Star Trek – Shore Leave
|Episode Title||“Shore Leave”|
|Air Date||December 29, 1966|
|Written By||Theodore Sturgeon|
Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are tired and weary — if you want to know why check out the last few recaps! — and in desperate need of a vacation. Even Spock says so. To this end, Doctor McCoy and Lt. Sulu are surveying a planet which looks like it’s perfectly suitable for shore leave. However, the landing party begins to see manifestations of their imagination, starting with Bones seeing the white rabbit after thinking about Alice in Wonderland. Despite this oddity, which could be attributed to stress, the Captain sends his crew to the planet anyway. Of course, terrible things go down: Kirk’s former (super stereotypically Irish) bully comes back to haunt him, Kirk also meets up with a former flame, Sulu is attacked by a samurai (you know, because he’s Japanese…), and McCoy is skewered by a Knight.
Don’t worry, it’s all OK in the end: the planet manufactures mechanical creatures for the enjoyment of those on its surface. And McCoy returns, unharmed, with two showgirls on each arm.
Let’s Dig Deeper into Shore Leave
Spock tricks Kirk into going on shore leave because of his growing irritability and slowed reaction time. He reassures Kirk that the planet is idyllic, “very much like your Earth. Scouts have detected no animals, artifacts, or force fields of any kind. Only peace, sunshine, and good air. You’ll have no problems.” We all know that there will, indeed, be problems. It’s like saying, “I’ll be back,” or “Don’t worry about a thing.” Something’s bound to go wrong.
There’s really not much deeper to this episode, which I’m sad to say. We can dig into some profound message about being careful what you wish for or controlling our thoughts, but either of those would be stretches. The planet manifests the thoughts of the people walking around on its surface. This would make it ideal as a pleasure planet, but instead, it brings out the worst in people – because people tend toward their demons at times.
I do love the strange critique of gender roles when Yeomen Barrows (Emily Banks – the excellent first in a slew of post-Janice Rand Yeomen) daydreams about Don Juan. The planet creates Don Juan for her, but he’s a horrid lothario who basically tries to rape her. The old stereotype of forcible alpha-male lovers are really just creeps when they’re brought into reality. There’s your very 60s sexism, some of which is turned on its head if you think about it, but then that criticism all goes away when Yeomen Barrows finds a pretty dress that her superior officer prods her into wearing, despite her fear.
Random Thoughts on Star Trek
We’ll see more from Theodore Sturgeon in the season two episode “Amok Time,” in which he is largely responsible for creating Spock’s backstory.
This is our second time that we see Sulu focusing on the arboreal side of space exploration. When he and McCoy are first surveying the planet, he wants to take samples of the plant life to figure out the biological makeup of the planet. I always forget this about Sulu — but then again, so does the show!
Crewman Martine (Barbara Baldavin), the erstwhile fiancee of the ill-fated Tomlinson from “Balance of Terror,” is back. Unfortunately, Kirk has forgotten her name, calling her Teller. Too soon, Captain.
I’d have liked to see more from Yeoman Barrows. She’s got so much more personality than Rand (Grace Lee Whitney). Though I’m sure that Starfleet HR saw a potential problem there and transferred her. In fact, based on Spock’s reaction when she starts massaging Kirk’s lower back, I’m fairly sure that Spock keeps a close eye on Kirk’s Yeomen, transferring them regularly to keep his Captain’s reputation untarnished.
Speaking of which: Kirk’s shirt is torn, again.
“On my planet, to rest is to rest. To cease using energy. To me, it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass using energy instead of saving it.”
– Spock, logically declining a vacation.
“My dear girl, I am a doctor. When I peek, it’s in the line of duty.”
– Yeomen Barrows to Dr. McCoy, as she changes into a strange dress she found
This is just a fun episode. There’s nothing incredibly deep or profound being said here. Sometimes Star Trek is about having fun with the limitless range of scenarios that science fiction can bring.
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Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.