“The Naked Time” is classic Classic Trek. So classic that Next Generation tried to almost directly rip it off in its second episode (I plan to cover that episode soon). I think one of the reasons we fans love it so much is because the actors get to push the boundaries of their characters to the limits.
If you’re not familiar with the plot, here’s a super-quick rundown: the Enterprise crew contract a weird illness after an away team investigates the death of a team of scientists in a frozen lab on a faraway planet. The illness doesn’t show up on medical scanners but it has symptoms analogous to being very drunk: it lowers inhibitions, intensifies emotions and makes pretty much everyone very silly.
What I found most interesting was the way some characters’ intoxication led to expressing their views on women and relationships.
One of the first to do so is Riley (the same Riley who’d later get poisoned with a spray bottle in “The Conscience of the King”). When Kirk orders Uhura to take over his station on the bridge, Riley slurs: “That’s what I like: let the women work too. Universal suffrage.” This seems anachronistic since we’re supposed to believe women have had universal suffrage at this point for over two hundred years.
I wouldn’t read much into it except for what Riley says later, when he tries to take over the ship. Taking control of the communications system, he broadcasts instructions, which consist of beauty tips for women crew members:
In the future, all female crew members will wear their hair loosely, about their shoulders. And use restraint in putting on your makeup. Women, women should not look made up.
Then he goes back to singing drunken ballads. You could say it’s not significant because he’s basically drunk, but the episode would be pointless if we aren’t meant to understand the intoxication as helping to express something buried deep within each of the characters. It doesn’t create something totally new but enhances something that’s already there. So it was an interesting choice for Riley’s drunkenness to lead him to express insecurity about women serving as his equals.
But it’s not only Riley who gets to thinking about crossing personal/professional boundaries when intoxicated. In a famous scene, Nurse Chapel confesses her love for Spock:
Mister Spock, the men from Vulcan treat their women strangely. At least, people say that, but you’re part human too. I know you don’t, you couldn’t, hurt me, would you? I’m in love with you, Mister Spock. You, the human Mister Spock, the Vulcan Mister Spock.
On the one hand I get a little irritated whenever a smart woman character like Nurse Chapel is put into a situation where she’s so vulnerable and desperate for the love of an unattainable man. On the other hand, it’s really nice to have someone other than Kirk.
Near the end of the episode things are getting really out of hand. We’ve got Sulu sword-fighting in the corridors without his shirt, Spock sobbing because he never told his mother he loves her, and Kirk lusting after Janice Rand:
I’ve got it, the disease. Love. You’re better off without it, and I’m better off without mine. This vessel, I give, she takes. She won’t permit me my life. I’ve got to live hers…I have a beautiful yeoman. Have you noticed her, Mister Spock? You’re allowed to notice her. The Captain’s not permitted.
This is the first, and possibly the last time that protocol restricts the way Kirk behaves towards a woman.
Needless to say, McCoy finds a cure for what turned out to be a water and sweat-borne illness, and they fly the ship out of danger. By the time the next episode starts, we can count on everyone having got over the resulting awkwardness.
What we learn from this episode:
- Intoxication affects different people different ways
- Riley is not getting any dates for a while
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail