Star Trek: The Original Series Rewatch

Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: “The Naked Time”

“The Naked Time”
Written by John D.F. Black
Directed by Marc Daniels
Season 1, Episode 6
Production episode 6149-07
Original air date: September 29, 1966
Stardate: 1704.2

Captain’s log. The Enterprise is orbiting Psi 2000, a planet on the verge of disintegration, there to pick up the scientific team that’s been studying the breakup up until the last moment. But the research station has no power when they arrive, and Spock and Lieutenant Joe Tormolen beam down in environmental suits to find the entire team of a half-dozen scientists dead, and everything frozen thanks to the power being off. The engineer’s body is at his post, seemingly uncaring, one woman was strangled, another was showering with his clothes on.

Tormolen checks out a room, and then—because he apparently slept through the part at the Academy where they taught safety procedures—takes a glove off to scratch his nose. He then takes a few readings without putting his glove back on (putting his bare hand on a freezing surface, no less!), and then doesn’t notice a bit of red water that moves to his unprotected hand on its own.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Spock then comes in and shows his tremendous capacity for dramatic irony by saying, “Expose yourself to nothing.” Tormolen then proves himself a credit to his uniform by not saying anything at all to Spock, including the fact that he exposed himself to something.

Then Spock reports to Kirk that the team is all dead. When asked what caused it, Spock waits for the camera to zoom in on him, and then he says, in ultra-stentorian tones, “It’s like nothing we’ve dealt with before.” At which point Horatio Caine puts on his sunglasses and makes a bad pun, and then Roger Daltrey shouts…

Scotty beams Spock and Tormolen up and puts them through decontamination, and then they report to sickbay. McCoy finds nothing wrong with either of them, though Tormolen is freaked out by the six corpses.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Kirk, Spock, Scotty, McCoy, and Rand gather in the briefing room to look over the scans Spock and Tormolen made on the planet. They find nothing unusual—well, except for the circumstance itself.

Tormolen heads to the mess hall to get some chow. He keeps staring at the hand he stupidly left exposed, and then is joined by Sulu and Lieutenant Kevin Riley, who are discussing fencing. They try to bring Tormolen into the conversation, but he goes bugnuts, ranting and raving about how humans don’t belong in space and the six people who died and a whole bunch of other stuff before pulling out his knife. Sulu and Riley try to stop him, but he falls on the knife, and both Sulu and Riley have touched him, so guess what’s happened to them?

Star Trek, The Naked Time

The planet is condensing at a greater rate than expected. Spock is all giddy about the prospect of watching it fall apart. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock try to figure out why Tormolen got so uncharacteristically suicidal. Spock says he’s shown a tendency to self-doubt, but not on this level, and he’s baffled as to why it came to the fore so fast.

Down in sickbay, McCoy and Nurse Christine Chapel work on Tormolen, but he dies on the table, despite McCoy fixing all the damage.

Sulu suddenly abandons his post out of nowhere to go to the gym for a workout, to Riley’s annoyance. But then when Spock notices that Sulu is AWOL, Riley bellows, “Have no fear, O’Riley’s here,” and starts going on an Irish nationalist rant that prompts Spock to send him to sickbay. Spock orders security to make sure Riley gets to sickbay and then summons Kirk to the bridge.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Riley does go to sickbay, finds out Tormolen died from Chapel (and also gives her the funky virus by holding her hand), and then heads down to engineering, where he tricks Scotty and his crew into leaving and then locks himself in, transferring control of the ship there. Unfortunately, this means the relief helmsman can’t fix their orbit when the planet contracts again, and they’re about twenty minutes from burning up in the atmosphere if they don’t get control back.

Kirk’s first attempt to leave the bridge is thwarted by Sulu, who—having gadded about the corridors of the ship bare-chested with his rapier, pretending to be d’Artagnan—shows up on the bridge waving his sword around. A handy distraction from Uhura and a Vulcan nerve pinch later, and he’s taken care of and sent to sickbay, and Kirk finally heads to engineering. Riley is serenading the ship with “Kathleen,” and Scotty reveals that Riley’s routed all ship’s power and control through engineering (which it seems to me a lieutenant shouldn’t be able to do, but whatever). Uhura reports incidents all over the ship, prompting Spock to put the ship on alert and various sections sealed off to limit crew contact with each other.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

McCoy is examining Sulu, trying to figure out what’s wrong. Chapel seems a little loopy, but McCoy is too busy wondering why the biopsy lab isn’t answering his calls to focus on that.

Because Riley keeps messing with the communications systems, Kirk can’t give orders to people or get reports from them, so he sends Spock to light a fire under Scotty’s ass and to check on McCoy’s progress—encountering various goofy crew along the way. When he arrives at sickbay, Chapel takes his hand and declares her love for him. Spock rebuffs her, though he is obviously affected, though by her words or the virus (or both) isn’t clear. Spock starts to lose his emotional control, almost crying at one point. Instead of reporting to the bridge, he stumbles to the briefing room, repeating the mantra that he is in control of his emotions, even though he very obviously is not. He tries to take control by reciting mathematical sequences, but that doesn’t work and he breaks down.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Kirk is with Scotty and two security guards when he cuts through the door to engineering. The guards take Riley to sickbay (“no dance tonight,” he mourns), and then Scotty is appalled to realize that Riley turned the engines completely off. Turning them back on will take half an hour, and they’ve got six minutes before the ship burns up. Kirk recommends a controlled implosion, but that’s only a theory that’s never been tested and working out the formulae would take weeks.

