In which Wesley feels strange, but also good. I also feel strange, but not so good.
Memory Alpha says: The crew of the Enterprise is subjected to an exotic illness that drives them to unusual manic behavior. (Click the Memory Alpha link if you want detailed information. This post is a commentary-style review rather than a plot summary, and there will be stuff missing that I didn’t have a response to.)
Oh God, I always forget ‘The Naked Now’ is the first real episode of TNG. I didn’t expect to have to deal with it so soon. I want to get it out of the way now, though, and next time jump sideways and begin DS9.
I actually think ‘The Naked Now’ is a fairly groovy title, but it sounds like it’s about being intensely present in the moment, with nothing between you and the experience, rather than about people actually taking their clothes off and acting like damn fools.
This is a fairly intense episode for contact embarrassment. I warmed up first so that all the cringing wouldn’t give me sore muscles. Although there is a shedload of ridiculously goofy stuff going on, the part everyone remembers best is that Data and Tasha Did It, and apart from any issues of what you could and couldn’t show on prime time television, I am so glad that we cut away from that because I can barely imagine anything more awkward than Data, especially early Data, trying to have sex and simulate actually being excited about it (beyond, I suppose, thinking it’s pretty neat that he’s getting a new experience and being treated like an actual man). Oh Data. Your first experience of sex was a drunken one night stand with a woman with issues about rape, she didn’t want to acknowledge it afterwards, and you went around for years afterwards thinking you were ‘intimate.’ Then you didn’t get any until years later when the Borg Queen kind of molested you. The disconnect between how women who watch Star Trek feel about Data and how women in Star Trek respond to Data is quite large. (I am not counting Jenna D’Sora here because she is a heaving pile of Daddy Issues and we will get onto her in due time.)
Between that paragraph and this one, I decided not to do this in my nightie, had a shower and got dressed, then had breakfast… and I don’t think I can put this off any longer. I am allowed to go and get a Coke Zero in twenty minutes, okay?
So! The Enterprise is going to rendezvous with a science vessel, where SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG. The only transmission they’re getting is initially effectively unnerving, a vague babble of voices groaning and laughing. Then a woman comes on, doing a ridiculous husky voice and saying she hopes they have ‘a lot of pretty boys on board’ (Riker: Why yes. Yes, we do) and already, the cringe factor of this episode is SO. HIGH. She goes on to talk about ‘a real blow-out’ and a man’s voice is heard laughing and egging someone on to ‘do it now.’ Next, an explosion. Data says that’s impossible – that he recognised the sound as an emergency hatch being blown out. I have no idea why Data would describe that as ‘impossible.’ Unlikely, yes, weird, yes, worrying, yes, but emergency hatches are perfectly capable of being blown out. (I’m always mildly irked, in my pedantic way, when anyone in TV or a movie says, of something that JUST HAPPENED, ‘that’s impossible.’ If they said ‘That shouldn’t be possible’ or ‘How is that possible?’ we could still be friends.)
I went and tried to get the Coke early, but I’d put it in the fridge not long ago and it wasn’t properly cold yet. As this episode is about the stupid things people will do when drunk, I think it would be better appreciated with a stiff drink, but I’m doing this in the morning because I’m going out this evening and I’m many things but not an alkie. One thing you’ll notice, though, is that I remember the broad outlines of a lot of these episodes but haven’t watched them since I was a kid, so I keep noticing things that I didn’t expect or had forgotten, or of course things that mean something different to me now that I’m older. There are also a lot of episodes I’ve never actually seen because for a while TNG moved to a TV channel that we couldn’t receive, due to hills and our dinky old antenna, so although I know in general terms what goes on, some of this ‘revisit’ will be entirely new to me.
Nearly all the named characters on the bridge go off to see what happened, and Worf reports there are now no life signs on board the vessel. So at least the away team don’t have to worry about getting ravished by Miss Husky-Voice. (Particularly as the team includes Riker and Data, clearly the prettiest.) They wander around finding the debris of a party, but no bodies. I am not sure why or how the ship has repressurised, if the reason for the deaths was that they blew out the emergency hatch and all their air went out into space. Riker and Data find a staticky monitor that can show what happened on the bridge, and Riker asks Data to get it going and record everything. The view of the bridge just shows the open emergency hatch, so I suppose the rest of the ship still has normal atmosphere because the doors to the bridge were shut and airtight. Apparently everyone was on the bridge (would there be room?) and got sucked or blown out of the hatch, depending on whether you listen to Riker or Data. (Riker says suck, Data says blow, and this episode is already debasing my mind to the point where that makes me giggle.)
