Boldly Going: The Naked Time/The Enemy Within

1 Nov

It’s been weeks since I’ve written an installment of Boldly Going, and it sucks to be away. Unfortunately, when life careens out of control and a newly-mobile baby demands every minute of your attention, it’s the overly-ambitious Star Trek experiment that’s the first to go.

“The Naked Time”

Stardate: 1704.2

Original Air Date: September 29, 1966

The Story: An Enterprise crew beams down to a research station on the planet Psi 2000, where the team of scientists stationed there are all found dead. There is no evidence as to what killed them and the planet is quickly breaking up, so the crew beams back to the Enterprise— but not before crewman Tormolen is exposed to a mysterious red liquid that causes him to begin acting strangely. Before long, other members of the crew are contaminated (beginning with Sulu, but spreading quickly) and Tormolen dies, though McCoy is unable to learn of what cause.

As each new crew member becomes infected, he or she displays exaggerated characteristics of their true personalities: Sulu becomes boisterous and confrontational (challenging everyone to a shirtless fencing duel), while Spock gives into this human emotions and becomes overcome with sadness. Kirk is paralyzed with self-doubt, convinced that he cannot lead the Enterprise. As the infection continues to spread and Psi 2000 continues to self-destruct, McCoy realizes that the water somehow changed on the planet and was causing everyone who came in contact with it (once in their bloodstream) to lose any emotional inhibitions.

In order to escape the pull of the Psi 2000, The Enterprise crew is forced to created a “controlled implosion” by mixing matter and anti-matter. The risk pays off and the ship escapes, but actually sends the ship back in time three days, giving them 71 hours to live over again.

Reflections from a First Timer: Boy, there’s a lot to like in “The Naked Time” — mostly Sulu, but I’ll get to him. The episode is another example early on in the show’s run of its willingness to explore character over plot. The story here is a pretty standard sci-fi premise, but it’s what that premise reveals about each of the characters that makes it matter. We get to see just how deep Spock’s emotions actually run (reminding us that contrary to popular belief, Vulcans do have emotions — they just don’t display them the way humans are so willing to). We get to see how the cocksure Kirk is paralyzed with self-doubt about his abilities to lead, and it’s a bold move on the part of Star Trekto showcase that kind of vulnerability in the hero. We also get to learn that Sulu is a secret gay man.

This, you see, is the famous “shirtless fencing” episode — perhaps the most famous shot of George Takei as Sulu in all of Star Trek (big ups to the J.J. Abrams movie, by the way, for referencing this iconic moment with John Cho on the giant space drill). And knowing what we know now — that Takei was living as a closeted homosexual during his days on Trek — makes it very difficult for us to believe that no one else was able to figure it out. His every line is open to interpretation as innuendo, and his bare-chested and sweaty prancing around the halls of the Enterprise is very, very amusing no matter what his sexual orientation may be. I hate to think this was Takei’s last real chance to shine (there are, after all, nearly three seasons left to go), but the fact that his most recognizable moment is already out of the way leaves me feeling skeptical. I’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for Sulu. Oh my.

Enterprise Casualties: Crewman Tormolen bites it, and Kirk’s dignity takes a bit of a hit.

Badass Kirk Moment: Kirk’s weepy breakdown pretty much cancels out any badassery in this one.

“The Enemy Within”

Stardate: 1672.1

Original Air Date: October 6, 1966

The Story: After a routine geological expedition of the planet Alpha 177, the transporter aboard the Enterprisebegins acting strangely. Kirk beams aboard, complaining of feeling a bit off, and moments later a second Kirk beams aboard without anyone knowing. The Second Kirk (SK as I’ll be referring to him from here on out) is actually the physical manifestation of half of Kirk’s personality. He’s the bad half; the Goofus to his Gallant.

