Friday, June 25, 2010

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep4: The Naked Time

These are two of the indelible images from the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode, The Naked Time.

"The Naked Time ... was the first very definitive - miniscule, but very definitive - study of the kind of schizophrenia that moved Spock, the nature of the dynamic of the split being, the human versus the alien.  ... a virus that was passed hand to hand, ... brought about a change in the character of the people it infected.  The person's subconscious levels became expressed.  And in Spock's case, he started to have feelings.  The feelings in him started to overwhelm the control, and there was this fight for control of the being.  Would he be an emotional being or a Vulcan?  He had to fight it out with himself.  And that, I think, very clearly and specifically defined, for a long time to come, the nature of the character." -Leonard Nimoy assessing the Spock character and how the inner conflict would be part and parcel of the character throughout Star Trek: The Original Series, a conflict for which all peoples could identify. The World Of Trek, David Gerrold [p.45]-

This shot on the icy terrain is just one of the many lovely new images provided on the Remasters to enhance the classic experience of Star Trek.
Captain's Log. Stardate 1704.2. Kirk indicates the crew of the Enterprise is to pick up a scientific crew on a distant outpost before the ancient planet breaks disintegrates.
The first production note to behold is the classic, terrific, icy set design on the frigid planet and those amazing space suits. The space suit designs rank among the best ever created on sheer originality. Everything on Star Trek TOS appeared so simple [it wasn't] and perfect on this show. Star Trek TOS, Season One, Episode 4, The Naked Time immediately conjures my imagination not to mention nostalgic, fond memories of this series as a whole.
People are frozen stiff across the vacant installation found upon the ice planet. Spock and a colleague are there to investigate. The red shirt officer takes off one of his orange-red space suit gloves. I'm not sure why he does it apart from a nose itch, but it spells certain death. A drop of blood crawls across the frozen table and onto his hand. The officer gives his hand a shake indicating he senses something alien has touched him. Spock reports to Captain James T. Kirk that all station personnel are dead including one man who was showering fully clothed. "It's like nothing we've dealt with before." Of course not, this is only the fourth episode.
Spock and colleague are decontaminated upon arrival back aboard the Enterprise. Smart move with everyone dead on the planet below. They head to sick bay and Spock looks rather bad ass in a black t-shirt. Blood pressure is "practically non-existent" reports a stunned Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to Spock. Spock's partner is Joe Tormolen. He is clasping his arm. That's never good in Star Trek. If there is physical, self-appendage-grabbing, trouble is soon to follow. The good news, McCoy is back after his absence from Episode 3, Where No Man Has Gone Before. The crew will watch the break up of the planet with close scientific measurement.
Spock calls the circumstances below "quite bizarre." We also get our first appearance of Nurse Christine Chapel played by the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of Gene Roddenberry. Spock suspects some sort of "space madness." He does allude to the fact space does include "infinite unknowns." Infinite unknowns, without the scientific explanations of Star Trek, would be the driving force behind Space:1999. The Captain wants to analyze the planet's troubles and Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott assures him he can pull away with the ship's engines in a half-second.
Tormolen continues to have problems with his hand. Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu and Lt. Kevin Riley join him for a bite. Tormolen is acting strangely attempting to rip away his own skin. Sulu asks him how he's doing and Tormolen about rips his head off with a verbal lashing. This is a good sequence starring Stewart Moss, Bruce Hyde and the one and only George Takei.

All are uncertain concerning this unknown disease brought aboard the Enterprise. Spock informs the Captain that the dying planet is remarkably similar to that of Earth. Riley and Sulu are on the bridge and are both tainted by whatever it is that touched Joe Tormolen.*
In sick bay, Nurse Chapel assists Bones on Tormolen. Unfortunately, Tormolen is getting weaker. Bones indicates he is dying. Moments later Tormolen does die and Bones is puzzled indicating the young man's wounds were not all that severe.
On the bridge, Riley and Sulu are sweating up a storm and uncharacteristically Sulu gets up to leave and play some hooky. Riley doesn't like it, but he is fading fast too. Elsewhere, Kirk is informed of Tormolen's fate by Bones. Bones doesn't give us the "He's dead Jim" line yet, that news is in fact delivered by Nurse Chapel.
Spock inquires with Riley regarding Sulu's whereabouts, but Riley begins to lose it! He's played brilliantly by Bruce Hyde. It's really hard to believe Hyde was not given a greater part in Star Trek, because he would have been a winner in a recurring role. Spock tells Riley to report to sick bay. He asks Nurse Chapel about Tormolen, but he knows what happened to him. He touches her chin and continues to spread the mysterious illness.
Sulu is running around fencing half-naked. Note the terrific music and theatrical quality to this sequence and you will find there is a quality to this series that was truly remarkable and meticulous for its time.

