Shore Leave (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

"You ladies like to learn why they call me 'Bones'?"

“You ladies like to learn why they call me ‘Bones’?”

Episode: Shore Leave – Season 1, Episode 15 (1966)

Director: Robert Sparr

Writer: Theodore Sturgeon[1]

The Enterprise happens by a class M planet in the Omicron Delta system, and Captain Kirk authorizes some shore leave. I guess it must happen – everyone’s tired after a long mission and here’s a planet with a breathable atmosphere. It’s the horror movie where Dad pulls up to a dodgy hotel in the middle of nowhere and says “This place looks cozy, let’s stop here.” What could possibly go wrong?

This episode displays a surprising amount of craft. Weird stuff starts to happen as soon as the landing party beams down, and events transpire in such a way to keep the crew separated and out of contact with each other. When McCoy first spots the giant Alice-in-Wonderland bunny, there’s no one around to verify that he didn’t imagine it. Is it the space heebie-jeebies? Even the audience isn’t sure. Kirk encounters people from his past; Sulu gets chased by (wait for it) a Samurai; Yeoman Barrows (Emily Banks) discovers a Renaissance Festival dress in her size. The crew seems particularly disabled by the tangible manifestation of their own thoughts, and it takes awhile for anyone (read: Spock) to catch on. By then it’s too late: McCoy is skewered with a lance by a knight on horseback.

To make matters worse, something on the planet is drawing energy away from the Enterprise so no one can escape by transporter. Nullifying the deus ex machina of easy teleportation is important to many episodes, but in “Shore Leave” it’s critical to maintaining the tension of a dream from which the crew can’t awake.

Still, so many moments in the episode beg the question: “Isn’t anyone in charge?” Kirk’s first order planet-side is the classic “Spread out!” Too bad they didn’t bring more redshirts to waste. Sulu, acting particularly baked even for him, finds an antique pistol and starts target shooting. Call me crazy, but were I out hiking around an unexplored, uninhabited planet and stumbled over a) refined metal in the shape of a b) weapon from historical c) Earth, I wouldn’t have to borrow Admiral Ackbar from a different franchise to tell me it was a trap. Instead, Kirk’s response is to fistfight yet another (!) Irish stereotype.

At least we get to see McCoy unmasked as a drooling old lech. When not pimping Yeoman Barrows, the good doctor struts around with a pair of Rigelian cabaret girls on his arm.[2]  He’s not even the only hussy in town. You may remember Lieutenant Angela Martine as the tearful, widowed bride at the end of “Balance of Terror.”  Apparently back on the market after exactly one episode(!), she’s already throwing herself at Lieutenant Esteban Rodriguez (Perry Lopez). And of course once again Kirk allows his command efficiency to be seriously impaired by his penis, via the unexplained appearance of Ruth (Shirley Bonne).

Finally, the inevitable reveal: the planet is an amusement park for a more developed race of aliens, where every conceivable wish (for good or ill) can be granted.  Channeling his spiritual father, Kirk shouts We’re all gonna get laid! and invites the rest of the crew down to party.


[1] I know, can you believe it? Do yourself a favor and pick up More Than Human (1953) when you have a moment.  Everybody blesh now!

[2] Thanks to the sages at Wikipedia for this clarification.

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1 Comment

Filed under Childhood Memories, Star Trek Original Series

One response to “Shore Leave (Star Trek: The Original Series) Review

  1. My favorite episode was ‘The Trouble with Tribles’. They made a reappearance in another episode, too.
    Years later, at a bar, I saw a guy whack a little slice of hair and scalp off his brother using a broken beer bottle. I looked at the wad of hair on the floor and yelled, ‘It looks like a Trible.’ This happened in the lat 70s, so most people knew what I was talking about.

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