Sunday, January 20, 2008

TOS Rewind #14: Shore Leave

The episode:  Shore Leave (12/29/1966).  The drink:  White Russian (I'm holding a beverage here!).

A friend of mine once came up with a term for this kind of episode:  Jiffy Trek.  The "jiffy" episode is usually pretty lightweight and doesn't advance the story arc of the show.  This sums up this one pretty well.  There is some light character development and lots of jokes.  Even though this episode isn't one of my favorites, I still enjoy seeing it.  Growing up, much of it was a bore for me, save for the extended fistfight sequences between Kirk and his old nemesis Finnegan.  Kirk and an Irish guy rolling around in the dirt classic! 

The characters get a little bit of fleshing out:  you meet two people from Kirk's past (what's with the costume the actress playing Ruth is wearing?!?!) and some fun bits of Sulu playing with guns.  The woman, Angela, is the same person as Angela Martine from "Balance of Terror."  If you recall, she lost her fiance' in the episode.  Funny how she's already rebounded to a new crewman.  To be fair, this episode wasn't produced  in this order and I don't think the script was written with this intent.  I have to admit that I still get a kick out of the Kirk/Finnegan scenes; they're really fun.  The other amusing scenes involve McCoy and Kirk.  They have some funny lines and I love it when McCoy reappears with the showgirls on his arms.  When one of them goes to Spock, Nimoy barely suppresses a smile.  Tee hee. 

One of the things that bugs me about this one is the subplot about the planet draining the ship's energy.  I know they had to do something to keep a bit of tension going, but this just seems like a weak contrivance.  The music in this one is a mixed bag, literally.  Some of the cues work well, but other parts of the show feel like the cues were just thrown together.  Seeing how good the music works in the best Trek episodes, this is a small disappointment.

So, this one is just OK.  I appreciate it more watching the run in broadcast order since this one comes after a string of fairly serious episodes.  The pacing works and perhaps this is one example where the network put a small amount of thought into which ones to air when.

And now on to Eric:


This will be another short review. Not because “Shore Leave" is a bad episode, it’s just not a fave. When one of the first things we see is a giant, obviously fake, white rabbit and a little blonde girl (Alice from “Through the Looking Glass") it’s a little hard to regard the episode as something other than camp. This is unfortunate, however, because the premise is actually quite interesting—a planet created by an advanced race for the sole purpose of providing a simple, carefree source of entertainment and relaxation. Cool. But dangerous (or at least unsettling) if you don’t know what’s going on.

Such an imaginative idea really is no surprise given that the episode was written by SF vet Theodore Sturgeon (who also wrote the second season episode “Amok Time"). My understanding, however, is that Roddenberry wrote (or rewrote) the screenplay. In fact, supposedly, he was sitting in a trailer on-site pounding out the last acts of the script as the first acts were being shot. But I digress.

Besides having an interesting premise, this episode also provides a great opportunity for very economical character development: Sulu collects antique guns, McCoy has a streak of gentlemanly lechery, and Kirk, when he was a plebe (or first year cadet) at Starfleet Academy, was tormented by an upperclassman named Finnegan. This is nicely consistent with what’s revealed in “Where No Man Has Gone Before" (i.e. that Kirk was an extremely serious student). We also
meet one of Kirk’s long-lost conquests: Ruth. Following the academy years theme, I had to wonder if she was the blonde lab assistant Gary Mitchell mentions in “Where No Man Has Gone Before".  In any case, there were several nice character moments. For example, I really like the way Spock maneuvers Kirk into going down to the planet for shore leave.

Here’s a wild idea--maybe this episode was a way to talk about tripping on LSD without having the crew drop acid. It was the 60s after all.

No? Okay. It was worth a try.

So, there’s nothing wrong with this episode, it’s just a little too campy (or perhaps silly) to be a favorite. Maybe it would be if the production hadn’t been rushed or had been approached differently. Oh well, at least it wasn’t “Spock’s Brain".

Next time:  “The Galileo Seven"