Ladies and gentleman, the Star Trek franchise simply cannot help getting naked. Please do not adjust your screen, The Naked Now must not be confused with The Naked Time though Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn't mind if that happened.
David Gerrold wrote of Star Trek: The Original Series [ST:TOS] in his Foreword: The Trouble With Trek segment within the book Boarding The Enterprise, "Here's a clue to the enduring popularity of Star Trek: it's a way of believing. Star Trek doesn't just say that there will be a future-it says that the future is full of possibility. Star Trek represents a promise that tomorrow can be better than today-if we are willing to design and build it. ... Star Trek promises that... problems are only momentary. We will do better."
This may be the fulcrum by which I base my adoration for ST:TOS over the more anti-septic, pristine, Utopian vibe of Star Trek: The Next Generation [ST:TNG]. ST:TOS presented a crew of the Enterprise exploring, discovering, coming up with solutions as it went. There was a sense of imperfection and normalcy to these regular officers. They made mistakes and we understood and connected with where they were in their evolution. Somehow, we were there with them. Kirk, a kind of middle-class everyman, was the perfect voice for a generation. Roddenberry too saw his original incarnation as an aggressive, child-like discoverer, whereby his ST:TNG crew was more evolved, more restrained, more polished, less rough around the edges. This is true. There's even a kind of elitism about ST:TNG. The crew of the Enterprise-D appeared to have all of the answers even if they didn't. Perhaps it was the refined, cultured, mannered, English-voiced Patrick Stewart as the gentleman lead that added to the impression. While Stewart is a tremendous actor there is an air and an aura that does keep one at a distance through his more sophisticated or distinguished style. Mind you, I enjoyed ST:TNG, some of it, but there was certainly a sense of knowing. The surrounding sense of discovery seemed less important somehow. It was gone, despite the fact they were clearly looking for new life and new worlds, supplanted by lessons without the thrills so pronounced in ST:TOS. It's hard to articulate in words because it's certainly not black and white and ST:TNG has some amazing moments fused with entries that clearly offered mixed results.
That's not Lisa Stansfield, but rather Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar looking an awful lot like Lisa Stansfield circa Affection . Does the Yar kiss curl pre-date Lisa?
I think Gerrold's reflections in that earlier statement reflect where fans were at the time. They were hungry for more Star Trek and ST:TNG expectations may have been unfairly elevated to some degree to be something bigger than it actually was ready to be. The cast is wonderful, but the stories, at least in Season One, really highlight the series' flaws. Nevertheless, the promise and potential of that future is strong when hailing from the world of Roddenberry. We the people choose to believe even if the material doesn't quite measure up to the classic originals. We believe in the promise of Star Trek. Even when it doesn't quite measure up to ST:TOS we're willing to buy into the framework and the potential for greatness established by the original.
These two installments are placed together with good reason. These clearly retread or riff on ST:TOS. One can look at the entries as homage in an effort to introduce the new cast, but they lack originality to be sure. The episodes are not exact copies, but are eerily familiar to episodes established during the ST:TOS run. ST:TNG, Season One, Episode 2, The Naked Now is essentially ST:TOS, Season One, Episode 4, The Naked Time  and ST:TNG, Season One, Episode 3, Code Of Honor, while not as obvious, has echoes of ST:TOS, Season Two, Episode 1, Amok Time  written all over it.
Synopsis: In The Naked Now, as crewman become infected judgment is impaired and characters like Tasha Yar get unclothed [never a bad thing] and I kept imagining Data saying "Get Naked Now!" It never goes that far, but things do begin to play fast and loose with the crew of the Enterprise-D as they did for the crew of the original Enterprise. This was clearly man going where man had gone before. The Naked Now even if it is an obvious copy is still nowhere near as good as its source The Naked Time.
Harsh criticism must be suspended as the series clearly makes efforts to placate the original fanbase, find its identity and take us down new roads. This was indeed old school, old guard straight up. This is best signified by the screenplay as penned by John D.F. Black [scriptwriter of The Naked Time] and J. Michael Bingham [ghost name for D.C. Fontana]. If it feels recycled it's because it is. Rick Berman said of The Naked Now, "It was an homage, not a copy." The concept of the Tsiolkovsky virus is old news, but our new crew fights the good fight as the crew of the Enterprise did once upon a time. Relationships are introduced not least of which is the William Riker/ Deanna Troi connection first established in an almost love-at-first-sighting in the Pilot, Encounter At Far Point. There is also the suggestion of a complex relationship between Dr. Beverly Crusher and Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This underlying tension would go on unaddressed until ST:TNG, Season Seven, Episode 8, Attached. The team behind ST:TNG were clearly packing a lot of elements and information into their upstart series just a little too quickly. But, as the Captain indicated at the end of the episode, paraphrasing, if the crew could avoid temptation, it could be one of the best crews. It may have been code for conflict, tension, sex, or what have you. Any way you sliced it, ST:TNG needed focus and strong character drama, which Gene Roddenberry was clearly holding back on during Season One. The Naked Now offers some, but it's merely a tease and certainly wasn't the tight package found in the ST:TOS episode for which it was paying tribute.
Code Of Honor truly taps the spirit of Amok Time, but once again is left a mere pale imitation or "homage" of the original idea. With Tasha Yar, a character embodied by Denise Crosby, central to the story, it didn't stand a chance of holding a candle to the talents noted in the classic helmed by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. Writer Tracy Torme [Season One, Episode 25, Conspiracy] indicated she felt the same way about the episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion. It looked very much like the battle between Kirk and Spock from Amok Time.