I guess NOT everyone was on the bridge, just the last decadent few in a sort of Masque of the Red Death scenario, because next Tasha reports that she has found frozen dead people in Engineering, where the environmental controls have been fucked with – and then Geordi, in the crew quarters, finds more frozen corpses, several of them naked (but lying in positions that cover their non-prime-time bits). Everything is white and frosty, because I suppose they had a lot of white frost paint left over from when Q froze people in the pilot. Geordi finds a frozen woman in a shower stall, fully dressed. She has really bad hair.
So yes, all eighty people on the science vessel whose name I haven’t learned are all dead, and FANFARE OF FOREBODING and OPENING ANIMATION.
The Enterprise downloads the science vessel’s info about its observations (watching a red giant sun turn into a white dwarf), and Beverly starts looking through it for anything to explain the strange events. Deanna is with her, for no clear reason, and she has a pretty but kind of wacky hairdo, piled into a high bun with a sort of beaded headpiece stretched over it. She looks like a brunette Ms Frizzle. Bev draws a blank. Picard, very prudently, orders the away team to come back with the transporters set on maximum decontamination, and for them to be examined and observed on their return. Picard has seen Alien, and doesn’t want any chestbursters on his ship.
In sickbay, Data is in several bio-mechanical textbooks. Neat. Geordi reads as perfectly healthy to Beverly’s tricorder, but he’s sweaty and grumpy and making weirdly hostile ‘jokes.’ Beverly knows something is up and confines Geordi to sickbay – but lets Riker, Data and presumably Tasha (she wasn’t in this scene) go back to work, even though they may be carriers of whatever’s affecting Geordi, and just not showing symptoms yet. If any of an away team seem to be getting sick when they return, shouldn’t you keep them all in quarantine until you’re sure what’s going on and what to do about it? Just as in ‘The Naked Time,’ the infection got onto the Enterprise through someone doing something bone-headed (taking off the glove of his protective suit to scratch his nose – actually, did you know that astronauts’ helmets have a small Velcro ‘scratch patch’ inside, so that the wearer can turn his head and rub his nose on it if it’s itchy? A scratch patch could have spared them a lot of encores of ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’), a really silly mistake is needed in order for the situation to escalate and become an actual plot. In short, they’re lucky it’s not chestbursters.
On the bridge, Riker goes to talk to Data, and absolutely cracks me up by sitting down on the control panel next to Data’s workstation. William T Riker will totally put his butt on your keyboard. Anyway, Riker vaguely remembers a story involving someone taking a shower with their clothes on (like the corpse Geordi found, and inadvertently touched when it fell out of the stall on him – presumably why he is the first to get sick), and wants Data to look it up and see if it has any bearing on the current situation. Because Riker cannot use a search engine. Because Data is a search engine. Because Riker is too important to do his own research, okay? He’s not a nerd. This is why Starfleet employs nerds. Anyway, because Riker can’t provide any details about time or place, Data expects tracking down the reference to take several hours. And of course, it may just turn out to be something Riker heard from a man in a pub who swears it happened to his sister’s friend’s husband’s cousin. Therefore he is going to Snopes first.
In sickbay, Bev is still not sure what’s wrong with sweaty Geordi. She leaves him on his bed and goes to her office to use the computer, and while she’s out of the room – and absolutely no other medical staff are present to supervise a patient with an undiagnosed and potentially dangerous condition – Geordi gets up, takes off his commbadge, leaves it on the bed and wanders out of the room, examining his hands as if he’s stoned. The automatic doors open for him and he is able to just walk off without anyone stopping him. Once Bev discovers this, she calls security to try and nab the wandering nerd. This makes it Tasha’s job.
And apparently, when he’s feeling kind of sweaty and weird and his hands look huge, Geordi likes to go and see Wesley, who is playing with a levitation device. Here I want to sidebar and say that at one stage of preproduction development, Dr Crusher’s precocious child was going to be a daughter, Leslie. (I can imagine Leslie Crusher and she’s adorable. Basically Willow Rosenberg in a rainbow sweater.) I don’t know the exact reasons for the gender change, but surely a factor was that a teenage girl spending as much time as the plot demands with the grown-up men of the crew could start to seem a little… indiscreet. It’s dubious enough when Wesley’s a boy.
