A Fans Thoughts
The Naked Time
Star Trek seldom featured episodes with no ‘guest’ aliens, it was the nature of space to almost always find someone. However, there were the occasional stories which explored the crews. The Naked Time is one of the better explorations of a crew trapped by an unknown virus with, as always, time running out.
The episode opens with USS Enterprise in orbit of the dying planet Psi 2000. Their mission is to locate a missing research team and observe the planet’s breakup. Mr. Spock beams down with a landing party, to discover the researchers are dead having suffered mental breakdowns or a form of madness. The life support system had been shut down leaving the team frozen to death in bizarre situations, such as fully clothed in a shower, seated at a control console as if nothing was wrong, as well as one woman who was strangled. Lt Joe Tormolen, one of the Enterprise landing party, removes his environmental suit glove and comes in contact with a strange red liquid. The landing party is beamed back to the ship and quarantined by McCoy who finds no medical issues and allows them to return to duty.
Of course it would be a very boring episode if nothing happens other than watching a planet explode. Nothing is found, which I guess highlights one problem with decontamination. It can’t spot everything. In this case, the virus is not considered deadly by the machines standards.
Tormolen starts to act irrationally, expressing hostility towards other crew members, threatening Lieutenants Sulu and Riley with a knife. In trying to stop him they too become infected without knowing and Tormolen turns the knife on himself. Although his wound is not life-threatening, he dies much to McCoy’s bewilderment.
Meanwhile, both Sulu and Riley also begin to behave irrationally. Sulu acts like a 17th-century swashbuckler, while Riley revels in his Irish ancestry and locks himself in the Engineering section. Proclaiming himself Captain of the Enterprise, he puts the ship in certain danger. He also has a minor comic role of singing one song over and over again. Everyone whose skin they have touched soon follow suit, and the infection quickly spreads through the crew.
Chief Engineer Scott eventually regains control of Engineering from Riley, but Riley had already shut down the engines. It would take more time than the ship has in its decaying orbit to restart them before the Enterprise crashes into the planet.
Spock becomes infected when Nurse Chapel takes his hands and confesses her love for the Vulcan. Spock struggles to contain his emotions, and infects Captain James T. Kirk when he tries to help. McCoy, having taken precautions to avoid infection, studies blood samples from his patients and water from Psi 2000. He a previously undetected virus that affects humanoids like alcohol, depressing the centres of judgment and self-control. It is transmitted by touch. He develops a serum to reverse the effects, administering the initial doses to the command crew to allow them to bring the ship back under control.
Kirk orders Scott to make a full-power restart of the warp engines, a dangerous process mixing matter and antimatter in order to restart the engines quickly. The restart is successful, propelling the Enterprise at impossible speed away from the planet backwards in time by almost 3 days. While Kirk hopes reliving the last 3 days is nothing like what they have already experienced, Spock notes that they now have a way to travel back through time. Kirk’s response is “We may risk it someday, Mr. Spock.”
This is a classic plot, you can’t always see what might kill you. There are numerous assumptions made during the episode and actions you would expect can’t happen. For example; as Riley locks himself in Engineering, why is there not an emergency way in. In later episodes and series, the Jeffries tubes could be used to get around the ship. Why did it take so long to open one door?Simply to build tension.
The spread of infection itself was very simple. Touch and you’re it. In that case why did not McCoy just quarantine anyone who came into contact with the first victim? Again, plot effect. There are always other plot holes, which sometimes you have to overlook in order for the story to have its effect.
Part of the enjoyment is the confinement of the crew once disaster strikes. They are helpless against one man. They can’t even use the planet to escape too, as it is a danger. The combination makes for tension which is written brilliantly. You can feel the frustration on the bridge as they just have to wait. Yet, it does not lack action. Each crew member is affected differently, again allowing a hidden side to appear if ever so briefly. Naturally this is used again for the central characters in later episodes. It is also interesting from a psychological view-point as to how some of the crew both controlled that element which was released and how they regained control of themselves. Spock in particular, saw his very humanity exposed as his true Vulcan side came through. The battle between his human and Vulcan halves gave us a minor glimpse into how his character could become. The writers, of course, wanted this struggle in order to allow the viewers to bond with him. It was normal for humans to just go ‘off the rails’.
The Naked Time explored the Enterprise crew, rather than just the universe and helped create some of their character traits. It was supposed to be a two-parter ending on the cliff hanger of the Enterprise going back in time. In some respects, for me, I am glad it was kept as a stand-alone episode. They would have used “Tomorrow is Yesterday’ as the second part. After all the turmoil from the episode, there are two questions which never get answered for me and I guess never can be. Since they travel back in time, would the research team still be alive and the crew man that died?
Tagline: “There are always possibilities”