Synopsis: A plague on Styris IV leads the Enterprise to a vaccine found on Ligon II. Unfortunately the crew must negotiate with a primal, socailly primitive tribe that lives by a code of honor that has the tendency to get panties in a bunch. Chief Lutan is impressed with Tasha Yar and she must fight his wife to the death. This is certainly one form of wife swapping. The politically correct, and in this case, Prime Directive-driven Captain Picard stands by in the hopes his security officer can survive the game while the Enterprise crew essentially sits this one out. That Prime Directive always was selective and will be in ST:TNG as well.
The episode is preachy and, of course, this is early on and reminds me of the clunky, preachy dialogue and scripting that reared its ugly head on Stargate SG-1, Season One, Episode 3, Emancipation. Fortunately, after the serious misstep of SG-1's Emancipation, that series ironically freed itself and got back on track. I suspect ST:TNG will do better, but Code Of Honor lands squarely in that realm. As it turns out, to my surprise later, Emancipation was also penned by the same scriptwriter, Katharyn Powers, as Code Of Honor. It all started coming together.
Thus, The Naked Now and Code Of Honor live in that all too familiar air of similarity. The episodes are decent, perhaps because they are based on strong scripts, but like a great film followed by a sequel they never quite measure up. It's been there done that, but better. There's not a lot to get excited about with ST:TNG.
Of course, a nation starved without the prospect of a Star Trek series for years were hungry. ST:TNG offered something close to the beloved classic. It was familiar and different enough to keep fans tuning in the hopes the creators would get it right. At the end of the Pilot, Encounter At Far Point, Picard looks to the bridge screen and gleefully pronounces, "Let's see what's out there." As it turns out, at least in these first few installments, it would be a retread and homage to past glories. What was out there was classic Star Trek: The Original Series. Nevertheless, fans would patiently wait for something more.
That is not a Star Wars lightsaber, but with ST:TNG you never know.
Ultimately, when the gates opened to the new series, ST:TNG, there was a predisposition to rely and fall back on some of the writers from ST:TOS as evidenced by Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana and John D.F. Black's involvement. Unfortunately even the classic writers couldn't muster enough of the old magic to get this series rolling right away. There was a tendency to riff on themselves and what came before. Unfortunately it created a rush to judgment by many involved in the creation of ST:TNG. Everyone wanted results and they wanted them quickly. This ushered in a new wave of thinking and a new era of writers with a new way of writing. I admire writer Allen Steele's thoughts on the subject as outlined in his essay All Our Tomorrows: The Shared Universe Of Star Trek in Boarding The Enterprise. Star Trek: The Original Series is the classic it remains today for many reasons. Those reasons are far and wide and too many to list here. The actors, production design and much more played an important part in that series. One important factor was the writing. The science fiction writers involved and to some extent guided by Gene Roddenberry made for an epic saga that just rolled along like a runaway freight train even if people didn't notice it at the time. ST:TNG suffers without the confidence in sci-fi writing that was much of the bedrock behind The Original Series' cast and direction.
Steele had this to say about ST:TNG, "...the first season featured a few scripts written by veteran original-series writers and a couple of SF authors... it's second season... relied almost entirely upon scripts supplied by a staff of scriptwriters who'd previously written about cops, lawyers and doctors."
As I mentioned in my review of Encounter At Far Point, Gene Roddenberry eventually became overruled and "reduced to that of a figurehead."
Steele adds some interesting analysis with this closing thought. "SF writers were seldom allowed to set foot on the Enterprise."
Apparently, Rick Berman reached out to the SF writing community in 1992 when "he sent an open letter to the SFWA Forum, the in-house publication of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Of America, inviting its members to submit story proposals. If any were ever accepted, or even seriously considered, though, this writer never heard of it."
Herein lies the problem with spin-off franchises in Steele's humble opinion. ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:Voyager and ST: Enterprise all carried on with the implementation of writers primarily outside of the science fiction writing community. When the aforementioned incarnations of Star Trek seemed reminiscent of ST:TOS it was generally by design. It normally was the result of imitation on stories straight out of the classic original whether it be tribbles, alternate realities, Klingons or Klingon replacements.
Steele's conclusion brings home the point of where Star Trek had gone and where it needs to go. "If Star Trek is to be continued though, it must return to its roots. Using the latest generation of CGI special effects or putting another fashion model in a skintight uniform won't do the trick. The strength of the original series lay in its diversity. Star Trek was a science fiction anthology series; it needs science fiction writers to survive." Absolutely, Roddenberry pitched a kind of Outer Limits series with substance, only with a recurring cast of characters and limited sets to bring down costs. There was indeed a diversity of storytelling. Steele finishes with the recollection of Spock's words from Theodore Sturgeon's Amok Time, "Live Long And Prosper." "Always remember that an SF writer came up with that."
It is indeed the science fiction writer combined with the quality talents of the creative team that brought those stories and ideas to life. ST:TNG is clearly uncertain of where it's going here and arguably set its own course shortly thereafter, however awkward. But listen, about that fashion model in the skintight suit. We should talk.
The Naked Now: C+
Writer: John D.F. Black & J. Michael Bingham [D.C. Fontana]
Director: Paul Lynch
Code Of Honor: C
Writer: Katharyn Powers & Michael Baron
Director: Russ Mayberry
Writer Footnote: Katharyn Powers. She would pen the horribly preachy Stargate SG-1, Season One episode, Emancipation, which is horribly reminiscent of ST:TNG Code Of Honor. Things did improve on the writing front for Powers with seven more SG-1 episodes including: Brief Candle, Thor's Hammer, Fire And Water, Enigma, Thor's Chariot, Family and Serpent Song. Powers also penned Past Prologue for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.