The Great Star Trek TAS Rewatch: Once Upon a Planet

A giant cat menaces the landing party

The Enterprise returns to the “shore leave planet” for some much needed rest and recreation. Unfortunately, this once welcoming world has turned deadly. Can Kirk and crew get to the bottom of why things have changed?

A follow-up to TOS’s Shore Leave, Once Upon a Planet is neither particularly entertaining or particularly awful – it’s just entirely dull. These episodes are only 22 minutes each, but even so, around the 14 minute mark I found myself struggling to continue. Nonetheless, I bravely made it through so I could bring you this review.

Since the events of Shore Leave, the caretaker who kept the whole planet has died, leaving everything in the virtual hands of the computer that scans people’s thoughts and turns them into reality. Said computer is getting a little fed up with its task, and decides to take over the Enterprise so it can see the galaxy. Fortunately, all it takes is a couple of sentences from Kirk and Uhura to convince the computer that it should continue doing its current job, and all is well once again.

In a less family-oriented show, the computer’s frustration could have been explored in a more satisfying fashion. Think about it – that computer has seen into the thoughts of a wide variety of visitors, many of whom will have some pretty dark and twisted fetishes and fantasies. Having seen all that, that computer is going to be pretty messed up – it’s either going to be utterly disgusted and horrified by organic life, or it’s going to be like that Twitter bot that became a massive racist troll after training on human input data. Either way, the results sound like exactly the kind of mess that a Starfleet crew should have to clean up.

This episode does at least give Uhura the rare chance to be part of a landing party, albeit seemingly only so that she can do the female character thing of getting kidnapped. She does at least hold her own against the computer, while her absence from the bridge gives us a chance to see Lieutenant M’Ress again. It’s just a shame that M’Ress’s only character trait thus far is delivering all of her lines with a catlike purr.

It’s also a little troubling that the conclusion of this episode is “it’s not slavery if you choose to serve”. Choices are rarely made in a vacuum – you might have chosen to take a job cleaning toilets, for example, but more because you wanted the money you need to live than because you consider it your vocation.

Other notes

  • If the computer really can’t kill anyone, then how is it planning to kill Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Sulu? Also, given the dangers they’ve faced on the planet, they seem remarkably confident that the computer will repair them if someone gets injured.

Summary – Once Upon a Planet: Just not that interesting.

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