Scotty begins to realize something is wrong with the transporter after trying to beam up a dog and winding up with two, one of which is vicious and nasty. The crew that remained behind on Alpha 177 is forced to stay down on the planet’s surface, slowly freezing to death in the harsh climate. SK, meanwhile, wastes no time in getting drunk and surly and puts the moves on Yeoman Janice Rand, who quickly rebuffs him. SK starts to get violent with her and she scratches him across the face. We can now conveniently tell Kirk and SK apart. Everyone’s a winner! Except Yeoman Rand.

As the crew of the Enterprise finally begins to get savvy to what’s going on with the Two Kirks, SK grows weaker and more fatigued. It turns out that the two halves of Kirk can’t survive without one another. Scotty gets hard at work repairing the transporter in the hopes of rejoining Kirk (he tests it on the two dogs, but they die in the process) and rescue the crew still stranded on Alpha 177. After a struggle between the two Kirks (dig that stunt double!), the halves are rejoined in the transporter and the new, whole Kirk orders the freezing Enterprise crew to be rescued.

Reflections from a First Timer: Legendary sci-fi author Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) scripted “The Enemy Within,” so it bums me out that I didn’t like it more. Coming right on the heels of the excellent “The Naked Time” only makes this episode suffer by comparison, as it deals with some of the same themes and gets wrong much of what “Naked Time” gets right. As an exploration of Kirk’s dual nature, it’s much more literal and clumsy — and, of course, not at all helped by hamminess of Williams Shatner’s performance as Second Kirk. Anyone who’s ever accused Shatner of shamelessly overacting needs look no further than “The Enemy Within” as rock-solid proof.

Thankfully, Shatner compensates for the awfulness of Second Kirk by being kind of awesome as Original Kirk. While the episode provides a prime example of Shatner at his worst, it also showcases much of what he rarely gets credit for — he’s capable and strong without being macho, and is even able to play sensitivity without becoming a cloying wuss. He shows real sympathy and compassion for Second Kirk, and while you could easily make the argument that he’s only being self-serving (looking out for himself, after all), it’s still hard not to be moved by his humanity as a leader. We tend to remember and characterize Kirk as a no-nonsense, arrogant and headstrong sonuvabitch. Don’t get me wrong; he is those things. But he’s incredibly humane, too, and the best moments of “Enemy Within” remind us of that fact.

Enterprise Casualties: Does the dog count?

Badass Kirk Moment: I would have said the seduction of Yeoman Rand, but that gets ugly fast. Yuck.

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Boldly Going: The Naked Time/The Enemy Within”

  1. Darren November 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    It is unfortunate that the original Star Trek never utilized its supporting cast to make it a true ensemble the way the subsequent series have done. I think the series creator’s recognized that a spaceship would require a crew and bravely elected to populate it with visible minorities but didn’t give much additional thought to their characterizations save for a few hobbies. Sulu likes to fence, Uhura likes to sing, and Chekov likes to distort history.

    I agree with your comments on Shatner’s performance. He’s immensely compelling as Kirk in these early episodes. Eventually when the series became destined for cancellation in its third season, he succumbs to apathy and is guilty of all the mannered acting that is so often parodied.

    I wonder how much Shatner is actually to blame for the over-the-top performance of evil-Kirk in The Enemy Within. He’s filmed with more theatrical lighting and with un-flattering lenses and is wearing eye-liner. I’d say the episode director wanted to go broad to make sure the audience was always sure which Kirk they were seeing at any time. To me one of the funniest acting choices, Shatner makes in that episode is as good-Kirk. When they are transporting together to be reintegrated, good-Kirk is holding an unconcious evil-Kirk upright in a sort of embrace… and good-Kirk caresses the shoulders of evil-Kirk. It’s more gay than Sulu’s shirtless swashbuckling… but then sort of not gay because it’s with himself.

  2. PATRICK BROMLEY November 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Darren – Thanks for your comments. You make a great point about the lack of an ensemble on The Original Series, and though I haven’t yet seen enough of the subsequent shows to have a truly informed opinion, it really does seem like there’s more of an emphasis on the ensemble in subsequent shows (especially TNG). What I’ve seen of Enterprise seems to follow TOS’s formula, only focusing on a few main characters; I wonder if that’s why it didn’t work as well as some of the others.

