Plot Synopsis: The crew of the Enterprise is subjected to an exotic illness from a Starfleet vessel that drives them to unusual manic/drunk/horny behavior. That’s really all you need to know.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here isn’t bad: the Enterprise is looking into the loss of contact with the science vessel Tsiolkovsky. When they get there the crew sound like they’re all high, and before long there’s an explosion because someone opened the outer hatch into space. Yep, that’ll kill ya. An away team beams over and finds people naked and frozen, looking like they’ve been partying like it’s 1999! What happened and why did they do it? Plot A (there is no Plot B in this episode) is a blatant rip-off of the original series episode The Naked Time. Unbeknownst to our crew, Geordi has already been infected with the illness and it soon spreads throughout the ship. This is about all of the plot there is in this episode, however. The point seems to be to watch all the characters–which we don’t really know yet–run around and act like they’re drunk and horny. There’s even a scene where Picard does a Butthead impression (thanks Wil Wheaton for pointing this out); it’s all the more impressive due to the fact that Butthead hadn’t been created yet. It’s somewhat difficult for me to analyze the plot here because there really isn’t one: the crew get the infection, they run around drunk and horny, Wesley implausibly takes over the ship and somehow everything turns out alright–thanks to Wesley? Have I used the phrase drunk and horny enough times yet?
Favorite Scenes: Oh come on now. Is there any other scene in the first season more memorable than when Tasha seduces Data?
“You are fully functional, aren’t you?”
“Of course, but–“
“In every way of course. I am programmed in multiple techniques. A broad variety of pleasuring.”
Even at the age of 12 I was laughing my butt off, it was great stuff. I love how Data seems to automatically know she’s talking about sex when he doesn’t really understand humanity at all at this point, particularly in contrast to Picard who IS a human, and initially has no idea what Beverly Crusher is wanting when she tries to seduce him. It’s only the second episode, and Data is already getting more action than anyone except maybe Tasha, who sounds like she was doing half the ship.
Use of Cast/Characters: Everyone is in this episode, but Dorn might as well not be as Worf has a total of about six lines. This is not as bad as it sounds as Worf was supposed to be a recurring character instead of a regular cast member. Tasha Yar’s character gets some rare character development in this episode, talking about her life on the colony where she grew up and avoiding the rape gangs, and some brief sympathy is evoked here. This is also where they start laying the groundwork for Wesley’s genius, having him save the ship by solving a problem in his head that would take anyone else weeks, or so we’re told. Wil Wheaton considers this the first of the episodes where viewers began to hate his character…honestly though, I don’t think the damage was that bad. This whole episode is pretty bad, and if the ship-saving had ended here it wouldn’t have done his character much harm.
Blu Ray Version: The crystal clarity is so amazing I can’t help but mention it. One of the examples of it in this episode is that you can actually see the sheen of the sweat on the characters’ foreheads, which is the first indicator that they have the intoxication. I saw it on Tasha’s forehead when she was talking to Picard before she ever wiped her forehead, and it was the same with the other actors. Wesley’s handheld tractor beam effect has been enhanced a bit which is a good touch. The “star” in the episode is clearer than I’ve ever seen it, but let’s face it stars don’t look like that. Finally, pause playback at 11:44, where we see Geordi. Look at the floor to the left of him and you’ll see the floor marking where Denise Crosby is supposed to go.
Pause and frame advance the star charts that are shown in close-up. Wolf 359 can be seen, which will become very famous in the first episode of season 4. The words “Transport Diana Plundered” and “USS Muleskinner spacejacked” can be read, as can a shot of a bird with Gene Roddenberry’s face, with the words “The Great Bird of the Galaxy” written underneath!
Nitpicks: There are a lot of them in this episode. How Wesley takes over engineering is outright preposterous. Even if the chief engineer and assistant engineer were ordered away at once there’s got to be a clear chain of command, a 14-year old Wes should not be able to get away with taking command of engineering by saying “I’ll just call you if anything happens,” even if the engineer’s judgment is impaired. Also, how in the frick can an android get the illness? It’s not a huge nitpick though, because Brent’s performance is actually pretty funny when he gets it. In fact how he gets it is even funnier. There’s no excuse for the star though: even when I was 12 years old I knew that stars were gas and not huge pieces of luminous fricking rock; who in the heck let them get away with that?
Overall Impression: This episode is one of the worst episodes of the entire series. The plot is almost nonexistent. This isn’t necessarily bad as there are some good character-driven episodes in the series. However this episode does the opposite of what it’s supposed to do, which is begin differentiating this show from the original series. Instead of showing us what the new show and new characters will be like we get a warmed over plot that virtually anyone who’d seen the original show had already seen done better. Having said that, there are a couple of redeeming qualities. Some things they did in the first season they just didn’t have the guts to do later on: the blatant camera butt shot of Denise Crosby as she is sauntering down the hall after getting the intoxication, and the dirty limerick that Data later recites are some examples of the frank sensuality that is rarely seen again–for 80’s TV it was very risque stuff. Also, I do have to admit in retrospect that if you can toss logical sense out the window there is a strange sense of fun to be had here, which is why so many of the cast members liked doing it. Okay, there are worse episodes than this one, but not many. Sadly, the next episode qualifies. My rating for this episode is 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the first in a string of episodes where the show suffers for not having established a Chief Engineer. They will change frequently this season; this episode we get Sarah MacDougal. The scene in this episode where Beverly Crusher flirts with Picard is actually the one that made Gates McFadden choose the doctor as the character she wanted to play, “because she seemed the funniest.” The pilot script and this one must have been available to the actors who were being considered for parts. Speaking of the script, D.C. Fontana–who originally wrote this episode–asked that a pseudonym be used because of the significant changes in the script during production. Can’t say I blame her. This is the first episode where we see Troi’s first season uniform, a gray unitard made out of denim with some kind of green belt. Other bits of trivia: this episode shows the tricorder for the first time; the Tsiolkovsky was actually a reuse of the Grissom from Star Trek III, and the quote on the plaque for the Tsiolkovsky says “The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” Finally, here is an excerpt from an interview with Denise Crosby about doing the love scene with Brent Spiner:
Well, you know Brent is just a great guy and a lovely person and so funny that it was just ridiculously funny. We just made light of it and had no idea that it would have such a resonance with people. I had to just worry that the outfit I was wearing would stay in place! That was my biggest fear, and then not laugh. Because Brent’s face was just like Pinocchio or something! It was just so funny, we just had such a ball doing it.
Missable/Unmissable? Oh, please miss it. Having said that though, the Yar/Data liaison does get referred to in several instances in future episodes, particularly in what is the finest episode of the second season, The Measure of a Man. If there is any reason at all to see this episode it’s to witness that scene, and some of the oddly funny scenes on the bridge when everyone is basically drunk. Overall, unless you want to see all the episodes you don’t need to see this one. However this episode is light years better than the next one…