Lt. Uhura possesses the damn finest legs you ever did see! Holy mackerel!There's a problem pulling away from the gravitational pull of the failing planet below. Before Kirk can look into it Sulu arrives on the bridge and Kirk and Spock are able to subdue him with the trusty ace in the hole, the Vulcan neck pinch. Kirk delivers the classic line, "I'd like you to teach me that sometime." A call to the engine room finds Riley is causing all sorts of problems. He is demanding "double portions of ice cream," while singing some classic Irish numbers like I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen. Kirk can't enter Riley's location, because the doors won't open. Uhura assists. Spock informs the Captain they have twenty minutes before entering the planet's atmosphere and the Enterprise burns up.
The terrific Bruce Hyde as navigator Lt. Kevin Riley.
The Enterprise is spiralling out of control. Scotty has been locked out of the engine room by Riley. Somehow, oddly enough, Lt. Uhura, Spock and Kirk are unaffected by Sulu following the Sulu incident on the bridge. Meanwhile, Riley informs there will be no ice cream for those who interrupted his song. There will also be a dance aboard the Enterprise. All women will wear their hair loosely about their shoulders. Those mini-skirts were hot back in the day too. I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen commences. "Please not again" pleads Kirk. There is much humor in The Naked Time without going over the top. The humor is grounded in mounting tension and desperation.

These panoramic, gorgeous modifications to The Original Series are truly the standard for remastering and not ruining a series. They offer just the right touch.
Sixteen minutes until atmospheric entry. Spock orders one of the crewman to stand aside after blocking Yeoman Janice Rand. No one screws with Spock. He moves to the side immediately until he is out of view. There is a simple sound effect to denote the illness in The Naked Time. It's a bit like the rattle shake of a rattlesnake but it is bloody well effective.
Kirk is losing his patience as his crew drop like flies around him. Somehow Bones is unaffected to date as well and that is probably a very good thing as the ship's caretaker. I think Kirk's annoyance is more a result of Riley's incessant singing than anything else.
Spock arrives in sick bay and approaches Nurse Chapel. Majel was quite an attractive lady in her day. She touches Spock's hand. He leaves, but seems strangely moved by her. She tells him she is in love with him. This is a relatively intimate scene and one of the endless intimate moments that populate the world of Star Trek TOS.

The classic Scotty in the engine room shot.
The illness appears to have an adverse affect on the human component of Spock just as his Vulcan portion struggles. Meanwhile, Scotty is breaking through to the engine room and none too soon. Phasers are set on stun, but Riley admits "No dance tonight." Spock is uncharacteristically becoming a blubbering, emotional mess as he attempts to control his feelings and fight the illness. Scotty goes right to work on saving the Enterprise.

Boy, that's about as lost as you'll ever see Spock emotionally. At the very least, it's one of his worst moments. Engines are off and the Enterprise hull skin is overheating. Scotty now needs thirty minutes. Things are looking dire. "I can't change the laws of physics." Things are desperate.
The normally unemotional Spock tries to pull it together.
Back in sick bay Bones is finding a cure. He has isolated the problem. It's water. It passes through perspiration. It gets into the bloodstream and acts like alcohol. A serum is prepared to regain self-control. Kirk finds Spock. "My mother, I could never tell her I loved her," offers Spock to Kirk with great vulnerability. Kirk smacks Spock to snap him out of his fetal-like emotional state. Spock smacks back. Kirk now has the illness. The two leads are losing it. These two are like the heartbeat of the show. It's interesting when Kirk reaches Spock. Spock responds to the Captain with the word "Jim." The friends have reached one another. Spock has a plan and informs Scotty of it. Kirk and Spock are attempting to overcome the affect of the illness. It is a sobering moment [you could say] as Kirk talks of his love for the Enterprise. "Never lose you, never," as Kirk looks around to his ship. Kirk heads back to the bridge.
There's a rather funny moment as Kirk walks onto the bridge. Bones rips his shirt sleeve and injects him with the serum. Couldn't we have avoided the shirt-ripping? I believe that may have been for the ladies. Spock and Scotty work vigorously on their scientific plan. Kirk and company pull off the impossible [one of many instances to come]. The crew manages a timewarp. They are going backwards in time. The ship slows, reverses and returns them back to normal time, Warp Factor 1. The time warp has placed them back in time 71 hours. The Enterprise now has three days to live over again reports Spock. The Boy Wonder asked if Tormolen was still alive then. I thought that was a great point, but they have only travelled back in time. Unfortunately, they have not brought the dead back to life.
If there was a theme to explore in this installment of Star Trek it had to be the loss of self-control. It was interesting to see the breakdown in the ship's crew without self-control and order. For a show often known for being conclusively hopeful and optimistic for the future, I always enjoyed the undertones of darkness and isolation that permeated the bulk of episodes before ending on those high notes. Star Trek's music is often dark in tone highlighting the very mysterious themes of space. Like Space:1999, there is a certain quiet, spareness about Star Trek that simply could not be covered today in this way today. Television is much more frenetic. Star Trek is too quiet, too thoughtful and too damn perfect for its own science fiction good. It's hard to find fault.
The Naked Time: B+
Writer: John D.F. Black
Director: Marc Daniels
Dead Crewman: 1
Dead Crewman Total To Date: 8
Babe Alert: 1 [Majel Barrett technically doesn't qualify as a recurring cast member, but she's a fine woman]
Babe Alert Total To Date: 5
Fairly simple space gear, but frighteningly effective science fiction.
Special Guest: Bruce Hyde. [1941-present]: American born. Lt. Kevin Riley. Hyde is a professor in communications. He also appears in Star Trek TOS, Season One, Episode 13, The Conscience Of The King.

