Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Naked Now
Original Air Date: October 5, 1987
Written By: John D.F Black and j. Michael Bingham
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Synopsis: The Enterprise is on her way to rendezvous with a science vessel called Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky is collecting data from a supergiant star, which is about to collapse into a white dwarf.
When the Enterprise arrives, the crew discovers that something isn't right on board the Tsiolkovsky, as a woman's voice broadcasts from the ship, "Well, hello, Enterprise, welcome. I hope you have a lot of pretty boys on board, because I'm willing and waiting. In fact, we're having a real blowout here."
A real blowout indeed! The crew hears that great big sucking sound Ross Perot will mention years later during the NAFTA debate, but it takes the crewmembers out into space, instead of jobs out of America.
Geordi, Tasha, Riker and Data make a quick trip to the Tsiolkovsky, where they confirm that the crew had a sexy party which ended with all of them in various stages of undress and death. Geordi examines a sonic shower, and a frozen woman falls into his arms. Geordi doesn't know it, but he's just been infected with the Tsiolokovsky disease. He also doesn't know it, but this is the closest he'll get to holding a woman until season three. Unfortunately, when he finally does, she'll be just as frigid.
When they return to the Enterprise, Geordi is clearly in Bat Country, and while Doctor Crusher tries to figure out what the hell is wrong with him, he begins to spread the infection around the ship.
One of Geordi's first stops is to visit his good pal Wesley Crusher, who shows off one of his science projects (a mini tractor beam,) and one of his toys, a device that lets Wesley recreate speech from anyone on the ship. Any doubt that Wesley is a complete weenie is removed when we learn that he uses this device to have Captain Picard say things like, "Welcome to the bridge, Wesley," instead of having Counselor Troi say things like, "Smack my ass, Wesley, I'm a naughty, naughty bitch." To entirely erase any lingering doubt, Wesley spends the rest of the scene whining that the captain won't let him on the bridge, even though Wesley is so obviously smart and cool. (On a personal note, I'd like to thank the writers for making such a great first impression with my character. In addition to this spectacular scene, I also got to say lines like, "So you mean I'm drunk? I feel strange, but also good!" In fact, John D.F. Black -- who I didn't realize at the time hated me -- also wrote Justice, where he gave me the awesome line, "We're from Starfleet! We don't lie!" Thanks for that one, too, Mr. Black.)
Geordi eventually gets tired of Wesley harshing his mellow, and takes off for a room where he heard there's a wicked rave happening, but not before he shares his infection with Wesley. This is not as gay as it sounds, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Tasha is the next to be infected, and after a visit to Troi's quarters, where she grabs some slutty clothes and Troi inexplicably doesn't sense that Tasha is drunk and horny, she heads out into the ship to whore it up. Nice.
While Riker and Data try to figure out where they've heard of a disease like this before, Trekkies all across America scream "EPISODE NUMBER SEVEN THE NAKED TIME!" at their TVs and Wesley uses his clever magic talking box to gain access to Engineering. He transforms his science project from a tractor beam into a repulser beam, and hooks it into the ship's power supply to lock out all those totally lame adults. Wesley then lives out his fantasies of, uh, being the supreme nerd on the ship by broadcasting a forged message from Picard though the ship's intercom. The message cleverly turns control of the Enterprise over to "acting captain Wesley Crusher." Wesley activates the comm, thanks him, and Trekkies all across America scream "WORST. EPISODE. EVER!" (It's possible that alt.wesley.die.die.die was created at this moment, but the historical record is unclear.) Once inside the room, Wesley assumes control of the engines, and lets his buddy Assistant Engineer Jim Shimoda inside to party.
The next act showcases the drunken antics of the characters, including the seduction of Data by Tasha, which remains one of the most memorable moments in TNG's history, and Troi's unsuccessful seduction of Riker, which results in infecting him, infecting Dr. Crusher, and eventually infecting the Captain, after a rather uncomfortable incident in his ready room, where Picard does a Butthead impression in the middle of a line. I'm not kidding, it's right there on the DVD.
But before he is infected, Captain Picard tries to reason with Wesley, who is as reasonable as, well, as a drunken fourteen year-old nerd who is in control of a starship. Picard tells Wesley that he needs to chill and give him the keys, so he can lock a tractor beam onto the Tsiolkovsky and -- before he can finish, Wesley excitedly tells him, "Tractor beams are my specialty, Skipper," and turns off the comm. Skipper? Picard, and every Trekkie in the world, wants to kill Wesley, as dramatic music swells and the star (which I believe is designated "Plot Device Delta Sigma Eight, in the Encyclopedia Galactica) begins to collapse. Worf says that a big chunk of the star's core will hit the Enterprise in fourteen minutes. (Wait. Stars have cores? I always thought they were balls of gas undergoing constant nuclear reactions. Man, I wish I was as smart as Wesley, so I knew for sure!)
