Friday, October 4, 2019

Star Trek: The Naked Now

Episode: "The Naked Now"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1, Episode 3
Original Air Date: October 5, 1987
Image result for the naked now
via Memory Beta
"The Naked Now" was intended as an homage to the TOS episode "The Naked Time."   A strange ailment is spreading among the  Enterprise crew, reducing each of them to an intoxicated state.  Wouldn't you know, a collapsing star is threatening to wipe them away if they don't get clear in time.  A tipsy Wesley gains control of the ship and appears to be indifferent to the impending peril.

Enough preamble.  Anyone who knows the series knows why this episode is memorable: Tasha and Data have sex.  The seduction itself is certainly provocative but more impressive is the fact that Data is capable of sex at all.  Apparently he is both "fully functional" and "programmed in multiple techniques."  Lucky Tasha!

There are other more restrained - and less surprising - hookups amid the merriment: Riker and Troi; Picard and Crusher.  But as the Captain cautions in the end, "I think we shall end up with a fine crew... if we avoid temptation."  It's nice of him to reassure us that Gene Roddenberry's "Wagon Train to the stars" won't devolve into Love Boat to the stars.

In addition to the predictable blushing over "fully functional" Data, the episode was criticized at the time for being a rehash of a TOS story.  Understandably, the faithful were concerned that the new show would be too dependent on the old.  I'm not so bothered by that.  Obviously, I have the benefit of knowing the series will grow plenty in its own right and I am also grateful for the links to the past.  New is good but Trek should, in essence, remain Trek

More troubling to me is the character development shortcut employed.  Roddenberry, with both this story and the original, liked the idea of laying all of the characters' deepest motivations out in full view.  I would much prefer he have more faith in the writers and actors to impart all of that in more subtle ways.  Some of it's too easy anyway: Wesley wants to be taken seriously, colleagues want to get it on with each other, etc.  And some doesn't quite ring true: Geordi wants to be able to see like everyone else?  Long-term, part of what's cool about the character is that he doesn't seem much bothered.  Suggesting otherwise at this point is unnecessary clutter.

However, there is a more encouraging signal in this story, though perhaps one easily missed in the early going: not all of the material will run through Picard.  It took a long time for the TOS writers to catch on to the fact that Spock is actually a more interesting character than Kirk.  McCoy stories are easily counted on one hand.  Scotty stories?  One.  Anyone else?  Not a chance.  It is already clear TNG will be different.  It's definitely Picard's ship but there's plenty of room for the others.  The world building aboard the Enterprise is off to an excellent start.

Acting Notes
Image result for young jonathan frakes
via Wikipedia

Jonathan Frakes was born August 19, 1952 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, a town I drive through every summer.  In fact, it's where we got our marriage license.  He grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, though.  He was a theater major at Penn State, then got a Master's from Harvard.

As with Patrick Stewart, Frakes's career began on the stage, premiering on Broadway in Shenandoah.  Before Trek, he had television guest appearances on several shows, including The Waltons, Eight Is Enough, The Dukes of Hazzard, Hill Street Blues and, one of my own long-lost favorites, Voyagers!  He had a brief run as a regular on the daytime soap opera Doctors.  The prime-time soap opera Bare Essence was short-lived but it was a fortuitous gig for Frakes: he met his wife.  They've been married since 1988.

He really does play the trombone, though not as well as Trek footage would have one believe.  As Frakes puts it, "When Riker played badly, it was me, but when he was playing well, it was Bill Watrous."  Frakes did play well enough to march with the Blue Band at Penn State, though.


Frakes (feeds my theory: eventually, everyone plays "Summertime"):

Bill Watrous with Chick Corea, his solo starts at 2:40 (somehow, I always come back to "Spain"):


  1. What a wonderful post! I have only seen this episode once, when it aired way back when. My eldest son was in his 1st year of college and we were both very excited about the series. We discussed this episode on one of his visits home. Thanks for the memory and its associated family fun.

    1. I will say this for Trek over Star Wars: it provides for more interesting discussion, at least for me.

  2. I just know that Jonathan Frakes was master degree. Thank you for info.

    # You are right, Japanese print not painting... (I wonder the readers don't know the different)

  3. I remember that episode and Tasha and Data, as well as what she said after, lol.

  4. That was probably Yar's highlight. The later callback in "The Measure of a Man" (and First Contact!) gives it so much resonance. Too bad subsequent Yar follow-ups totally forgot its significance.

    1. Not "Yesterday's Enterprise"? Or does that not count.

    2. Except "Yesterday's Enterprise" isn't really a Yar story. It's a story that features Yar, mostly Yar falling in love (it would've been interesting if the Yar we originally got was put in the Kirk spot, falling in love every week, instead of what someone expected from a security chief). I think the whole part was a lost opportunity. Denise Crosby had an unusual voice for the kind of character she was asked to play, and I don't think the contrast was ever properly reconciled.

    3. I agree on the lost opportunity bit, and apparently she did, too. It's a shame she bolted before the series took off, though it's telling that she was never exactly replaced. Perhaps the new series was trying to do too many things at once before it found its groove.

  5. In retrospect, this episode was just too early on in the series. You can't appreciate any of the dynamics when just meeting the characters.

    1. I had that thought as well - too early. However, interestingly, the original was also early in the run, just the fourth episode to air. Roddenberry, left to his own devices, isn't one for subtlety. To a point, I can understand it. In television, you never know how much time you're going to have to let things play out in long form. If there's a philosophical intent, as there clearly was for him, best not to waste time getting to it. In his experience, Star Trek was always fighting just to stay on the air. Even the most optimistic viewpoint couldn't have anticipated multiple spinoff series, multiple films stretching out over half a century. In hindsight, he had plenty of time but no way of knowing that.

      Still, it feels clunky. Trust your audience. Trust your writers.