This reminds me of the fact that, when the first relatively young-looking Doctor was cast in Doctor Who (the mighty Tom Baker), a rule was brought in that he could not touch his young female Companions except when strictly necessary – so, all right, grab Sarah Jane’s arm to stop her walking into a trap, but no hugging or patting or general friendly/affectionate touching as sometimes displayed by earlier, more grandfatherly Doctors. But nobody cared if he touched the boys. Obviously, the ethos of Doctor Who has undergone a sea change since then, sometimes to the detriment of the show in my opinion (I liked the romance with Rose and all the running hand-in-hand because it felt like something that had never happened to him before and he was as surprised by it as we were. When Martha started hitting on him it just got annoying. The heartthrob-isation of the Doctor is a big part of why I’ve dropped out of touch with New Who). My point, if I had one, seems to be ‘Science fiction in the 70s and 80s: assuming gayness is just not an issue.’ Which is extra funny given that Star Trek is where slash is from.
Um, not that I think any of the Enterprise men, if gay, were pervs who would put the moves on a teenager. But Wesley, if gay, might have crushes on them that would lead to spectacular awkwardness due to his innate Wesleyness. So I guess in the end ‘The Naked Now’ is not the most awkward thing that could have happened in TNG.
Geordi, by the way, was drafted to be gay – gay, black and blind, a minority trifecta! – but for SOME reason that got lost on the way to production. I’m going to assume the reason Geordi is so abysmally bad with women is that he is gay but doesn’t get it.
Anyway, back into the scene, we are only ten minutes into the episode proper, and I am stalling so much. Wesley is levitating a chair around his quarters with his science project, a mini tractor beam, and wearing quite a nice grey sweater. Then he shows Geordi the most awkward thing of all, a little machine that does Captain Picard’s voice (pieced together from recordings of the intercom) so he can play that he’s on the bridge – and, I think, that he’s the Chief Engineer. Wesley, darling, you are too old to play these Imagination Games, or at least, to admit to other people that you play them. Geordi keeps standing slightly too close to Wesley, and pats him on the shoulders, which is either creepy or accurate drunk acting, depending on how you feel about this scene. But soon it is absolutely creepy, as Geordi says he wishes he understood himself as well as Wesley understands his little nerd obsessions (I told you he doesn’t get it), and that he’s ‘burning up inside,’ and there’s a lot of close leaning and touching his own chest, and Wesley looks at him like this:
which seems completely and totally appropriate, the only thing in this scene that is. Complaining that ‘it’s so hot in here,’ Geordi wanders off again, leaving Wesley to ponder whether he just got molested.
Because Geordi doesn’t know how to have fun even when he’s drunk and horny, he turns up next in the observation lounge, where Tasha finds him staring out the window. There’s a very strange exchange where he asks her to help him not to give in to the ‘wild things’ coming into his mind, and she says ‘Geordi, my job is security,’ as if that means she can’t. If you’re a security officer and a crew member implies that he’s thinking of doing something wrong (I’m just going to nobly pass on the implications of ‘wild things’ following that scene with Wesley, actually no I’m not, I just implied them pretty heavily), and having trouble resisting the impulse, I would think that helping that person would totally be part of your job.
Anyway, Tasha agrees to try to help Geordi, and thankfully for my cringe muscles, he doesn’t say anything about other guys making his pants feel tight, he talks about his vision, how he can see more than people with biological eyes, but ‘more isn’t better.’ He kind of pets Tasha’s face, talking about how he’d like to be able to see in ‘shallow, dim, beautiful human ways,’ which works well with the lighting of the scene, and she clearly wants him to put the damn visor back on and cover up his creepy creepy white eyeballs. She keeps her composure, though, and persuades him to come back to sickbay. There is a little musical sting as Geordi touches her face, though, to let us know the infection has been passed on by his sweaty sweaty hands.
