May 12 2011 1:09pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Naked Now”

A quick administrative note before we dive into “The Naked Now.” The warp factor scale that we’re using is an out-of-10 scale, not the out-of-6 scale that was used for the TOS Rewatch. So “Encounter at Farpoint” was 4 out of 10, not 4 out of 6. Big difference, I know.

Also, we’re adding a new category, though we won’t see it in this episode: What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck, which is for when the holodeck is used in the episode.


La Forge in the crew quarters of the Tsiolkovsky

“The Naked Now”
Written by John D.F. Black and J. Michael Bingham
Directed by Paul Lynch
Season 1, Episode 2
Production episode 40271-103
Original air date: October 5, 1987
Stardate: 41209.2

Captain’s log: A rendezvous with the S.S. Tsiolkovsky turns to tragedy, as the crew apparently partied themselves to death. The bridge crew blows out the hatch, condemning them all to die in space, and the Enterprise away team finds both engineering and crew quarters frozen. La Forge also finds a woman who was showering with her clothes on when the heat was bled from the room.

Since he caught her when she fell out, and since the 24th century apparently forgot stuff about not disturbing crime scenes, he catches her with his bare hands, then starts acting unusually snotty for someone who’s supposed to be the nerdy friendly guy. Then he leaves sickbay, leaving his combadge behind, and wanders the ship like Typhoid Mary, if Typhoid Mary was carrying the happy-fun disease. Then he gets maudlin about how he can’t see.

Riker remembers reading something about showering with clothes on, and Data goes through Wikipedia to try to find the entry on “The Naked Time.” Unfortunately, the messed-up water molecules from that episode are just different enough that Dr. McCoy’s cure won’t work.

Meanwhile, Yar gets girly, Wesley takes over engineering, Troi gets moopy, Data gets ridiculous, Picard gets wussy, and so on. Riker gets infected, but apparently avoids actually getting the disease from the sheer power of his manliness.

A stellar fragment explodes and heads toward the ship. Wesley uses his fancy-ass tractor beam gadget to slow the fragment down by throwing the Tsiolkovsky in its way while Data puts the engines back together.

Crusher, despite being a drunken loon mooning over Picard, manages to come up with a cure, and all is once again well.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: “All I sense from him is confusion.” Pretty much everyone can tell that La Forge is confused….

Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity? “Then reversing power leads back through the force activator.” This is how Wesley saves the ship.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: The crew quarters on the Tsiolkovsky is filled with frozen naked people, leading one to think that, had they not been frozen to death, La Forge would’ve walked in on an orgy. Amusingly, the only one clothed is the woman in the shower. Meanwhile, infected people all over the Enterprise start smooching, Yar seduces Data (though she later insists “It never happened”), Troi gets moopy on Riker, and Picard and Crusher make goo-goo eyes at each other, to the point where Picard skips a little, which is quite possibly the goofiest moment in Sir Patrick Stewart’s career, and yes, that includes Life Force and King of Texas.

The Boy!? Assistant Chief Engineer Shimoda inexplicably leaves Wesley in charge of engineering—I really hope he was already infected, otherwise that’s an appalling lack of judgment, especially since there’s an entire engineering staff to take command—and then the kid completely takes over engineering. Shimoda removes all the isolinear chips, killing the engines, which is kind of a problem when the ship needs to escape exploding stellar matter. (I’m thinking there’s a good reason why we never saw Shimoda again after this episode…) And then Wes saves the ship.


Yar seduces Data


If I Only Had a Brain… Data is apparently “fully functional.” WOO HOO!

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is the only person on the ship besides Riker who doesn’t get affected by the disease, and he pretty much holds the bridge together while everything is falling apart. Which is almost too bad, as seeing Worf drunk might’ve been a lot more fun….

Welcome Aboard: Brooke Bundy plays MacDougal, the first of four chief engineers we see on the Enterprise during the first season before they give La Forge the job in season two.

I Believe I Said That: “There was a young lady from Venus / Whose body was shaped like a—”

“Captain to security, come in!”

“Did I say something wrong?”

“I don’t understand their humor, either.”

Data quotes a limerick, Picard interrupts, Data is confused, and Worf delivers the punchline.

Trivial Matters: Obviously, this is a sequel to the original series episode “The Naked Time,” even giving that episode’s writer John D.F. Black story credit. The less charitable would call it a ripoff, but they practically put up a neon sign saying that it’s a sequel to “The Naked Time,” so that accusation doesn’t really hold up. However, there’s nothing in this episode as entertaining as Sulu bare-chested with an epee, and Wesley being nerdy in the engine room is nowhere near as much fun as Riley singing, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” in the engine room.

