On its surface, the premise of “The Naked Now” is a good one: the entire crew is affected by something that makes them behave as though they are drunk—and the last time this happened, no one survived… The stakes are high! There’s a sci-fi mystery to be solved! This episode should be a blast!
Well… it isn’t.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Set Up
The episode opens with the Enterprise heading to check out a vessel that was due to observe a star collapse into a White Dwarf, but has been sending bizarre transmissions. Captain Picard and the rest of the crew on the bridge make contact with the ship, but the woman they are speaking with is more interested in whether or not there are any “pretty boys” who will be joining them. In the background, it sounds as though a party is going on, and then, someone has the idea to open the airlock, and the Enterprise crew are forced to listen as everyone is blown into space.
When they arrive and beam over to the now-devoid-of-life ship, they find a number of anomalies that no one can quite figure out—including a crew member who took a shower with their clothes on, and the frozen remains of some sort of sexless orgy.
What happened to the crew is the mystery of the episode, although it is solved relatively quickly (more or less with a Google search), because apparently this virus was also the premise of an episode of The Original Series.
When the (living) crew returns to the Enterprise, Picard asks Dr. Crusher if she has any theories as to what happened to them. She literally just shrugs and says, “I don’t know, insanity?”
And here begins my diatribe on how this show treats women. For some reason, D.C. Fontana (notably the first female writer for Star Trek) has crafted a script that divides its characters down a perfect gender line: the women are stupid, incapable, horny, and largely serve no plot function, and the male characters resist their urges and solve literally everything. When the virus begins affecting the crew, the gender divide widens even further. Every woman who ends up affected has the same reaction—she becomes uncontrollably horny. The men, on the other hand, chase after their innermost desires. Geordi longs to be able to see a rainbow or a sunrise. Wesley sets out on a mission to become Captain of the Enterprise. Even Data is affected, and what he wants is to be human, so he participates in human activities at the whims of those around him.
Tasha Yar is a character we still don’t know very much about. We know she’s in charge of security, but in terms of what she likes, and what she wants, we haven’t been clued in. In this episode, while under the influence of the drunk virus, she suddenly wishes she could be more feminine, and asks Troi for help in choosing pretty clothes to dress up in. When Troi (pre-infection) says this may not be the best time, Yar finds a random guy on the ship and starts making out with him. The next time we see her, she’s in bedtime lingerie and asking Data to fuck (who notably wouldn’t mind if she were wearing a garbage bag, so why she went to all this trouble is beyond me).
She’s even given a tragic backstory. Abandoned by her parents when she was 5, she spent the next decade of her life “hiding from rape gangs” in what we witnessed as the “Post Apocalyptic Horror” that Q showed us in the first episode this season. That this would have hardened her emotions and taught her to fight is no surprise, but I’m not tracking how “feeling drunk” would cause her to suddenly drop all of her defenses, go around the ship making out with random dudes, and seduce a cyborg.
While we’re talking about this… why is Data programmed to pleasure humans? His job is on the bridge, but for some reason, he’s been programmed with sexual abilities? How many members of the crew are using Data for sexual pleasure? Is it only women, or are the male characters fucking him, too? What happens if two characters want to use Data for sex at the same time? Is there a process for this? Is there a sign up sheet? If he’s subject to pleasure anyone at any time, does this make him a prostitute? If he is a prostitute, does he care that he has to work when everyone else is off duty?
I have QUESTIONS!
Then we have Troi, who when she is infected with the virus, tracks down her old boo Riker and explains that her superpower of feeling the emotions of those around her has kicked up to hyperdrive, and she’s feeling things that she’s never felt before. Riker picks her up and carries her off to… I’m not sure where. Did they fuck? Unclear.
When Dr. Crusher is infected, she suddenly wants to fuck Captain Picard. She laments how long she has been “without the comfort of a husband,” because in this magical idealistic future, women—even women in positions of power—simply cannot survive without a man’s love. Even though Picard is also under the influence of the virus, he is able to resist her advances for the sake of saving the crew.
All of the men, you see, are capable of fighting off the effects of the virus. The women, however, are reduced to uncontrollably horny stereotypes. I’m not sure what level of projection is occurring in the writing of this episode, but there’s no way this was accidental. It’s peak male fantasy, and is the subject of a rather large percentage of porn: “all these women are trying to fuck me, I must resist!” It allows the male viewer to simultaneously desire these women and feel superior to them.
The men who aren’t able to fight the virus, such as Shimoda in engineering, doesn’t seem interested in having sex with anybody—he’s resolute to play with the ship’s control chips as if they were Pogs or dominoes. He is reduced to childlike wonder, taking orders from Wesley and enjoying the amazing repulsor beam he’s invented.
Some people may read this and say, “well, what do you want? It was made in the 80s. Just shut up and enjoy it.”
I just can’t not see it. I can’t watch the show without acknowledging that there are still people who watch it and don’t see any problems. People who watch this and think, “well, yeah, women do turn into sluts when they get drunk, HAR HAR HAR.” It’s reductionist, and people are still today making shows set in the Star Trek universe. The fact that the follow-up to this show is “Picard” tells me that we haven’t come very far in our views on gender, that men are still the only characters worth investing time and storytelling into, and women, if they aren’t going to give men some amount of pleasure, should just remain in the background and further the narrative.
The Wrap Up
I had notes on other aspects of this episode, like the general breakdown of the plot and how things ultimately progress, but none of it inspired anything in me. It’s a mediocre episode of a TV show that has yet to do anything impressive, and the contrivances of false danger and solutions to those problems are eye-roll inducing.
Wesley Crusher, the child, along with Riker and Data, end up being the real heroes of the episode. Credit where it’s due: the female Dr. Crusher eventually finds an antidote to the virus, but only by copying the work of someone from The Original Series. I know the doctor on that show was a man, so Star Trek continues to find ways to make sure that even when a woman saves the day, it’s only by standing on the shoulders of men.
That’s all I have for this episode! I’ll be back with another one in a week or so, depending on what else I’m doing and my mental health. Pandemics make it hard to be creative, even if that creativity is just writing critiques of other media.
—Chloe Skye, November 14, 2020
My Other Stuff
I launched a new podcast with my partner Jupiter Stone a few weeks ago called “Modern Eyes” where we look at movies from 10 or more years ago and discuss what holds up, what didn’t age well, and how we would modernize the film if it were remade today. So… it’s a lot like this Star Trek project, but it’s about movies! If you enjoy these blogs at all, check it out. So far we’ve covered Hocus Pocus and The Town, with an episode on Clue to be released this Friday.
I also have a podcast about amazing and noteworthy women from history called Broads You Should Know. We have a database of everyone we’ve covered at http://www.BroadsYouShouldKnow.com, so if listening to podcasts isn’t your thing, you can check out our research and resources to learn about women who helped change the world into the one we’re currently living in. No matter how Star Trek treats women and our accomplishments, there’s no question that there have been a lot of badasses who stood up and rose to the challenge.