Time To Get Naked With Star Trek: the Dark Side of Exploration

Trek Through Trek – Part VII

By: Julian Munds

The pecks!

The pecks!

Star Trek is famous for its optimistic vision of the future. It depicts a humanity that is without prejudice, without irrational thought and without greed. Trek is known for its idealism, particularly with its focus on exploration, wether scientific or cosmic; but exploration is not always an ideal experience. For every beneficial great discovery that takes place, there is an equal chance of complete disaster. The Naked Time shows the dark and frightening side of what the Enterprise seeks to achieve on their five year mission. This episode is the dark side of exploration.

Exploration is in humanity’s DNA. From the very beginning we were wanderers on this Earth. Out of our birth on the continent of Africa to our jaunt across the dry Bering strait, it is a human compulsion to reach beyond the horizon. However, not always are the things discovered there, kind.

Tales of calamity caused by miscommunication, unknown animals and, most importantly, introduction of foreign diseases flood our history. The Great Plague of the 1300s, which took one-third of Europe’s population, was caused by the transportation of rats on ships bound from the far east. Yellow Fever and Smallpox spread in similar ways. Disease is one of the worst parts of venturing in the unknown, not because of the actual death but because of the inevitability of demise.

What must it feel like to contract a new disease that is incurable?

What must it feel like to die from something no one has ever seen before?

The Naked Time is considered one of the top 10 greatest episodes of the Original Series. This is an interesting choice because the action does not take place in some exotic locale or amongst a cataclysmic enemy, but entirely within the Enterprise corridors.

The plot goes like this: a mysterious disease, that is transmitted through perspiration, allows one’s inner wants to drive the infected to insanity, then followed by a painful death. Imagine a mass hysteria caused by a virus that creates both dementia and  death in rapid succession. The disease of planet Psi 2000 is like a sped up form of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The title is a wonderful one. Not because it was later associated with the glistening hilarious pecks of George Takei but because it is a comment on what it means to be truly naked.  Nakedness is not only a physical attribute but could also be a mental one. The title refers to the major symptom of the disease.

As the infected brain deteriorates, the victim’s secret desires drive her insane. I.E. Sulu truly wants to be a swashbuckler at heart so he galavants through the ship challenging people to sword duels. Ensign Riley “fancy’s himself an Irish king” and proceeds to sing Irish folk songs over the intercom.Nurse Chapel, in her first regular series appearance, professes her undying love for Spock.

One of the most utterly frightening moments in the episode comes from Spock.When he gets infected, his human side starts to conflict with his logical Vulcan side

Nimoy's acting chops.

Nimoy’s acting chops.

and uncharacteristically, Spock has a full mental breakdown.

Kirk can’t even escape the infection, for his inner anxieties flood his mind just as he attempts to save the ship from impending orbital disaster.

Roddenberry’s world exists on rational control. Not control of people; Star Trek is largely a very free society, but personal control. Irrationality is punished. The disease attacks this ideal. It takes away all precision of mind and leaves each character vulnerable.  Nothing is more frightening to a world that is based on rational thought then the loss of that very rationality.

To truly explore, what was once irrational, must be entertained.

Not all things can be explained by known scientific models. New models of experimentation must be employed to result in new discoveries and McCoy spends the episode doing this. What began as  “space madness” becomes, through exploration, a treatable disease.

Other scientific leaps occur in this episode as well. When the Enterprise begins to descend to the planet surface, because of Riley’s course corrections, the crew must set all engines into a kind of reverse warp lest it be destroyed by gravitational pull. This creates a time bubble which makes it possible for the ship to travel through time. Time travel would later figure heavily in some of the greatest episodes and movies of Star Trek.

The Naked Time is all about wrestling with the uncontrollable, whether it be impulsive mental thoughts or undiscovered sciences. It establishes the tightrope, that would come to define the show, between the insanity of the unknowable and rationality of exploration. Naked Time is very worthy of the accolades it receives and not only because of the greased up pecks of Hikaru Sulu.

The Episode We Are Watching: The Naked Time (Episode 6 of Season 1 of the Original Series: Sept. 29, 1966.)

My Rating Out of 5 Tribbles: 4 1/2 Tribbles with glorious, glistening muscles.

My After Episode Thoughts: “Whoa. That’s a goody. A frightening idea.”

Pros: Brilliant Premise. Nimoy’s acting is inspired. Pretty much everyone’s acting is extraordinarily inspired.

Cons: The science behind the Time Travel was a bit dense.

<— Part VI

—> Part VIII



About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on December 18, 2013, in Star Trek, The Original Series and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Sourcerer and commented:
    The Extremis Review is a nice find. They also do comic reviews and some other things; this is a part of an ongoing series on Star Trek.

  2. Oh myyyyy. I’ma head over to his FB page right now and thank him for that.

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