Kirk finds Spock in the briefing room, and tries to get him to focus on the problem, but Spock is too busy whining about the fact that he never could tell his mother he loves her. Kirk tries to snap him out of it, but in the process, Spock gives him the virus and he, in turn, starts whining about how much the ship takes from him, and how he can’t notice his yeoman, and all sorts of other nonsense. Spock snaps out of it long enough to figure out the intermix formula Scotty will need. Kirk manages to stumble to the bridge, where McCoy is waiting with a hypo that cures him.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Spock and Scotty do the voodoo they do so well, Sulu engages the engines, and the ship goes ZOOM! out of orbit, so fast that they actually go backward in time. Sulu slowly reverses engines, and things are back to normal, although they’ve gone back in time three days.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The source of the Enterprise’s power—the mutual annihilation of matter and antimatter—is revealed in this episode. “Mudd’s Women” established that the ship’s power is channeled through lithium crystals, and later this will be reconciled that the energy created from the annihilation of matter and antimatter is what’s channeled through the crystals (retconned to the somewhat more fictional dilithium).

Fascinating. While previous episodes (especially “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) indicated that Vulcans don’t have human emotions as such and are governed by logic, Spock’s monologue in the briefing room establishes that it’s more complicated than that: that Vulcans deliberately suppress their emotions because they’re too intense, and must be held in check with logic. (Supposedly, Leonard Nimoy improvised that entire bit on set, as he wanted something deeper for Spock to go through than what was called for in the script, and the reason it was all done in one take was that they only had time for one take, so he ad-libbed that. Nimoy would later claim that his fan mail went from dozens of letters per week to thousands after this episode aired.)

Star Trek, The Naked Time

I’m a doctor not an escalator. McCoy does excellent work here, heroically trying to save Tormolen, and only failing because the man himself lost his will to live, and figuring out what the virus is and finding a cure with refreshingly little drama.

Ahead warp one, aye. Sulu’s shirtless romp through the corridors of the Enterprise with his sword is one of Trek’s iconic moments, and it’s no surprise that George Takei cites this as his favorite episode of the series. Reportedly, Takei worked very hard on his sword technique, and also did a ton of pushups once he realized he was going to be bare-chested. He also chose a rapier rather than a katana, figuring that in the 23rd century, people wouldn’t automatically adhere to their ethnic background.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Hailing frequencies open. Uhura gets quite possibly her best-ever line when Sulu grabs her and refers to her as a “fair maiden,” and she says, “Sorry, neither.” She also takes over at navigation, something she’s also done in “The Man Trap” (which was actually using footage from this episode), and will do again in “Balance of Terror” and “Court Martial.”

I cannot change the laws of physics! Hey, look, it’s the episode this category title comes from! Scotty says this while insisting he needs thirty minutes to restart the engines, until he and Spock do change the laws of physics, and do it in six. Woo doggy.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Go put on a red shirt. Poor Joe Tormolen, done in by a badly designed environmental suit and a spectacular inability to follow proper hazmat procedure.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kirk makes it clear that he thinks Rand is totally hot, but can’t notice her because of his position. That doesn’t stop him from staring at her suddenly-and-inexplicably-in-soft-focus face while on the bridge and wistfully muttering, “No beach to walk on” like a lovesick puppy right before the engine restart.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Channel open. “Your blood pressure is practically nonexistent—assuming you call that green stuff in your veins blood.”

“The readings are perfectly normal for me, Doctor, thank you. And as for my anatomy being different from yours, I am delighted.”

McCoy being either borderline racist, totally incompetent, or both, and Spock proving that he’s not in that much control of his emotions if being nonhuman “delights” him.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Welcome aboard. Majel Barrett debuts the recurring character of Chapel in this episode, having previously appeared in “The Cage” as Number One; Barrett will also recur on TNG and DS9 as Lwaxana Troi, and she provided the voice of Starfleet computers on all five TV series as well as several of the movies (including in the 2009 Star Trek, her last role before she died). Chapel will continue to recur throughout the live-action and animated series and also appear in two of the movies.

Bruce Hyde makes the first of two appearances as Riley; he’ll be back in the role in “The Conscience of the King.” Stewart Moss plays the ill-fated Tormolen, while William Knight and John Bellah play two of the crew affected by the virus.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

And we’ve got other recurring regulars DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, and Grace Lee Whitney.

Trivial matters: The original plan was for this to lead into “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” with the time travel at the end resulting in the Enterprise showing up in orbit of Earth in the late 1960s, but they didn’t want to have that kind of episode-to-episode continuity (and the episodes didn’t get aired back to back anyhow), so they changed it to just three days back in time and Spock making foreshadowy noises about trying it again some time.

