Written by John D.F. Black and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Marc Daniels
With the introduction of a character who was from an entirely different race of beings, Star Trek needed time to get a good footing on the character, as did Leonard Nimoy. The Naked Time went a long way to helping fill in a lot of information about the Vulcan.
The Enterprise is orbiting a frozen, dying world. When they beam down to the research station below, they find all the personnel there dead. It appears they died suddenly – one man died while taking a shower. Upon further investigation, it seems that the staff were acting in a crazy manner and some committed suicide.
After the landing party returns, Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) examines them and they go through decontamination. Everything seems fine until one man, Joey (portrayed by Stewart Moss), begins exhibiting crazy behavior.
Soon it seems to be spreading through the ship. Crew members begin not only talking about what they have dreamed of in their lives, but also trying to act those aspirations out. Sulu (George Takei) acts like a swashbuckling samurai swordsman. In Engineering, crewman Reilly (portrayed by Bruce Hyde) has cut off all controls and barricaded himself inside. As the ship plummets toward the planet below, he sings over the intercom.
Whatever this is affects Mr. Spock (Nimoy) most of all. He is half-Vulcan and half-Human and has been trying to subscribe to the lack of emotions Vulcans are supposed to have and display. He openly weeps over the conflict he has felt within his entire life as those two polar opposites in personality fight it out within him.
The Naked Time was only the fourth episode of the original Star Trek series aired and it managed to combine some terrific character developing moments with a great story. In particular, the affection Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) has for Spock is first shown, as is the fact that it will likely be unrequited. This affection is displayed from time to time throughout the series, but the entire tug of war over this is set in motion in The Naked Time.
Spock has his own inner turmoil as he pines to be able to return the affection Nurse Chapel is showing him, but cannot. It gives him some insight into the life of his mother, whom viewers will meet later in the series and in the movies based on the original cast.
Shatner plays second fiddle to Nimoy, something that became rare as the series and films wore on. Here it works quite well as the story of the Captain who laments his devotion to duty that keeps him from his desires. He respects the chain of command too much to give in to the temptation of Yeoman Rand, clearly his subordinate. At the same time, he wishes to throw caution to the wind and must fight that. This provides time for Shatner to stretch a bit, although I didn’t feel his performance was as fine as Nimoy’s.
Where The Naked Time falters a bit is that it spends too much time showing the crew acting without reserve. Dr. McCoy is trying to discover a cure for what ails them and seems to be taking his sweet time, rather than hurrying. He seems to feel there’s no way the sickness will affect him, I guess because he already read the end of the script.
In The Naked Time, Scotty (James Doohan) utters those famous words for the first time: I cannot change the laws of physics… There’s not much in the way of special effects here. This is an episode that showcases the characters and lets viewers learn more about them. It does a fine job without overkill or posturing and kudos to the writer, John D.F. Black for an excellent job.
There are some who criticize The Naked Time as showing the crew tripping on LSD. That might have been what people thought of upon seeing this for the first time almost 40 years ago, but that isn’t something that came to my mind at all when I saw it in my youth or again recently. It very well might have been the writer’s angle to get that past the network censors, but it’s not something that is so overt people have to worry about children watching it. I did not even get this until I had read other commentary on the episode over the Internet in the past few years.
The Naked Time has a good story and great acting. There are problems with the episode and the effects are virtually nowhere to be found, but it’s a good build on the characters.