In the fourth episode of the first season of Star Trek, I had no idea I needed this in my life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For mention of suicide.
OH MY GOD, THIS WAS SUCH A GREAT EPISODE. I don’t think I expected to be bored by Star Trek, but when I’m starting new shows (even ones that I’m not writing about), I always want to give them time to develop. I appreciate a good slow burn; I love when shows take time to build up a world and create a believable set of characters. I don’t need immediate answers or immediate rewards for watching a show! And yet, Star Trek has, so far, been immediately fulfilling to watch. The absurdity present in “The Naked Time” is done to be both humorous and disturbing, and it’s a treat to experience this.
I’ve spoken about my love for infection scenarios in genre fiction, so this episode was already right up my alley from the get-go. Even then, I was shocked at how openly disturbing the first scene was. There are frozen dead bodies everywhere and the scenario is unsettling and confusing. How could people lose the will to move? Why were all the people in that base on Psi 2000 dead from DIFFERENT THINGS? It’s a great mystery because there’s no discernible pattern. All we know is that there’s something in the ice on the planet that seeps on to Joe’s fingers because HE IS FOOLISH ENOUGH TO BREAK ALL THE RULES OH MY GOD. Hey, at least I called him as a redshirt!!! Note that despite being prepared for his eventual death, there was nothing in the universe that could have prepared me for the CIRCUS OF SURREALITY that was about to parade across my screen.
The first example of what the virus does seemed to suggest that everyone merely lost the will to live. Again, it was sad to watch Joe’s transformation, though it’s important to note that Spock figures out that the virus merely unlocked some subconscious part of the person who it affected. While the behavior here is exaggerated, it’s not impossible. Crewman Joe, who was prone to paranoia, lost anything that mentally prevented him from letting his fears run rampant. And I thought it was really bold that in the fourth episode of this show, there’s a monologue about the terror of space exploration! Sure, the behavior is over-the-top and Joe was compelled to speak so openly because of the unnamed virus in his system, but holy shit, NOTHING ABOUT THAT WAS FUNNY. Nothing! Plus, I imagine that there must have been other people on the Enterprise who quietly wondered if what they were doing was morally acceptable or sustainable.
I’m speculating at this point, I admit. I would love to see Star Trek address this concept in the future! But as Joe’s suicide attempt acts as a catalyst for the disease to spread about the ship, we see so many bizarre and contradictory manifestations of the virus’ affects. Joe himself wills his own body to die, which is SO DISTURBING TO ME, Y’ALL. Lt. Riley and Lt. Sulu both catch it (I CAN’T BELIEVE I DIDN’T FIGURE OUT IT WAS TRANSMITTED BY SWEAT OH MY GOD) andâ€¦ lord. LORD. I went into Star Trek hoping I could understand why people had warned me that the acting might be jarring, AND THIS WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN I COULD HAVE EVER ASKED FOR. Lt. Riley â€“ played PERFECTLY by Bruce Hyde â€“ entertains notions of grandeur, first believing himself to be descended from Irish royalty, then believing himself to be an adored crooner, then believing himself to be the captain of the Enterprise. Sulu, in one of the most unforgettable set of scenes I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED, is eager to go to the gym??? THEN HE BELIEVES HE IS A SWASHBUCKLING HERO, AND HE DOESN’T HAVE A SHIRT ON, AND HE’S CHALLEGNING EVERYONE TO DUELS, AND HE’S TRYING TO RESCUE UHURA BECAUSE SHE’S HIS DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, AND OH MY GOD, IT IS EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER WANTED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. If “The Naked Time” is a hint of the fun this show can have, then sign me the fuck up for this. It’s ridiculous, it’s over-the-top, and I unironically enjoyed everything about it.
What’s so fulfilling to me, though, is how “The Naked Time” works to explore these characters and reveal things to the audience. We discover some of the more comical aspects of people like Sulu and Riley, but then we get part of Spock’s backstory and CAPTAIN KIRK’S HIDDEN FEELINGS. Even if this episode wasn’t aired in the intended order (I’m aware that the production order is sort of all over the map), it was SO FANTASTIC for me to see it like this. I wondered if Spock would be immune to the disease, but when Nurse Christine is infected, she reveals an important detail: Spock is half human, half Vulcan! I DID NOT ACTUALLY KNOW THIS. It explains how he has so many humanoid features, doesn’t it? After Spock falls victim to the virus, too, we’re dealt an absolutely SOUL-CRUSHING monologue about Spock’s inability to express emotion. IN THE FOURTH EPISODE. Everything got too real. His human mother apparently was the only human on his home planet (which isâ€¦ Vulcan? Is that the name? I DON’T KNOW TERMINOLOGY. And yes, that’s a rhetorical question, please allow me to find this stuff out as the show progresses). Oh my god, his Vulcan nature prohibits him from expressing love towards his mother??? Why are you tormenting me this way, Star Trek? WHY???
Even Kirk’s eventual infection unleashed a metric ton of feelings on top of me. It was fascinating to me to watch how he cycled through different emotions. He first exhibited an intense love of his own ship, then ruminated on his inability to express the same sort of love towards anyone else on the ship, due to his position as captain. HE HAS FEELINGS FOR YEOMAN RAND, OH MY GOD. All of this leads him to fall into an intense paranoia and fear, namely that he’ll be a terrible captain. Which speaks so clearly to the kind of person Captain Kirk is, you know?
And in terms of resolutions, I was so pleased with how “The Naked Time” ended. We learn that the virus is warped version of water, which is why it spreads through perspiration. Then, the solution to the chaotic plunge towards Psi 2000 opens up a entire world of possibility. The whole “THIS THEORY HAS NEVER WORKED BEFORE” trope appears here, possibly for the first time, which gives us the reality of TIME TRAVEL. TIME TRAVEL!!!! If you are new to Mark Watches, then let me clue you in to something that is very necessary for you to know:
I LOVE TIME TRAVEL MORE THAN MOST THINGS.
And the application of it here is SO FUCKING GREAT. The full-power restart, which mixes matter and anti-matter, allows the Enterprise to travel seventy-one hours into the past. It does not undo the events we just saw. The crew still has to relive those three days over, but Kirk smartly refuses to return to Psi 2000 and do anything differently. I mean, they still have all the research materials, don’t they? They still have all the tapes of the disintegration of the planet. Instead, they head to their next destination with the knowledge of the possibility of time travel and that’s it. There’s no immediate need to travel in time, and Kirk recognizes the extreme risk inherent to time travel. THIS IS SUCH A FANTASTIC ENDING. Again, the choices made in “The Naked Time” all contribute to character development, and it’s a fulfilling thing to experience. So now I know how much Kirk loves his ship and how determined he is to be the best captain possible. That also means he’s not going to risk disaster by carelessly traveling through time.
Y’all, that was such a good episode. SO GOOD.
The video for “The Naked Time” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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Hey Marc! I’ve been lurking for a loooong time now, reading about you reading Harry Potter and His Dark Materials (love both just as much as you do!), reading about you watching Doctor Who, which I got into only last year too, and now…
Now I’m EXCITE to read about you watching Star Trek. I’m so very curious as to what conclusions and analogies you’ll find, what you’ll like and dislike about it, because so far, all your reviews have opened up new meanings for me about books and shows I knew already, and there’s NO show that I know better than Star Trek (Next Generation, though, because that’s what I grew up with).
What rings so very deep in me is that you’ve written a number of times about how you grew up, and how certain shows and books gave you a way out of that, at least while you read/watched them. While my upbringing was very different and a lot less dire, this nevertheless feels like something I can totally relate to, and it’s what I love best about shows and books in the fantasy/science fiction genre – they open your mind to fantastic possibilities WHILE AT THE SAME TIME conveying such a lot about what the reader/watcher experiences in their current situation. Some things are immanent to the human condition no matter where or when those humans (or humanoids with a similar emotional make-up) are. Unrequited love? Heroic deeds? Ethical quandaries? They’re all in there (if the writer(s) knew what they were doing), and can react with our inner monologue, can change our perception of THIS life, can influence our values and actions.
Star Trek is definitely a show that has done that for me. It pointed me towards my profession, it shaped my moral compass (same as Discworld did and YAY YOU’RE READING DISCWORLD!!!), and it, as of 18 months ago, introduced me to the wonderful person who is now my wife.
Seriously, this show. There are not enough words to praise and appreciate what it means to me.
I sincerely hope that you will enjoy watching the rest as much as you enjoyed watching these first episodes. I particularly liked how you pointed out how diverse this show was even back in the Sixties – that’s a big reason why I love it too!
And last but not least, I want to thank you so much that you share all your “Mark Does Stuff”! I read reviews here that must have been extremely painful to write; so much raw emotion that you went through AND THEN SHARED with us. It made me more thoughtful about things like privilege and discrimination/bullying, and I appreciate that a lot because it gives me opportunity to grow! And if I like ONE THING, it is to learn how other people think about things!
Blame Star Trek for that if you will 😉
Thanks so much, Mark – and take care!