Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 15 – Shore Leave

Shore Leave is sort of a fantasy episode wrapped in a sci-fi costume.  It was written by Theodore Sturgeon who was a very good, very unconventional science fiction author of the time.  But from my point of view this story is just an excuse to allow the cast to run around and emote.  Accordingly, it will have a lower episode score but a higher Shatner mockery score.

The Enterprise is exploring a new planet that needs cataloging.  The crew including Captain Kirk are extremely weary from recent emergencies that they have encountered during their extended mission.  Kirk is considering using this seemingly idyllic planet as a location for shore leave for the crew.  During the exploration the landing party encounters some inexplicably strange things.  McCoy meets the White Rabbit and Alice from Wonderland.  When Captain Kirk beams down with his new yeoman, a fetching young woman named Tonia Barrows who is a worthy successor to Yeoman Janice Rand, they also begin to run into impossible things.  Yeoman Barrows is manhandled by a swashbuckling man who resembles her idea of the womanizer Don Juan.  Kirk meets his nemesis from Starfleet Academy, an upperclassman named Finnegan, who back then, tormented him with practical jokes.  Sulu finds a pistol that he has always wanted to try and meets a samurai who chases him with a sword.  Other landing party members are chased by a tiger and strafed by a WW II fighter plane.  And finally, after Yeoman Barrows puts on a medieval princess’s ball gown Doctor McCoy is run through with the lance of a knight on a black charger.

Mr. Spock beams down to inform the landing party that a mysterious force is draining the Enterprise of energy.  He surmises that the strange encounters are some kind of manufactured creations meant to give life to the thoughts that the various crewmen are thinking at the time.  Finally, Kirk chases down Finnegan and they have an epic fist fight after which Spock notes that Kirk very much enjoyed giving Finnegan the comeuppance he earned long ago.  Spock theorizes that the phenomena are meant to be amusements for the participants.  But Kirk reminds him that McCoy is dead.

At this point a man in a long funny robe shows up and tells them he is the caretaker of this world and that his people use it as an amusement park on which to relax.  When Kirk complains that McCoy is dead, of course, McCoy walks back into the scene accompanied by two chorus girls wearing some feathers here and there and each holding onto one of his arms.  Yeoman Barrows who has shown some proprietary interest in McCoy demands an explanation for the girls and McCoy confirms that he happened to be thinking of a cabaret and the dancers just showed up.  The caretaker confirms that no permanent damage will happen on this pleasure world and offers to Kirk the opportunity for his crew to take a greatly needed shore leave and he agrees.

I am of two minds about the intrinsic merits of this episode.  It is somewhat amusing in a broad and casual way.  But I think it goes overboard.  The plot is clearly absurd.  And it’s a departure from the story arc of the series.  The thin plot is fleshed out with the landing party running back and forth reacting to all the strange people and things they encounter.  I’d give it a score of 6 for the episode rank.

But for Shatner mockery it gets points for the fist fight with Finnegan.  Shatner gives of his best.  He rolls around in the dirt and flips and tumbles all over the place.  He even manages to rip away half of his shirt.  And while he doesn’t give us any of his most spastic facial expressions, he does give us a fair number of overwrought expressions and exclamations.  Let’s give it a 7 on the Shatner scale.

So, there we are,  6 // 7.  That’s makes it a fairly balance experience for the Star Trek connoisseur.

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