Last week I looked at the classic Star Trek episode “The Naked Time”. Twenty years after that episode aired the Next Generation team would try to pay it homage by reinventing the same storyline with the new characters.
Just like the original, we start out with an away team exploring the frozen remains of Starfleet officers in various states of undress, this time on the starship Tsiolkovsky instead of a lab on a planet. Even though they beam back through the transporters’ decontamination filters, they’ve brought back an illness with them that is already starting to lower Geordi’s inhibitions and make him behave erratically.
Riker is the one who feels like what happened on the Tsiolkovsky is familiar and he gets Data to begin the long process of searching the databanks for a similar instance. Meanwhile, Geordi is slipping out of Sickbay.
We remember from The Naked Time that this affliction is basically like being drunk. And thus we come to plot problem number one: if you were Geordi and you were drunk, would the first place you go be Wesley Crusher’s quarters?
But that’s what Geordi does. Apparently getting drunk puts Geordi in the mood to hear an overeager teen geek brag about his science project (a miniature repulsor beam). He also shows off that he’s been recording the senior officers’ voices and can play them back to say almost anything he wants them to say.
Geordi starts to feel hot and woozy and he stumbles out. Yar finds him in the observation lounge and takes him to Sickbay. There, Crusher, Troi and Picard discuss what might be wrong with Geordi, in a scene that’s extremely frustrating to all the Trek fans who remember “The Naked Time”.
Crusher says there’s no way this is a disease the away team went through decontamination. Troi says: “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was intoxicated.” Argh! It is a disease and he is intoxicated! But despite the evidence right in front of their eyes, they basically shrug and decide to move on.
Troi goes back to her quarters to find Yar trying on her clothing and giggling. “I want to change my image,” Yar says, holding fabrics up to her face. Leaving behind a confused Troi, she sashays out into the hall and starts making out with a random guy.
When we get back from commercial break, Wesley uses his voice imitator to order the Chief Engineer to the bridge, and hey – she’s a woman! This is the only episode where Lieutenant Commander Sarah MacDougall makes an appearance and we don’t get a significant first impression. She seems a bit grumpy but competent. Too bad a drunk 15-year-old pulls the wool over her eyes and then takes control of Engineering while she’s gone.Up next is the most infamous scene in the episode: the seduction of Data by an intoxicated Yar.
One of the weirdest choices that was made in this scene was for Yar to reveal her history with abandonment and “rape gangs” while she’s intoxicated and coming on to an android. In this context it’s hard to separate her telling of that trauma from the humour of the situation.
Unlike when this happened on Kirk’s Enterprise, every woman we see contract the intoxication in “The Naked Now” ends up throwing themselves at a man.
After Yar and Data, Troi makes her way down to Engineering, where Riker is trying to save the ship along with MacDougal. Troi strokes his chest and pleads for him to come be alone with her. He literally carries her to Sickbay.
Not long after, Dr. Crusher starts unzipping her uniform in Captain Picard’s ready room: “I’m a woman,” she says as if this explains everything, “I haven’t had the comfort of a husband, a man…”
Conversely, none of the main male characters are affected this way by their intoxication. So we actually see more gender stereotyping in this episode than we do in “The Naked Time”. It’s significant because, as I said in the that review, the intoxication is meant to show us a hidden side of the characters. The fact that the women characters’ hidden sides consist of secret desires for their male crewmembers puts them in a less powerful position going forward.
To wrap up the story, Crusher finds a cure but the ship’s still in danger. It will suffice to say it is a classic Wesley ex Machina episode as his science project saves the day.
What (else) we learn from this episode:
- They have lady engineers in the 24th century
- Wesley Crusher is the cause of, and solution to, all the ship’s problems
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass – Tasha talks to Troi about borrowing her clothes and wanting to be more beautiful