In sick bay Tasha reports what happened to Picard. Deanna is still standing around, like she’s there to assist Beverly, but not doing anything that I can detect – and of course there are no nurses or other doctors. Tasha is starting to feel hot and sweaty, but doesn’t say anything about it, because people on the Enterprise know NOTHING about contagion. Bev explains that every instrument says there’s nothing wrong with Geordi, but he looks and feels as if he’s running a fever. (How is Geordi sweating that much if his body temperature isn’t actually elevated?) Picard asks if this could be an infection, and she insists that it couldn’t be, because of the hygiene procedures they followed – as if it’s not possible that somewhere in the mighty vastness of space a bug might exist that their decontamination processes don’t pick up. She believes Geordi’s problem is mental – because it’s easier to believe that a previously stable and cheerful young man has suddenly gone weird in the head than that he’s physically ill in a way that’s new to her?
Finally it’s time for Deanna to DO SOMETHING, because she should be able to sense a mental disturbance in Geordi, but right after Bev asks her, Picard totally cuts her off to repeat what Tasha told him about Geordi’s longing for sight. Rude. Anyway, Deanna says that Geordi just feels confused and kind of drunk. Geordi lies on the bed and pets his own chest and face and creeps me out. Bev can’t believe that her tox screens wouldn’t show if Geordi was under the influence of any drug… because she isn’t part of a space program that comes up against previously unheard of stuff all the time… like last week, for example…
I would quite like it if any time something weird started happening on the Enterprise in early TNG, their default assumption was that it was more Q fuckery, and Picard spent some time yelling ‘Q! CUT IT OUT!’ before they found the real cause. I mean, if they’re going to be dullards they may as well be funny dullards with a running gag.
Back on the bridge, Data is having trouble with the search Riker asked him to do. There’s a nice bit where Riker says it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, Data asks why anyone would do that, and Riker corrects himself: proverbial needle in a haystack. Data goes ‘Ah’ as if NOW it makes sense, and thesauruses that proverbs are like references to folklore or historical allusions, and the word historical knocks something loose in Riker’s memory – he came across that story when reading the history of ships named Enterprise (and fantasising that if he and Kirk somehow met they would be great friends). This is enough for Data to immediately narrow down his search results to something useful, and he pulls up information on the dear old Constitution-class Enterprise, and Picard comes along to read over his shoulder as they work out how much that situation had in common with this one. Picard has the information sent to Bev, and says he’s absolutely sure that the cure Dr McCoy worked out back then will be effective, as if in the mighty vastness of space there couldn’t be two illnesses that make people act drunk and silly.
Deanna goes to her quarters, I have no idea why at this point, and finds her clothes strewn all over the living room. She immediately calls out ‘Tasha?’ as if they’re roommates – although, no, she’s a bit psychic, she can probably feel who’s there before she sees her. Tasha is giggling at herself in the mirror, saying she wants a change of image and wants Deanna’s advice, because she has great hair and wears such beautiful clothes ‘off duty.’ Tasha is holding a couple of really hideous rainbow tie-dye scarves, so take that as you will. Troi is creeped out and tells Tasha she can feel that she’s uncertain and fighting something, and like a fool she takes Tasha’s hand as she asks what it is. Tasha just giggles some more and says she’ll find the clothing she wants somewhere else – ‘the ship’s stores will have it.’ Well, of course! They travel fully equipped with a fashion boutique, just in case anyone wants a makeover three weeks from the nearest planet or space station.
Tasha saunters out, still giggling merrily, and Troi calls after her, but doesn’t try to stop her. Then she calls the bridge to report that she thinks Tasha’s infected/intoxicated. And she didn’t try to stop her leaving the quarters to infect other people. Now, I can buy that Deanna might not want to try to get in Tasha’s way physically, since supposedly Security Girl could kick her butt, but all she had to do to keep her quite happily in one place until help arrived was say ‘Okay! Let’s try some different things with your hair. It’ll be fun!’
Picard says Tasha has ‘the equivalent of a snootful,’ which baffles Data, because Picard keeps using weird ‘snoo’ words around him. Instead of just saying ‘it’s a colloquialism meaning she’s drunk,’ Picard tells him to forget it, which is hardly helpful. As Picard and Riker walk away from him, Data adorably mouths ‘snootful?’ to himself before letting it go.
