I came to the original series in a very roundabout sort of way. I first started with Star Trek 3 and 4, and that got me into Star Trek The Next Generation. And that series more or less started with an episode that was a sequel to an original series episode, “The Naked Time”.
But as I rewatched it this time, a couple things jumped out at me, and not just that Spock seems to barely correct a crewman who is blatantly sexually harassing Yeoman Rand.
So, look, there’s one image from this episode that really stands out to people in more recent years, and I used it as the cover image above: George Takei’s Sulu, shirtless, sweaty, and brandishing a fencing sword with a wild grin on his face. And why that one? Because that’s the one that got passed around the Net when Takei came out of the closet as a way for people who think they are funny by passing around the same joke about how we didn’t realize it sooner. Maybe it was funny the first time, but repeating a so-so joke only makes it less funny with every repetition.
Point is, this episode for me is more about the things around the edges than the actual episode itself. The Enterprise goes to check in on a science party studying a planet that’s about to go full Krypton, but the science station personnel are all dead under mysterious circumstances. Someone shut off life support and that froze the place, there’s a fully dressed dead man taking a shower, and someone else who seems unconcerned there’s a dead woman nearby. And it turns out they all got infected by a disease that basically shuts off all of a person’s inhibitions. The crewman who went down to the surface with Spock is infected first, getting morose and killing himself with what looks like the world’s deadliest butter knife, and the two helmsmen for the episode–Sulu and some kind named Riley–go off to do what they deep down really want. For Riley, who apparently fancies himself descended from Irish kings, that means taking over the ship somehow and naming himself captain. For Sulu, he apparently always fancied himself an 18th century swashbuckler and…
…wait, he did?
Bottom line is Sulu runs around with a sword and shirtless, even scooping Uhura off the bridge at one point.
Now, we also get to see Spock and Kirk get infected before everything is over. Spock is filled with angst over having any emotions at all while Kirk apparently wants to ditch all the responsibility and do something with Rand, whose sole purpose on this ship seems to be for all the guys to stare at her and think about how hot she is.
Granted, Rand actually does stuff in some episodes, even if they are rather menial things like pass along meals and get Kirk to sign a waiver. Does that count as stuff? I’m not sure.
I think the point is Rand, a character who disappears before too long, seems to be more fully developed than another character making her first appearance in this episode, and that would be McCoy’s nurse, Christine Chapel, played by the now-blonde Majel Barrett. There was a debate of sorts on Facebook among the Gabbing Geek crew and some of their Texas-based friends whether or not Chapel counted as a main character on the series. Personally, I’m inclined to say she doesn’t since she doesn’t really appear in the movies aside from the first one, and Barrett might have gotten more lines as the voice of the Enterprise‘s computer. But when she appeared here, I asked myself one thing and it probably explains why I’d be so quick to dismiss Chapel as an important character on the show: is her sole character trait to be have an unrequited love for Spock?
Between Chapel and Uhura, the ladies on this ship sure do have a thing for that Vulcan.
So, is that what I got out of this episode this time? That I had a better recollection of the Next Generation sequel episode, that Takei’s swordplay was remembered for very different reasons, and Chapel just loves Spock and hands stuff to McCoy? Well, there was one other thing.
Yeah, the Enterprise accidentally invented time travel here. That will come in handy in the future. For now, though, let’s all be careful around all diseases that stimulate drunkenness while being transmitted through sweat.