Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek--"The Naked Time"

“The Naked Time” is probably most famous for Sulu’s swordsmanship escapade, but it should probably be better known as a primary example of Gene Roddenberry’s unwillingness to develop his characters without some gimmicky plot serving as the catalyst. Three series have done a similar episode (TNG and ENT) where the crew is infected with some sort of illness which forces them to act irrationally. But unlike “The Man Trap,” which was a pioneer in shape shifter stories but one of the worst of the bunch, “The Naked Time” is far superior to the other two, if for no other reason than no crewmembers engaged in drunken sex with an android or Tony winner Scott Bakula was not wishing he literally could leap into another life likes Sam Beckett and escape the awful scripts.

The interesting part about the episode is the dichotomy between the comical behavior of those infected versus the danger they are all in. the collapsing planet below threatens to take the Enterprise with it unless Spock can straighten up enough to perform an experimental move to save the ship. Spock is the pivotal character here and you have Leonard Nimoy to thank for that. The big scene where Spock breaks down over the constant battle his Vulcan and him sides rage within was completely improvised in one afternoon after Nimoy suggested the original scene, which would have been a laugh line, was undignified. The result is one of the first glimmers we see of the strong bond between Spock and Kirk.

Spock’s emotional breakdown is the key selling point for the episode. There is a lot of enjoyable humor in it, especially with riley. He will only get one more big episode before he disappears altogether. Most of the other drama was overdone. A crewman dies on the operating table solely because he believes he deserves to. When McCoy finally develops a hypospray, he rips Kirk’s shirt to administer it even though hypos have gone through shirts in every other instance. It was manufactured drama. Not that it matters, since apparently Kirk’s love for his ship helped him fight off the infection anyway. All right.

But the worst moment of the episode came right off the bat. The landing party who found researchers dead from the results of the infection were wearing environmental suits made out of shower curtains. It was more Carol Burnett’s pardoy than Scarlet O’Hara’s desperation. I have no clue why the production staff thought that was a good idea.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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