Make It So: What a total misfire. It’s rarely a good idea to do an episode where everyone acts out of character as only the second one out of the gate, since we don’t know enough about these people for their acting strange to be meaningful. True, we did learn some factoids about the crew—more about Yar’s horrendous upbringing, Wesley’s sooooooper genius, the fact that Crusher and Picard carry a torch for each other—but you have to sort through a lot of chaff before you get to that particular wheat.

Worse, the “drunken” behavior is stereotypical and histrionic. The crew doesn’t act like they’re drunk, they act like high-schoolers pretending to be drunk. Notable exceptions are Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner, who are genuinely amusing as opposed to cringe-inducing.

The best that can be said about the episode is that we get Yar seducing Data, which has two benefits: Yar in an awesome piece of William Ware Theiss-designed sexy clothing, and Data informing the universe that he’s fully functional. The latter was definitely a gift that kept on giving.

Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a mess of stuff about Star Trek. This rewatch is simply adding to the mess. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

Rich Bennett
1. Neuralnet
Data saying he was "fully functional" was classic... my circle of friends still uses that phrase (and laughs about it) to this day. I would say this line and Picard's "resistance is futile" are the most memorable lines from the show
2. cranscape
What an awkward second episode. I remember back when it aired being confused that these characters I just met the episode prior were now OOC. Can you be OOC when you have not even established what is in character? Imagine how it was for the actors. No wonder a number of them mentioned being uncomfortable early on.

I prefer these sort of episodes to be a fan reward later. In retrospect I like it, but at the time (besides being under ten when I first watched it) it came out of nowhere. I think my parents almost took it off my viewing list after this one. Fortunately they didn't. :)
3. Grenadier
It takes Riker and Data quite a while to find out about Kirk's encounter with the drunkeness disease. Googling for ("star trek" shower "clothes on") returns hits on this episode and the TOS episode at the touch of a key. Apparently they forgot a thing or two about search engines over the next 400 years. :-)
Richard Chapling
4. Chappers
I couldn't believe how much better The Naked Time was than this when I first saw it (since it was in that order). Sometimes in the first series it almost seems like they're deliberately trying to get cancelled...
Boyd Meier
5. bwmeier
Ugh. This episode, coming after the ugliness of "Farpoint", convinced me that I wasn't going to make TNG a regular part of my schedule. It really turned off a lot of people that their first season was so bad.
Michael Burke
6. Ludon
@Grenadier #3

However, they wouldn't have used "Star Trek" in their search. I just did a search for shower clothes on and I saw only one hit with sci-fi in the header (on the eighth page) and neither "Star Trek" nor those eposide titles appeared in headers in the twenty pages I looked through.
Michael Poteet
7. MikePoteet
I hated this episode then, and I still do today. I, too, think it was a major misstep on the creative team's part to do basically a straight remake of an old episode their second time out!

Interestingly, though, "The Naked Time" was one of the first six or so episodes of TOS. So the original series somehow managed to have an early "OOC" episode when what was "in character" had only barely been established.

Re: "Amusingly, the only one clothed is the woman in the shower." -- You know that's a direct homage to a line in "The Naked Time," right? Lt. Tormolen tells Spock about someone (off-screen) who was frozen on Psi 2000 while taking a shower fully clothed.

At least the Data-Yar hookup has some emotional resonance at several points later in the franchise ("Skin of Evil," "The Measure of a Man," and even First Contact.) But, overall -- um, yeah, ick.
Marcus W
8. toryx
This episode is responsible for me not watching any of TNG for two years while it was airing. I only came back to watching it when everyone started talking about The Best of Both Worlds.

Hoo boy, did this episode piss me off as a fan of TOS and The Naked Time.
David Levinson
9. DemetriosX
IIRC, there was a writer's strike that sort of forced them to go to the TOS well this early. But yeah, it was pretty bad and didn't bode well for the show at all.
10. QuantumSam
This was the episode that convinved me ST:NG sucked and I stopped watching it for a couple of years.

One thing you all seem to have missed is when they Google "showering with clothes on" and get a hit in the original Enteprise, not one of them has ever heard of James T. Kirk.

