Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Naked Now
James looks back at the decidedly dodgy second episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation's first season...
This review contains spoilers.
1.3 The Naked Now
"Hey, I've got this idea for a TNG episode where everyone acts really out of character"
"Where shall we put it?"
"Good idea. It'll blow people's minds when Data gets drunk, because he's normally not drunk! In that one previous episode!"
Ooo-kay. The Naked Now is a sequel/tribute to the classic (ahem) Star Trek episode, The Naked Time, this episode sees the crew of the Enterprise getting a little worse for wear as a result of exposure to some kind of virally-transmitted water molecule that turns you into a space-lush, drunker than a Klingon on Kahless' birthday.
Quite why anyone felt that the best way to ease us into our second adventure with the new Trek cast was to throw in an episode where everyone acts vastly out of character, I'll never quite understand, but perhaps there's value in understanding the characters' various neuroses early on. It's just a shame they don't really come up again. Geordi never really seems bothered that he can't see. Yar never again worries about her femininity. Crusher and Picard take several more years to properly reconcile their feelings about one another. It's like they set up a bunch of sub-plots only to forget them completely.
Still, this episode did manage to provide at least one of the series' most memorable moments: confirmation that Data is indeed, "fully functional", as they say. Once can only assume this was included to try and beat anyone planning to make lewd jibes at Data's expense to the punch. Still, if the implied image of naked robo-buttocks hammering Tasha Yar into the bedsheets wasn't enough to put you off this new Star Trek, presumably nothing will.
Even if you forgive the awful drunk acting and horrendous premise, the writing in this episode is abysmal. Captain Picard seems oddly unbothered that there's a highly dangerous and potentially fatal epidemic spreading throughout his ship even before he's infected. Doctor Crusher realises quite early on that it's been transmitted to her and instead of confining herself to sickbay (if she's sober enough to work on the cure, she's sober enough to realise that makes sense…) she runs up to the bridge to infect the rest of the important crew members. You have to really work to write something that dumb.
Notably, this episode was the first sign we got that the precocious, intelligent and ever-irritating Wesley Crusher was going to turn into a walking plot device, as he manages to outsmart most of the crew and potentially doom the Enterprise at the same time. Luckily he manages to save it. Twice over. Good job they happen to have him on board otherwise the best minds in the galaxy might have been snuffed out.
It's also worth pointing out that the solution to the problem in this episode is discovered quite early on, and then the rest of the episode is spent watching characters get into hilarious scrapes while Crusher attempts to synthesise a cure. It's a technobabble solution of the worst kind – one you're made to wait for even after it's been discovered. Sheesh.
TNG WTF: This episode is far from short on WTF moments (I refer you, graciously, to the previously-mentioned tryst between Yar and Data) but one you might miss that that this episode is the first to see Counsellor Troi donning the famous "Cosmic Cheerleader" outfit, as worn by no-one else ever in the history of all Star Trek. Because when you're a psychiatrist who can read people's mind, a figure-hugging one-piece is the right attire for getting results.
TNG LOL: It's supposed to be funny, and Worf's quip to Data that "I don't get their humour either" is a classic moment of Klingon deadpan. The kind that would come to dog every moment of the character's screentime by the time he turned up on Deep Space Nine.
Mistakes: Maybe it doesn't count as a mistake, but Troi calling Riker "Bill" is pretty bizarre, given that they later establish his familiar name as "Will". Again, this is the sort of glaring error a simple overdub could have fixed, although maybe we have to congratulate them for not taking the George Lucas route.
Captain's Log: However you slice it up, this episode is pretty awful. An episode of everybody getting, (in the words of Jonathan Frakes) "drunk and horny" is pretty awkward to watch at a stage when the actors were still settling into their roles. An attempt to tie TNG back to the original series was a good idea for the second episode, but they probably should have cast the net a little wider.
Watch or Skip? It's arguably in "so bad it's good" territory, but believe me when I say you won't regret skipping this one.
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