Now we’re with Bev in sickbay, where Wesley has turned up tipsy and bubbly and wanting to show her his science project. He actually says ‘Hey Mom! Look what I can do!’ It’s cute. Yes, damn it, I continue to think Wesley Crusher is cute and endearing. Not realising that this isn’t his usual perky enthusiasm, she asks him to go home until whatever crisis this is, is over. He cheerily goes, remarking that she’s stunting his emotional growth, and why is it so hot in here? Probably because you are wearing a sweater, Wesley. Everyone else on this ship is in lightweight clothes, the air conditioning is set at a comfortable level, but you persist in wearing woolly pullovers. As Wes leaves and she talks to Picard on the intercom about testing the cure, Bev is clearly concerned, but again, doesn’t try to stop Wesley, even though she can’t be sure he’ll go straight home, especially if his judgement is impaired by the infection. So now both Wesley and Tasha are wandering around oozing germs from every sweaty pore, and that means it’s time to check in with Tasha again.
Or rather, Tasha’s bum, as the camera follows it sashaying along a corridor. She picks out a young man in Science blue at random, grabs him without a word and kisses the crap out of him. He is instantly totally into it. Freak.
Then there’s a bit on the bridge about whether they’re in danger from that red giant star they’re still hanging around, although I see no reason why they haven’t already taken the… Tsiolkovsky or something in tow and moved away to a definitely safe distance. Picard calls down to Engineering, summoning a nameless Chief Engineer (a blonde woman with her hair in a Grace Kelly pleat, who looks quite annoyed at being called away from whatever she’s doing). A moment later, he calls for the Assistant Chief Engineer too, a pudgy man in a coverall called Shimoda, and orders him to Medical. Enter that effusive dork Wesley, carrying his tractor beam toy, to greet Shimoda as ‘Hi, Jim!’ and shake him sweatily by the hand. Shimoda looks bewildered and I suspect he is not that bright. They discuss the fact that Grace Kelly Hair has just been called to the bridge, and if Shimoda now goes to Medical as ordered, there will be nobody left in charge. Wesley suggests that he could stay and call Grace Kelly Hair on the bridge if anything happens. Shimoda, who has only just been exposed to the infection, already thinks this is a perfectly acceptable idea and leaves Wesley doing a Jaunty Captain Morgan stance.
Because there are only two actual engineers in Engineering?
Of course, when Grace Kelly Hair sourpusses her way onto the bridge, it becomes clear that Picard didn’t make that call – it was naughty Wesley transmitting his voice faker machine over the intercom. Then Wes broadcasts Picard’s voice naming him Acting Captain, and everyone is pearl-clutchingly horrified.
Back in Engineering, Wesley has put up a forcefield keeping everyone else out of the control centre, and is announcing his plans for the Enterprise, namely serving dessert before and after every meal, including breakfast. That sounds like something a much younger boy would think was cool – but then, Wesley plays Imagination Games, so I guess it’s in keeping. Everyone in Engineering is infected, presumably by Shimoda, and they’re hanging around hugging each other and cheering Wesley on. Wes lets Shimoda into the forcefield after he swears to be ‘faithful.’ The speed with which intoxication develops seems to be accelerating for no particular reason. Shimoda seems like a huge tool.
Up on the bridge, Grace Kelly Hair has been named as McDougal, and she and Riker are dispatched to do something about bloody Wesley, while Worf and Data report odd goings-on around the ship – including limericks with dick jokes being recited in the shuttlebay. Picard crossly cuts Data off before he can rhyme ‘penis’ with ‘Venus,’ Data looks confused, and Worf sympathetically says ‘I don’t understand their humour either,’ which is probably the funniest thing in what was consciously trying to be a funny episode. The impact of Comedy Worf should not be underestimated.
There’s a weird bit where Picard tries to get hold of Tasha on the intercom, and initially gets some guy who is apparently making out with her in her quarters. Tasha’s all ‘Sorry I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy’ (in a few months that reference will date this entry terribly) so Picard sends Data to get her, and I get ready to cringe.
Now this is strange. Data gets to Tasha’s quarters, and there’s no sign of (presumably) Science blue guy at all. What did Tasha do with him? Kick him out? Tell him to hide in the bathroom? Oh please don’t tell me he was still there and the most notorious coupling in Star Trek was actually a threesome.
