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.

In Praise of Brevity

Warning:  What follows is profound.  Extinguish all smiles and assume an air of philosophical introspection.  It will probably help to slightly furrow your brow.

Polonius said that “brevity is the soul of wit.”  And since Polonius was a windbag I feel that I am in good company praising it.  Maybe it’s because of Amazon and the payouts on Kindle reads.  But for whatever the reason we live in the age of the mega-novel.  More than that, we live in the age of the endless book series.  Sometimes that’s a not a terrible thing.  I’ve been enjoying the Galaxy’s Edge series.  They’re a lot of fun.  But hand in hand with this emphasis on long novels, short stories have sort of disappeared.  I freely admit that statement is an exaggeration.  I’m currently reading a collection of short stories taking place in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter universe.  There are short stories to be found.  But I can only imagine the meager income an author would earn if he limited his efforts to short stories.  I mean, what does Amazon pay an author if someone reads a ten-page short story?  Five cents?  You could see how that would limit grocery purchases.  So, I do not fault the authors who need to eat for gearing their output to the five hundred-page novel.  And the same goes for the series.  Characters that have proven popular are the obvious candidate for more success for an author.

But I want to throw my weight behind short stories.  A good short story is like a good poem.  It is concentrated creativity.  Without a doubt, Dickens or Tolstoy can create an epic creation of many hundreds of pages with a huge cast of characters that are lovingly depicted in amazing detail.  Reading this work is a feast of literary pleasures.  Without a doubt.  But if a master craftsman writes a short story barely two dozen pages long it can be a revelation.  Like some kind of minimalist sketch, he can use a few brush strokes to bring life to a story or a character.  And the effect can actually be more vivid than the grand epic.  Carefully done, the few words can resonate with the soul where the hundreds of thousands merely numb.

I love short stories.  Let me clarify.  I love really well written short stories.  Edgar Allen Poe, James Joyce, Jack London, Kipling.  And in science fiction, Sturgeon, Ellison, Dick, Aldiss.  These authors have produced short stories that stand out as original and memorable.  They leave an impression on the mind that can be indelible.  And of course, not every short story they did is in that category.  But that’s okay.  It’s the exception that proves the rule.  After all it was Sturgeon’s Law that says that “90% of everything is crud.”

 

I’ll list a few of my favorite short stories.  If you feel like playing leave a few of yours in the comments.

To Build a Fire by Jack London

Counterparts by James Joyce

The Dead by James Joyce

And Now the News by Theodore Sturgeon