Naked Now was intellectually lazy and emblematic of the poor story writers they had at the beginning. It also showed how Gene Roddenberry didn't have any idea of quality control on stories -- he was enamored with the character of Wesley Crusher and it only got worse over the years until Crusher gained Traveller powers. Oh, please. I rejoiced when they finally jettisoned his character from the series to attend Star Fleet.
Mouldy Squid
11. Mouldy_Squid
...and this is when the show should have been taken out behind the chemical sheds and shot.
rob mcCathy
12. roblewmac
What bothered me was it was bad. THEY KNEW it was bad. They also knew the words "Star trek" meant they could crap in a ziploc bag and Trek fans would watch
13. critter42
We're just lucky it came out in '87 and not '07 or TNG would be a 2 week series at best.

The funny thing is that I never saw this episode during the first run - in fact most of the first season I had to miss due to my evening job (I couldn't do the take-off-my-badge-and-watch-the-episode stunt every week like I mentioned in my Farpoint comment).
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
DemetriosX: No, the writer's strike didn't hit until the following year -- it began in March 1988, five months after this episode aired. It affected the end of the first season and the beginning of the second (and also truncated the second season's episode count).
rob mcCathy
15. roblewmac
I do rember being interested in the next one becuse the main aliens were black which never happened in the 1960s
Question for hardcore TNG fans How far into the series did they get before they revealed Tasha Yar had the most depressing backstory ever?
16. TBonz
This was amusing. Yeah, it would have been better later on once we got to know the characters, but it still holds up pretty well, which can't be said of most of TNG S1.
john mullen
17. johntheirishmongol
Tasha was funny, Data was too. Pretty much the rest of this episode was a loss. I agree the timing was horrible.
18. Sanagi
The single moment that shows how much TNG improves over the next couple seasons is that in "The Measure of a Man" the events of this episode and "The Skin of Evil" are used as milestones in the development of Data's character, and they seem genuinely touching in retrospect.
Herb Schaltegger
19. LameLefty
Episodes like this made me hope for an early cancellation of the series. Compared to this, some of the later "Emissary"/Bajoran religious nonsense in early seasons of DS9 seem like Oscar-caliber stuff.
20. astrodad
So I'm watching the series for the first time while you are all apparently watching it for at least the second time. When do they start getting good?

I mean, I'm enjoying them, but when do they really start to show why the series was continued?
Keith DeCandido
21. krad
astrodad: There are flashes in the first season, but the tremendous upheaval of the writing staff makes for some rocky roads. There are good episodes here and there, but mostly the show doesn't start to show signs of excellence until the second season (some of the show's best episodes are from the unfairly-maligned sophomore year), truly hitting its stride in the third.
Keith DeCandido
22. krad
roblewmac: Yar's backstory was revealed in the very first episode, and she spelled it out in more detail in her seduction of Data lin "The Naked Now" (because nothing gets an android into fully-functional mode faster than hitting him with sexy talk about rape gangs, apparently....).
Amy G. Dala
23. amygdala11
Isn't the general consensus (for new viewers) that we should skip seasons one and two and instead start at season three?
Keith DeCandido
24. krad
amygdala11: Absolutely not. Season 2 has too many critical episodes to skip: "The Measure of a Man," "Q Who," "The Emissary," just to name three....
26. astrodad
Thanks everyone. I'll stick through it, if only to appreciate the improvement. I am up to episode 6.
rob mcCathy
27. roblewmac
jEEZ i knew it was early not THAT early! it was the first time I heard the pharse "Rape-gang " ewww
Eugenie Delaney
28. EmpressMaude
Yes, Tasha Yar.... such a waste of a character, although I do wonder what would have come of her had Denise Crosby not gotten bored. I could easily have seen her character evolve into a command position like they did with Worf, and possibly she could have been the iconoclastic glass-shattering first female captain that ultimately was Capt. Janeway.

But I digress.

This episode was so appallingly bad. I often think how weird it was that the Chief Engineer was not a prominent role, this early in the series. It was this episode that forged my decades long hatred of Wesley Crusher that even the awesomeness of Wil Wheaton has done little to quash, although the guy does try ;)

Meanwhile, I think an added feature should be the Troi Wardrobe Detector (Monitor?) - she had so, so many oddball outifts, if I recall. Was this the season where she was wearing a miniskirt and big hair, or was she in that grey pantsuit with the décolletage and that awful bedazzled upward bun? Don't even get me started on the flowing, teal spandex ballgown.
29. Eugene R.
Data, quoting Shylock from The Merchant of Venice (or Venus): "If you prick us, do we not ... leak?"

