Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No Beach to Walk On: Star Trek episode 6, "The Naked Time"

"The Naked Time" is the episode that I spent years thinking of as "the one where everyone got drunk and acted crazy."  It's never been a favorite episode for me, but I think that might have changed this go-around. There's a deep lake of melancholy lurking beneath the surface of this episode; it's frozen over and covered by a thick sheet of excitement, and the combination of the two creates a heady mixture at times.

  


 

Let's see if we can get to the bottom of that lake.
 

We'll take it on a character-by-character basis, starting with Joe Tormolen:





Joe is -- thanks to his own stupidity -- the first crew member to be infected. We'll probably discuss that stupidity more later, but for now let's focus on what happens to Joe once he's "drunk."  (Sidebar: I'm going to refer to the infection as drunkenness or inebriation throughout most of this post.  I want to acknowledge at the outset that, yes, I do in fact realize that what's happening here goes beyond drunkenness.  I'm using these terms as shorthand, no more.)


 
  
Joe's the angry drunk of the bunch. His doubts and fears, successfully repressed heretofore, have suddenly come to the surface. He's not dissimilar to Bailey in "The Corbomite Maneuver" in that regard; the implication is that both of these men have been living a ragged-edge sort of existence; which, in turn, implies that the Enterprise's mission is ranging along that ragged edge.

And that makes sense, doesn't it? Every mission seems to bring fresh new dangers, be they from salt vampires or transporter-generated clones of the Captain's id or space hookers or whatnot. Apart from that, of course, the sheer process of exploration -- especially when coupled with scientific investigation -- is fraught with peril. Ever has it been so for explorers: you never knew when you might find a new land, and then discover that it was peopled by some new creature that is happy to eat you one piece at a time. If not that, then weird new poisonous insects, or poisonous plants, or maybe plain old diseases to which you have no immunity. Keep a journal; that way, if you drop dead, maybe somebody else will find it and benefit from your words. If you're an explorer, that's just how it is.

That doesn't mean that you sleep easy at night. You might know what you're getting into, but even so, maybe there's that still, small voice in the back of your head whispering, "Hey, man, you made a mistake coming here..." You've got to keep a lid on those thoughts, because if you don't, they might overwhelm you; that's what nightmares are for.

Tormolen, affected by the virus, is no longer able to keep that lid in place. "What are we doing out here in space?" he wonders, distressed and angry. "Good? What good?!? We're polluting it, destroying it; we've got no business being out here, no business! If a man was supposed to fly, he'd have wings; if he was supposed to be out in space, he wouldn't need air to breathe ... wouldn't need life-support systems to keep him from freezing to death! We don't belong here ... it's not ours!"

What he's saying has a certain logic to it. After all, humans really aren't physiologically suited to be in outer space. However, our distant ancestors weren't entirely suited to leave the ocean, either; good thing for all of us that they decided to ignore those still, small voices of their own and venture to those places where they did not belong. That's what humanity does; it may, for all we know, not be a uniquely human trait, but it's certainly one of the traits that define us as a species.

Star Trek is, at least in part, a celebration of that trait. So when we hear what Joe Tormolen has to say on the subject of being in space, we're probably inclined to say, "Well, hey, pal, why didn't you just stay at home?!?" His fears make sense, but they are also misplaced on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

  





Tormolen infects Sulu and Riley, who soon thereafter run amok in their own ways. Both abdicate their duties on the bridge and run off to pursue freedom.

Sulu seemingly cares only to engage in a sort of wish-fulfillment swordplay: he gets a foil, loses his shirt, and then goes parading up and down the corridors calling random crewmen out.
 
 










What's up with this?  There's a certain amount of logic to Tormolen's rant: we might not agree with him, but we can see where he's coming from.  Sulu, on the other hand, seems to have come completely unhinged.

Has he, though?  He's lost some of his inhibitions, surely; and most (if not all) of his good sense, too.  But I think there's a bit more than that going on.  I think what's happening here is the release of Sulu's frustration with his job.  We've seen him engage in two different hobbies -- botany and fencing -- in the last two episodes.  The botany (seen in "The Man Trap") is even referred to in this episode.  We don't have enough information to infer anything definitive about Sulu's personality here, but I've invented a scenario for myself.  I warn you that I am about to indulge in a little thing I like to call Making Shit Up.  Join me, won't you?

Sulu is the ship's navigator, which seems like it must be a rather boring job.  You sit at a console your entire shift, and presumably you have mundane -- though crucially important -- tasks to perform; but all things considered, you may as well be working in a toll booth for all the freedom it gives you.  It's a command-path rank, sure; but nevertheless, it's grunt-work for high-performers.  How many houra per day do you suppose Sulu sits at that console?  How many days per week?  (I might be one of the only Trekkies who'd love to read a tie-in novel all about the ins and outs of the crew-scheduling process.)  Let's assume that it's similar to shifts in the navy, which I know nothing about.  I don't even know enough about it to properly Google it and find out.
  
Since I'm currently in Making Shit Up territory, I'm going to apply the vague knowledge Google has given me in my own way, and speculate that on board the Enterprise, the day would be structured in three eight-hour shifts.  So if you are Sulu, you'd report to the bridge and sit at the helm for eight hours, then you'd be "off" for sixteen hours (eight of which you'd be expected to devote to adequate sleep), part of which would likely be spent performing other duties of some sort.  I'd guess there would be no such thing as off days until shore-leave time was granted.
  
Like anyone who works full-time, you'd only be able to devote some of that downtime to leisure activities.  And even though you'd signed up for this mission, and are likely very passionate about it, you must surely also yearn for the freedom to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it for however long you see fit.  Chained -- in a manner of speaking -- to a helm console for a third of your life, you'd likely grow a bit restless, even if only subconsciously.  Perhaps you work this out via hobbies, such as fencing.

So when you get infected with an alien pathogen that causes you to exhibit behavior similar to intoxication, maybe it's suddenly not that weird for you to decide that all you really want to do is indulge your hobby.  You've been repressing that desire for hours every day for who knows how many weeks (months? years?), and if some virus strips you of your ability to regulate your behavior, you're bound to let loose.  In Sulu's case -- Sulu's case as I see it, at least -- this results in shirtless swordplay.

What makes me feel a bit less like I'm just Making Shit Up and a bit more like I'm offering a valid reading of the episode is the fact that Kevin Riley -- who, as navigator, has a job identical to Sulu's in all but the specifics of the mundanity -- exhibits very similar behavior.  If Tormolen is the angry drunk and Sulu is the uninhibited drunk, what kind of drunk is Riley?  He, I think, is the everything's-funny drunk.  He's the obnoxious drunk.  But he, like Sulu, is obviously working out some of the repressed antipathy he feels toward his job.  Sulu has been sitting there at the helm for hours a day, wishing he could have more time to do what he wants to do.  There's no indication that what he wants is to have no responsibilities; it just seems like he wants fewer of them and more time for himself.

Riley, on the other hand, seems perhaps to want a life devoid of responsibility; and he wants to achieve it by means of being the man in charge of the ship.  He -- and, yes, I'm in Making Shit Up mode again -- secretly thinks that what the Enterprise needs is a lot more fun and a lot less work.  Riley's prescription for the former: ice cream, dances, and bowling alleys, all accompanied by a dulcet Irish tenor (which is anything BUT dulcet, although one can't blame the poor fellow for trying).  His prescription for the latter: take away the ship's mission (i.e., deprive it of the ability to go anywhere).  That'll obviate the need for work.  Simple!




It makes no sense unless you're wasted as shit, but if you can imagine being wasted as shit, then you can kind of get there mentally, can't you?  Yeah, sure you can.

Speaking of being wasted as shit, Riley exhibits some of the tendencies I have when I get drunk (which happens about once a decade).  When I watch him walk, and mess with things on the wall, and find himself amused by the world around him, it makes me think of how things seem to me when I'm drunk.  For example:




I don't know why this delights me so, but it really does.  Riley has strolled into sickbay and finds that it's empty except for Nurse Chapel.  She doesn't see him, and he realizes it, so he impishly decides to try and keep his presence secret, and "hides" behind the wall for a moment.  Why?  Just because it amuses him.

He's entered sickbay by blowing a heavy breath at the door.  It's a funny gesture, and he does something even funnier when he leaves sickbay: he raises his hands in what I guess I'd describe as an "open Sesame!" gesture, as though he's commanding the doors to open for him.





What this tells me is that Riley thinks it's cool that the doors open by themselves.  And what this likely means is that actor Bruce Hyde thought it was cool that the doors open by themselves.  Remember, doors didn't do that in 1966; this was science-fictional.  So via Riley, Hyde is channeling the audience's amused wonder; the fact that he finds these cool-ass sliding doors to be fun and worthy of a bit of play likely worked even better on 1966 audiences than on 2017 audiences, and endeared Riley to them.  We get Riley; he's a stand-in for us, in a way.  He's putting the whole crew at risk, but he's fucked up on Purple Drank!  You can't blame him, except for having gotten that shitfaced to begin with; and really, isn't that his friends' fault, for letting it happen?  Of course it is.  Dude's wasted, man, let him be.

This brings us to Christine Chapel, who catches the bug from Riley.






This, obviously, is Chapel's debut episode.  Regardless of whether you are watching in broadcast order or (as am I) in production order, this is where she makes her entrance in the Trekverse.  We get a couple of scenes with her in "sober" mode, so that we glimpse her as a cool, calm professional; and then, the virus unleashes a different side of her.

Chapel is the emboldened drunk of the episode.  Like Sulu and Riley, she's been repressing something; in her case, it's a romantic love of Mr. Spock.  Unlike Sulu and Riley (or Tormolen, for that matter), she doesn't get mean in any way.  No, she just tells it like it is.