Anyway, Tasha has put on an appalling ‘sexy’ outfit, and I mostly find it appalling because it’s so mismatched. I actually quite like what she’s done with her hair, sleeked back with a spiral curl on her forehead, but she’s put on an awful sort of crushed velvet crossover front crop top with long sleeves (any garment that takes that many adjectives to describe is too busy) and a long hippie-ish skirt with an odd V-shaped waistband. The general effect is, okay, Denise Crosby has a very nice tummy, but this outfit is messed up. I suppose the point made (if unintentionally) is that even when Tasha tries to dress up all slinky, she gets it wrong. I know you’ll never actually get to use this advice, T, but in future just try prancing out in your bra and knickers (even if they’re a heavy-duty sports bra and boy-shorts, which I imagine they are). A satin dressing-gown is also a reliable option.
Now they have a very strange conversation. When Data tells Tasha she should get back into uniform, she says she got out of it for him, which if true suggests that when she heard Data was sent to get her, she gave Science Blue the boot because a preferable option was coming along. Hmm.
Then she switches gear completely and starts talking about her childhood, and this is supposed to link together with her outburst in the courtroom from the first half of the pilot, to explain what kind of dystopian world she came from that she is so passionately loyal to Starfleet. So we learn that Tasha was abandoned at age five (she doesn’t mention having a sister) and learned to survive on her own. And here, of course, she has one of the most notorious lines in Star Trek, saying that she learned ‘how to avoid the rape gangs.’
Those two words, ‘rape gangs,’ get a hell of a lot of ridicule in the online discussions of Tasha that I’ve seen – and I’m not really sure why. Gang rape is a real thing. That’s pretty well known. In violent and chaotic wartime situations around the world, rape has been and is still used as a weapon of intimidation, subjugation and genetic conquest. The threat of rape, implicit or explicit, is used to keep people in line in the pecking order of prisons (where gangs are a key element). I’ve read accounts of ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians and transgender people, often by, yes, gangs of men who feel the need to teach them a lesson about their proper role in the world. If you think that the idea of a gang forming for the sole purpose of going around raping people is a bit implausible, yes, I see what you mean, but if what Tasha is talking about are criminal gangs whose preferred, signature form of intimidation and punishment is rape, then they might well be referred to by others as rape gangs. The word ‘gang’ doesn’t look like a real word any more, incidentally.
I suppose the whole idea suffers for coming up in what is, after all, an incredibly silly episode, and right after a scene with Wesley burbling about dessert. Everything in this episode suffers from the fact that we haven’t known the Enterprise crew long enough, and seen them being their sensible, responsible selves enough times, for the stuff that goes down to feel like an aberration rather than just… these new people are idiots. Spock crying in ‘The Naked Time’ works so well because they were six episodes into the first season and his stoicism was well established.
So Tasha says what she wants now is ‘gentleness, and joy, and love.’ And I find it very interesting and telling that the person she asks for that is Data, who while he can’t actually offer any love, also cannot be motivated by any kind of aggression or selfishness or even desire. He seems completely safe and trustworthy. (This is also, need I say, a huge part of why so many TNG viewers, especially young and shy ones, had crushes on him.) The only motivation he has here is a) curiosity about a new experience, b) the wish to be more like a human, and hey, humans are all about the sex-having, and c) a general willingness to please. And so, while Data is clearly surprised and a bit confused, he compliantly follows Tasha into her room. And honestly? Good for her. She had a harrowing childhood in which the concept of sex was always linked to violence and fear, but now she is actually approaching it on her own terms and for her own happiness. Get it, Tasha.
We could speculate for frickin’ ages about why Dr Soong would program an android with techniques for sex but not with any emotions (or, given that Data was programmed based on the problems he had with Lore, why he would take the emotions out but leave the sex in). I can only fall back on ‘He was a really weird guy.’ A really, really weird guy. Lots of weirdness in the Soong family.
I did enjoy the gradual and distinct stages of realisation on Data’s face as he works out what Tasha’s inviting him to do.
Now, thank God, the scene I was dreading for the whole first half of this episode is over, so bring on some more ridiculousness. Riker reports that Engineering is all fucked up because Wesley is fucking with it, and Shimoda is sitting on the floor playing tinker toys with the isolinear chips. Picard asks if he and McNotImportant can short out the power, and they think they can but it’ll take a while. Now Troi shows up, all sweaty naturally, but in a pretty ‘glowing’ way, and addresses Riker as ‘Bill.’ She hugs him, which honestly looks like fun, and talks about the emotions she’s picking up from the people all over the ship. He scoops her up to take her to sickbay (again, this looks like fun – I would love to have a boyfriend who could pick me up and carry me round), although she’s protesting ‘Wouldn’t you rather be alone with me? With me in your mind?’ So even Deanna gets to be creepy in this episode!
