Friday, August 14, 2015

ST:TNG - The Naked Now

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

The Naked Now

This is the episode where a tarted-up Tasha Yar infamously demands to know whether Data is "fully functional." Oh hell yeah, you betcher sweet ass ten-year-old me memorized that scene right down to the bellybutton. However, it strikes me at the moment not that we start with a disembodied female voice basically trying to have phone sex with Picard, nor that it proceeds to discovering a frosted bacchanal aboard the other ship and then to the Enterprise's crew (mostly its female half) draping themselves over each other while breathing heavily.

The kicker's that this was the second or third episode in the series. First real one after the two-part pilot. This was their opener. It's as if before they were even through saying "new life and new civiliza- okay, drunken orgy everyone, gather round!" I mean fine, we get it, you just launched and you're desperate for ratings so you don't become one of those good shows which almost were. Not that such pandering always works. First-episode sex scene worked wonders for Battlestar Galactica; Inara's sponge bath couldn't save Firefly. Thing is, if you want to start the show with fan service, you create a designated sexpot/wolf character or three and have them go at it while others maintain decorum. You don't just condemn the whole crew of the Enterprise to act like Dumb and Dumber at Mardi Gras before the audience even knows who they are. For the first ten or so episodes you're still supposed to be establishing your characters with their quirks and catchphrases, not providing counterpoints. This was a huge gamble. Yeah, the audience might tune in for it but you're increasing the odds they'll tune out next episode when you revert the crew back to exploration mode.

Then they had to go and spoil it further by giving Wesley "Mary Sue" Crusher the limelight, but hell, at least we got to see Data playing reverse-Jenga with electronics. Props to Stewart and McFadden on some satisfyingly theatrical banter. Also, explosion.

One more thing. While I can certainly see how it would insult female viewers that the male characters remained rather more stoic in the face of inebriation while the female ones turned into giggling airheads, helpless damsels or nymphomaniacs, I doubt anyone ever remarks on the final scene. That's where Tasha Yar, after having made potentially inappropriate advances toward the ship's resident sentient abacus, decides to make things right by... apologizing to Data?
Hahaha. Hell no. He is nominally male after all. No matter that she was the aggressor, social protocol dictates that she act indignant and tell him off. So she marches right up to her fellow officer and snipes: "Data. I'm only going to tell you this just once: it never happened!"
Keep in mind she's wearing two little round copper dealies on her collar while he's sporting two and a half. She's a Lt., he's a Lt. Cmd. with a CMD prompt. Data outranks her. She just marched up to a superior officer in full view of the whole bridge and called him out, transferring responsibility for her actions entirely to him who had played the chaste and honorable knight to her advances. Nothing, not Starfleet ranks, fairness or logic itself can outrank the supreme female sexual prerogative.

To whatever extent Hollywood has treated women as hollow sex objects, it has nonetheless maintained men and mechano-men to be of an even lower order of being.

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