This is bad, and the Enterprise really needs to get out of the way, but she isn't going anywhere until someone can wrest control of the ship from Wesley. The chief engineer finally cuts the power to Wesley's repulser beam, granting access to what is apparently the only console that can control the engines on the Enterprise. (Damn budget cuts.) However, in a shocking display of intelligent starship design, the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards have put a bunch of isolinear optical chips (which are apparently fundamental to the control of the ship's engines,) under a small bit of glass where they can easily be removed by drunken engineering assistants who have been granted access to the engineering controls by drunken teenage nerds with delusions of grandeur. The ship won't move until the isolinear optical chips can be put back into place, a job that the chief engineer says will take several hours. She's no Scotty, so there's not an instant follow-up promise to cure the problem in just a few minutes. Luckily, there's an annoying kid who is smarter than everyone else -- even while drunk -- who points out that Data could do it, because he's a robot and robots are, like, fast 'n shit.
Data comes down to Engineering, gives Wesley Dick's Picks Volume 28, and begins replacing the chips. Sadly, Data informs Riker that it will take precisely one minute longer than they have before the core fragment hits the ship to return the chips to their slots. He earns an expository dialogue merit badge when he says, "If we just had one minute more, sir!"
Back in sickbay, and seconds before they could get into some serious spacesuit dry humping, Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard figure out how to cure the polywater intoxication from Tsilokovsky. They test the antidote on Geordi, who thankfully comes down very quickly and calmly, and Picard races to Engineering after they hypostray each other, which is as thick with sexual tension and innuendo as a mutual hypospraying will ever be on prime time television.
Picard arrives in Engineering, and Riker earns a merit badge of his own when he tells him, "We're not going to make it, Captain," if only we had a minute or so more!" Yes. If only. Do you think they'll find some way to get that much-heralded extra one minute?
Of course they do. Wesley, who it turns out is smarter than everyone else whether drunk or not, figures out that he can modify the ship's tractor beam the same way he modified his model tractor beam to act as a repulser beam, launching the Tsiolkovsky into harm's way, giving Data exactly the one minute more he needs, and saving the day in the process. In living rooms and their parent's basements across America, Trekkies collectively ask, "What the fuck was that?"
Everything returns to normal, and Riker suggests that Wesley be mentioned in a log entry. Picard reluctantly thanks the annoying nerd (and his science teacher) for helping save his ship, and returns to the bridge. In one of the final scenes, Tasha appears and says to Data, "It never happened!" Trekkies across America wish she was talking to them, and they could say the same thing about the last hour of their lives.
You are fully functional, aren't you?
In every way, of course. I am programmed in . . . multiple techniques; a wide variety of pleasuring.
Obligatory Technobabble: "Come off the main lead, split off at the force activator, then reversing power leads through the force activator, repulsor beam powers against Tsilokovsky!" - Wesley, drunkenly explaining how he'll save the ship.
Behind the Scenes Memory: Paul Lynch, who directed this episode, directed several episodes of TNG over the years. He was an Englishman who was always extraordinarily wound up, red-faced, sweating profusely, and infamous for saying "Energy! Energy! Energy! And, and, and, and, action!" before takes. He did this before every take, regardless of whether the scene actually called for "Energy! Energy! Energy!" or not. During production of a later episode, in a scene when Brent had the first line, Paul did his "and, and, and, and, and ACTION!" thing. Instead of starting the scene, Brent looked at Paul, and said, very seriously, "Can I get another 'and' please?" to which Paul enthusiastically replied, Yes! AND AND AND! ACTION!"
The Bottom Line: Whether it was the worst episode ever or not probably rested upon the viewer's expectations. Trekkies who were looking for reasons to hate The Next Generation found plenty: the cinematography was very dark and heavy use of wide angles didn't present a very favorable view of the actors. It's essentially a rehash of The Naked Time, and not a very good one (Jonathan Frakes once said that he felt "totally ashamed" by it, and that it was one of the worst things we ever did on TNG. Those are strong words, especially considering episodes like Angel One and Code of Honor) . . . and then there's that whole "annoying smartypants kid who takes over and then helps save the ship" situation.
Viewers who were willing to watch it with an open mind saw flashes of things they came to love watching (and we loved creating) over the years: Data's entertaining attempts to understand the human condition, the complex relationship between Picard and Beverly, and the frequent tributes to the original series. The show clearly has a long way to go, but Patrick Stewart is strong and capable, and it's clear that Brent Spiner is going to do some wonderful things with Data, if the writers will just let him.
With the benefit of hindsight, and the reassurance that we will eventually settle into our characters and deliver episodes like The Big Goodbye, and Heart of Glory before the season is over it's easier to forgive some of the obvious growing pains that plagued us back in 1987. The Naked Now has some genuinely funny moments, but it was only the second time (after Farpoint) that audiences had seen us, and this episode was not the best way to introduce the audience to a new show, with a new cast, especially when we all knew we were standing on the shoulders of giants.
Final Grade: D+