This episode will have a sequel on TNG, called “The Naked Now,” when the Enterprise-D encounters a similar phenomenon, though the exact cure McCoy finds here won’t be effective.

This is the only episode that features all three of the series’ recurring female characters (Uhura, Chapel, Rand) in the same episode. The only other time the three appear together onscreen will be in The Motion Picture (in which Rand is the transporter chief and Chapel is the chief medical officer).

Star Trek, The Entropy Effect

Sulu’s skill with a sword will be seen again onscreen in “Day of the Dove” and the 2009 film, and it will continue to be a theme in various bits of tie-in fiction, such as pretty much every novel and novelization by Vonda N. McIntyre (who showed a great fondness for the character, also giving him his first name of “Hikaru” in The Entropy Effect), Shadow Lord by Laurence Yep, Forged in Fire and The Sundered by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin, Q-Squared by Peter David, and tons more.

Kevin Thomas Riley has an extensive resumé in the tie-in fiction, as well, most notably in The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold, in which he leads a first-contact team (a nascent version of the formalized away teams of the TNG era), The Lost Years by J.M. Dillard, in which he serves as Admiral Kirk’s aide, Foul Deeds Will Rise by Greg Cox, a sequel to “The Conscience of the King,” and many others.

Riley mentions that “last week it was botany,” referring to the last hobby Sulu tried to get him interested in. Sulu was seen hanging out in the arboretum playing with plants on his off-duty time in “The Man Trap.”

This is the only actual credited script by John D.F. Black for the series. Black served as executive story consultant and associate producer of the show for much of the first season. He also wrote the first draft of the framing sequence for “The Menagerie,” though Gene Roddenberry rewrote it and took sole credit. (Black filed a grievance with the Writers Guild, but lost.) Black would return briefly to TNG, getting a story credit for “The Naked Now” due to it’s being a sequel to this episode, and also co-writing “Justice” under the pseudonym of Ralph Willis.

Along with “The Menagerie” (which won) and “The Corbomite Maneuver,” this episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the 1967 World Science Fiction Convention.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

Scotty tells a member of his staff to get something from his office. Scotty’s office is never actually seen. Later on TNG, La Forge will refer to his office in “Galaxy’s Child”—but we never see his office, either…

The Enterprise’s activities when it was in two different places during the same three days were chronicled in the trilogy The Janus Gate by L.A. Graf.

To boldly go. “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen!” On the one hand, this is an iconic episode of Star Trek, establishing the true depths of what both Spock and Kirk have to deal with, not to mention Sulu’s love of swashbuckling swordplay and Chapel’s unrequited love for Spock. Riley crooning “Kathleen,” Scotty’s inability to change the laws of physics, Uhura’s “Sorry, neither,” it’s all here.

But man, is the episode dumber than a box of hammers.

For starters, the virus only makes it onto the ship because Joe Tormolen is the world’s stupidest human. Seriously, he’s in a frozen wasteland. Taking his glove off and then touching a wall with his bare hand should’ve given him frostbite, never mind the loopy virus. And then when Spock specifically tells him not to expose himself to anything, he doesn’t say a flipping word about what he just did, just happily beams back up to the Enterprise. He almost leaves the transporter pad before Spock has to hold him back to go through decontamination. Ladies and gentlemen, your Darwin Award winner for 2266…

Star Trek, The Naked Time

To be fair, it’s not all Tormolen’s fault. What idiot designed an environmental suit that doesn’t have a neck seal? Then again, Tormolen was dumb enough to take off his glove, he probably would’ve undone a sealed helmet to scratch his nose anyhow. Dumbass.

And then we’re supposed to believe that a drunk lieutenant can somehow clear engineering (seriously, Scotty, how gullible are you and your staff?) and reroute every single ship’s function to one room? There’s no way that should even be possible, and even if it is, it’s the sort of thing that only the ship’s captain or a flag officer should be able to do, not the guy who helps fly the ship.

The story has its good points, certainly, besides the fun stuff (George Takei and Bruce Hyde show phenomenal comic chops here) and Spock’s breakdown (impressively played by Leonard Nimoy, who manages not to descend into kitsch). The suspense is very well played, with the ticking clock of the Enterprise’s deteriorating orbit, and Riley’s crooning just making an already tense situation worse. (The bit where Kirk and Uhura snap at each other and then apologize is a very human moment, well played by both William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols.) And again we have the sense of the wider community of the Enterprise, mostly in the rec hall scene with Sulu, Riley, and Tormolen, but also little things like the relief helmsman and navigator, the guys helping Scotty, the lab tech McCoy was talking to, not to mention the introduction of a nurse.

Star Trek, The Naked Time

In the end, however, for all that there’s so much entertaining stuff here, it’s an idiot plot, one that relies on the protagonists being incredibly stupid in order to work, and that’s among the most frustrating kinds of stories.


Warp factor rating: 4

Next week:Charlie X

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at Treklanta from the 24th to the 26th of April in Atlanta, Georgia, alongside Trek actor Sean Kenney, Battlestar Galactica’s Anne Lockhart, Babylon 5’s Jason Carter, and Axanar’s Alec Peters, among many other nifty writer, actor, artist, and performing guests. Come on down!


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