The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Shore Leave

A lot has happened to the Enterprise crew over the last few months, and by now the crew is in urgent need of shore leave. Fortunately, the Enterprise has happened upon the perfect planet – peaceful, Earthlike, and…wait a minute. Is that a white rabbit hopping past Doctor McCoy? Followed by Alice? Whatever is going on here?

After the tense life-and-death stories of the last few episodes, it’s time for a lighter hearted interlude as the Enterprise crew attempt some R&R. Of course, since 45 minutes of Kirk relaxing on the beach wouldn’t be terribly interesting to watch, there’s more to their shore leave planet than meets the eye – specifically, on this world, passing thoughts and desires swiftly become reality. It’s actually the invention of an advanced alien race who use it as an amusement park of sorts, but since the Enterprise crew are unaware of this, they manage to think themselves into all kinds of awkward situations – everything from old Academy bullies to tigers and samurai.

Character development

  • Kirk: Just as Gary Mitchell said back in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, Kirk was a bookish, serious type at Starfleet Academy – so much so that he got picked on by an upperclassman named Finnegan. Nonetheless, eighteen year old Kirk was still a dab hand with the ladies, as it appears he had a relationship with a mysterious woman named Ruth.
  • Spock: Spock claims that, for Vulcans, rest means just that – not running around or having fun. Yet we know that Spock himself is accomplished at music and 3D chess, and of course in DS9 we even see Vulcans playing baseball. One assumes that they simply do not equate these activities with rest – they are disciplines to be mastered.
  • McCoy: In this episode, McCoy is the one to get the Yeoman, as he spends some (chaste) quality time with Yeoman Barrows. This relationship is very much a product of its time – Barrows dreams of being a princess to be protected and fought over, whilst McCoy implies that he would be one of the men she would have to fight off (a bit rapey there, McCoy). It’s a little bit awkward to watch in this day and age, unless one assumes that McCoy and Barrows had already established a flirtatious relationship aboard the Enterprise, and felt comfortable teasing each other in this way.
  • Sulu: Sulu’s enthusiasm for scanning the planet’s plant life indicates that he is still a keen botanist, whilst we also discover that he has a collection of antique firearms.

One thing I forgot to talk about last time was that, as of last episode, we have seen the last of Janice Rand in TOS (she’ll be back in the movies). It’s a shame that Rand did not become a more prominent character in the show, not as a princess to be saved, but as the feisty young woman she often showed hints of becoming. I must gather up all the non-canon Rand fiction that I can find.

The technology of the future

The amusement park planet is very advanced – it can scan someone’s thoughts and desires and then manufacture plants, animals, objects and even people in order to deliver on that thought. McCoy speaks of a factory below the planet which was even able to bring him back from the dead! All of this sounds like amazing technology, and one assumes that the caretaker alien in charge of it has ways of preventing less evolved life forms from stealing it.

Once the Enterprise crew realised what was going on, they should have started imagining things to help them out of the more dangerous situations – perhaps a cage for the tiger, or a giant anvil to drop down on the samurai. I admit that this might be hard to pull off in stressful conditions, but the planet’s technology did seem very sensitive to stray thoughts. One might have expected the creators of this planet to put some kind of safeguards in place, but perhaps they are disciplined enough in their thoughts not to need such a thing, or relish the thrill that only real danger can provide (albeit real danger without perma-death).

Summary – Shore Leave: Is it cheating if you sleep with a simulacrum on the amusement park planet?

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