In the third episode of the first season of The Next Generation, WHAT THE HELL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent regarding sex, specifically sex while intoxicated.
Well, that was fucking weird.
As I said at the end of the video for “The Naked Now,” I have complicated feelings towards this episode. However, one of the easiest ways this could been alleviated? Put this episode later in this season. A lot of genre television engages with the trope used here – where an ensemble casts suddenly switches roles or acts counter to their natures – and it can be a lot of fun. But we just met these characters, and I barely understand their characterization as it is. So how am I supposed to know if they’re behaving weirdly beyond the obvious?
Let me start with an example. There’s a scene early within “The Naked Time,” just after Geordi, Yar, Data, and Riker return from the Tsiolkovsky, where Geordie snaps at Dr. Crusher. Riker says something to the effect that Geordi’s reaction “doesn’t sound like him.” I’m sorry, didn’t you just meet this guy like a day ago? Okay, so I don’t actually know how much time has passed between “Encounter at Farpoint” and this episode, but it can’t have been very long. How does Riker know what Geordi is “like”? How can he possibly be able to read someone’s character like this? That’s an ongoing problem throughout this episode as each person is infected and begins to behave strangely. Some of it makes sense. We know Wesley has a desire to be respected by Picard and that he wants to work on the bridge. We also know that Deanna Troi and Riker were once in a relationship, so I’d understand her feeling compelled to hit on Riker. (But why is it that all the women are quick to become sexually aggressive and none of the men? Riker nobly resists advances, despite that he should have already become sick.) But what about Geordi? Or Yar’s behavior? How is that related to her character? What do we learn about her in the process? Is this also meant to suggest that Geordi hates his disability, which is his right to, or will we never hear of it again?
Of course, my big complaint here is the fact that, like many shows, the writers have two people – who are unable to consent to sex in any real way – have sex in a way that’s clearly meant to be humorous but is NOT EVEN REMOTELY FUNNY, IT’S JUST HORRIFYING. How the HELL is Data programmed to understand sex and to have it, but none of his programming involves when it is appropriate to have sex? I don’t even understand the biology of his character. If he’s an android, how can this disease/affliction affect his judgment? Isn’t there some sort of computer within him that controls this sort of thing? Again, I might have understood this better if I knew more about Data and his construction, but I don’t! All I have to go on is the fact that he says his skin and his blood is similar to humans and… that’s it? So he has a normal brain? Or not? I don’t know? Regardless, it still doesn’t clear up the issue of Yar and Data having sex while intoxicated, which is gross and a terrible thing to have happen in the SECOND EPISODE.
At the same time, there are two aspects to this episode that I did appreciate. It took The Original Series some time to feel comfortable with humor, though it never experimented with it as much as I wanted it to. (All I had to wait for was The Voyage Home, of course, THE GREATEST ENTRY INTO STAR TREK CANON IMAGINABLE.) The fact that the writers were comfortable enough to introduce humor so quickly is commendable. It’s bold! The same goes for the fact that they can now portray sex and sexual attraction quite openly. I’m glad that The Next Generation is willing to do so because it’s a lot more realistic. I still think we should engage with the harmful tropes around consent, but I also think that having characters express sexual desire is important, too. The Original Series left most of the desire in the hands of Kirk, with Bones and Scotty offering up sexual objectification through their commentary; here, that desire is not given solely to the men.
It’s complicated, basically. I can see the good and the bad, but I’m still sticking to the notion that an episode like this should have happened with a little more care and a lot better placement within the series.
The video for “The Naked Now” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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