With things slowly falling into place, one of the earliest problems that Star Trek faced was where the stories would come from. Gene Roddenberry had concepts that fell to other writers to work on for the script, and then Roddenberry would polish the scripts up as best as possible whenever he could. Since he was already burdened with overseeing every other detail that went into the show, his hands were full.
One of the next stories to come out was Charlie X, at one point called Charlie’s Law. It was one of the ideas Roddenberry had pitched to the network, a slight reworking of Where No Man Has Gone Before. It’s also been argued that most of the ideas in it were cribbed from a story by Robert Heinlein, and it wouldn’t be the last time comparisons would be made. It fell to Roddenberry’s secretary, Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana, to write the script and she went on to cement her legacy as one of Star Trek’s most iconic figures.
The episode The Naked Time was a big turning point for the writing too. Line producer John D.F. Black wrote an episode that went on to become a favourite with both fans and the actors. George Takei still says it’s his favourite, despite getting a captain’s chair on the Excelsior. But it probably wouldn’t have quite hit all the right notes if not for Leonard Nimoy’s insistence that Spock’s emotional scene be rewritten, pointing out that it needed more resonance, and that it should be about emotion versus mathematics. The rewrite of that scene became one of the most famous in Star Trek history.
Charlie X – Summary: Charlie Evans, the sole survivor of a crashed transport ship from years earlier, boards the Enterprise. He’s to be taken to his closest living relatives, and while the crew of the cargo vessel Antares sing his praises to Kirk, they also seem in quite a hurry to drop him off. While Charlie is a virtual innocent, he maintains that he just wants people to like him and becomes arrogant, using his incredible mental powers to show off.
He obsesses over Yeoman Rand, and begins using his powers to force himself on her. His destructive nature is shown when he causes the Antares to explode when they attempt to warn the Enterprise of the danger Charlie actually represents. He is power without wisdom, a child with god-like powers, and after losing his temper after losing at chess to Spock things get worse. When a crewman laughs at him during a sparring session in the gym, he makes the crewman “go away”. Kirk tries placing him under guard, but Charlie takes control of the Enterprise and the crew.
When all hope seems lost, a Thasian ship approaches the Enterprise and the commander appears on the bridge. He explains that they are the ones responsible for granting Charlie his powers as a way of surviving on the world he was marooned on years ago. They fix Charlie’s mistakes on the Enterprise, and take Charlie with them since he clearly can’t function around human beings anymore. Charlie pleads like a child with Kirk, explaining that the Thasians have no substance and that he can’t even touch them. However, as Charlie disappears to rejoin the Thasians, Kirk comments that it’s for the best.
The Naked Time – Summary: The Enterprise is in orbit around Psi 2000, a planet that is soon to break apart. A landing party investigates the research station on the surface to see what happened to the 6 scientists posted there. The scientists all appear to have died under mysterious circumstances, including one who took a shower while still clothed. Crewman Tormolen is infected by a strange substance and despite getting a clean bill of health once back on board, he soon begins to sweat and itch. He becomes paranoid; pulling a knife on Sulu and Lieutenant Riley but accidentally stabs himself. His injuries aren’t severe, yet strangely he dies.
Other crew members begin exhibiting the same symptoms of madness, most notably with Sulu acting like a swashbuckling swordsman and Riley locking himself in engineering and taking control of the Enterprise while singing “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”. The Enterprise’s orbit starts to decay and is on a collision course with the planet. Nurse Chapel confesses her love for Spock, while Spock himself tries to fight off a wave of emotions by reciting mathematics. It’s a battle he loses, as he laments his human half and never being able to tell his mother that he loves her. Even Kirk loses control.
Thankfully Bones figures out the nature of the infection, sets about restoring order. While the engine room is retaken, the engines have been shut down and the only way to save the Enterprise is to attempt a dangerous full-power restart. It’s a success, but the Enterprise is propelled back in time by three days. Spock explains that this scientific formula they have stumbled on could be used to travel back in time at any point. Kirk considers this, and points out that they may just use it one day…
While Charlie X is an interesting episode, it treads over some of the same ground as Where No Man Has Gone Before. Regardless, it’s a good episode let down by a slightly weak ending that almost feels like a cheat. On the plus side, it does show life on board the Enterprise in a way not seen too often, with a chance to see the crew members at rest as well.
The Naked Time was (and still is) one of the best episodes ever. It went on to spawn the sequel The Naked Now in The Next Generation, increased our knowledge of Spock’s background further and the effects are even being felt now, such as showing Sulu’s fencing abilities in the most recent film. The ability to travel in time would have an impact on various shows and even the movies. Of the two episodes mentioned here, the latter made a bigger impact and it shows. It’s both touching and fun, and showed just how good Star Trek could be even at this early stage.