And she's right!  She's pretty much right on the money in her analysis of Spock's interior emotional life.  "I see things," she says; "how honest you are.  I know how you feel: you hide it, but you do have feelings.  Oh, how we must hurt you, torture you."  Spock insists that he is in control of his emotions.  "The others believe that," Chapel says; "I don't."  Any Trekkie worth the salt that'd get 'em killed on M-113 knows that she's hit the bullseye here.  Spock knows it, too.  The impact of her words upon him is immediate and profound, and yeah, sure, it's the virus working on him ... but inebriation reveals truth, and so while what happens next might be because Spock is "drunk," it's not only because Spock is drunk.







This, we realize, must be what is going on inside Spock on an every-day basis.  We'll see more of it, and in a prettier and more placid form, later on during the first season; but this is certainly an aspect of the true inner Spock.  If he'd been caught in that transporter malfunction that afflicted and halved Kirk during the events of "The Enemy Within," it might well be this Spock who was part of the result.

Spock is the self-recriminating drunk of the episode.  Tormolen's anger and fear was directed outward; neither Sulu nor Riley seem to have any notion that they could ever do anything wrong; and Chapel has virtuous truth on her side (now that she's been freed to express it).

Spock's self-recrimination turns to anger, though, once Kirk comes in and begins slapping him around.




Before this, Spock has said, "Jim, when I feel friendship for you, I'm ashamed."  He sounds remorseful when he says it, but Nimoy gives the sentence a slightly accusatory edge as well, as though Spock blames Kirk for these feelings in some way.  Kirk then shows him his hands, and Spock decides he's hand enough of all this, and knocks Kirk across the briefing-room table.

Interestingly, all of this seems to sober Spock up.  It wouldn't be inappropriate to chastise the screenplay for this; if the virus can be shrugged off that simply, then why can't somebody just talk Riley out of the engine room by promising him ice cream, or a promotion, or pussy or something?  It's kind of a fair point.  The answer, of course, lies in Spock's not-entirely-human physiology.  The virus simply doesn't affect him the same way it affects humans (and this implies that it might well affect other species in different ways yet).

Kirk catches the virus from Spock during their slapfight, of course, and within moments he's lamenting the rigors of his duty.  It may interest you to note that Kirk seems to be suffering from a similar -- though more advanced -- version of the same malaise that has beset Sulu and Riley.  He feels chained to his post; he's stuck in one place, and it matters not a whit that that one place is in perpetual motion, visiting all manner of new places.  For Kirk, it's the same place over and over again.  "This vessel," he laments; "I give, she takes.  She won't permit me my life; I've got to live hers."

He then changes course on a dime.  "That beautiful yeoman," he says; "have you noticed her, Mr. Spock? You're allowed to notice her; a Captain's not permitted."  Spock has sobered up, and is exhorting Kirk about the theoretical intermix formula.  Kirk's busy lamenting the vessel to which he is married, and lamenting the loss of his real-life options.  "A flesh woman to touch," he says, mournfully, "to hold; a beach to walk on; a few days, no braid on my shoulder..."  He's mixing metaphor with metaphor here, but it's clear that what Kirk regrets is the loss of a traditional life.  This is a man who will never have a family, who will likely never have a true romantic relationship again, who will likely spend the rest of his days floating in the stars, and never again know the simple pleasure of sand between his toes.  He's allowing self-pity to color his feelings, and is exaggerating the impact of his circumstances.

But isn't that what self-pitying drunks do?  Kirk, then, is the drunk at the end of the bar, sitting alone and weeping silent tears into his Tom Collins.  He might confide in the bartender, but the bartender will stop listening when he's not looking.

Kirk is able to sort of snap himself out of his funk by virtue of the fact that Scotty and Spock have arrived at a tentative solution.  So in the final moments of his virus-prompted inebriation, Kirk gets to be another sort of drunk still: the high-functioning drunk who can drive home safely no matter how much he's had to drink.  A myth, perhaps; it's probably best to assume so.  But even if such drunks don't actually exist, they exist in their own minds.

It might be another story deficiency that Kirk is able to snap back to relative sobriety in that manner.  It doesn't really match the rest of the episode, does it?  I shall now put on my Retconning Helmet and take a run straight at this issue; in doing so, I assert that because the virus affected Spock differently, the version of it Kirk contracted was significantly diluted, and therefore a different -- and significantly less invasive -- strain of the virus than Tormolen and Sulu and Riley had.  So Kirk actually got lucky: he didn't have to deal with what they dealt with.  In that sense, it is plausible that he was able to shake the effects off with relative ease.

Not immediately, however:





Unseen by anyone, he reaches a hand out to Janice Rand, perhaps considering touching her face.  "No beach to walk on," he says, in one of the saddest moments James T. Kirk ever has on film.  His death isn't as sad as this shit, boy.  Rand turns and looks at him, but the moment has passed, and she was unaware of it.  A Captain's duty must go on.

And so it does.

A few more notes from "The Naked Time":

  •  Anybody watching this episode in 2017 is likely to notice that during the scene on the planet where Spock and Tormolen examine the body of a dead woman, they are actually examining a mannequin.  It looks ridiculous.  Let's not be too harsh on them, though: when this episode came out, everyone's televisions were pretty small.  Most viewers would not have noticed the plastic person.
  • While we're talking about things in this episode that don't work, can I ask what the point would be of having an encounter suit with a headpiece that, at the bottom, was essentially open to the air?  Tormolen's decision to take his glove off just so he could scratch his face also strikes me as unlikely.  Sure, I get it, even professionals make errors in judgment.  But that's a big one.
  • "Instruments register only those things they're designed to register," says Spock to Scotty.  "Space still contains infinite unknowns."  In its way, this episode really pushes the notion that space is huge, weird, terrifying, and awesome.  That's part of what underlies Tormolen's freakout.  Trek will eventually produce so many episodes that even things designed to be super-weird come off as being highly mundane, so I really treasure some of these early moments where the vitality of the concept comes shining through.
  • Bruce Hyde is terrific as Riley.  Spoiler alert: Riley is only in one more episode.  This is a shame, because Hyde totally fits in.  I've got nothing (much) against Chekov, but let's be honest: apart from the politics of the Russian angle, Chekov does nothing that Riley couldn't have done.  I look forward to reading the behind-the-scenes stuff to find out why Hyde wasn't in more episodes.  I bet it's gonna piss me off.
  • Stewart Moss is good as Joe Tormolen, too, and between these guys and Majel Barrett making a strong impression as Nurse Chapel, it's a heck of an episode as an ensemble piece.  In fact, this is the first episode that includes all of the major season-one characters, and with the exception of Janice Rand, they all get strong individual moments to play.  Even Rand gets to be a part of an important scene (Kirk's "no beach to walk on" moment).  The legend of Trek is that Shatner, Nimoy, and (to a lesser extent) Kelley eventually began making so many demands for episodes and scenes to focus on their characters that everyone else was crowded out.  I suppose that we'll find out whether that's true as these examinations of the episodes continue.  Whatever the case may be, "The Naked Time" really drives the point home that a Trek episode with a strong ensemble is a good thing.
  • The ensemble is strong, but there is some bad extras work.  How about these doofuses?



  • They just sit there while Tormolen fights with Sulu and Riley, gawping.  I'm not sure if their demeanor is intended to suggest crew-wide malaise or something, but it's bad, and should have been edited out.  The non-reactions of the guys in the corridor that Sulu threatens isn't much better.
  • It goes by so fast that I can forgive you if you missed it, but Kirk has a supremely badass moment when he dodges Sulu's swordthrust:
  


  • New wrinkles to the ship making their debut this episode: the food replicator (which isn't actually a replicator, but I don't know what to call it so we'll go with that) and the Jeffries tube:
  


    
  • At various points in the episode, Uhura gets to be navigator and Rand gets to be helmsman.  It's cool to see that the crew is cross-trained, presumably so that when emergencies like this arise, they are able to step in to more or less any position.  I'm making assumptions, but it seems logical enough.  Riley steps on Uhura's moment somewhat by drunkenly pointing out how great it is that "the women" get to work, too.  This works fine as long as you're wearing your 1966 hat, I guess, but that hat has some moths in it these days. 
  • The Spock/Chapel scene is pretty great.  Majel Barrett has caught a good bit of flack from certain segments of the fandom over the years for the quality of her various performances; and down the road, she might catch some from me.  But I think she's quite good in this episode, despite the truly awful wig she has been strapped beneath.  There seems to be some actual chemistry between Nimoy and Barrett, too.  "I'm sorry," he says to her confession of love, plaintively.  "I am sorry."  The way he says that second sentence implies an admission that Christine is, in effect, correct about the things she is saying.  And it's worth pointing out that even though she's "drunk," Chapel doesn't ask Spock to love her in return.  It seems to be enough for her to be able to simply express her own feelings.  It's a rather touching scene, to be honest; a deeper one than I'd ever given it credit for being.






  • Nimoy is not as good during the subsequent scenes in which he breaks down.  If I really wanted to, I could probably strap on the old Retcon Helmet and batter this stuff into usable shape; but nah, I think Nimoy probably just didn't quite get there on the day, and wasn't able to produce tears.  These things happen when you're filming as quickly as television films; and again, remember that on the average tv in 1966, you might not have even been able to see tears if they had been there.  Anyways, I don't think Nimoy is bad in these scenes; he's just not inspired, the way he often is.  (Although I must admit that he does quite well once he begins interacting with Shatner.)
  • "I'll protect you, fair maiden!" hollers Sulu at Uhura.  "Sorry," she protests, "neither!"  This is pretty great, and think about what she's just said: she's not a maiden.  A woman on 1966 American television just got to be annoyed and verbally scornful of the suggestion that she's a virgin.
  • I love how Kirk, when he finally gets into Engineering, picks Riley up and bodily flings him out of the seat.  He may as well be a ragdoll; Kirk has turned into the Hulk or something.
  • When Sulu is injected with the antidote, he seems to remember nothing of his illness.  Will everyone else be affected similarly?  Will Spock and Chapel remember their conversation?  Will Kirk remember his naked mourning for not being able to pursue Rand?  Will Riley remember the lyrics to "Kathleen"?
  • When Kirk, as he is leaving the briefing room, begins to gather his wits about him, he looks around him at the ship.  "Never lose you," he promises her; "never."  And somewhere in the future, Will Decker shudders.
  • We haven't even mentioned the fact that the episode ends with Spock inventing time travel.  That stuff is pretty great, and I love the fact that it happens as the result of Spock taking a gigantic risk.  The episode's end almost suggests that intentional, focused time travel is going to eventually become a formal element of the series.  That never quite happens, but isn't that how they get to where they get in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"?  I can't remember!  Don't tell me, don't tell me; we'll get there.

