Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Star Trek; The Next Generation--"The Naked Now"

It is difficult to rate “The Naked Now.” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it in theory. As a sequel series, it is perfectly logical to walk the fine line between homage to TOS while establishing its own identity. I have to question several bits of wisdom in exactly how the powers that be at TNG decided to walk that line.

“The Naked Now” is a direct sequel to “The Naked Time”, one of the more popular of TOS episodes. It is almost a direct copy, in fact, so much so that George Takei critiqued the episode in his autobiography as children dressing up as their parents and pretending to be grown ups. Ouch.

I do not think I can be that harsh. The biggest problem with “The Naked Now” is the timing. It is only the second episode of the series. The actors are not familiar with their characters yet, much less the audience. To suddenly have all the characters acting irrationally when you are not yet accustomed to their normal behavior is off putting. While “The Naked Time” relatively early in the first season of TOS, at least five episodes had aired, giving us a fair chance to see the characters in action beforehand. Most of the amusement of ’The Naked time” comes from the comparison between the characters’ normal and uninhibited behavior. You have to look in hindsight in order to judge “The Naked Now.”

Personally, I am squeamish about a couple. The infection is similar to alcohol, which does not create thoughts, but removes inhibitions. If nothing else, an emotional drunk is honest. Geordi revealing his desire for normal vision and Wesley wanting to grow up faster than he is were fine and understandable. The Picard/Crusher and Tasha Yar/Data encounters not so much.

Bitsand pieces of the Picard/Crusher relationship are revealed over the course of the series, mostly after Gene Roddenberry was gone. He still maintained that plot, not characters, should drive the story, so character development was kept to a minimum. Perhaps that is why revelations fit in so awkwardly or maybe it is just a stylized view of women in science fiction as nothing but male fantasies. I do not know, but watching the two reveal romantic feeling for each other is an uncomfortable experience in hindsight.

Picard was old friends with crusher and her husband, Jack. He carried a torch for her for years, but never acted on it out of loyalty to his friend. Jack was killed thirteen or so years prior to “The Naked Now” because of a life or death decision by Picard. You cannot help but think there might be a David setting up Urriah to be killed so he can have Bathsheba thing going on. If you can dismiss that possibility--and I can--what about the idea Beverley is obviously ready, willing, and able to reciprocate a relationship with the man whose actions lead to her husband’s death? If not for herself, than how about Wesley, who is now fatherless? Unless, as an odd fan theory suggests, Picard is really Wesley’s father? Surely the writers never intended that, but the sloppy back story arguably lays it out there for you.

Even after all that, it is still Tasha Yar’s treatment that bothers me most. It had already been established she had some serious repressed anger issues in “Encounter at Farpoint” She suffers from angry emotional outbursts and violent tendencies at the slightest threat. In ’The Naked Now,” we learn it is because she orphaned at five ad dodged rape gangs until she was rescued at fifteen. Under no circumstances was it ever going to be established a girl fifteen years old or younger was raped, but come on--she was. She even claims to have remained untouched. I think it isa lie.

So what is worse: hat Tasha randomly grabbed a guy and kissed him against his will, decided to have drunken sex, or that she had to have the sex wirth an emotionless android like Data/ She points out she wanted it for pure pleasure, not any sort of intimate connection. For someone as obviously emotionally damaged as she is, the whole sequence is degrading. I understand many fans play it off as humorously memorable. It gets cleaned up later when revealed data and Tasha appeared to have a deeper connection with one another than previously thought, but that is in hindsight. At the time..ugh.

I also find it ridiculous that Data would be infected anymore than the ship’s computer could be. The whole purpose of him being infected was to set up that encounter with Tasha. When it comes time for him to rearrange the power chips in their proper order, he can do so with little effect from the infection. So the fact that he is sick is no lohera plot point then. The drama was all about wesley taking over the ship.

Ah, Wesley. I am in the Wesley Was an Annoying Little Wedgie Waiting to Happen school of thought. It was funny watching him get the best of Picard, particularly when he tricked Picard into revealing what his orders would be if control of the ship were returned to him. Heh. Outwitted by a drunken teenager. There is that brief moment before Picard injects Wesley with thecure that you think, oh so subtly, Picard is about to smack him.

It sounds like I have a huge ax to grind with “The Naked Now.” I do not. Had it occurred later on in the season, it might even have been a classic. My biggest complaint is we were not familiar enough with the characters to appreciate the difference in their behavior. I appear to bea voice in the wilderness regarding the sexual relationship implications, so I cannot count them too much against the episode asa whole.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment