Every time I watch the pre-credits sequence of The Naked Time, I have an uncontrollable urge to shout out and tell Lt. Joe Tormolen (Stewart Moss) not to take off his glove ….
Surely when beaming down to a strange planet, especially when you’re wearing protective suits, it’s maybe just a little unwise. Oh well, it’s not as if the suits sported by Tormolen and Mr Spock were especially air-tight anyway.
Tormolen has picked up a nasty infection, although it only manifests itself in earnest once he’s back on the Enterprise. Moss doesn’t have a great deal of screentime, but Tormolen’s breakdown is very effective and fairly dark. At one point, after threatening Sulu with a knife, he attempts to turn it upon himself.
Sulu and Lt. Riley (Bruce Hyde) manage to wrestle it off him, but it’s still a tense little scene. Albeit slightly negated by the fact that several other crew members just sit around doing nothing to help!
What’s interesting about the episode is that after this flashpoint (and Tormolen’s subsequent death) we see a sudden gear change as the comedy begins to ramp up. The virus makes people lose their inhibitions – in Sulu’s case this means that he strips to the waist, oils himself up and runs around the decks with a rapier, causing havoc …
When he reaches the bridge, there’s a nice bit of comic business from William Shatner (Kirk attempts to block the sword and gets a nasty nip for his pains). Even Leonard Nimoy gets in on the act – after disabling Sulu, he instructs that “d’Artagnan” be taken away.
As for Riley, the virus turns him very Irish. Luckily for us all, Hyde doesn’t attempt an Oirish accent (although Riley’s singing is painful enough).
It’s rather unfortunate that Riley decides to take over the Enterprise (which he does so with embarrassing ease) at exactly the same time that the ship is dangerously close to a planet about to explode. This is a slightly clunky plot mechanism, but without it Riley would simply be a low-level irritant.
All the interest in the second half of the episode revolves around some well-crafted character interactions. Nurse Chapel’s passion for Mr Spock, for example (which comes a little out of the blue, since we’ve never seen her before).
Both of them are now under the influence of the virus. For Chapel this makes her painfully honest, for Spock it’s all about having a nice cry. Nimoy takes these scenes and manages to wring every possible drop of emotion from them. Subtle they’re not, but they are strangely compelling.
The Naked Time gives us one of Star Trek‘s classic lines (Scotty’s plaintive “I can’t change the laws of physics”) so that alone makes it worth the price of admission. Kirk attempting to bring Spock back to normality by giving him several good hard slaps is also noteworthy.
Indeed, there’s so much going on that in the end the episode feels a little bitty. Dropping Riley from the story and maybe concentrating on Kirk and Spock’s breakdowns might have been one way to go. But no matter, The Naked Time is another strong early story in which all the regulars benefit from some decent character moments.