I'd never been a huge fan of this episode, but my opinion of it has gone upward significantly during the course of writing this post.  I'm always a fan of that happening.

A few things from the Remastered version of the episode seemed worth looking at:


original

Remastered


They substituted a shot of the Enterprise in space with a shot of the Enterprise orbiting Psi-2000 at the beginning of the episode.  This is a good change; I'm not wild about the CGI ship, and likely never will be, but as a story point this certainly makes more sense.


original

Remastered

Speaking of Psi-2000, the original episode has a planet's-surface shot that seems to show a snowy mountain or something.  It's indistinct, and is probably stock footage of some sort.  the Remastered version subs that shot out and replaces it with a much better-looking shot of a facility on a snowy mountain.  Because the CGI is partially obscured by snowfall, it's a much more effective shot than most like that have been in the Remastered project.


original

Remastered

I'd probably never have noticed this if not for a documentary on the Blu-ray pointing it out.  But yeah, that original version just totally doesn't have a beam coming out of the phaser, does it?


original

Remastered

They also made the starfield a bit clearer and more dynamic during the time-travel sequence.  Not a major difference, but you know, I figured while we were here and all.

This is the first episode where I've thought the Remastered version might actually be superior.

And yet, they did nothing about this:





I'd have just covered her with CGI snow or something.  That mannequin is pretty fuckin' awful.

Let's now go behind the scenes for a while, beginning with:




Man, lookit that big-ass hair beneath Marc Cushman's name.  I had not noticed that before now.  If I can remember it, I'll rescan the front cover, and depilate the image.

Matter of fact, best not to wait; my memory ain't the best.  So hold on a second, lerp-a-lerp-a-lerp-a-derp, and....




Better.

Anyways, there's a lot of good stuff in These Are the Voyages, as usual.  A great deal of it in this chapter focuses on the growing rift between Gene Roddenberry and story executive John D.F. Black (who wrote "The Naked Time").  Roddenberry committed a major protocol -- and Writer's Guild -- breach by rewriting Black's script before Black was given an opportunity to rewrite it himself.  After that, Black did rewrite it, and then polished that rewrite; but in the end, Roddenberry did even more revision.  Among the things he added: he created the role of Riley, replacing Farrell (from "Mudd's Women"); he changed "Nurse Ducheau" to Nurse Chapel, and expanded the character's role significantly; and he added Uhura's "Sorry, neither" line, the exchanged slaps between Kirk and Spock, and Kirk's speech about his relationship with the Enterprise.  He also moved a line of Black's dialogue -- "Never lose you; never" -- from near the end of the episode to where it finally ended up, giving it much more resonance.

He also added the horrid line of dialogue Spock speaks -- "It's like nothing we've dealt with before" -- to close the teaser.  But on the whole, a good bit of what makes this episode this episode were things Roddenberry added.

Some of Black's material got changed in other ways, too.  Here's something Leonard Nimoy told Cushman about the episode:

[T]here was originally written that an elevator door opens up in one of the corridors and Spock is there crying.  And there's a guy going around with a paint brush, painting silly stuff on walls and so forth, and he comes up and paints a funny mustache on Spock's face.  And Spock goes on crying.  I said to John Black, "I think we're missing an opportunity here.  If Spock can get into a private space, then he can let out some of his interior strife, and we might learn something touching and interesting about him."  What I remember John saying was, "No, it would spoil the rhythm of the piece."  Well, I thought strongly enough about it that I really did not want to do this painted face thing, so I went to Gene and I told him my idea.  Then, a little while later, John came down to the set and said, "Alright, tell me again what you have in mind."

In this instance, I am entirely on Nimoy and Roddenberry's side.

Black also got some input from George Takei, who didn't much care for the fact that the script involved Sulu wielding a Samurai sword.  "Sulu is a 23rd century guy," Takei reasoned, correctly.  "I'm a 20th century Asian-American, and I didn't grow up brandishing a Samurai sword.  I was swept away by Errol Flynn and The Adventures of Robin Hood."  He persuaded Black to change the script so that Sulu was a fencing enthusiast.  This is, in my opinion, another good change.  Fencing is a playful enough endeavor that -- although it certainly can be dangerous -- it can come off as being puckish rather than outright malevolent; put a Samurai sword in Sulu's hand, and he seems like a psychopath, whereas here he seems like a kid gone nuts while playing.

As it was, Takei's performance verged on going too far; not because it was a poor performance, but because he was overly exuberant.  Director Marc Daniels recalls that he had to take the sword away and dull the tip of it, lest Takei accidentally kill William Shatner.  "George has a lot of enthusiasm," Daniels sums up.

One facet of the episode is explained fairly neatly in a section I'll simply replicate here.  On the penultimate day of shooting on the episode, the final scene to be filmed was Spock breaking down in the briefing room.

Nimoy recalled how Roddenberry and two of his production assistants came to the set to let it be known by their "silent, ominous presences" that the clock was being strictly watched and the scene had to be finished by 6:18 p.m. -- the preferred "wrap time," allowing the fast-moving camera crew to store away equipment, wrap up the cables and make room for the electricians to turn off the lights, all before overtime kicked in at 6:31.  With this pressure, Nimoy recalled that he and Daniels had only one take to get it right.

Cushman characterizes it as a "perfect" take (a considerably more generous assessment than my own), but points out that production records give the actual wrap time at 7:25.  This, he speculates, likely explains Roddenberry's hovering.




Here are some lovely words Bob Justman had about "Man Trap" and "Naked Time" director Marc Daniels:

During a drought, you pray for rain.  During the first year of Star Trek, we prayed for Marc Daniels.  He finished "Man Trap" on schedule, in six days.  His film work was outstanding, crisp, and energetic.  Marc, his earpiece wired to the hearing aid in his shirt pocket, was a demanding general and ran the set with a firm hand.

But that success wasn't the only reason to pray for Marc.  While he was directing "Man Trap," the next scheduled director was hired to direct a feature and became suddenly unavailable.  It was too late to find a replacement.  We'd have to shut down.

So what could I lose?  I went to Daniels.  "Would you?  Could you?  Do both?"

Marc hunched his shoulders.  "Why not?"

So while filming "Man Trap," Daniels prepared the next episode, "The Naked Time," and shot both shows back to back.  "The Naked Time" finished shooting a quarter of a day under schedule.  He was my hero, and I was a guy who had few heroes.

Daniels, unsurprisingly, would go on to direct more episodes of the show than anyone else.




There's one cool nugget of info here that I wanted to pass along: Asherman mentions that "the trip of the Enterprise backward through time is wonderfully executed.  Originally, Roddenberry had intended the Enterprise to become transparent when in warp drive.  The effect was abandoned, but in 'The Naked Time' we see how it would have appeared" via optical effects by Howard Anderson.

Asherman does not mention that a similar effect was used in the uncut version of "The Cage."  The effect does not appear in the "The Menagerie," though, so that moment was not exactly widely-known.

For the sake of comparison:


"The Cage"

"The Naked Time"

I'm glad they didn't use this effect every time the ship went to warp; but I'm glad we've got a couple of examples of it in extant episodes.




What a fantastic book this is!  Odds are decent that you already know that; but it's worth repeating, just in case.

The chapter I read this time dealt with the production of "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and we won't rehash that.  Shatner's telling of it is wonderful, though, and there are a couple of tidbits that deal with casting (or uncasting) that are relevant to "The Naked Time," so let's check those out.

First, he has the story of how Majel Barrett found out she would not be playing Number One on the series, direct from the actor's mouth: "Gene was very serious," she says.

He sat down with me and said that he knew this was going to break my heart, but that the network had given him orders to get rid of the characters of Number One and Spock.  Then he explained to me that he figured he could probably fight to save one character, but not both.  He told me about how badly he wanted to keep Spock, and about how important that character could become to the series.  He tried to be very nice about it, and he also said, "We'll work you into it.  Somehow or other, you'll be in the show."

The end result, as you know, was that Barrett was eventually cast in two roles: the voice of the ship's computer and Nurse Chapel, who had a major thing for that Vulcan who knocked Number One out of existence.

The second anecdote I wanted to share involves George Takei being hired to play Sulu for the second pilot.

At the time, I was represented by Freddie Shiamoto, the only Japanese-American agent that existed at that time.  He called me, told me about the job, told me that it was a science fiction pilot and that it could lead to a running part and steady employment.  That got me really excited.  And whenever I really wanted a part, I would drive up to Griffith Park and run.  Somehow that would put everything in perspective.  So I went in and met Gene and read for him, and things seemed to go really well.  This got me even more excited about the part, and as a result I started running myself to death, all the time hoping and praying that I'd gotten the job.  Two days later, I've just come back from a run and I'm still hot and sweaty when my phone rings.  It's Freddie, and he says, "We got it."  I was thrilled.

Good old sweaty George Takei!  I wonder if, when he filmed the scene of Sulu fencing in the corridor, he flashed back to that day when he went for a punishing run and returned home to find that his fortunes had changed for the better?  I hope so; I'd love to think that's what part of that twinkle in Sulu's eye is all about.

I've added a new book into the mix for this post, and it's a potentially controversial one:





I say "potentially controversial" because apparently, back in the day, it WAS controversial in that it made people think Leonard Nimoy was slagging Spock, Star Trek, etc.  I've not read the book, so I can't say for sure whether those allegations have any merit.  I suspect they do not.  We're going to find out, one bit at a time, beginning today with the book's introduction.

