Finishing this episode was … difficult. It’s full of slapstick moments, life threatening peril, and a complete lack of suspense in between some brilliant character moments. How, exactly, did this episode get made twice?
In case you don’t understand about it being made twice, The Next Generation featured a sequel episode of sorts titled “The Naked Now” where essentially the same thing happens. The plot revolves around the crew going to observe the breakup of a planet. There was a group of scientists on the planet’s surface that has succumbed to some sort of space madness. They died in odd ways like, exposing themselves to the elements and taking a shower fully clothed (for some reason they emphasized the weirdness of that last bit multiple times). The crew takes the contagion back to the ship, at which point people become infected and their carelessness puts the ship in danger.
Even though this episode brings to light some the internal thoughts of many of the crew, but in spite of those scenes working out so well, it doesn’t justify having to sit through it. There is some funny bits, particularly Sulu’s hijinks, but most of the humor is really lame (like the “irish” lieutenant’s well … everything). Eventually McCoy discovers a cure in the nick of time, and Scotty manages to break though the bulkhead into the engine room with enough time for them to restart the engines (well, sort of). After they get into the engine room they have to do … something to the engines to make them start. It’s apparently super dangerous, but it works, sort of.
What does work in this episode?
Essentially, the only thing thats worth slogging though this episode are for four scenes.
- This! I shouldn’t have to explain why this is awesome.
- When Spock is infected by Nurse Chapel there is this great scene where she confesses her love for him, and he rejects it, even though you can tell he’s struggling with his own feelings for her. It’s subtle, but it’s a great bit of acting on both Nimoy and Barrett’s part.
- It’s quick, but there’s a moment where Kirk is yelling at Uhura to turn Riley’s singing off the intercom and she yells back, “If I could do that wouldn’t you think I would!?” or something like that. At that point both her and Kirk both realize what they’ve done and they each compose themselves, but it’s a wonderful moment that shows at what point they can crack.
- Then there’s the mega-scene, the thing that makes this episode, well, if not worth it something close to that. In it Spock is tangling with his emotions, then he and Kirk get into a fight as the ship needs the equation that’s stuck in the chief science officer’s head. Through that Kirk becomes infected, and the two express their feelings, Spock that he’s ashamed of his humanity, and ashamed when he think’s of Kirk as a friend, and Kirk that he’s sacrificed everything for this ship and crew and gotten nothing in return. Whereas Nimoy nails his performance, unfortunately Shatner does overact in this scene (However, he masterfully acts out one of the final scenes of the episode as he reached out for Yeoman Rand and then pulls back, knowing that he can’t love her). It’s a powerful scene regardless, and does a lot to give the viewer an idea who these characters are, and provides us with reasons to actually care about them.
It’s easy to forget watching the original series after watching the original movies how sparse the series (and in particular the early episodes) are at explaining who these people are. Kirk is mostly a standard ship’s captain up until this episode. All we know is that he’s compassionate and cares about his crew, but otherwise we don’t know what he really cares about or what he struggles with. The same thing is even more true of Spock. We have a vague idea that he is emotionless, and that occasionally he lets some emotion out, but we have no idea how much turmoil is bubbling just under the service. It’s a wonderful and insightful moment, it just sucks that it’s trapped in such a mediocre episode.
NO. It’s a simple viral story, that being said I can’t find any concrete information on the originality of the story, it nevertheless doesn’t feel special.
Red Shirt Body Count: None. I’m beginning to think the importance of this metric is exaggerated
- I can’t help but think that John Carpenter watched this episode and thought it was a great idea for a movie. Discovery of the Thing in The Thing (1982) is very much patterned after the opening scene of this movie. In particular, the nature of the virus changing the crew seems very similar as well. It may be that both stories are pulling from the same source material.
- Spock is slaying it with the ladies. Seriously, what is it? Is it the emotional detachment? Is it Nimoy’s voice? … Is it the ears?
- The scene between Spock and Kirk was filmed in one shot (kudos to that), but it honestly feels like it’s an act off between Nimoy and Shatner.
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