Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Original Series, Season 1: Shore Leave

The Original Series, Season One
"Shore Leave"
Airdate: December 29, 1966
18 of 80 produced
15 of 80 aired
Click here to watch on


The Enterprise finds a planet that seems ideal for a much needed shore leave for the tired crew. But as strange things start happening, the crew must ask: is it everything it's cracked up to be?
Short answer: No. Long Answer: Noooooooooooo.......


Matthew: The weaker of sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon's two episodes (the other is the far superior Amok Time), Shore Leave has a decent sci-fi premise - a pleasure planet that is a sort of precursor to the holodeck, but working instead with something like nano-machines and androids. But good premise or no, there are some story structure problems. This place really has no "warning sign?" Would there really have been no introduction to weary travelers? Why would the planet disable systems on the Enterprise? Do people really experience all the pain of, say, being gunned down by a Japanese Zero, or run through with a lance, and then recall all of it? Do the nanomachines also erase the attendant PTSD? Why explain the builders in a throwaway line about how we wouldn't understand them? Too many questions and holes, precious few answers.

Kevin: This whole episode felt contrived. I can't help but imagine the writers coming up with a few scenes they really wanted to see and then reverse engineering an episode. The problem is they forgot to reverse engineer an episode. This was almost like a musical revue, with a bunch of individual scenes strung together by some flimsy framing sequence. It works in cabaret. Not in Trek.

Matthew: On the characterization end, we get some nice character expansion for Kirk with his Academy antagonist Finnegan, and his former flame Ruth, but no one else gets anything really juicy. Really? Sulu imagines Samurai, and whatshisname thinks of tigers? Princesses and jousting knights? There was such wasted potential to explore the fantasy lives of supporting cast here.

Kevin: I did like the idea that Kirk was a nerd at school. It's a nice wrinkle, and it's eventually a good counterpoint to Picard, who was quite the hellraiser in his academy days before having some sense stabbed into him.

Matthew: We also get a scene which no doubt launched 1,000 slash fiction tales, with Kirk thinking Spock is giving him a back rub, and instructing him to "dig it in there."

Kevin: Homoeroticism aside (Did I really just say that?), that scene made me crack up. Nimoy and Shatner clearly have solid comedy chops and they don't use them nearly often enough. Even the yeoman did a good job of looking amused and contrite at the same time. It was a highlight of the episode for more than its slashiness.

Matthew: Apparently Dr. McCoy got some serious tail with Yeoman Barrows on the two days they spent after the events of this episode. He's got a serious "yeah, I boned her" swagger when they return to the bridge.

Kevin: One problem I always have with the "I can read and manifest your thoughts" episodes is that they never show what actual people would actually be thinking. It's too organized and polished to be an actual, visceral desire. I understand that it's prime time television, so they can't show certain things, but it just ends up discrediting the premise.


Matthew: We are treated to yet another smoking hot female, Yeoman Tonia Barrows. This time it's her costume that gets ripped, and I'm not complaining at all. Good lord, what a job the casting director must have had on this show. If that couch could talk...

Kevin: I'm going to say the saving grace of this episode overall is McCoy and Barrows interactions. His Southern gentleman charm is turned to just the right temperature and they seemed to genuinely like each other.  There's at least one guest character for every main character whose relationship I would have liked to have seen develop, and for McCoy, it's Barrows.

Matthew: We are treated to a bad Irish accent on Finnegan. Was Lucky Charms invented at this point in TV history? Because I think he was after Kirk's Lucky Charms. Ruth was very wooden - it's difficult to see why Kirk would have had such a thing for her. We can only assume she was a super-freak in the space sack.

Production Values

Matthew: The TV aerial antenna that read the crews thoughts was really bad. The Rabbit costume was silly. McCoy's Cabaret girls are ridiculous. I did like the academy costume. The park they're in for the wooded scenes is nice, and looks great in high definition. We are treated to one of many visits to Bronson Canyon. Get used to it - a lot of alien planets throughout the history of the Trek franchise are going to look like this for some reason.

Kevin: Every cabaret/Risian/dabo girl EVER looks ridiculous on this show. They always look like they're wearing a Bob Mackie gown after an unfortunate transporter accident. It's indicative of Star Trek's long and troubled history with overt displays of sexuality, especially in women. They can never do blatant without doing over the top and tacky. And if they're not portraying it as over the top, they are portraying it as non-existent.

I'm actually gonna disagree about the academy uniform. Imagine a hundred of those lined up. Now image a disco song not playing while they dance in unison. You can't do it, can you? I love me some sparkle, but eesh.


Matthew: Although this episode grows on me with each viewing, I can't bring myself to give it more than a 2. Its premise is woefully underdeveloped and the opportunity for character development it affords is squandered.

Kevin: For me, this is The Naked Time done badly. That episode also had a blatantly silly premise, but it was mined for some great moments overall. I am fine with some episodes not being science fiction heavy, instead serving to flesh out characters or to try a novel story or production style. This episode does neither. It gets a 2 from me as well, for a total of 4.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched this with my son Teddy. It's grown on me enough to think it's a 3. There is something wonderful about a simple story that is effectively told, such that a 4 year-old can grasp it and be moved by the dramatic beats.
    Teddy asked me later at dinner: "how did the caretaker make Finnegan and Ruth?" He was very interested in their relationships to Kirk, which confirms my suspicion that they could have gone further in exploring each character more deeply in terms of fantasies and regrets.

    I still think it's a weak-ish 3. If they had gotten into more detail as to how the planet worked (probably impossible in 1968 to foretell 3-D printing and nanotech) it would definitely be a 3.