"I don't go around introducing myself to strangers as Mr. Spock," Nimoy begins.  "But when someone addresses a letter to 'Mr. Spock, Hollywood, California,' I'm the one who gets it."

Having not read the book yet, I can't say for sure that this sentiment will prove to be the thesis of the book ... but it certainly seems likely.  In that sense, it's (potentially) appropriate that we begin looking at it during a post about "The Naked Time," during which episode Spock's inner duality is very much in the spotlight.  Nimoy is hardly the only actor to ever have had to deal with being recognized primarily as a fictional character moreso than as himself.  It's likely that everyone in the Star Trek cast -- from William Shatner to Majel Barrett -- has gone through that to one degree or another.

Where it perhaps becomes more complicated in the case of Nimoy is that that trait of duality was baked right into Spock himself.  So imagine Nimoy, having to -- or (depending on your perspective) choosing to -- create an alternative inner self ("Spock") that he could use when portraying the character he portrayed for several years as part of this job he had.  He presumably lives in that headspace while he is actively portraying Spock, then disassociates from that mental persona once the day's job is concluded.  But he can't make it go away altogether, because it's a part of him.  Then, imagine somebody on the street approaching him and -- implicitly, if not explicitly -- wanting to talk not to him, not really, but to "Spock."

If you are a cashier at a grocery store, you don't have to worry about stuff like that.

But is that true?  I mean, I work in customer service to some degree, and since I'm not a natural people-person, I'm constantly having to pretend to be a more engaging person than I actually am.  I have to put this to use even more frequently when I'm disciplining or otherwise counseling subordinates.  And those subordinates -- as well as some of our regulars -- show up to work expecting to talk to THAT me, not to the me I think of as "me."  This is not enough of an issue that I feel I could get any mileage out of writing a book called I Am Not Bryant (and its inevitable sequel, I Am Bryant), but there's just enough similarity there that I can kind of extrapolate a bit and imagine what it must have been like for Nimoy to have to be Spock.

It must be even more possible for people in other professions even more customer-focused than mine -- bartenders, waiters, teachers, and so forth -- to nod sagely at what Nimoy is laying down just in the opening two sentences.  I don't know that you can call his dilemma a universal concern; but it probably is more prevalent than many people would suspect.

Nimoy continues his introduction by positing a scenario in which he is greeted by a parent and a child.  The parent introduces him as Mr. Spock to the child, and the child says, nope, Mr. Spock has pointed ears and wears a blue shirt; that ain't him.  "Who is correct," wonders Nimoy, "the parent or the child?"  He doesn't answer the question, and I get the sense that writing this book might be his attempt to provide himself -- and, thereby, us -- with that answer.

The second part of the introduction changes tack considerably, and I'm going to let Nimoy speak for himself for a few sentences:

There was a time, some of us remember, when the difference between the good guys and the bad guys was quite clear.  when we went to war we knew exactly who the enemy was and what he stood for and we believed firmly in the concept that we were right: God was on our side, and the enemy stood for all that was negative and evil and had to be vanquished.  Freedom was an easy concept to relate to and the protection of it was all important.  True, we sometimes found ourselves with strange bedfellows as allies, but united in common effort, we overlooked political and ideological differences in order to fight the more obvious common enemy.

In recent years there has been a major movement toward nostalgic aspects of the past; the romantic notion that it is possible to separate right from wrong.  Star Trek falls neatly within the realm of this kind of thinking.

Nimoy doesn't go as deep as I wish he had gone with this line of inquiry (although he may elsewhere in the book, for all I know).  It suggests to me that in some ways, Star Trek is composed of fairly conservative ideology; and I say that not entirely in the political sense of the word ... but also not entirely NOT in the political sense of the word, either.  For a show hailed as a progressive landmark, there really is a deep strain of conservativism within its fanbase.  And if Nimoy is right in what he's saying here, perhaps that's part of the reason why that duality is present among Trekkies.

There we are, talking about duality again.  Fascinating!

Nimoy concludes his introduction by saying that he is "proud of having been connected with the show" and that he has "deep gratitude" for "the millions of viewers who took the show into their hearts."

We'll investigate this book more next time.  For now, I'll leave you with this thought: whatever conflicted feelings Nimoy had about all of this, I'm sure they'd be lessened not even a tiny amount by there being a Kmart sale sticker above one of his eyes.  Not only did he have to deal with the mental disconnect within his psyche, he had to deal with the fact that a veritable subindustry existed to make money off of that disconnect.  One could walk into a Kmart and, for ninety-seven pennies plus applicable local sales taxes, walk out owning the very document designed to explore that disconnect.  And there, hanging like a cut on the man's forehead: a yellow piece of paper commemorating it all.

What a world.

Now, let's turn our attention to Grace Lee Whitney:




The chapter we'll discuss this time deals with Whitney's pre-Trek Hollywood career, which never quite took off the way she hoped it would, but was by no means a complete bust.  She auditioned for the female lead role in Peter Gunn, and didn't get it, but was able to parlay the audition into an opportunity to appear in Some Like It Hot, the soon-to-be-classic film directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.

Whitney has a few interesting observations about the making of that film.  "One thing I'll always remember about Jack Lemmon is the magic," she writes.  "Before doing a scene, Jack would become very introverted, and he'd withdraw deeply into his character.  You didn't dare talk to him or do anything around him that might disturb his concentration.  Once the director and the set were ready for him, Jack would be ready, too -- and you'd know he was ready because his face would suddenly break into a tremendous grin, and he'd say, 'Magic time!'  And bam!  He'd be in character, just like that."

Something tells me Jack Lemmon would have understood where I Am Not Spock was coming from.

Whitney spends a bit of time talking about Marilyn Monroe, also.  She was in awe of the mythic actress, writing, "She was like a big, soft, creamy marshmallow with clouds of gorgeous blond hair and a voice like mist on roses.  The dizzy blond act was just that, an act.  She was very smart and very talented, and possessed an unmatched, totally natural capacity for blending sexiness with comedic ability."

Whitney speculates, based on her observations and on certain shared details between Marilyn's life and her own, that she too was an alcoholic.  Monroe drank on the set, "not to the point of getting drunk, but just to get loose.  She was high-strung, and felt she couldn't feel relaxed enough to perform without a drink.  At the time, I didn't realize how much emotional pain she carried around with her all the time, but now that I'm sober, it's obvious to me."

She goes on to tell a sad story about how the filming of a scene for Some Like It Hot led to Marilyn miscarrying, an accident which seems to have prompted the downward spiral that in turn prompted Monroe's eventual death.

This is by no means the only sad story contained within The Longest Trek, as we've already seen.  Just a few pages later, we find out a bit about Beverly Wills, another actress on the film.  She and Whitney became close, and after filming on their parts wrapped, the two of them hung around town for a while, staying in a nearby motel.  They then took a trip to Mexico, where -- and how great is this? -- they made money on Wills' expert ping-pong talents.  It sounds a bit like The Hustler but in Mexico, with a sassy ping-pong playin' lady and her brassy, no-nonsense manager.  This needs to be a movie starring Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson, STAT.

I'll let Whitney finish the story:

When we finally had enough fun and partying, Beverly and I both went home to L.A., sneaked back into our houses, weathered the inevitable storms with our husbands, and resumed our wifely, motherly duties.  Beverly and I remained close friends after the picture, and I often visited with her.  After my second son was born, I would take my boys over to play with her boys.  We talked about all the fun we had in Tijuana, and we planned to do it again sometime.  We never got the chance.

One morning, my phone rang.  It was Matty Melnick.  "Grace," he said, "Beverly Wills is dead."

I couldn't believe it.  "What happened?" I asked.

"Apparently she'd been drinking and smoking," Matty said.  "I guess she fell asleep, and the cigarette started a fire.  She and her two kids were burned to death."

I sort of had to put the book down for a bit after that.

From here, we learn about various guest-starring parts on numerous television shows Whitney landed.  Among these was a role on Bat Masterson, where she witnessed the titular character -- in the form of actor Gene Barry -- stub his toe one day between takes.  Whitney writes that, as a viewer of the series, she had seen Masterson "getting into fistfights, jumping off of balconies, tumbling down stairs, and crashing through windows, then getting up without a scratch."  Gene Barry, on the other hand, "immediately sat down and grabbed his foot, wincing with pain," from a mere stubbed toe!  Whitney says that she suddenly realized her movie fantasies were just that: fantasies.

"Now, most people grow up able to make that distinction without any problem," she admits.  "I didn't.  I went to the movies and thought I was watching reality.  And it wasn't just movie violence I mistook for reality -- I bought into the movie fantasies of romance, glamour and the dream of living happily ever after."

This is probably a more common thing than you suspect.  (That's my cue to type, "Some people believe everything they hear on Fox News or MSNBC," roll on snare drum.)  My great-grandmother on my mother's side is said to have believed that literally everything she saw on television was reality, from professional wrestling to The Andy Griffith Show to Frankenstein to soap operas.  This at least distinguishes her as one of the few rural Alabamians in the late sixties who believed the moon shot was real, so there's that.

But I'm not immune.  I think it's likely that my sense of romance and how it should be attempted came directly from the movies, and I can tell you without hesitation that that faulty interpretation has done me no favors in life.  It's not difficult for me to imagine somebody else thinking that one could simply tumble, consequence-free, down a flight of stairs.  In real life, you'll break your fucking back, hip, and neck that way unless you're real damn lucky.

Among other stories, I wanted to share one Whitney tells about a school bus.  She was obsessed with the idea of putting he two children into Hebrew school in North Hollywood, and attended a PTA meeting.  While there, the board announced a fun-raising drive to buy a bus to pick the school's students up and take them to school.  Whitney, enthused by the idea, jumped to her feet and offered to write a check to cover the full amount ($1500) then and there.  And so she did.

Problem was, her husband wasn't exactly an understanding sort of fellow, and didn't necessarily agree that her money was hers to do with as she saw fit.  Still, her excitement was such that even he couldn't be so big a dick as to make her get the money back.

The next week, she went to see her friend, director Billy Wilder, in his office at the Goldwyn Studio.  He was there with a couple of other bigwigs, and when Whitney excitedly told them about the bus she'd just bought, the bigwigs sort of looked at each other and each gave her $500.

"Listen, kiddo," she quotes Wilder as saying, "you're a nice girl trying to do a nice thing.  But you can't afford to buy that bus.  Here we are, three Jewish fellas who can easily afford it.  We're the ones who should be buying that bus, not you."

Whitney continues:

I just couldn't believe their generosity.  It was only a few days later that a little yellow bus pulled up in front of my house for the very first time.  My boys got on, and the bus pulled away.  As I stood on the surb and waved goodbye, I noticed the words EMEK HEBREW ACADEMY on the side of the bus -- and I began to cry.  It was the greatest thrill of my life to see that little bus pick up my children and take them off to school.

I'll be back in a minute; I seem to have something in my eyes.

Ahem.  Anyways, yeah, that's a lovely story.

So what does any of this have to do with "The Naked Time"?  Not much, I guess.  Janice Rand doesn't actually have much to do in the episode, other than be longed for by Kirk.  The issue of inebriation comes up, of course, but that's flimsy at best.

Still, I think it's time well spent getting to know Grace Lee Whitney.  I doubt I'll consciously think of these things the next time I watch "The Naked Time," but right this second, I'm putting myself in Kirk's shoes, as he's sitting there on the bridge toward the end of the episode.  We're reaching our hand out to Janice's face, and thinking about her setting up ping-pong matches for her friend in some saloon; thinking about her watch Jack Lemmon declare it to be "magic time!"; thinking about her standing up and buying a school bus.  She's not thinking about us, and does not know we are thinking about her; she's looking forward, into the future.  The moment passes, because it never had a chance of existing.
  



Such is life, I suppose, and if this reflection brings me a wee bit closer to James T. Kirk, i guess that's not all bad.

Moving on, we now reach the James Blish section of the post.




I wonder, do I need some sort of catchy subtitle for this segment?  "Blish's Block," perhaps?  Ugh, fuck no, that's awful.  "Blish Bliss"?  Kill me.  "A Bit of Blish"?  "Alternate Views with James Blish"?

Let's go with no subtitle.  All that crap is awful.

Whatever you call it, if you call it anything, Blish's take on "The Naked Time" is the most interesting alternative view yet of one of the episodes.  It has a few commonalities with the finished episode, but I'd say the divergence-to-convergence ration is probably 3:1.  I'm not a mathematician, so don't hold me to that; my point is, this is VERY different, and fascinatingly so.

We've established that Blish based his short stories on drafts of the teleplay, so I'm guessing that everything here must at some point have been in a draft written by Black or Roddenberry, or (more likely) both.  If you forced me to guess, I'd guess that Blish was working from one of Black's drafts that had incorporated a few Roddenberry mandates/suggestions.

Regardless, here's some of what is different:

  • The contagion seems to come from puddles of water that, inexplicably, had not frozen at the scientific facility.  They bring samples of the water back to the Enterprise, but it's not clear exactly how the initial contagion happens.
  • The scene between Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Tormolen is gone.
  • We only hear secondhand about the incident between Tormolen, Sulu, and Riley.
  • Because of the intensive need to monitor the planetary collapse, McCoy's report about Tormolen's death does not reach Kirk for twenty-four hours.  That simply doesn't jibe with what we know as Star Trek, does it?  Kirk is never more than a moment away from Kirk, taking the communications system into account; so it simply doesn't work for Kirk to not find out one of his crew has died for an entire day.  That said, I really enjoy this is a peek into an alternative form of Trek, one where the duties of the ship are so overwhelming -- and the inevitable bureaucracy of running it so daunting -- that such a thing might actually be plausible.  The notion of a ship like the Enterprise being so big and active that it would prevent Kirk and McCoy from having that sort of immediacy in their relationship is a very different type of Trek; but it's a Trek I'd like to see, because there would be a lot there to explore.  THAT said ... it strikes me as being entirely possible that it is stuff like this that caused Gene Roddenberry to want to rewrite screenplays, and if so, then the complaints of people like John D.F. Black suddenly become -- in my eyes -- a bunch of grousing by people who weren't capable of writing Star Trek as well as Roddenberry was.
  • Sulu's first sword scene is very different.  He DOES have a foil and not a samurai sword, but it's not two random crewmen he menaces: it's Captain Kirk himself, who emerges from meeting with McCoy in Sickbay to find Sulu doing his thing.
  • When it is discovered that the helm will not answer to commands, Kirk orders "Yeoman Harris" to "fire all ventral verniers."  I don't believe thrusters of that nature are ever used on a Starfleet vessel in any of the series, but somebody might be able to correct me on that.
  • Nurse Chapel is entirely absent, and consequently so is her scene with Spock.  Spock does not go wandering the corridors; that moment in which the guy paints a mustache on him is nowhere to be found.  Spock does not seem to contract the illness from anyone; it simply develops.  He recognizes it happening, and asks for permission to lock himself in his quarters; that permission is granted, and that's the last we see of him.  However, toward the end, we do hear from him: Kirk hails his cabin, and Spock is overheard singing a Vulcanian song that makes Kirk long for Riley's vocals again.
  • Kirk is unable to communicate with Sickbay remotely, so he orders Uhura to crawl between decks, taking with her "a length of telephone cable and an eavesdropper," and (presumably) a hammer.  She then communicates with McCoy via "prisoners' raps" (insert your own DMX joke here).
  • McCoy "tells" Uhura that he's found an antidote, which he wants to distribute by pumping gas through the ventilation system.  Kirk is worried that McCoy might be ill and therefore cannot be trusted, but he goes ahead with it, and it works.  Kirk calls Riley, who is confused as to where he is, but helps to restore things even though he doesn't seem to have fully shaken off the contagion.
  • The intermix-formula subplot is entirely gone; so, therefore, is the time-travel denouement.
  • Janice Rand is nowhere to be seen.  Kirk begins to feel ill, but suffers no actual doubts or crises.
  • McCoy offers several paragraphs' worth of explanation about what caused the illness.  It's got to do with "bound water," and sounds plausible enough.  This is better science fiction than what was ultimately aired; but the aired episode is better drama, or, at the very least, better television.

Let's get some more Blish via screencaps (which in many cases are not going to correspond even vaguely to what is being depicted):


"Nobody, it was clear, was going to miss the planet when it did break up.  Nobody had even bothered to name it; on the charts it was just ULAPG42821DB, a coding promptly shortened by some of the Enterprise's junior officers to 'La Pig.'

It was not an especially appropriate nickname.  The planet, a rockball about 10,000 miles in diameter, was a frozen, windless wilderness, without so much as a gnarled root or fragment of lichen to relieve the monotony from horizon to purple horizon.  But in one way the name fitted: the empty world was too big for its class.

After a relatively short lifetime of a few hundred million years, stresses between its frozen surface and its shrinking core were about to shatter it."

"The data collected would be of great interest to the sliderule boys back on Earth.  Maybe some day they would turn the figures into a way to break up a planet at will, people and all."

"It turned out, however, that there was nobody at all to pick up off La Pig.  The observation station was wide open, and the ice had moved inside.  Massive coatings of it lay over everything -- floors, consoles, even chairs.  The doors were frozen open, and all the power was off.  The six members of the station complement were dead.  One, in heavy gear, lay bent half over one of the consoles.  On the floor at the entrance to one of the corridors was the body of a woman, very lightly clad and more than half iced over.  Inspection, however, showed that she had been dead before the cold had got to her; she had been strangled."

" 'Imagination's a useful talent in a police officer,' Kirk commented.  'At a venture, I'd guess that something volatile and highly toxic got loose in the station.  One of the men got splattered and rushed to the shower hoping to sluice it off, clothes and all.  Somebody else opened all the exit ports in an attempt to let the stuff blow out into the outside atmosphere.'  'And the strangled woman?'  'Somebody blamed her for the initial accident -- which was maybe just the last of a long chain of carelessnesses, and maybe irritating behavior too, on her part.  you know how tempers can get frayed in small isolated crews like this.' "

"There was no time to discuss the case in any detail.  La Pig was already beginning to break up, and Sulu and Riley were needed on the bridge as soon as they could wash up.  As the breakup proceeded, the planet's effective mass would change, and perhaps even its center of gravity -- accompanied by steady, growing distortion of its extensive magnetic field -- so that what had been a stable parking orbit for the Enterprise at one moment would become unstable and fragment-strewn the next.  The changes were nothing the computer could predict except in rather general orders of magnitude; human brains had to watch and compensate, constantly.

Dr. McCoy's report that Joe Tormolen had died consequently did not reach Kirk for twenty-four hours, and it was another four before he could answer McCoy's request for a consultation.  By then, however, the breakup process seemed to have reached some sort of inflection point, where it would simply pause for an hour or so; he could leave the vigil to Sulu and Riley for a short visit to McCoy's office."


"Joe tormolen, the crewman who had accompanied Mr. Spock to the observation station, was the first to show the signs.  He had been eating all by himself in the recreation room -- not unusual in itself, for though efficient and reliable, Joe was not very sociable.  Nearby, Sulu, the chief pilot, and Navigator Kevin Riley were having an argument over the merits of fencing as exercise, with Sulu of course holding the affirmative.  At some point in the discussion, Sulu appealed to Joe for support.

For answer, Joe flew into a whit efury, babbling disconnectedly but under high pressure about the six people who had died on La Pig, and the unworthiness of human beings in general to be in space at all.


At the height of the frenzied oration, Joe attempted to turn a steak knife on himself.

The resulting struggle was protracted, and because Sulu and Riley naturally misread Joe's intentions -- they thought he was going to attack one of them with the knife -- Joe succeeded in wounding himself badly.



All three were bloodsmeared by the time he was subdued and hauled off to sick bay; at first arrival, the security guards couldn't guess which of the three scuffling figures was the hurt one."