Brent Spiner could always get a laugh.
David Stumme
30. grenadier
@Ludon #6

Yes, I get that Data would not have used "star trek" in the query. The point is that in 400 years, search engines should be better not worse. Data would likely have had some other search term to limit his query by that should have returned a hit in a hurry. Focusing on my search term misses the point that it takes Data forever to come up with something relevant.
Keith DeCandido
31. krad
grenadier: Sorry, I disagree. All Data had to go on was "showering with clothes on." That's all Riker gave him, at which point Data then had to search through a database that includes information about, not just all of human history on Earth, but the history and cultures of thousands of planets, races, species, nations, etc. all across the galaxy.

When Riker was able to add another search term to the query -- ships called Enterprise -- Data found it in half a second.
Marcus W
32. toryx
Let's not forget that this episode aired in 1987. There was no Google or Yahoo! or even Alta Vista back then, and while there were some engines you could use to search for magazine articles or library books, they weren't especially fast or always reliable.

Star Trek's always looking ahead to the future, of course, but it's not like any of the writers at the time had reason to be particularly prescient about how quick and efficient the search for information was about to become, or how fast the advance in technology would be.
krad's point @ 31 about the vast amount of information to search through is also a good one.
33. Pendard
I've got to disagree with some of the people on this thread -- I think this was a great episode. Yes, it was a completely blatant rip-off of a TOS episode, so blatant that they came right out and said it. But "The Naked Time" as a very important episode for TOS, and TNG needed something similar. On shows like Star Trek, it's easy for the characters to get lost in their jobs -- captain, chief engineer, doctor, etc. In "The Naked Time," quite by accident, we got to see who everybody was once all their inhibitions had been stripped away. We got to see how uncertain Kirk was under his confident exterior, we got to see how much emotional termoil and conflict were hidden inside Spock, we got to see what an awesome guy Sulu was when you put a sword in his hand, got to see Chapel's crush on Spock, we got to see Bones at his most surly as he tried to cure the disease, and learned once and for all that, whatever century you're in, Irish people are really fun when they're drunk. That single episode, early in TOS, laid the groundwork for all the major characters ("The Paradise Syndrome" finished the job half a year later).

I really think the concept came along by happy accident for TOS, but it can only be on purpose that the writers recycled it for episode 2 of TNG. When we rewatch it now, I think we take it for granted. But there are a number of enduring character traits that get their start right here -- Picard and Beverly's attraction to one another, Geordi's yearning for normal sight, Tasha's traumatic childhood, just how brilliant Wes really is, Data's desire to be human, Riker's grace under pressure (seriously, he holds up much better than Picard once infected, that dude can hold his Psi 2000 virus!), Tasha and Deanna's friendship. We needed to know all of this information about the characters and "The Naked Now" gets the job done just like "The Naked Time" did. Everything's out in the open, now the show can really start!
James Whitehead
34. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@28EmpressMaude, good point. But if Crosby had stayed I think Michael Dorn would've gone. Not enough script for both of those characters I think. And that would've been too bad as I think the early Klingon episodes are what saved ST:TNG from deing cancelled.

I didn't like this episode when it came out at all. Didn't consider it an 'homage' or a 'sequel' just a blatant ripoff of the original series that screamed of a show floundering around with no particular direction.

That said, however, I do agree that Brent Spiner was the best part of the whole episode. "Fully functional" is one of the best Star Trek lines ever and as EugeneR@29 said data quoting Shylock was a riot.

35. Gnome Chomsky
Sheesh! There are some real cynics on this board. Apart from @Pendard I feel like I'm the only one who appreciated Naked Now.

Mind you, I didn't exactly love it when it first aired - but - I didn't hate it either. Indeed, while some of you are calling it a blatant ripoff, I would call it a fitting homage to TOS. The episode establishes a continuity between this Enterprise and its crew and its predescessor.

Despite the missteps in the first season, overall it's still a strong outting for ST: TNG in my humble opinion. Go easy on the show, will ya?(!)
36. orokusaki
@Gnome, no, I totally enjoyed the episode, but we're talking after not seeing it for several years now. Most of my recent TNG experiences have been through rewatching the movies, mainly Generations and First Contact. Watching this episode after that provides some levity and depth, even if it is retrospective depth. Watching Picard skip was pretty funny. However, this episode might have been better received if it was moved to the middle of the season to establish the characters as NOT being ridiculous.
37. Ensign Jayburd
I missed this one first run so it ended up being about the 10th episode I saw. Based on that running order it plays a bit better. That being said it still stinks compared to the original and is an awkward use of the characters no matter how developed they are.

Oh, and MacDougal? Worst. Engineer. Evar. "I can't help you, bridge! SOMEONE has yanked out all the control chips!" She sounds like a customer service rep with a bad attitude.
38. Ensign Jayburd
"They also knew the words "Star trek" meant they could crap in a ziploc bag and Trek fans would watch"

And that was pretty much the case with me. I was 20 years old, loved TOS as a kid, loved the movies even more, and had no girlfriend. Just by virtue of the fact that it was Star Trek made me keep watching. I loved the characters of Picard and Data and how different they were from Kirk and Spock. I also liked Worf and loved the idea of Klingons being Federation allies.

I knew the writing had to get better and it did. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that TNG would be the first of 4 spin-off series.
39. Ensign Jayburd
"The single moment that shows how much TNG improves over the next couple seasons is that in "The Measure of a Man" the events of this episode and "The Skin of Evil" are used as milestones in the development of Data's character, and they seem genuinely touching in retrospect."

It's true. Future character development is this episode's only redeeming factor. If the Tasha-Data thing hadn't become a vital part of Data's character, this would just be bad TV and not even worthy of discussion.
40. LwaxanaWannabe
I guess I'm the only one that liked this story. I also don't understand the Wesley bashing. In the last 2 seasons I personally couldn't stand DR. Crusher, but I couldn't tell you why.
Robbie C
41. leandar
Maybe someone can help, but correct me if I'm wrong, but the idea of a stellar core fragment is also something that does not happen, I believe. When a giant star collapses like the one in the episode, first off, unless it's about to become a supernova, it takes a long time for the collapse to occur, number one, and number two, the core collapses in on itself, and there is no piece of the core that's able to escape and float about the galaxy. I believe that's right, isn't it?
42. Smfuller
The Data-Tasha coupling really bugs me. First of all they're both "drunk", he's an android so why does a virus affect him anyway, and then afterward she tells hime(on the bridge no less) to pretend what happened never happen and to keep it under his hat. Not exactly affirming to his "personhood". Not like Brent Spiner needed that to boost his popularity although he was truly funny acting drunk. At least he can joke about it at Star Trek Cons, the whole "fully functional" bit.
43. Pooga
Obviously I'm *very* late to the party, but I recently decided to do a proper, in order rewatch, as opposed to jumping around to specific episodes.

While just about every criticism of this episode is completely valid and justified, having just watched "Encounter at Farpoint" and this episode back-to-back I would pretty much reverse their respective ratings for one reason alone: pacing. Yes, this episode has a LOT wrong storywise and characterwise, and doing an out-of-character episode before the characters have really been established was a terrible idea. I groan-laughed at the sight of "a chunk of the star" flying directly toward the ship with no apparent other debris from this massive... explosion? implosion? visible anywhere. And there were plenty of things "established" in this episode I'm sure the later writing staff tried to do their best to ignore and/or forget.

But the one thing this episode has going for it over the pilot is that it doesn't drag. There were *far* too many points in Farpoint where I was restlessly waiting for the meat of the story I vaguely remembered to start happening. All the bad bits of Farpoint are more pronounced simply because you have all these long establishing shots and pointless pauses to reflect on the problems. At least with Naked Now, while there are plenty of cringe-inducing moments, they aren't as drawn out, and there's at least the beginning of a sense that this crew isn't so totally clueless that they have to be led by the nose to the solution.

You could say this is damning with faint praise, but I kept waiting through most of the second half of Farpoint for Picard to just get a clue already, based on my memory of him from later seasons, and Q had to drop hint upon hint before he finally cottoned on to the situation, long after it should have been obvious to even the slowest viewer. Here, there were plenty of lapses in medical and security procedures that even the mixed crew of Voyager wouldn't make in its early episodes, but at least there was a sense of movement to the story in every scene (even the painful, stupid ones).
44. Don Rudolph II
@krad 31 I decided to re-read this re-watch after reading The Naked Time's re-watch and I re-alized (see what I did there??) I should try actually googling "Shower with clothes on" in which case the first link was a youtube video of people showering with their clothes on. When I googled "Shower with clothes on enterprise" the first link it brought up was the Memory Alpha entry on The Naked Time. So no wonder Data found it so fast 348 years from now!!
45. JohnC
When Yar is preening in front Troi with the flowery print dress, I could have sworn she says "there are plenty of stores on the Enterprise" or something to that effect. Really?

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