Special Guest: Stewart Moss. [1937-present]: American born. Joe Tormolen. Moss has appeared in Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files, Hogan's Heroes, Cagney And Lacey and more.

Babe Alert: Majel Barrett. [1932-2008]. Nurse Christine Chapel. Barrett also played the role of Number One in the pilot episode The Cage, later reconfigured for the two-part The Menagerie. Please click here for a full tribute to the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry.


le0pard13 said...

Another fine write-up to an episode of the classic STAR TREK. I have been showing the old shows to my kids, the ones with the remastered SFX--my kids are young so having the snazzy CGI helps in not distracting them. I know for a fact they'd criticize the old effects, so I do what I can to keep them interested. I need to show this one to them soon. Thanks for spotlighting this one, SFF.

SFF said...

Hey L13.

I know what you mean. My son definitely enjoys them with the effects. Interestingly, he's not quite taken with it, because Star Trek is at such a different speed from today's programming.

It's one of the beautiful things about Star Trek's storytelling. It takes it's time. It breathes. The space is filled with the lives of the characters and sometimes there is no music and no real action propelling the story of the kind our kids are used to.

He still appreciates it, but it is slower. In fact, just watching the scene between Spock and Nurse Christine and her expression of love seems so unique to television today.

Star Trek really did something special that isn't done anymore and that's present a story that is delivered through character without the distractions of loads of CGI.

The CGI that was used for these remasters was perfect. They offer just enough to open it up and hopefully bring our kids aboard. Thank you for making that point.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

This is your best review of Star Trek TOS yet! The Naked Time is considered to be one of the best season one episodes by Trekies and Trekers alike; and for good reason! Despite the somewhat unscientific explanation for the "illness" that infects the crew of the Enterprise, The Naked Time uses the emotionally disabling disease to examine the inner personality conflicts of some of the major characters of the series. The high points of The Naked Time, as you point out, are the scenes between Nurse Chapel and Spock (where Chapel professes her love for Spock) and between Spock and Kirk (where Spock confesses his admiration and friendship for Kirk, while - oddly - Kirk professes his love for his ship, the Enterprise). I must admit that I always thought the scene with Sulu wielding the fencing sword - bare-chested - was a little too silly, even in the context of the "illness". It doesn't seem fair that Spock, Kirk, Chapel, and even the supporting characters Lt. Kevin Riley and Joe Tormolen get more dramatic scenes than Sulu. Oddly, George Takei has stated in his autobiography that this is one of his favorite episodes; which is rather sad and says more about his lack of Star Trek "face time" than anything else. The ending of The Naked Time is one of those classic Trek head scratching moments, where you wonder if the only way to break the Enterprise out of the gravitational pull of planet Psi 2000... is to force the Enterprise into a "full power start" by mixing the matter and anti-matter in a "controlled implosion" which somehow time warps them backwards 71 hours in time?! My head almost had an uncontrolled implosion trying to make sense of this! Like many other Star Trek TOS episodes, it is better not to dwell on the silly science of The Naked Time and enjoy the personal drama of the many fascinating characters that inhabit the Enterprise and the many worlds the ship visits. Keep up with the fantastic reviews of Star Trek TOS SF-Fanatic! I look forward to your review of the next STTOS episode, The Enemy Within, which could also qualify as silly science/character drama story.

SFF said...

Fritz Doc Freakenstein.

Let me first begin by saying, I truly enjoy your input on these Star Trek entries. You add some additional facts and insights and your comments are truly a joy to read. Thank you.

... And thank you for the kind words as well.

I agree. I don't go into the silly science of it all, because the various incarnations of the Star Trek franchise are filled with techno babble. The techno babble, while a little too convenient often times is not why we love Star Trek. Right?

We love Star Trek for the wonderful character portrayals and for Roddenberry's ingenious ability to cast. After all, he was the mastermind behind the ensemble of the Original Series especially Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley.

So, I agree, it is the emotional connection made between these characters accentuated by wonderful science fiction stories that makes these classics infinitely rewatchable. I truly enjoyed The Naked Time. But like any Star Trek episode they are hard to fault and even on its worst day Star Trek is normally solid. Star Trek TOS is desert island material. ;^)