Star Trek: Shore Leave   Rewatch 
November 1, 2014 1:24 PM - Season 1, Episode 16 - Subscribe

The USS Enterprise has been through a grueling three months, when they discover a lush planet in the Omicron Delta region that promises the kind of shore leave they desperately need. The crew encounter strange illusions and discover a caretaker who explains that the planet is a playground where the crew's imagination can become reality.

"Shore Leave" was first broadcast on December 29, 1966, and repeated on June 8, 1967. It is episode #15, production #17, and was written by science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon and directed by Robert Sparr. In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise visits a bizarre planet of dangerous illusions.

Memory Alpha Link

The episode can be viewed on Netflix and Hulu.

Additional history of the episode's production.
posted by Benway (8 comments total)
 
This episode was odd on a variety of levels, none the least was the relationship between McCoy and the Yeoman, that you never see again and seemed to spontaneously come out of nowhere on the planet, itself. At the same time, it was an interesting episode because since the planet pulled memories or thoughts from the individual crew members, we learned a little about all the crew who had landed (except for Spock, he has no imagination).

I liked how Sulu's interest in plant biology was carried over into his decision to take a leaf sample while walking with McCoy, who then saw Alice and the White Rabbit. Right off the foot, we are now given a clue that what will happen throughout the episode will be an unexpected series of surprise, make believe events. After McCoy mentions as much, Kirk and Yeoman come down to check things out for themselves. I have to add, it was a fun little joke at the beginning when Kirk complains of a back pain and thinks Spock is the one rubbing his back, and is startled when he realizes that the Yeoman was doing the job. Mirrored at the same time was Spock's expression toward Kirk concerning the idea that he would be bothered to do as much.

Kirk runs into two images from his past. One, an upperclassman from the Star Fleet Academy, an Irishman with a terrible Irish accent, and the other, a past love. One thing of note, Finnegan (I think that was his name?) wore a grey uniform, which I wonder is what informed the producers on the Star Trek reboot to give the Academy students grey uniforms. Kirk spends way too much time in the episode fighting Finnegan, and of course, his shirt is ripped. It was actually the second uniform torn this episode, but it made me wonder what these uniforms are made of that Shatner's rips nearly every episode (it didn't get ripped in the last episode).

The Yeoman ends up dressed like a princess after Don Juan attempts to rape her, because that's entirely in character for every depiction of Don Juan (it isn't). This part of the episode stood out as extremely out of place, as it indicates the Yeoman's fantasy was to essentially have a man show up, place a knife to her throat and grab her with enough ferocity to result in her uniform being torn as she escapes, and then be taken away by the famous lover to be...loved? In short, our Yeoman Barrows is a woman who wants to be forced/intimidated into a sexual situation. Not cool, but that's my interpretation, I'd love someone to offer another better one.

Sulu gets himself a Colt .45, because apparently, he collects antique guns. I loved how he explained how it worked to Kirk. Then later, his imagination summons a samurai warrior, because it relates to his fencing passion? (Or is it because he's Japanese?)

After Barrow dresses up like a princess with no little flirtation from McCoy, her imagination summons a knight on a horse who then promptly runs McCoy down with a lance. Later he returns, jovially telling Kirk and Spock how they deftly patched him back up, like his death was no small thing. Of course, when he returns, he does so with a cabaret dancer on each arm in what I thought to be pretty risque get up for a tv show in the mid 1960s. Their appearance and dress nods toward a continual tactic to offer up some "sexy" women for the viewers of the show, be it an android in an underground facility or the vision of an Orion slave dancer. Sex sells, folks! Barrow's jealous reaction, figuratively shoving the two women off from McCoy to two other crewmen, one being Sulu who offered up a weak grin.

I didn't see many messages in this episode other than a lose yourself in a fantasy type world. It's an inter galactic amusement park, as Spock noted, and the messages basically fall into what we are supposed to think of our characters by what they imagine or what the writers think is acceptable at the time. I don't think there's much to be said of a tiger or a vintage WW2 fighter plane, other than how much they stand out as not belonging to the time and place, and hence, how fitting they are for a world where your dreams come true.

Before the holodeck, we had this planet, and it did make me wonder what if someone's fantasies were a bit more dark and twisted. Is there any moratorium for immoral conduct? Can the planet deduce what the Star Trek society deems as wrong?
posted by Atreides at 1:59 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


(except for Spock, he has no imagination)

The planet not pulling from Spock's thoughts indicated to me that the fantasy elements were created from subconscious human emotion; Like Sulu's love of plants and ancient weapons, and apparently Samurai (which fits with his love of fencing and maybe his heritage). The Yeoman and Don Juan was not right by any means, but I give a pass on the 60's. Different time, fucked up values.

I liked the episode, but there was too much random. For example, the Samurai chasing Sulu to Kirk and then disappears, and the tiger that shows itself twice, then is gone. The Bones death and reappearance is overly weird. I tried to wrap my head around it...and again...the 60's, or maybe continuity was not a big thing.

Shore Leave was one of my favorites so far. I am liking the solidification of the Star Trek universe episode by episode.
posted by Benway at 5:10 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's much to be said of a tiger or a vintage WW2 fighter plane, other than how much they stand out as not belonging to the time and place, and hence, how fitting they are for a world where your dreams come true.

Who hasn't wished for a WWII fighter plane to shoot them dead where they stand?

*ahem* ... pardon, that may just be a reaction to my student loan payments. ;)

On a more seriously fanwanky note, I was willing to assume that the interface wasn't meant for humans, and therefore got glitchy results in some cases, false positives regarding "does the subject wish to be eaten by a tiger, abort/retry/fail?"

I don't have much more to add to the discussion, except that I still occasionally reference "Fight me, Jimmy, fight me!" and so this episode always makes me smile.
posted by mordax at 1:21 AM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


"In short, our Yeoman Barrows is a woman who wants to be forced/intimidated into a sexual situation. Not cool, but that's my interpretation, I'd love someone to offer another better one."

It's complicated. As something in popular entertainment, it's a really bad thing that validates the cultural idea that women who say "no" really mean "yes" and that this is what every woman really wants. That's really, really bad.

However, in isolation, within the context of the show but with regard to actual human psychology, it is the case that rape fantasies are moderately common among women. This is something that few people understand -- that it's true, and what it means. And what it means is not what people think it means. First and foremost, a fantasy is absolutely not the same thing as the reality. And the absolutely, positively most important way in which this is the case, is that in a fantasy, the person fantasizing has complete control. It's just like BDSM, where what uninformed people think is going on is, in some sense, exactly the opposite of what is really going on. Saying that a rape fantasy means that one actually wants to be raped is like saying that riding a rollercoaster means that one actually wants to fall from a tall building and die.

But, again, there's very ugly ways in which this is deliberately misunderstood in our culture. Survivors are tormented by it. Rapists use it as a defense. And culturally it's used generally to deny the reality of sexual violence. So even if people actually have these fantasies, even if it's quite likely to be something that springs from someone's subconscious in a magical wish-granted-from-subconscious-desires theme park, it's a terribly destructive trope in fictional narratives.

"On a more seriously fanwanky note, I was willing to assume that the interface wasn't meant for humans, and therefore got glitchy results in some cases, false positives regarding 'does the subject wish to be eaten by a tiger, abort/retry/fail?'"

I always read this more as a matter of informed consent, as well as the possibility (not in the text) that there was a safe-word or other way to end a scenario that regular visitors were made aware of. I mean, if I knew that I couldn't be actually killed, and especially if I knew that I would be shielded from any lingering psychological trauma of having experienced extreme pain, I think I would very likely opt to risk an utterly realistic fantasy environment where that would be pretty much a real tiger that pretty much might maul and "kill" me. Personally, I'm not that afraid of pain and I would be perfectly willing to risk severe pain for an experience that otherwise would be impossible for me to have.

That said, I first saw this episode probably when I was about ten, in 1974. And over the next five or six years, this episode was in some sense my favorite, but only because of how it fueled my hormone-ridden adolescent fantasies of how I'd enjoy my time on that planet. They didn't involve tigers.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:48 AM on November 2, 2014


Was this the first shirt-ripping fight scene for Kirk so far? It made me laugh & want to re-watch Galaxy Quest the most of any of these re-watches anyway. That opener with the back-rub was pretty hilarious as well.

I liked the episode, but there was too much random. For example, the Samurai chasing Sulu to Kirk and then disappears, and the tiger that shows itself twice, then is gone. The Bones death and reappearance is overly weird. I tried to wrap my head around it...and again...the 60's, or maybe continuity was not a big thing.

From the links, the entire episode was being re-written by Roddenberry while they were already filming because of the mixup with Gene L. Coon not getting Roddenberry's memo about the need for Coon's rewrite to tone down the fantastical elements of Sturgeon's script, so, it seems like a miracle they had any continuity at all.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:19 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Was this the first shirt-ripping fight scene for Kirk so far? It made me laugh & want to re-watch Galaxy Quest the most of any of these re-watches anyway. That opener with the back-rub was pretty hilarious as well.

I would be willing to bet that Kirk's uniform has been torn in at least 80% of the episodes we have had so far. That might be a bit much, but this is episode 16 and I'd say a good chunk of them have involved ripping. If it's not ripped, then Kirk takes his shirt off/has his shirt off for some reason, be it to exercise, getting dressed or having a physical. This tendency is wonderfully played up in the Futurama Star Trek tribute episode.