In sickbay, Bev has Geordi in soft restraints. She gives him a shot of McCoy’s cure, saying it should work almost instantly, but her face falls as he continues to lament his lack of human vision. He says he’s never seen a (reading) rainbow, sunrise or sunset. Does he just mean that they don’t look to him the way they look to everyone else, or that he actually can’t view them? Because that doesn’t make much sense. Will brings Deanna in and sticks her on a bed (she just lies there, so at least she doesn’t have the annoying wandering around form of the disease) and goes to see Beverly, and here we notice that he touches her on the shoulder (and his fingers brush her neck above her collar) to get her attention, so that’s how the infection moves into her. She realises this and finally says that she needs to quarantine him (far too little too late), but he’s off to try to solve the engineering problem so they can get control of the ship back and have a shot at leaving the area before the red giant goes boom. The scene closes on a reaction shot of Bev where I suppose her mind is meant to be racing with the terrible possibilities but Gates McFadden just conveys ‘Well, shit.‘ However, that’s a valid response to this situation too.
After, presumably, an ad break, Picard recaps how fucked up everything is. He gets Wesley up on the viewscreen and tells him to give back control of Engineering right now, young man, but Wes doesn’t see why Picard can’t just tell him what he wants done in the engine room and he’ll do it, just like a real chief engineer. Picard realises he has to try to reason with the little goober, and draws his attention to the fact that he’s under the influence. Wesley is totally stoked to realise that he’s drunk. He feels strange, but also good! And he calls Picard ‘Skipper.’ And the unnamed helmsman on Picard’s right gets up and fucks off without a word! And Worf reports that the red star is starting to collapse! (Worf is presumably unaffected because this shit’s nowhere near as strong as bloodwine. Either that, or he is so uptight that when you take the same amount of inhibition off him as off the others, you still couldn’t drag a needle out of his butt with a tractor. Given his behaviour in the Terrorists Who Hate Fun episode of DS9, I lean towards the latter.) Picard is not a happy bunny.
In engineering, Wesley fiddles with tractor beams while Riker and McNotImportant try to fix things with, I swear, a sonic screwdriver. Riker just says ‘sonic driver,’ but that’s only because he doesn’t want a nasty letter from the BBC legal department. I am surprised that he refrained from the opportunity to say ‘screw.’ Meanwhile in sickbay, Beverly is getting increasingly flustered as the infection starts to affect her mind, and she still hasn’t found the answer. She messes her hair all up. I urge her to put it into a sensible ponytail.
On the bridge, Worf reports that Wesley is actually doing an acceptable job with the tractor beam. Enter Data, who we can only suppose is feeling like a real boy – and has definitely had the equivalent of a snootful. Picard tells him that he shouldn’t be affected in the same way as the biological crew, but Data argues that he is more similar to a human than he is different, and starts to paraphrase Shylock (‘if you prick me, do I not… leak?’) Fortunately for Shakespeare, they are interrupted by Beverly, who needs to speak to Picard in his ready room – and because she’s playing flustered, gives a much more natural line reading than people often do in this show. Picard takes off after her, and Data does this.
The funniest part of this is Worf’s thousand-yard stare. He cannot believe the day he’s having.
You know, I found myself wondering if Data was just imitating the drunk behaviour of the crew to feel like part of it all.
In the ready room, Beverly is trying to explain the situation to Picard, while losing layers of her clothes and saying she finds him ‘extremely… extremely.’ Picard tries to talk to her sensibly, but gives a really weird smothered laugh in his throat, so we know he’s infected too. Beverly basically tells him he owes her a fuck because her husband is dead, but he manages to put her off and return to the bridge. Worf discreetly reports to Riker that Picard seems affected, and Riker leaves McNotImportant to keep trying to unfuckup engineering while he runs upstairs to deal with this.