" 'For honor, Queen and France!'  Sulu lunged directly at Spock, who in sheer unbelief almost let himself be run through.  Kirk tried to move in but the needlepoint flicked promptly in his direction.  'Now, foul Richelieu--' "


" 'Sorry, neither.'  She threw a glance deliberately over Sulu's left shoulder; as he jerked in that direction, Spock's hand caught him on the right shoulder with the Vulcanian nerve pinch.  Sulu went down on the deck like a sack of flour."



"The switch clicked.  Out of the intercom came a peculiarly Arabic howl -- the noise of the Vulcanian musical instrument Spock liked to practice in his cabin, since nobody else on board could stand to listen to it.  Along with the noise, Spock's rough voice was crooning:

'Alab, wes-craunish, sprai pu ristu, Or en r'ljiik majiir auooo--'

Kirk winced.  'I can't tell whether he's all right or not,' he said.  'Nobody but another Vulcanian could.' "

"The voice rose toward an impassioned climax and Kirk cut the circuit."

" 'Know anything about cactuses, Jim?'

'Only what everybody knows.  They live in the desert and they stick you.  Oh yes, and some of them store water.'  'Right, and that last item's the main one.  Also, cactuses that have been in museum cases for fifty or even seventy years sometimes astonish the museum curators by sprouting.  Egyptian wheat that's been in tombs for thousands of years will sometimes germinate, too.'  Kirk waited patiently.  McCoy would get to the point in his own good time."

"With a sigh, Kirk settled back to watch the last throes of La Pig.  The planet was now little better than an irregularly bulging cloud of dust, looking on the screen remarkably like a swelling and disintegrating human brain.

The resemblance, Kirk thought, was strictly superficial.  Once a planet started disintegrating, it was through.  But brains weren't like that.  Given half a chance, they pulled themselves together.


Sometimes."


And that, my friends, is that.

Except not!  This time, I've decided to add a new wrinkle: since this episode has a spinoff/sequel episode -- "The Naked Now" from the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation -- I've decided to give that a spin, too.  There aren't too many of those, so it seems like an indulgence we can permit ourselves every so often; and it's a good way to get us at least SOME time with some of the other Trek crews.

So let's dive in.  Reset your chronometers for the fall of 1987, when the third episode -- assuming you count the pilot as two -- of TNG was going into syndication.  If you're a thirteen-year-old Bryant Burnette, you're watching it on a Saturday, sitting in your bedroom in front of the tiny Magnavox television.  You turn the knob, and then then maybe have to punch the appropriate button on the cable box on top of the tv set, and then...




The temptation is strong for me to launch into a manifesto about how much I love Next Gen, and why, and how much, and when it started (the moment "Encounter at Farpoint" began), and how much, and why, etc.  Might get redundant.  I don't think this is the place for that, so I'm going to attempt to restrain myself.  But a few words seem in order, if only to provide context:

  • Yes, I thought it was nuts that they would make a Trek show without Kirk and Spock.
  • No, I did not threaten not to watch the series.
  • I tuned in to the first episode when it aired -- which, if I'm not mistaken, was on Saturday's on WTTO (channel 21!) out of Birmingham -- and freaking loved it.
  • I never DIDN'T love it.  Sure, there were bum episodes here and there; and yes, I went through a sort of an anti-Trek phase.  But I was never down on TNG, and will never be down on TNG.
  • I've been rewatching the series along with the Mission Log podcast, which is currently in season six, so going back to a season one episode gives me a sort of whiplash.  Nevertheless, I'm a big apologist for the first two seasons.  I don't think they are perfect, but neither do I have the problems with the show in that incarnation that some people have.

And I think that gives us enough to go on.
  




It's worth pointing out that "The Naked Now" is only the second episode of the series.  Does that seem early in the run to do an episode in which everyone's character is flipped on their head?  Yeah, to me, too.

But I have to admit that it works pretty well.  This episode follows up on some of the character dynamics that were established in "Encounter at Farpoint," and which will continue to reverberate -- to greater or lesser degree -- for the next seven seasons (plus movies).  By no means is a perfect episode.  I'm not sure I'd even say it's a good episode; it's probably two-and-a-half stars at most.  And yet, there are numerous good moments; numerous bad ones, too, but I did not find rewatching the episode in this manner to be a slog at all, which I was afraid it might be.  The episode has caught some flak from people who think it ought to have come much later, once the characters were fully established.  In my opinion, this episode helps to fully establish them.

Anyways, the story involves the Enterprise rendezvousing with the U.S.S. Tsiolkovsky (had to look it up to know how to spell it), which is studying a star that is on the verge of turning from a red giant star into a white dwarf.  As the Enterprise arrives, they receive an odd communique from the research vessel; specifically, they receive a message from a woman who essentially offers blowjobs for everyone on board.  I mean, she doesn't SAY that ... but dude, she definitely implies it.

This brings up an issue.  Not the b.j. thing; the other thing.  Would you call "The Naked Now" a sequel to "The Naked Time," a spinoff of it, or a remake of it?  If I could only pick one, I'd go with spinoff; but it's kind of all three, isn't it?  The pathogen in "The Naked Time" was presumably released from within the planet during the process of it breaking up; this situation is not that, but the element of a stellar body collapsing is still present.

Scientifically, this is likely nonsense, but I can live with that.  Trek seems to be telling me that in at least some cases, when a planet or star perishes (or is massively changed in form), a certain kind of water is released which acts as a powerful judgment-impairing intoxicant on humans (and possibly Vulcans and androids).  I think that's probably silly, but as long as you don't mind me thinking that in the back of my head, I'll roll with you on that.  Why not?







Not understanding what's going on, the Enterprise sends an away team to investigate.  They find evidence of everyone having gone nuts, and sure enough, all eighty crew members are dead as can be.  An updated version of the snake-rattle sound effect that accompanied transmission of the illness from one person to the next can be heard, which is how we know the illness is going back with Geordi.

One of the episode's problems is that it hews a bit too closely to "The Naked Time."  For example, did we really need for people to have frozen themselves to death in this episode?  That's been done, guys; why not let them, say, burn themselves to death in this one?  Just for variety's sake?

I guess I understand the impulse.  You're trying to do what works, and you know that "The Naked Time" worked, so you figure that if you're going to pinch the concept, you might as well pinch some of the specifics as well.  I'd argue that makes this episode as much a remake as anything.

By the way, it must be noted: bearded Riker is the best, but I dig beardless Riker as well.






"J. Michael Bingham" is a pseudonym for D.C. Fontana, who wrote the episode based on a few ideas by Roddenberry, and also (obviously) based on the original concepts by Gene and John D.F. Black.
  





Check that last image out and you'll see one of the rarely-glimpsed TNG-era miniskirt uniforms.  In "Encounter at Farpoint," you can even see a male crewman wearing one.  I always took that to mean that anybody who wished to wear one could do so, which is pretty cool.  Too bad they didn't let that concept stick around; no way everyone on that ship is going to want to wear pants all the damn time.

Data is one of the most prominently-used characters in this episode, and there is a lot of comedic opportunity for Brent Spinder to shine.  Shine he does, for the most part.  But boy is this a different Data from the one he eventually locked in, performance-wise.  And I don't mean purely in the sense of the intoxication angle; Spiner just hadn't quite perfected his approach to the character in general.  That's okay; you could level that accusation at most of the cast (Jonathan Frakes being a possible exception), so Spiner isn't alone.






Geordi, the first person affected, begins showing symptoms almost immediately.  He gets testy with Beverly, and while she's not looking, he walks out of sickbay.  His first impulse seems to be to go to Wesley, which is vaguely troubling given that a great deal of the episode focuses on one crew member wanting to fuck another's brains out.  There's no hint that that's what's on Geordi's mind vis-a-vis Wesley, though.

In fact, I think he's got another agenda, if any at all: I think he's looking to Wesley as a tech whiz and (possibly) inventor.  As the next scene -- with Tasha in the briefing room -- shows, Geordi's primary yearning, even when "drunk" on a powerful alien pathogen, is for normal human sight.  It's worth noting that apart from snapping at Beverly, Geordi never gets violent, or even agitated.  So what this episode reveals about LaForge is that under the collected surface, he's filled with the sort of melancholy that comes of wanting the thing you can never have.  But he doesn't seem to have ruled out the hope of someday being able to see in a more human fashion: he asks Tasha to help him see.  Later, when Beverly tells him that the hypo she's about to give him should begin working immediately, he misunderstands her and thinks his sight is about to be corrected.  So clearly, he's got the idea, if only on the level where being "drunk" is what it takes to access.

So is he maybe thinking that Wes might be able to fix his eyes, somewhere down the line?

Works for me.

During this same scene, we find that Wesley has invented a sort of handheld tractor beam, as well as a voice-replicator box that he uses to pretend he's being given orders by Captain Picard.  that first thing might have some practical use, but the second is perhaps the saddest thing I've ever fucking heard.  Not even Ralph Wiggum is that lame.  If you hate Wesley Crusher, odds are that this scene is ground zero for that hatred, and deservedly so.






For all it does to serve as a mere retread of "The Naked Time," "The Naked Now" does also distinguish itself here and there by deviating from the concept so as to accommodate the differences between the characters.

One example: Data's tremendous computing power -- which brings with it a commensurate physical ability -- will be put to several different uses.  The first is Riker's request for him to find whatever he can find about a memory the first officer has of reading about somebody taking a shower with their clothes on.  This, experienced Trekkies will know immediately, is a reference to the events of "The Naked Time."  I've heard criticisms of Riker's memory here, but it seems perfectly acceptable to me that (A) Riker would have read about that in a history of Kirk's command and (B) that he might not be able to recall it precisely enough to be of any actual use.  I mean, let's face it, if you were a Starfleet officer reading about the career of James T. Kirk, you wouldn't be able to remember EVERY damn thing.  Between the Organians and the Gorn and Abraham Lincoln and Khan and V'Ger and Clint Howard and Edith Keeler and Kodos and Lazarus, so forth and so on, you've really got your work cut out for you.  So really, I give Riker tremendous props for being able to even pull that vague a memory.

To me, though, it's pretty cool that Data is on hand to help narrow it down.  He seemingly begins poring through basically every bit of knowledge the ship possesses (which would likely be a repository of knowledge vast enough to make the word "vast" seem insufficient), but when Riker is able to narrow it down to an incident involving a former Enterprise, Data finds the needed info lickety split.

This, to me, is cool.  And it's a variant that helps keep "The Naked Now" from seeming like a mere ripoff.

Later, Troi's empathic abilities will come into play to some small degree.  She senses only confusion from Geordi, and characterizes his mood as intoxication.  Evidence seems to suggest that at one point, the story would have involved her connection to the crew overwhelming her; they didn't go that route here, but it will pop up in a later episode, under different circumstances.




I like Denise Crosby in this episode, for reasons I don't feel the need to defend.  If the episode had just been her walking down the corridor, with the camera following her hips as they moved, well sir, that's an episode I'd be happy to watch.

We'll discuss Tasha more in a bit.





That's Brooke Bundy on the right.  She plays Chief Engineer Sarah MacDougal, who must have been stressed out enough by the events of this episode that she requested a transfer, because MacDougal is never seen again.

What was up with the Chief Engineer role during the first season?  The series went through something like four of them, none of whom were significant characters.  LaForge got the job between seasons, but nothing is made of that story-wise.  I wonder if there was a different plan at some point.  I'm sure this information is out there somewhere, but I'm in no rush to find it; it'll find me someday, and I'll snap my fingers, satisfied, and say, "Ah, so that's why...!"  It'll be cool.




This is Assistant Chief Engineer Shimoda, who is perhaps the worst thing in Trek since "And the Children Shall Lead."  And until Nog shows up, nothing tops him.  Dreadful.





The Data/Tasha scene is this episode's equivalent of the Spock/Chapel scene from the original episode, and while on the one hand it might seem lazy for this episode to simply substitute Spock with the Spock-analogue character, I'd like to make a pitch for seeing it as a positive.  Again, let's consider the ways in which things are different.

In "The Naked Time," you get a scene -- a very good scene -- in which a woman expresses her romantic feelings for an unemotional character.  She expresses no expectations of him; she simple delivers her assessment of his character, lets him know she sympathizes with him and loves him for being exactly what he is, and calls it a job well done.  It has a huge impact, and it is somewhat unclear how much of that impact on Spock is due to the pathogen; it might be that some of it is due to the power of the sentiment itself.

At no point does Tasha Yar tell Data she loves him.  She doesn't want to express her thoughts on his inner self; she doesn't want to do a good deed for him.  She wants him to fuck her brains out.  "You are fully functional, aren't you?" she purrs at him.  He says of course.  "How fully?" she says in a tone of voice like unto the revving of a race-car's engine.

"In ever way, of course," he responds.  "I am programmed in multiple techniques ... a broad variety of pleasuring."

Tasha damn near orgasms verbally.  "You jewel, that's exactly what I hoped!" she says, and then the game is afoot.

I want to point out several things about this.  First: I'm not sure I believe she actually infects Data with the pathogen.  Maybe that happens during their actual fornication; you certainly don't hear the rattlesnake-type sound effect that signals transmission of the illness.  So what's up with that?  If I were into fan theories -- and I assuredly am not -- I might state it as a fact that Data is NOT infected, here or even later; that his programming kicks in in some strange way and reacts to Tasha's physical and emotional cues.  So Data isn't drunk (or even "drunk") later, he's pretending to be drunk so as to better fit in; his programming is at this time in some sort of adaptive mode that causes him to channel what is going on around him.

That's bullshit, of course, but it's kind of fun to play around with such ideas.  The fact is, I think it's just a ginormous plot hole.  The screenplay tries to cover it up by having Data say to Picard that he's more like humans than it seems, but that's just a clear plastic sheet laid over the hole.

The fact is, I think somebody -- and if it wasn't Gene Roddenberry, I'd be shocked -- just wanted Data to throw a fuck into somebody.  I think somebody found the idea of a woman getting railed by a tireless android to be super-duper hot, and doggone it, I can't fault 'em too much for that.

I think it's pretty cool that Tasha was permitted to have that arc in this episode.  She mentions the "rape gangs" on her home planet (the one from which she was rescued by Starfleet), and since that topic comes up a few times during her time on the series, it's fair to say that it was a major facet of her character.  She tells Data that she avoided the rape gangs, but even so, it seems to have helped instill in her a rather robust sexual appetite.  She literally prowls the corridors of the Enterprise looking for cock, and by golly, she finds it.  Then, she offers Data what you assume is fairly sloppy seconds.

This, too, is the sort of thing you suspect Roddenberry found alluring.  He was evidently a legitimate sex addict, and every so often, it shows.  There's a dark side to that, more than likely, and maybe that'll be a topic for some other time.  For now, what I'll say is this: I have no issue with a person who wishes to vigorously pursue frequent sexual dalliances.  What are them rocks good for if not for getting off?  I had a friend once upon a time who confessed to me that she loved fucking so much that if she could figure out a way to have thirty guys lined up outside her bedroom at all times, she would probably put that ability to use.  (I never could convince me be one of those thirty fellows, probably because she sensed that I'd insist on making the other twenty-nine go someplace else.  And indeed I would have.  I sometimes suspect that might have been a major failing on my part; or a minor one, at least.)  There's a point where it becomes unhealthy, but walk right up to that line and yell a bit; you only get one go around at this stuff.

Anyways, it kind of shocks me -- in a good way -- how matter-of-fact Tasha's randiness is.  It's refreshing, and it's kind of logical, too.  We take it for granted that humans are a much more secular people in the time of Trek, so wouldn't it stand to reason that a great deal of sexual freedom would accompany that?  I can understand why no Trek series has ever truly ventured into that territory; but to me, it makes sense.

EDIT:  I'd unforgivably neglected to do this initially, but I've GOT to share a song with you guys.  I heard this performed at DragonCon years ago, and thought I was going to pass out from laughing:




Sidebar: I still get a kick out of a scene prior to this one, in which Data begins repeating a limerick he overheard another crewman reciting: "There was a young lady from Venus whose body was shaped like a..."  We never learn what, though, because Picard interrupts Data.  These are L.C.D. laughs, but that doesn't end the world.


   
  
  
  
The first episode had leaned fairly heavily on the Riker/Troi romance (which, you may recall, had been broken off by Riker so as to prevent his career from stalling out).  [Sidebar: before I forget to mention it, Troi calls Riker "Bill" in this scene rather than "Will."]  [Additional sidebar: I forgot to mention earlier that at one point during an early scene, Data -- who will later canonically be said to be unable to speak contractions -- uses the word "that's."]

I was always invested in their relationship.  I'm not sure I qualified, then or now, as a "shipper," but hell, I dunno, maybe I did/do.  It's worth pointing out that the pathogen plays up the way they left things prior to coming aboard the Enterprise: with Riker focused on his career and Troi still thinking of him as imzadi.  She gets sick, and her first instinct is to go to him.  He says he's taking her to sickbay, and she asks him if he wouldn't rather be alone with her, with her in his mind.  He scoops her up into his arms and walks away with her, and we cut to:







Oh, okay, I get it.  "Penis"!  That's what the young lady from Venus had a body shaped like.




I like this scene a lot.  Beverly has enough presence of mind to realize that Riker has probably just been infected by Troi, and that he in turn has likely just infected her.  Neither of them ever quite fully submits to the illness's effects, not in the way that some of the rest of the crew does.

On the one hand, this is a story-based copout.  The story needs somebody to keep his/her wits, and so both Beverly and (especially) Riker are able to sort of shrug the effects off when it is convenient for them to do so.

In writing about "The Naked Time," I talked about both Spock and Kirk doing that.  I speculated that Spock was able to because of his different metabolism, and that Kik perhaps got a milder dose on account of having gotten it from Spock.

Here, the way this episode presents it, it almost seems like presence of mind makes a difference.  And you know, I can kind of buy into that notion.  Riker is so focused on getting his job done that it's not only what's going on in his conscious thoughts, but also in his subconscious thoughts.  Sure, why not?  A version of the same thing is true for Dr. Crusher, too, although she can't help but devote some of her mental processing power to trying to get Picard to go muff diving.

But for both Crusher and Riker, it seems like the fact that they are consciously on guard against the disease -- AND focused on something else -- helps keep them relatively sober.  This works for me just fine.  And we'll see a version of it with Wesley later, too.




This guy should be drummed right out of Starfleet, regardless of the fact that an alien pathogen caused it.  Because really, if this sort of inanity is ANYWHERE inside you -- conscious, subconscious, or otherwise -- then you have nothing to offer.




We've established that "The Naked Now" is perhaps the one-stop shopping spot for haters of Wesley Crusher.  This scene is likely to be one of the most valuable on that shopping trip, and while I admit that I do hate the scene, I will now confess that is is because I think Patrick Stewart is awful, not because I dislike what Wil Wheaton is doing.

The screenplay doesn't help Stewart.  He's asekd to be incredibly condescending, and in an incredibly illogical manner considering that Picard is not at this time infected.  Wesley even says something to the effect of, "Captain, I can do anything anyone else down here regularly could do, so just order me to do it, and I'll do it!"  This is Picard's cue to order Wesley to get the ship out of harm's way, but instead, he speaks to Wesley not merely as though he is a child, but a brain-damaged one at that.  Stewart fails to sell it.  He fails pretty badly, in fact, and his condescension is outclassed in every way by Wheaton's drunken enthusiasm.  Wheaton is quite good in the scene; annoying, yes, but that's kind of the point, and he is annoying in an interesting and effective way, which makes a big difference.






Fresh from exploring the musky and humid orifices of the enthusiastic Tasha Yar, Data reports back to the bridge, allowing Brent Spiner to get some more yuks.  I never fail to laugh at the moment when Data thinks he is leaning on the back of the helm-station seat, but misses and falls onto the floor.  Stupid, but funny.