    It’s also interesting that the Original Series movies actually did start to focus on the ensemble — particularly The Voyage Home, which was the first movie to really use the supporting bench in a way that did them justice. Makes me wish they had done it more on the show.

    I love what you say about Shatner’s acting and Good Kirk/Evil Kirk, too, especially the scene in which he’s rubbing himself. Knowing what we do about Shatner’s ego even in those days, that scene had to be some sort of dream come true.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting! Hope you’ll stick with me.

    • Darren November 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      I think the movies may have tried a little too hard to give every member of the ensemble a moment to shine. The producers wanted every actor to participate and had to make sure there was something enticing in the script for them to play. Often it turned out to be comic relief that was to the detriment of the character’s dignity. The Voyage Home was definitely the most successful at giving almost everybody something meaningful to do. (Poor George Takei’s scene was cut because of an un-usable performance by a child actor. Insert “Now this is pod-racing!” imitation).

      When it comes to the series, I’d say there was an overuse of guest stars. There are a fair number of episodes featuring crewmembers that never reappear but are given more to do than the reoccurring ones. For example, what if Sulu had been the officer that expressed racism towards Spock when it was discovered that Romulans and Vulcans were related? That might have added an extra level of allegory considering how Japanese Americans were treated following Pearl Harbor. I suspect though that the writers were reluctant to have any serious insubordination stem from a regular character for fear that the audience’s perception of the character would be forever coloured by it. Space madness is forgivable but racism would have left some residual baggage that would need to be addressed in subsequent episodes. Episodic TV just couldn’t handle it back then.

      • Carl W. November 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

        Darren,

        I think you’re totally right about the overuse of guest star crewmen. I do wonder if it’s partly because, at the time, no one knew that Sulu would become Sulu — he was just another guy on the show. I also think Roddenberry had a real aversion to any major issues among the “main” crew. I read somewhere that he had some major fights with Nicholas Meyer over the racism in Star Trek VI, and the general initial “we like everyone” attitude of the Next Generation crew went away once Roddenberry was no longer involved in the show (which, non-coincidentally got much better because of it).

        I also agree about The Voyage Home giving everyone a decent amount to do for once. I think Search for Spock did a decent job with this too, except for poor Chekov, with Uhura’s scene in the transporter room, Sulu taking out the guard (“Don’t call me ‘tiny.'”) and maybe my favorite line of all from the film from Scotty: “Up your shaft.”

        Re: Shatner’s acting, I too think he gets a raw deal from history. There are some moments where he gives fantastic performances: I’ve always been a fan of his work in “City on the Edge of Forever” (of course, there’s little to find wrong with that episode) and I think he has some really nice moments in Star Trek II and III. There’s also some interesting stuff going on in “Turnabout Intruder” (the last TOS episode) where his mind has been taken over by a woman (I haven’t seen the episode in a while, but I seem to remember a good performance there). On the other hand, if you think Evil Kirk is hammy, wait until the Mirror Universe episode. Oy!

  3. Nick February 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Oh boy… lots of great comments here on 2 solid episodes. I completely agree that Star Trek has a pretty deep bench and they are not used as effectively as they could be. For example Sulu and Scotty pipe in when needed, Scotty especially for comic relief (see the “It’s Green” phenomena through multiple franchises and books).

    Despite the progressiveness of the show, for it’s time, it does fall behind in terms of sexual equality. Sure the original pilot has a female first officer and a female communications officer throughout the show but Uhura is also underutilized.

    Not mention Kirk getting it on with anything female that looks in his direction. Granted it’s part of Kirk’s charm but for an era that was protesting a war, burning bras and challenging social conventions, Star Trek can fail to deliver in this area. I wonder how much of it was Roddenberry and how much of it was the TV execs. Yes the series is an excellent showcase on social issues but they really did miss out on this issue.

    Don’t get me wrong… I’m the biggest Star Trek nerd (ok maybe not the biggest, but I love this show deeply) and am encouraged to see others pick up the banner of Trek Love. Patrick I think you’ve done an excellent job with reviews. More please!