And then the star goes nova! And a chunk of it is flying towards the ship! Picard can’t think straight, but between him and Riker they manage to instruct Worf to make the ship fly away – as if he couldn’t do that on his own initiative. The engine is not working, though, so Riker pages Wesley – just as McNotImportant manages to break down the forcefield. She picks up one of the scattered doohickeys and scolds Shimoda, ‘These are control chips!’ She reports the problem to the bridge, and Wesley whines ‘It was an adult who did it!’ The problem is that McNotImportant can’t get all the chips back into place, reactivating the engine, in time for them to escape from the hurtling chunk of fiery doom. Wesley points out that Data would be able to do that – ‘he can shuffle them like cards’ (first mention of Data’s card sharp skills). Unfortunately Data is currently lolling in Deanna’s chair on the bridge thinking about boobs. Riker chivvies him along to engineering, where he is pleased to see Wesley, who adorably calls him ‘Mr Data’ and encourages him to think of the job as a game.
He gets to work like a good ‘un, but unfortunately, Fiery Doom is getting closer and he doesn’t think he can finish in time. Riker notices he’s sweaty (he, Riker, is sweaty, Data isn’t sweaty, unless you count residual Tasha sweat) and mutters that he can’t afford this. I would suggest, Will, that you might just be sweating from stress. So far you’ve seemed pretty immune to this, and you were in the original away team that brought the infection back on board. Your mighty Alaskan manbear immune system is too much for it.
Picard goes to see Beverly in sickbay, and Patrick Stewart is a very hammy drunk. Fortunately, although I’m sure she’d really rather be masturbating at the moment, she has come up with another possible cure that she wants to test on Geordi.
In engineering, Data thinks he could finish his task if he just had one more minute (he seems to have sobered up completely), and Wesley, oblivious to Fiery Doom, burbles happily to Riker about his goddamn science project, that he has adjusted it so it’s ‘a repulsor beam.’ Riker just looks sweaty and miserable about the fact that he is going to die with two nerds and a grouchy woman. And then Wesley gets all ‘Idea!’ and reckons he can do that with the ship’s big tractor beam, too. McNotImportant says it would take weeks to prepare that, and he savants ‘Why not just see it in your head?’ He fiddles with the computer, and I go off him a bit. I would actually be fine with this if it had been Riker who put two and two together and asked Wesley if he could do it. The whole thing coming from Wesley is just irritating.
In sickbay, Beverly’s modified cure cures Geordi, just like that. He doesn’t even have a hangover. This is better than a Jeeves pick-me-up. She gives shots to herself and Picard and tells him to take it to the others while she makes up more. He says, very sweetly, ‘Okay, Bev.’
Down in engineering, Picard gives everyone shots and Wesley figures out how to use the Tsiokolvsky to get in the way of Fiery Doom and give them a little extra time. He looks absolutely manic about this. Data finishes replacing the chips! The Enterprise hauls ass! Hooray! On the bridge, Worf is visibly disgusted that they were saved by Wesley. Geordi laughs at him, because he’s kind of a turd that way. And back in engineering (this episode uses a FUCKLOAD of cross-cutting) Picard and Riker agree that Wesley – and his science teacher – deserve to be mentioned in the ship’s log. Picard gives Wesley his shot – in fact I think that’s the second shot – and leaves, followed by Riker, followed by Data, who pauses to shake Wesley’s hand and give him an actually not creepy smile. I’ve always quite liked Data and Wesley being friends.
Now everything is back to normal, and everyone returns to the bridge. Tasha and Data exchange awkward looks and she’s like ‘ew, I hit that, and now it expects something of me.’ She marches over and says ‘Data! I’m only going to tell you this just once. It never happened.’ And stalks off, leaving Data perplexed. I can fully understand her feeling embarrassed, and being afraid that Data, in his naïve way, will be all ‘Veronica Corningstone and I had sex and we are now in love!’, but that was just a tiny bit mean.
Picard makes a smiley little remark about becoming a fine crew ‘if we avoid temptation,’ and there are shots of Tasha starting to look over at Data, then looking away, and of Will/Bill/Billy or Mack or Buddy and Deanna looking uncomfortable, as if these two pairs are being set up as the couples of the show, and then we’re away to the stars.
That was… ridiculous. Next time I’m doing the pilot of DS9, and will continue to do the two shows in parallel, a couple of episodes each at a time.
Oh, and of course, we didn’t see O’Brien in that episode, but we know he’s on the ship, so let’s check in with him! What did you do in the big drunk infection, O’Brien?
‘Built a tree fort in the arboretum and dropped water balloons on smelly girls.’