It's funny, I used to think "The Naked Time," an early episode in the first season of TOS, had a dumb title, but "Naked Now" wins out. You can give the writers credit for immediately reinforcing the new series' connections with the old, creating a stronger sense of continuity between the two and, in theory, letting some of the excellence of "Time" rub off, but in practice, the characters are still too rough, and the plotting far, far too loose for the comparison to do TNG any favors. This is a mess, and what's almost fascinating enough to be entertaining is how thorough a mess it is. We're not just talking about bad jokes, or weak plotting, or clumsy performances, or misjudged tone. We're talk about all of those problems, combining to create an ungainly, clunking forty-five minutes of television. After watching this, I'm amazed the show lasted seven seasons. Hell, I'm amazed it lasted a month.
The Enterprise is investigating problems on a research vessel near a collapsing star--and it's funny how we're already resorting to the same tropes of the original. The "troubled science team" is such a Trek standard at this point that you wonder if script-writers aren't handed out a series of Mad-Libs at the start of the planning process: here's "TST," here's "God-like being," here's "planet which has evolved into an exact duplicate of some location and time in Earth's But familiarity isn't the issue here. Riker and an away team beam over to the science vessel to find the crew dead, and the whole ship in chaos and disrepair. Dr. Crusher insists on full quarantine procedure when the teams back, including a transporter scrub, but while her precaution is well-advised, it doesn't do any good. Soon Geordi is babbling about how much he wants to see beyond the limits of his visor, and it's not long before he manages to spread his sickness, a sickness that the Sick Bay computers don't recognize at all, to the rest of the crew.
The progression here is roughly equivalent to the TOS episode, and that's an issue, not so much for going over the same ground as for how much illogic and laziness is required to make retracing the steps possible. Crusher pays lip service to procedure, but security in Sick Bay is hilariously lax; despite Geordi's clearly disturbed mind, and despite the fact that the science expedition team died because their minds were disturbed, Geordi is able to wander out of the Bay as soon as the doctor's back is turned. Then there's the fact that the original Enterprise recorded their encounter with this particular "disease," but it's Riker who ends up making the connection between the two and not the computer system, despite the clear and obvious relationship. I don't expect the computers to do all the thinking, but surely a search for "rapidly spreading lowered inhibitions, dead crew" would've yielded some results. And then, even once the connection is made and Beverly prepares McCoy's cure, it's another twenty minutes episode-time before she tries it out on anyone, allowing the sickness to take over most of the ship. Once she does test the cure it doesn't work, so she has to prepare a new iteration, which is a valid, if uninspired, way to drag out the threat. But why did it take so long to make that first test? Maybe she was hoping Wesley would get sick and beam himself into the star.
Oh no, wait, that was me. I want to stress, my complaints about the Crusher brat are not directed at Wil Wheaton; true, he doesn't give the best performance, but he was young, and as written, the role is already indefensible. So, so indefensible. I was lucky enough to start watching TNG regularly only in the third season, so I think I missed most of his worst moments. But he's terrifying to me now, with his needy, grinning desperation to be noticed. In "Now," he builds a magical levitating device that he uses to lift chairs, then take over engineering, then save the ship, and even though the results are positive, I still don't trust him. I mean, sweet Jeebus, he has a machine that he uses to simulate Picard giving him orders. I can only imagine what those orders turn into, late at night, after Mom goes to bed.
Sorry! Twisted state of mind, but that's what this episode did to me. Even overlooking Wesley's twerpitude, there's still a whole cast of actors willing and able to embarrass themselves for Tasha Yar's assault on my senses continues, as first she gets sick, then she gets horny, and then she has sex with Data, a colossally misjudged scene that threatens to derail the android's presence on the show before he can really establish himself. Even on his own, Data isn't much fun. Whenever Spiner shows emotion "in character," it comes off as oddly smug, and unlike Spock, Data needs to be humble to be likable. Smarmy Data just makes you yearn for an off switch.
Not everybody does poorly. While Picard and Beverly's flirtation is pretty damn ridiculous, both actors are strong enough that it isn't that horrible to watch. Picard hasn't come entirely into focus yet, but Stewart is so good that this haziness seems intentional and intriguing, and McFadden proves herself again to be thoroughly reliable. And you know who surprised the hell out of me? Riker. I'm understanding his "Kirkness" more and more, as he's the only person on the Enterprise who manages to resist the disease out his sense of duty. In an episode as misbegotten as "Now" is, you have to cling to whatever sanity presents itself.