Greetings, assholes! Welcome to the second Star Trek: TNG recap. This week, the TNG writing staff blatantly rip off a ToS episode, “The Naked Time,” plot point for plot point and do a shitty job!
I have a confession: my TNG knowledge is much stronger than my ToS knowledge, as most of my ToS experience was watching reruns as a little kid. I first saw this episode before knowing the connection, and can honestly say that it still sucked balls on its own right. It’s just a poorly-written episode and a baffling choice so early in the series. Like if you’re going to do a “characters are not themselves” type of episode, it’s probably best to do it when people actually know the characters. Perhaps most painful is how earnest these actors still are, as opposed to S7 when they stopped giving a shit and either phoned it in or trolled during bad episodes.
On the bright side, at least Q isn’t in this.
This episode also features several themes that appear throughout the early seasons, and by “features” I mean “bludgeons us over the head with.” I have decided against a tally or drinking game format like I did with Shadowhunters as it’s probably been done to death for this show, and am instead going to take a page from Jenny Trout’s Buffy recap book–I’ll keep a list of TNG rules I’ve observed during my rewatch and will update as needed.
Finally, if you’re just now tuning in (to the recaps or to TNG), be warned: as someone who’s seen the entire series, I may mention things that happen in future episodes, so thar be potential spoilers ahead.
The teaser opens with a Picard VO, standard procedure for most episodes. The Enterprise is checking up on a science vessel called the SS Tsiolkovsky, which I can only spell properly because I went through the trouble of enabling subtitles just so I could type it in this recap. The lengths I go to for you guys. The Tsiolkovsky has been monitoring the collapse of a red supergiant star into a white dwarf, and I don’t mean YG entertainment circa 2016. The Enterprise crew suspect shenanigans after receiving some weird messages from the science vessel.
And by “shenanigans” I mean everyone is totally shipfaced. When Data hails the Tsiolkovsky, the woman who answers seductively purrs her hopes that the Enterprise is full of pretty boys, because she’s totally DTF. The background noise sounds like a frat party minus the shitty dance music. Suddenly, we hear an explosion, and the message cuts off. Data believes the sound was an emergency hatch being blown. I believe it was the sound of any hopes anyone had for a good episode. Worf scans the Tsiolkovsky, then informs Picard that the sensors find no life signs on board. DUN DUN DUN.
An away team led by Riker beams on board the Tsiolkovsky. An alarm wails in the background, but life support systems are still functioning. The corridor they beam into is deserted, and looks like a frat house on Sunday morning. The team split up to investigate. Data scans the corridor with a tricorder and reports his findings to Riker:
DATA: Indications of what humans would call… a wild party?
Hey asshole, I don’t think you need a tricorder to discern that.
Riker finds a glitching viewscreen broadcasting footage of the bridge. Turns out Data’s initial hypothesis was correct.
RIKER: You were right. Somebody blew out the hatch. They were all sucked out into space.
DATA: Correction, sir. That’s “blown out.”
I didn’t catch this until I turned on subs, but Data uses a contraction here. It was established in the pilot that one of his quirks is an inability to use contractions. A minor point, but just another piece of shittiness in this smorgasbord of shit. This moment also provides us with our first rule:
1. For every heartfelt and affecting moment in Data’s quest to be human, there’s way too many painfully awkward/unfunny ones.
Yar contacts Riker from engineering, identifying herself for some reason. While I get that she maybe thought Riker was new enough to the Enterprise that he might not recognize her voice, she’s the only woman on the away team, so who else could it be? Why am I being so nitpicky about minor stupid details when there is so much more egregious stupid to come?
Yar reports that someone must’ve fucked with the environmental controls because everyone in engineering is a human popsicle. The same is true of the “crew quarters,” because LaForge finds more humansicles there. He opens a shower stall door and a fully clothed, frozen woman tumbles out and falls on him. The music assures us this is a plot point.
Riker informs Picard that the Tsiolkovsky’s crew are all dead, and on this ominous note we go to credits.
When we return to the Enterprise, they’re downloading the info gathered by the Tsiolkovsky on the star. Picard believes said info will predict the time of the star’s final collapse, and there might as well be a flashing marquee saying PLOT POINT ALERT PLOT POINT ALERT. In sickbay, Dr. Crusher tells Troi and Picard that she’s found nothing unusual in the away team’s tricorder readings. The cause of the Tsiolkovsky crew’s demise remains a mystery. Nonetheless, Picard orders the transporter set to “full decontamination” followed by medical exams and observation for the away team.
The away team beams back and undergo their exams in sickbay. Oop, it’s time for another #1!
CRUSHER: If you were any more perfect, Data, I’d have to write you up in a Starfleet medical textbook.
DATA: I am already listed in several biomechanical texts, doctor.
Dr. Crusher’s like “nice humble brag, bro” and continues the exams. Everyone comes out with a clean bill of health, minus LaForge. He’s sweating like a member of KNK during a stage performance and cops some serious attitude at Dr. Crusher. She lets the others go but detains LaForge.
Riker requests Data’s help in looking up similar occurrences on other ships—specifically, showering with one’s clothing on. Riker vaguely recalls reading about such an incident but can’t recall where. He jokes about Data being in biomechanical texts, and Data inquires with concern if Dr. Crusher thought he was bragging. Riker’s like, “Yeah, probably, but it’s no big.” Data still seems confused, but to be fair to Data, many humans seem confused about the same thing. #1
In sickbay, LaForge removes his comm badge and sneaks out when Dr. Crusher isn’t looking. Wait, so she’s the only person working in sickbay? No nurses or additional staff? No security guarding the door to make sure a patient carrying a potentially deadly contagion doesn’t get out? Was the show too cheap to hire more extras? Were they sacrificed on the altar of the almighty plot device? And we’ve got another rule:
- The competence of the Enterprise crew varies greatly depending on plot requirements.
LaForge hangs out with Wesley, as if further proof is needed that he’s not right in the head. The latter is showing off his school science project, a doohickey modeled after the ship’s tractor beam. Wesley uses his device to move an uncomfortable-looking chair with a beam of blue CGI. His other invention is a device that spoofs Picard’s voice by splicing together bits and pieces of separate voice transmissions that Wesley has recorded. Hey asshole, such a device had already been invented when this script was written. It’s called a fucking tape recorder.
- For a scifi show, some of this tech is dated as fuck.
This rule doesn’t refer to tech that hasn’t aged well in 2016 so much as tech that’s dated even by 80s/90s standards.
Wesley confesses that because he isn’t allowed on the bridge, he uses his voice-spoofing device to pretend he’s there. This is… really sad, you guys. Broseph really has nothing better to do with his spare time? No dicking around on the holodeck or trying to hack into Riker’s secret stash of alien porn? Wesley can’t understand why he isn’t allowed on the bridge. Maybe because he’s a punk-ass kid and a civilian? Just throwing that out there. LaForge affectionately pats the kid on the back, spreading the contagion to him.
This scene also delivers our next rule:
4. Wesley is the Gary-est Stu to ever Stu.
LaForge wanders off and ends up in the observation room, where Yar finds him. He’s acting like a sloppy drunk and in the midst of his ramblings, starts feeling Yar’s face. He really is Typhoid Geordi. He expresses a yearning to see in the way his able-bodied crewmates do, which is weirdly ableist considering the generally good track record TNG has with LaForge’s blindness. The script stresses how uncharacteristic these complaints are, so make of that what you will.
Yar gets LaForge back to sickbay and by now the symptoms of this contagion are starting to manifest in her. Because everyone in this episode is an idiot, however, no one else seems to notice. Crusher informs Picard and Troi that LaForge’s medical readings are normal, and the cause of his condition can’t be a pathogen because the away team went through full decontamination and exams. Um, the Enterprise discovers new life forms practically every other week—we’re meant to believe there’s never been an alien pathogen strange or unique enough to slip past known methods of detection? I’m not sure this is a #2 so much as a tick on the Idiot Plot checklist, meh. Troi senses confusion in LaForge and suggests intoxication. Crusher insists no alcohol or drugs came up in LaForge’s test results. Where is Gregory House when you need him?
Riker checks up on Data’s search and finds himself explaining the proverb “needle in a haystack” to Data. The latter proceeds to recite every possible synonym for “proverb” ever, sup #1. Riker suddenly recalls where he read about showering in one’s clothing—a history of previous Enterprises. Data finds a summary of “The Naked Time” on space imdb as Picard makes a timely arrival. The three amigos pore over the report, helpfully summing up what happened for viewers who either didn’t watch ToS or are too damn old to remember this shit: Kirk’s Enterprise was monitoring the collapse of a planet and the shifts in gravity gave rise to “complex strings of water molecules” that pulled carbon from the body and acted upon the brain like alcohol.
Wait a minute. Since Data found this info so quickly, it’s freely available to anyone in Starfleet, right? So in the years since the incident on Kirk’s Enterprise, no one thought, “Hey, maybe if we hang around a collapsing celestial body, we’re gonna get ship-faced and everyone will die?” No one thought to issue a warning to future Starfleet vessels? This plot is almost Shadowhunters levels of stupid. At least Wesley didn’t ask LaForge if he’s his father, so that’s something, I guess.
The report also includes a cure, which Picard sends over to Dr. Crusher. Data does what we’re all thinking and throws Picard this amazing side-eye. For an emotionless android, he sure can be shady.
Troi finds Yar in her quarters, rooting through her closet. I have to wonder how Yar got into Troi’s quarters. Did Troi leave her door open? Or as security chief, is Yar like a dorm RA and has entry codes or whatever to everyone’s quarters? Yar’s behavior towards Troi suggests she’s either in love with her or trying to single-Betazoid-female her, maybe both. A concerned Troi takes Yar’s hand, and now Troi is infected.
OK, so this condition is caused by the gravity shifts and water molecules yada yada, right? So why is it transmitted like a contagion? Wouldn’t the water molecules just start sucking carbon from whatever life forms were unlucky enough to be in close proximity to the star? Furthermore, if LaForge “caught” the condition from the chick on the Tsiolkovsky, then who was patient zero? How did they get infected? Why am I still trying to figure out this stupid ass episode? (Also, if there’s a more convincing explanation in “The Naked Time” I don’t care. This episode should be able to stand on its own).
Troi contacts Picard about Yar’s condition. Picard sums it up as Yar having “the equivalent of a snootful,” which confuses Data, and to be fair to Data, it confuses me too. The fuck is a snootful? It sounds like something only white people over 40 would know. Looky here, a new rule!
5. Pop culture ended in 1987.
Generally speaking, I’m willing to buy that some colloquialisms from the 20th century survive into the 24th.Yet whenever characters utter any slang or make any pop culture references, they always align with the interests of white middle-aged men in the late 80s.
In sickbay, Dr. Crusher is working on the cure when Wesley barges in to show off his inventions. Dr. Crusher orders the little shit to stay in their quarters, but she never makes sure he actually does, PLOT POINT ALERT PLOT POINT ALERT. You know, Dr. Crusher really isn’t coming off well here—first dropping the ball with Typhoid Geordi and now neglecting to call the galactic Babysitter’s Club.
On the bridge, Picard wants to know why it’s taking so long to download all the data from the Tsiolkovsky. I’m not sure if this is #3 so much as something that didn’t age well. An ’87 audience would nod along since they lived in an era when you’d drop hundreds of bucks for a 9mb hard drive and personal computing consisted of shit like this:
By 2016, however, we’d all lived through the age of napster, torrents, and streaming HD video. A 2016 audience is not going to buy that the Tsiolkovsky’s info doesn’t near-instantly transfer to the Enterprise. Maybe if there was interference or some shit like Trek always does to outsmart its own tech, but Data insinuates that it’s because they’re downloading 8 months of info.
Wait a minute—the crew of this ship took 8 months to contract this contagion and eventually end up killing themselves? Yet we’re meant to believe it’ll only take the Enterprise one episode? This doesn’t make any sense—oh, fuck it.
Picard inquires as to the level of danger in orbiting the star so closely, but Data assures him they could easily outrun any debris thrown at them in the event of a collapse. Guys, I think we get that this is a plot point by now. This episode might be full of idiots, but your audience isn’t.
The contagion has spread through the Enterprise crew, who are all giggling and making out and acting like drunk and horny college students on spring break. Wesley uses his voice spoofing device to impersonate Picard, ordering the chief engineer and assistant out of engineering so he can take over himself. Wesley then broadcasts an order from “Picard” leaving the ship in the hands of “Acting Captain Wesley Crusher.”
OK, so we know from the pilot that Data can spoof other people’s voices. Shit, even back when this was written, it would be possible to spoof a voice via the same method Wesley used here, just on creakier equipment. So you’d think there’d be additional security measures in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening—oh, fuck it. #2
Picard tries to do damage control, sending Riker and the head engineer to root Wesley out of engineering. Worf informs Picard of strange reports coming from all over the ship, while Data recites a dirty limerick told to him by another crew member. Picard cuts him off since this is apparently too ~edgy for TNG and contacts security. Looking confused, Data returns to the helm. #1 Yar answers the hail sounding giddy and high as fuck, and Picard sends Data to take her to sickbay. Did the writers already forget that Troi informed Picard of Yar’s condition? Why didn’t he send a peon to get her to sickbay before? We sure he hasn’t already been infected?
By now, Yar has located a galactic freakum dress from a source other than Troi’s closet. When Data shows up, Yar wants some hot android lovin.’ Data contracts the contagion from her, which makes no sense, because he’s a freakin’ android. It’s already straining credibility that this condition affects all the alien and human crew members the same way, but at least they’re all biological. Not to mention that in future episodes, Data’s non-biological status shields him from issues affecting biological beings and thus frequently serves as a plot point. So why the fuck does he conveniently contract a condition rooted in biological—oh, fuck it. I’m calling #2, android-style.
Furthermore, it irritates me that TV writers, most of whom are male, use mind-altering or alternate universe scenarios to make female characters act like they’re in a bad porno and try to seduce any men who come near them (I would make a crack about heteronormativity, but the last thing we need is some messy girl-on-girl action crafted specifically for male fap fodder because you know that’s what we’d get). It’s like men desperately want to believe all women want to fuck them and the only reason we don’t is inhibitions, when in actuality the reason we don’t want to fuck them because they’re them.
Which leads to another rule:
6. Though TNG is a feminist show in many ways, it has some hella sexist moments.
In engineering, Wesley has used his device to generate a force field preventing the grownups from hauling his ass out. Riker and the chief engineer are trying to disable the force field when Troi shows up, infected with the contagion. She tries to seduce Riker, who quickly discerns that she’s been infected and takes her to sickbay. To her credit, Troi acts less like a porn star and more like a normal drunk who’s just up for some ex sex. Unfortunately, during their encounter Riker ends up getting infected.
In sickbay, Dr. Crusher is having difficulties with the cure because these carbon-sucking water molecules are different from the ones on Kirk’s Enterprise. She tests her latest attempt on LaForge but it doesn’t work. When Riker shows up with Troi, Dr. Crusher finally figures out how the infection is transmitted. However, Riker had already tapped Dr. Crusher’s shoulder and thus infected her. She wants to quarantine Riker and Troi, but Riker insists that he needs to wrest control of the ship back from her dumbass son. I question why he’s able to fight the infection off so more effectively than his crewmates, but I guess he can really hold his carbon. #2
Picard contacts Wesley trying to coax him into ceding command of the ship, but the little shit insists that Picard can just tell him what to do and tricks the latter into doing just that. Then Wesley cuts off the communication and won’t respond to subsequent attempts to contact him. Drunk ass Data shows up, and Picard can’t figure out how the former got infected because, you know, android. We never get a proper answer to this question, if there was any doubt as to the lack the shits given by the writers. Dr. Crusher stops by to inform Picard that she’s been infected and to hit on him awkwardly, infecting him. She utters a weird line about not having a husband and a woman having needs, and I’m calling #6. Can’t the replicators whip up a space vibrator or something?
Worf sees the intensifying clusterfuck and summons Riker to the bridge, not knowing that Riker has himself been infected. Still, Riker is more clear-headed than any of these other buffoons, so it’s for the best. The star collapses, sending a hail of debris flying at the Enterprise. Riker tells Worf to get them out of dodge but the latter finds the controls are offline.
The chief engineer finally disables Wesley’s force field and gets in, only to find that the drunk ass assistant chief has pulled out all the control chips and is playing with them like dominoes. There’s no way she can put them back in time. Wesley suggests having Data do it, since he can work much faster than a human, so Riker hauls Data’s ass down to engineering. Unfortunately even Data can’t assemble all the chips in time so the crew need to buy themselves an extra minute or so.
Wesley suggests repurposing the ship’s tractor beam to push away from the debris, in much the same way he reversed the mini-tractor beam in his doohickey to create his force field. The chief engineer claims this will take too long, but being a teen genius and Gary Stu, Wesley does the job more efficiently than a trained officer. #4 He uses the Tsiolkovsky to push the Enterprise away from the debris, and the former is destroyed in the process. I have to wonder what even was the point of hauling the Tsiolkovsky out of there if they were just going to fuck it up anyway.
Dr. Crusher, meanwhile, has finally developed a cure. She tests in on her guinea pig LaForge and it works immediately, so she administers it to herself and to Picard. The latter runs down to engineering where he administers the cure to everyone there. Wesley’s plan buys the Enterprise just enough time for Data to finish with the chips, and Worf warps them the hell out of there.
The next scene finds us on the bridge, where Dr. Crusher is administering the cure and Picard fills Worf and LaForge in on the events in engineering. Grudgingly, the captain acknowledges that Wesley had a hand in their escape. Much is made of the little shit’s contribution, as though a) he wasn’t the one to get them into this mess in the first place and b) Riker and Worf weren’t the real MVPs of this episode as they were the only grownups still acting like grownups. The other main officers return to the bridge, where Data and Yar share an awkward glance before she discreetly takes him aside and swears him to secrecy.
Once everyone’s settled Picard is like, “I think we shall end up with a fine crew… if we avoid temptation.” The camera cuts immediately to Yar and Data, and then to Riker and Troi, and the ship warps off to its next adventure.
The good news is that this is the most CW-esque of any TNG episode, and probably the most egregious Idiot Plot with the possible exception of “Justice.” But never fear—the early-season writers will find other ways to be messy, as the next episode demonstrates.