Personally, I'm not that afraid of pain and I would be perfectly willing to risk severe pain for an experience that otherwise would be impossible for me to have.

This is exactly what Kirk goes through with Finnegan. He's beaten pretty severely in his fight with his old upperclassman, but admits he feels great after finally triumphing him in a fight.
posted by Atreides at 6:29 AM on November 2, 2014


I would be willing to bet that Kirk's uniform has been torn in at least 80% of the episodes we have had so far. That might be a bit much, but this is episode 16 and I'd say a good chunk of them have involved ripping

Well, assuming this list is definitive, this is the fifth ripped-shirt-in-a-fight in sixteen (?w/ pilot?) episodes, so just under 1/3.

Finnegan (I think that was his name?) wore a grey uniform, which I wonder is what informed the producers on the Star Trek reboot to give the Academy students grey uniforms.

I see the Academy uniform shirt (if that is what we may assume it is, but this is perhaps inaccurate as this isn't the real Finnegan) as a very light blue with silver/reflective threads. Additionally, it's my understanding that the Academy uniforms in STID were intended to appear reminiscent of fascist or even Nazi uniforms to emphasize the political nature of the plot (the cadets wore mostly red in the first film, at least prior to the mobilization). For that matter, grey was quite prevalent in uniforms of other eras including TNG and ST:E.

the relationship between McCoy and the Yeoman, that you never see again and seemed to spontaneously come out of nowhere on the planet, itself.

I see this as the planet succeeding in manipulating their emotions and actions.

In short, our Yeoman Barrows is a woman who wants to be forced/intimidated into a sexual situation. Not cool,

Not cool by today's standards, but in the 1960s it was very much conventional wisdom. This was before postmodernism and modern feminist theory developed (largely reaching public consciousness in the 1970s and 1980s). You can see this again and again throughout the series, mostly through the Kirk character, which makes him seem like an unusual lech to us.

The roles of the sexes were still very much male pursues, woman succumbs -- see the classic Doris Day song A Guy Is A Guy [with 18thC origins]. Although in the context of the film it was a hit for, she is being properly courted, the song text itself just sounds today like the prescription for a stalker. In these days, "No" was definitely considered a flirtatious "Yes".

Sex sells, folks!

Well, it was a telling anecdote for many years that the costume designer butted heads with NBC repeatedly over women's costumes, summarizing it as "they wouldn't let me show the underside of the breast, ever -- maybe they thought moss grew there". You can see this in many of the female alien costumes -- top boob, side boob, etc., but never underboob (I think there was one that sort of made it through, watch for that). The underlying premise was sex appeal, but this wasn't considered wrong or at least anyone who did consider it wrong was a bluenose moralist from the flyover states. It was modern to highlight sex appeal in women as long as you didn't go too far.

In any case, Roddenberry clearly believed he was being progressive in having women officers and having the Captain expect high performance and professionalism from them, although in retrospect the sexism of having a professional woman officer burst into tears is obvious to us.

I didn't see many messages in this episode other than a lose yourself in a fantasy type world.

This episode is of a piece with many in TOS, which is to say the opposite of that. From powerful god-like aliens to sophisticated techno-social structures, the message is again and again, trust your instincts rather than your eyes and ears.

maybe continuity was not a big thing.

Well, for one thing, the continuity in TOS had no concept of how the Trek universe would develop and require a canon and virulent defense thereof by the fans. Many of the character details you find are not of a conceptual nature where the showrunners are developing a character, as in modern post-Sopranos drama, but simply episode writers trying to shoehorn a story into the existing cast. Sulu, for example, was a secondary character; it wasn't until S2 that Kelley was credited as a third lead. As far as the show was concerned, it wasn't telling the story of these characters; it was an anthology series ("Wagon Train to the stars") using the same characters over and over. In this episode a lot of the story was developed to fit the circumstances of the outdoor set, as well. As the series proceeds you start to see more constraints on the storytelling to fit what has been done already, but here we were in a sort of 'imagination gone wild' situation for the writers as well. The stuff that the characters imagine seems woefully dated to us in a lot of ways -- 23rd century officer imagining 20th century warplanes? Alice in Wonderland still a broadly taught thing?

Is there any moratorium for immoral conduct? Can the planet deduce what the Star Trek society deems as wrong?

That's a really good question, of course, and one that even the holodeck episodes rarely addressed directly. Certainly, in both eras, there's a lot of winking about what is essentially a sort of cybersex, but not much to explain how it would play out.
posted by dhartung at 4:22 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cadets at West Point wear "cadet gray", at least some of the time.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:03 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


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