Let's give a bit of praise to Michael Dorn, too, who gets a few good moments as Worf.  Worf is never infected, so he gets to basically just be very competent.  I especially like the moment in which he discreetly calls Riker to inform him that Picard has been infected.





Gates McFadden is very good while she's playing Beverly in heat; she's fighting it, and successfully, but only by a tiny margin.  McFadden does well with both the ardor and the struggle against it, and I think she does a better job of this than Stewart does.  Stewart in general gives what might be his worst Trek performance in this episode, and if anything is an argument for "The Naked Now" needing to have been pushed back in the filming/broadcast schedule, this might be it.



I landed on this screencap accidentally and literally clapped when I saw what I had.




I perved out on both Denise Crosby and Marina Sirtis earlier, so why not pay similar respects to Gates McFadden?  I come by it honestly: she is doing some eextremely compelling things with her hips in this scene.  I saw her in person at a convention once, and even though she'd gotten quite a bit older by then, I found her to be stunningly and effortlessly sexy, in a way that almost never came across on The Next Generation.

This scene is a major exception.

Anyways, Beverly solves the problem of the antidote, and then her son solves the problem of saving the ship.  He does so in twofold fashion: he suggests that Data could reassemble the isolinear chips faster than any human, and then he puts his handheld tractor beam -- the concept behind it, to be specific -- to use so as to buy Data some needed extra time.

And he's infected the entire time.  This is key: that his technical genius and enthusiasm is part of what is driving him, and therefore can actually serve to motivate him to even better work.  Now, that's an interesting message.  It reminds me of how some artists insist that they do their best work under the influence in one way or another.  In many cases, it seems to actually be true, and it's interesting for Star Trek to be hinting in that direction here, even if accidentally.

It makes sense for Wesley, though.  He's such a fundamentally good-hearted person that even when he's stoned on alien sickness and has engineering held hostage, he's able to save the ship.  Could Kevin Thomas Riley have done that?  Not only couldn't he, he didn't.  So take that, Wesley-haters.  He's annoying and lame early on here, but in the end, he's pretty fucking rad.

The best moment is when he casually -- and inadvertently, with no consciousness of what he's doing -- lets MacDougal know how superior his intellect is to her own.  He suggests that he could use his tractor beam to deflect the Tsiolkovsky into the path of the stellar matter by doing something with the ship's deflector.  "It would take weeks of laying out new circuits!" she protests.

"Why not just see it in your head?" he suggests, as though this were the most natural thing in the world.  (In my headcanon, this is what brings Wesley to the attention of the Traveler, who will show up in a few weeks.)  He obviously does, so he just ... does it.  MacDougal obviously resigns in shame soon thereafter, and is never heard from again.

The day saved, Picard says, "I put it to you all: I think we shall end up with a fine crew ... if we can avoid temptation."







And so ends an episode that is rather clunky in places, but is nevertheless fairly fine, in my opinion.

Sadly, this will be our last visit with the TNG crew for a while.  But eventually, one of these days, we'll spend a great deal more time with them, yes indeed.

This concludes our "Naked Time."  I'd like to leave you with this:






I'll be back in a few weeks, and I'll be bringing "Charlie X" with me.

8 comments:

  1. (1) I like breaking the drunk-reactions down, and you're right, how they individually do so illuminates a good deal about both the characters and their jobs aboard ship.

    (2) Good lord that Kirk slapping Spock screencap is gold! Right click save - ye shall be recycled as a cover photo, laddie...

    (3) That little gesture towards Rand never really hit me before but reading it here, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for it on next watch.

    (4) Agreed on both the ridiculousness of these spacesuits (although they look very cool) and wishing Riley was around for a few more episodes. I feel that way about almost all TOS folks that are in more than one episode, probably. I wish there was a TOS episode like "Lower Decks" from TNG.

    (5) There are a couple of Kirk-flings/pushes/slaps his colleagues moments that really make you wonder. This is one of them. The man had a genuine rage of sharing that frame with anyone and seemed to avail of any opportunity to forcibly eject someone from it with gusto.

    (6) "And somewhere in the future, Will Decker shudders." ha!

    (7) If you ever reconcile the Trek Time Travel shenanigans, you'll merit the insert-Trek-honorific here. (Sorry, can't think of one!)

    (8) You know I've read "I Am Spock" many times but only read "I Am Not Spock" once. I should add that to my Used Bookstore spelunking.

    (9) I can't think of any "Blish" related title, but my brain keeps going into "Make Your Wish with Blish!" territory, as well. Not encouraging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (2) I was very, very pleased with that one.

      (4) Those suits DO look cool, for sure.

      (5) Hah! I like that. Probably true, too.

      (8) I've never read either, which is unforgivable and cannot be allowed to continue.

      (9) "Blishful Thinking"? Hey, maybe I just cracked it!

      Delete
    2. (5) And one of them is that Bonk Bonk on the Head kid from "Miri!" Shatner didn't age-discriminate - GTFOutta my frame!

      (9) "Blishful Thinking" is the best suggestion yet.

      (9.5) If you could get Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison (or anyone who could pull it off) to sing "Wishful... Blissful..." as a quick intro, that would be pretty awesome.

      Delete
    3. That'd be a trifling and obscure use of a quality Morrison impersonator, but I'd hella do it if I could.

      Delete
  2. (10) On the subject of Roddenberry's relationship with the writers and etiquette and what not, I tend to think it was an everyone-was-guilty situation. Did he rewrite without the usual courtesies? Sure. Was it sometimes, perhaps even often, the result of some production crunch or other showrunner decision? Sure. Was it his prerogative to do so? Officially, perhaps not, but unofficially, absolutely. Were the writers being rewritten just grousing? Sometimes no, but few professions are more defensive when challenged, much less second-guesse/d rewritten. Writers will nurse grudges over the most ridiculous or superficial slight over centuries. So, I have no trouble believing things get exaggerated.

    (11) Undoubtedly the better decision to have Chapel/Spock, but I do kind of like the idea of Spock turning into a Vulcan minstrel after a couple of drinks.

    (12) Some great screencaps of Riley and Chapel throughout.

    (13) I really enjoyed getting a direct TOS-sequel/spinoff right out of the gate back in '87 when this was new. But, yeah, logistically, it makes little sense to do so so early on; they could have done this for the proverbial sweeps week or what not. But who cares. I watched this again not too long ago and had the same reaction I have to most s1 eps: I like them because they're different than all subsequent seasons, and having seen the latter so many more times over the years, I appreciate the s1 (and s2) eps that way. But, yeah, there's not a lot of sense going on in this episode, and the character beats don't mean much. I totally have no problem with Riker's recalling the pertinent TOS info, and your logic is sound: if you have a problem with THAT, I don't even want to hear how you'd justify any of the thousand more egregious examples from TOS.

    (14) The amount of weird sex-shit Roddenberry foisted (or had to be talked of) during the last two decades of his life always amazes me. I can totally see someone trying to explain it made no sense for Data to be infected and Roddenberry becoming increasingly apoplectic, simply because he'd hitched onto the idea of a giant fuck-robot and goddamnit that was what was going to goddamn happen. All that said, hey, maybe all those perverts were right. I'm with you - hey, go on with your bad selves. Once you're a consenting adult, what business is it of anyone's? And if it's not your business, what right does one have to judge? None I say.

    (15) Dr. Crusher is the secret hottie of TNG. It's not even really a secret, but yeah, totally.

    (16) M-O-O-N! Brilliant.

    Thanks for getting my Tuesday started off right!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (10) I think you have the right viewpoint here, and I'm going to do my best to remember it so that I can steal it anytime the topic comes up again ... which I'm sure it will.

      (11) I kind of like that, too. And either way, the result is the same in that Spock's first impulse is to get some place where nobody can see him. The difference is that in the episode, we're invited along with him, whereas here we are kept at a distance. It's the difference between Spock being seen as an alien and Spock being seen as someone to whom we can (and should) relate.

      (13) I go back and forth on it, in terms of it being too early. I'm definitely with you on the subject of S1 and S2 being different and all the more worthy for it. Hand to God, Pulaski is one of my very favorite Trek doctors.

      (14) "he'd hitched onto the idea of a giant fuck-robot and goddamnit that was what was going to goddamn happen" -- Reading this, I sense it to be true. Even if it isn't, it SEEMS true. And the thing is, there's a completely legit and worthwhile sci-fi show waiting to be made that truly explores ideas like that. A really horny one, too. Good luck convincing ourselves to let go of our Puritanical sides for long enough to actually make it a thing, though. And yet ... that's precisely the sort of thing a gross old pervert would say to try to get some clueless younger people out of their clothes long enough to play with their bits for a while. Pure fantasy, in that sense! And YET, it IS a valid concept. Here's that theme of duality rearing its head again. A purple-helmeted one in this case. (Ew...)

      This, perhaps unsurprisingly, causes me to realize that I committed a major fail by not inserting a link to Voltaire's "Sexy Data Tango" in this post. If not now, when?!?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQNMsIGxXVo

      Delete
    2. Holy moley - I'd never heard that Voltaire song before. Not bad at all, I'm more just amazed I haven't heard it before. Though it's entirely possible I have and just forgot - it happens. These lyrics are pretty awesome, though.

      Bang-bots are such an omnipresent aspect of sci-fi, but yeah, if I had a time machine and a private inheritance, I'd fund Roddenberry to go as in-depth (ahem) as he wanted.

      Delete
    3. I suspect that in pretty much every line of human endeavor, you're never more than about one step away from the thought of how the thing can be used to either rub one out or get one actually laid. I mean, MAYBE the Stephen Hawkings of the world are beyond that ... but I wouldn't want to assume it.

      So the hypothetical proliferation of Gigolo Joes doesn't surprise or dismay me in the least.

      I love "Sexy Data Tango." Can't believe I forgot about it initially!

      Delete