Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 4 (The Naked Time)

Bad things seem to happen all at once.  It’s bad enough that you get a flat tire.  It just so happens that you’re in a sketchy part of town, it’s raining and you’re on your way to an important meeting.  (It never happens on the way back.)  Oh, and your AAA membership ran out last week.

The Enterprise is sent to check up on a research facility on the planet Psi-2000.  The facility hasn’t been heard from for a while and the planet is breaking up.  Captain Kirk is told to get the crew off the planet and do some final scans as the planet breaks up.  When the ship arrives, the rooms are frozen, as are the people.  One poor guy is fully clothed in the shower.

First Officer Spock beams down with Lieutenant Tormolen, both in what would appear to be biohazard gear.  The thing with gear like that is that you have to be wearing it for it to work.  Tormolen takes off a glove and touches a surface, thus bringing back an infection.

It’s not really clear what the infection is.  Dr. McCoy describes it as something like water forming complex chains that act like alcohol or something.  It causes people to lose inhibitions.  Tormolen starts talking about man not belonging in space.  Sulu goes around waving a sword at everyone.  Riley locks himself in engineering and shuts down the main engines.

This leads Chief Engineer Scott to break the laws of physics for the first time.  He says the engines can’t be restarted, but there is some sort of antimatter formula that might just work.  And it does.  The ship is able to get out of harm’s way just in time.

The episode is early enough that I wonder if anyone was taking the science seriously.  McCoy is talking about water forming an alcohol-like substance.  Alcohol contains carbon, which water doesn’t.  I would assume that whatever’s doing this is grabbing carbon from the human body, as we are carbon based.  I think this is little more than sloppy writing.  Someone should have put a little more effort into coming up with a plausible explanation.

It’s also said that the planet’s mass is changing.  I’m assuming that it’s decreasing in mass.  However, there’s no explanation of how this is happening.  I suppose it’s possible.  Mass might be converted to energy by some process, but there’s no mention of any sort of hear emissions or anything like that.  Again, I think someone was looking for something that sounded dangerous, but just didn’t come up with a decent mechanism for it.

I got the impression that the planetary station didn’t have any means of escape.  It’s something I would think someone would have mentioned.  (No order was given to look for escape pods, for example.)  If I knew a planet was going to be breaking up, I would have asked for a shuttlecraft or something.  This is a minor point, though.

The one thing that I did find odd was that the suits were so easy to take off.  Tormolen was able to easily remove his glove and scratch his nose.  If the planet is that cold and dangerous, wouldn’t you want something that was sealed up?  It should not have been that easy for someone to be that careless.

The acting and story are both pretty good, otherwise.  We get to see the normally repressed Spock cry and agonize over the fact that he couldn’t show his mother love.  Vulcans aren’t necessarily emotionless; they’re just better at hiding them.  And Spock is half human, a fact that would come up in later episodes.   The bridge crew is also frantically trying to get things in order as McCoy tries to find a cure.  There is a sense of urgency without it being over the top.

The series does seem to be coming together in may respects.  From what I understand, this story was supposed to set up Tomorrow is Yesterday, so I think there is some forethought going into the episodes.  I don’t really remember the original series for continuity, though.  There were quite a number of episodes aired out of order with very little confusion.  Yes, there’s one episode where the uniforms look different.  And Sulu does seem to bounce around a little.  It does make the series more accessible in that you can catch one episode here and there.  However, I like my continuity.

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