain its senses in time to save itself from a fiery death crashing into the planet?
Sulu threatens to impale Kirk upon his glistening, magnificent, thrusting blade...


Matthew: I don’t think this episode has a tremendously strong sci-fi concept. “The crew goes crazy” seems like something that could happen on any other given show, it just happens to have a spacey trapping here. It does afford us an opportunity to see what’s beneath the surfaces of characters, but then again, we haven’t had much chance to actually see the surface, have we?

Kevin: I agree with the lack of a strong sci-fi concept. I understand the suspension of disbelief that goes on for any science fiction enterprise, but this one strained credulity, and it did it again in "Naked Now." "Gravity turns water to contagious viral alcohol" is just an irredeemably stupid sentence and the writer who first wrote it should put their head down on their desk and have some quiet time.

Matthew: That said, overall the writing is relatively strong. Many characters are given juicy scenes to chew into. We are introduced to Nurse Chapel and her thing for Spock. McCoy gets lots of Doctor things to do. Sulu swashes and buckles. Lt. Kevin Riley serenades us all, “one more time!” Kirk and Uhura have some nice words with each other, and of course, the Kirk/Spock confrontation near the conclusion of the episode offers a lot of development for each character – Spock’s conflict between two worlds is fleshed out here, and Kirk’s love/hate relationship for the ship and the life he’s chosen is given air time.

Kevin: Once again, I am with you. What could have easily come off as over the top was actually some great viewing. My favorite scene was definitely Spock breaking down is his quarters. In his autobiography "I Am Spock" (not to be confused with his other autobiography "I Am Not Spock"), Nimoy says he fought for that scene, as the script just had the crazy paintbrush guy draw a mustache on him and bound off. The obvious assault on his dignity as a human being and actor aside, the loss of this scene would have been a tragedy for both the actor and the canon. My favorite moment, though is Uhura snapping and Kirk about how she would shut off Riley's singing if he could and Kirk apologizing for nagging her about it. I liked it because any other captain would have focused on being offended. Kirk shows us a lot about his captaining style in that moment. He demands a lot from his people, but he knows they are talented and he knows they work best when he trusts them to do their jobs.

Matthew: Certain aspects of this episode are a bit hackneyed – we get the transporter decontamination routine that doesn’t work (this is the introduction of this unfortunate trope); Joey kills himself with a butterknife (why couldn’t 23rd century medicine have fixed this wound? Oh yes – “the only reason he died is he didn’t want to live”); we have the unfortunate deus ex machina to save the Enterprise, the “cold start” of the engines; and we have the rather artless addition of time travel at the end, apparently to use in future episodes.

A few other notes – we have the first aired Vulcan neck pinch (though it appeared in the episode “The Enemy Within”, which was filmed prior but aired later); also, the Enterprise has a bowling alley (on deck 21, if case you're interested)!

Kevin: I wonder if that was true or just Riley's delusion. At any rate, I hope it does exist. I would kill for a Starfleet-issue bowling shirt.


Matthew: This is where this episode really shines for me. It’s clear that, given the material, the members of this cast really want to shine. Nimoy really digs into his post-infection scene, fighting for emotional control, first alone, and then in a great chemistry with Shatner. I would say Nimoy really stole the show in this episode.

Takei, who of course we didn’t know was a flaming homo at the time, gets greased up and chases male crew members around with his sword. Heh heh. In his autobiography, Takei relates how excited he was for this scene as a young actor, but also how nervous he was about appearing shirtless for the part. He engaged in several days of fasting and crash workouts to lose water and fat weight and bulk up the muscles. Good job, George, it worked, and no doubt secured you several dates in the future.

Kevin: When Sulu sidles up to Riley and suggest they go to the gym, I nearly fell off my couch laughing. As for Spock's performance, I have to say I was reminded of both Mark Lenard and Patrick Stewart's performances in TNG's Sarek. I wonder if the cast or crew referred to this episode when designing the mind meld sequence.

Matthew: Bruce Hyde as Kevin Riley would have been a nice actor to see more of. Unfortunately, he decided to “drop out” and became a hippie: “I was going to get a Volkswagen bus and a big bag of brown rice and go find God. And that’s what I did.” Too bad, because he displayed nice comic instincts here.

Kevin: You know, I did not know that. My Star Trek trivia knowledge is pretty expansive, but that was a new piece of data for me. Thank you, Matthew.

Production Values

Matthew: Several aspects of this episode fell a little flat in terms of production. We have the weird looking cold uniforms on the planet, for one. One of the dead “women” on the planet is clearly a mannequin. The aforementioned butter knife, as well, could have been improved upon.

We are introduced, in terms of airdate at least, to engineering, as well as to the crew lounge as it will come to be seen regularly, with food slots, and what looks a lot like a flat panel TV on the wall by the door. These aren’t great sets per se, but they are familiar and iconic, at least.

A shot of Scotty phasering into a bulkhead, which I’m sure was hard to do, unfortunately had no optical effect in the original production. The Blu-Ray edition has had this phaser beam effect added back in, which is a nice touch.

Kevin: It wasn't just the butter knife that got me, it was the stab wound. It didn't look like a stab wound. It looked like he spilled pasta on himself. I understand the conventions against gore in 60s TV, but there had to be a better workaround. These guys managed to do a lot with a shoestring budget and they are rightfully regarded for their ingenuity. It makes the butter knife/pasta sauce shivving all the more shocking.


Matthew: Based on our rating criteria, I have to give this a 4. It was a borderline episode, but it did stand out in acting for all concerned, and writing for at least the character bits. And since the character bits outweighed the generally weak premise, it seems to be that while this episode was just average in 1 ½ of our 3 areas, it excelled in the other 1 ½. Thus, it’s a 4, but just barely.

Kevin: I am going to give it a 4 as well, pretty much for the acting alone. Comedy is harder than drama and the cast showed they were up for it. It's a low 4, and probably not going make any top ten lists, but still a 4. That makes a total of 8 out of 10.

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