    I just think it’s important to have perspective about the era, the limitations and the mindset of even those who are “progressive” for that period of time.

    I also really enjoyed The Naked Time. Takei/Sulu really stands out in this episode. The line from the review “…makes it very difficult for us to believe that no one else was able to figure it out” calls out for me to say something here. I can totally understand what Patrick is saying here but if you want a real showcase on the obviousness of Takei’s sexual orientation look no further than the episode “Shore Leave.” Aside from one rather manly scene of Sulu shooting an old fashioned revolver into open space and talking about his gun collection, Sulu has several interactions with females in that episode and quite frankly his smile looked forced. Comically McCoy walks up with a scantily clad go go dancer on each arm and looks genuinely happy to have the companionship. In the exchange of dialogue one of the go go dancers ends up on Sulu’s arm and Takei looks like he is forcing it. Really forcing it.

    The Naked Time is considered one of the best episodes. So much so that Next Generation redid it in the first season as a tribute to the original series. Check out “The Naked Now” and see just how functional Data can be!

    I also enjoyed The Enemy Within. I can’t help but laugh every time I see that poor dog in that costume (early Targ maybe?). Kirk, as usual, hams it up for the camera but to me it just adds to the fun.

    To respond to Carl W’s comment above… Yes there are some great moments in acting history for Kirk but this episode isn’t on that list. Still it’s a great watch and this was a great review!

    Some fun trivia:

    The Naked Time:

    -There was a massive fan reaction to Spock’s emotional outburst in this episode. Due to the increase in fan mail Roddenberry decided it would be a good idea to explore the inner workings of Spock a bit further throughout the series

    -That famous Sulu swashbuckling scene was originally scripted to be Sulu as a Samurai! Takei thought it would be to stereotypical and suggested doing the scene in a 3 Musketeers theme instead. Personally I just think he knew he had fabulous abs and a samurai costume wouldn’t show that off.

    The Enemy Within

    -This is one of the very few episodes where you can see that Scotty is missing his middle finger and the only episode where it is obvious in a scene. If I recall correctly he lost either on D-Day in 1944 or shortly after in combat.

    -2 unique things happen in this episode. It is the only episode where a phaser has 3 beams shoot out of it and not just one. (when Sulu heats up a rock) and Spock refers to himself as the “Second Officer” in his log entry. He is the First Officer and Second in Command. oops! 🙂

    • PATRICK BROMLEY February 16, 2012 at 2:26 am #

      Thanks, everyone, for the excellent comments and insights. I’m going to try and get this going again, mostly because Nick has bullied me into it.

      Ok, not really. But the support and enthusiasm is infectious, and I miss Star Trek.

      I promise that the sexism of the original series is not lost on me, and I do think a lot of that comes from Roddenberry. A few months ago, I watched a documentary that his son made, and while it wasn’t all that good, there was a clear indication that Roddenberry was something of a womanizer who had difficulty remaining faithful. We know he stepped out on his first wife, and Majel Barrett admits to knowing he cheated on her, too. I’m not judging the guy (I’m judging him a little), but it does seem that some of those attitudes worked their way into the series. Plus, such was the time. Doesn’t excuse it — especially when it was so forward-thinking in other areas — but it is important to place the series in the proper historical context. That’s part of the fun of watching it, too.

      LOVING the trivia facts on each episode, and would be grateful if you would continue to post them NO PRESSURE. I had no idea Doohan was missing a finger, but that at least explains why he never gives Kirk the bird. “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Cap’n…oh, and FUCK YOU!!”

      Thanks, everyone!

      • Nick February 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

        Some people can tell you who played first base for the 1959 Dodgers. I can tell you what food Commander Data’s cat enjoys. We all have our thing. I would be happy to continue sharing what trivia I know. You just keep on posting excellent reviews. 🙂

        I think anyone raised around this time can see the faults with TOS and I think the franchises of the 90s really helped to get the show all the way to the ideal of humanity. Roddenberry learned and got much more right, in terms of attitudes, in TNG.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: