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Recap / Star Trek S1 E15 "Shore Leave"

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"The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play."

Original air date: December 29, 1966

Upon arrival at a beautiful planet, Kirk begins to feel a backache coming on; thankfully, Yeoman Barrows is on hand to give a quick massage. Unfortunately (but fortunately for Shipping Kirk/Spock'ers), for some reason Kirk initially believes it to be Spock giving the massage...

Anyway, back to the plot of the episode, Barrows insists that Kirk needs rest, but Kirk grouses that he has enough of that from Dr. McCoy. Spock agrees with Barrows, noting that after what the crew has been through in the past three months, there's no one aboard not in need of a rest... "Myself excepted, of course." Ah, Spock, you and your Vulcan physique...

The planet is serene, beautiful, Earth-like; grass and trees... McCoy and Sulu are down having a look around. Sulu posits that there's no people or animals... "No worries!" McCoy indicates that it's "something out of Alice in Wonderland," and that the Captain HAS to come down; he definitely needs it. McCoy continues his walk while Sulu checks out some cell-structure records, when...

"OH! Oh my paws and whiskers! I'll be late!" McCoy must feel like he's losing his mind, as he suddenly spies a... well, a six-foot rabbit with a waistcoat and pocket watch hopping around in front of him, decrying his lateness and then disappearing down a hole behind some hedges. This is immediately followed by a little blonde girl, asking McCoy where the rabbit went. He can only mutely point, to which the girl curtseys and runs through the hedge.

McCoy needs a sanity check, so he yells for Sulu, but can do no more but stare at the hedges, muttering, "Did you see them?" while Sulu must be wondering if McCoy's going insane...

Titles! We find Kirk taking in a report from Barrows about the planet, as idyllic as we've seen, but Kirk still apparently has no desire to go down. After which, McCoy makes his report, fully in the knowledge that Jim will find him as crazy as he feels, but Kirk says he'll take the report under consideration. Finally, Spock arrives with a report that there is one particular crewman who is irritable and restless, whose reaction time is lowered by fatigue, yet who refuses recreation. Spock says "now, he has that right, but—" and Kirk interrupts with "The rights of a crewman end where the safety of the ship begins! That man will go ashore on my orders. What's his name?" "James Kirk" Spock smiles and tells Kirk to enjoy himself, that it's a peaceful planet, much like Earth.

Meanwhile, Angela Teller and Esteban Rodriguez, the apparent Beta Couple, are on another survey party; Rodriguez is annoyed with Angela's pre-occupation with the beauty of the place, wanting to prepare their report for the Captain before he asks for it. Speak of the devil, here beam Kirk and Barrows! Fortunately Kirk doesn't seem all uptight anymore, as he cheerfully orders Rodriguez to deliver his report to Spock when he's ready. Rodriguez directs Kirk and Barrows to Bones and Sulu...

Kirk gives a bit more good-natured ribbing to McCoy, but the doctor states he might have found proof that what he saw was real! Upon verifying some pretty big footprints, Kirk abruptly cancels shore leave out of safety concerns! They agree to search for the rabbit and Alice, and they start off...

Or that would have happened, when suddenly a gunshot rings out! Drawing phaser, Kirk takes off, and eventually finds Sulu... firing a revolver?! He states that he'd always wanted to try out one of them, and just found it under a rock, and how strange, in a place with no recorded metallic elements, to find a weapon like this...

Anyway, after that little escapade, the crew split up again to investigate the strange goings-on, after finding more "rabbit" tracks. Walking back to the glade, someone holds up something vaguely resembling an antenna in front of the camera... But of course this could be our first sign of advanced technology on this planet...

Kirk and Bones strike up a conversation on the way back, and Kirk mentions he felt a bit picked on back in the Academy; an upperclassman by the name of Finnegan harassed and browbeat him every chance he got... And what do you know, he shows up here too... just as annoying as he probably was at the Academy! He taunts Kirk that he'd always wanted to beat him up, and seems very willing to give him the opportunity...

But then Barrows screams! Kirk breaks off of his short-lived grapple with Finnegan and runs off to her aid, Finnegan cat-calling and jeering as he departs.

Kirk finds Barrows with a torn uniform, slumped against a tree, reporting a man that suddenly came out of the forest and accosted her. She described his manner of dress, McCoy mentioning that it sounds like Don Juan... of course! Barrows was just thinking, when walking dreamily through this idyllic forest, that all a girl would need at a time like this is Don Juan; just kind of daydreaming about someone you'd like to meet... Well, she met him all right. Sulu ran after the infamous scoundrel, and in trying to find him...

Kirk runs into an Old Flame of his, Ruth! This beautiful young thing nuzzles into Kirk's cheek even as he temporarily forgets how WRONG all this is...

Kirk distractedly tries to contact McCoy while still being distracted by this incredibly affectionate woman, but gives up and finally begins to question some things: like, how come she hasn't aged in 15 years? Ruth says it doesn't really matter, does it? McCoy calls back asking if Kirk had found Sulu; Kirk mumbles through telling McCoy that Sulu's probably all right, and then through a call from Rodriguez telling Kirk there are birds present, where the detectors showed no life earlier; "There are indeed life forms on this planet..." Kirk sighs, completely blissfully.

Finally Kirk starts acting like a Captain and orders the search teams to rendezvous at the glade. Ruth expresses mild disappointment, but assures him she'll be waiting.

Spock calls down from the bridge to report a power field he's detected, emanating from below the planet's surface. Some kind of industrial activity, and it's draining the ship's power...

Back near the glade, McCoy and Barrows are walking together; Barrows expresses the belief that in a place like this, a girl should be dressed as a fairy-tale princess... Lo and behold, what should appear but a Pimped-Out Dress and elaborate hennin hat! Barrows understandably expresses apprehension, but McCoy shrugs and says that the dress is here, so why not try it on? She does so, after admonishing the Doctor not to peek! "My dear girl, I am a doctor. When I peek it's in the line of duty."

Rodriguez tries to call McCoy but is rapidly breaking up, and contact is lost before too long. But not before Rodriguez tells McCoy to meet back at the glade. McCoy seems distracted by Barrows' changing, her clothes being tossed up on a handy branch. Eventually communication is lost entirely; and too bad, for Esteban and Angela are suddenly facing down a ferocious tiger! Rodriguez shakes his communicator at it; that appears to frighten it off, for now...

Barrows finally emerges dressed in the princess attire, to McCoy's (and our) great admiration. Back aboard the enterprise, Spock listens to the increasingly garbled communications as Kirk demands answers from Spock, who is of course the science officer. Kirk reviews the things that the crew had seen up to this point, and Spock postulates whether or not these are hallucinations; Kirk is a little disinclined to believe that, as one of those "hallucinations" "flattened me with a clout on the jaw" as Kirk eloquently puts it. Kirk declines the offer of an armed security team, as there hasn't been any real danger, yet...

Sulu's just walking along when HOLY CRAP a samurai! He tries to chop the poor navigator in two several times, but he stays just ahead of him. Sulu finds Kirk and frantically tells him about the samurai, but he seems to have disappeared! Very strange. More disturbing is the fact that their phasers seem to completely discharged! Maybe it's that power field that Spock mentioned earlier?

Speaking of whom, Spock just now beams down, "from the bridge," as Sulu indicates. (Maybe it's true, Spock may have needed to save as much time as possible so arranged a site to site transport?) Anyway, he confirms what I postulated just now, that it is the power field that's draining all energy at the source.

McCoy and Barrows are walking together in the glade one more time, McCoy swearing that he heard someone move around in the bushes. He quips that Barrows need not fear, not with a brave knight to protect her...

Kirk, Sulu and Spock now hear the same tiger from before, and spread out to find it...

Suddenly, back in the glade, what should appear but a knight on a horse! He levels his lance at McCoy and starts galloping towards him. Asserting that these things are not real and cannot hurt people, McCoy stands stock still, right in his path. And... gets a lance in the chest for his trouble, killing him instantly! Spock tries to shoot the knight with his phaser, but Kirk opens fire with the revolver that he got from Sulu earlier, and brings the knight down.

While Barrows mourns inconsolably and claims that it was her fault, Kirk shakes her and reminds her that they are in trouble, that he needs everyone alert and thinking. Barrows pulls herself together, while Sulu observes something; the knight is not actually a knight, but rather a construct of some sort, his flesh almost plaster in consistency. Everything that they see on the planet, in fact, is a living (or not) "multicellular casting", and they act just as they could be expected to act in real life, "just as pleasant, or just as deadly."

Kirk looks up, and sees airplanes! Rodriguez and Angela see them too, and Rodriguez makes the suggestion that they won't be in any danger "unless they make a strafing run; the way they used to attack people on the ground." Unfortunately, Rodriguez is still not aware of what the audience is becoming rapidly aware of, that the planet actually generates objects and situations based on people's thoughts, and poor Angela is a victim of the aforementioned strafing run...

Kirk witnesses the planes flying overhead after discharging their weapons, and then Sulu notices that Dr. McCoy's body has been dragged off! Barrows notes that the Black Knight's body has as well! Spock finally begins to posit the theory that we are coming to as well: he asks Kirk what his thoughts were before encountering the people he did. Suddenly, who should show up again but Finnegan! Cackling like an elf and still taunting, he runs off again, and this time Kirk doesn't intend to let him get away. He chases Finnegan to his rock.

Kirk wants answers from the Finnegan-construct, but he only has battle within him, and gives it to Kirk tenfold. They finally have a knockdown, drag out and neither of them really seems to have the upper hand, until Finnegan fakes a back injury, flipping Kirk over onto his back and knocking him out.

When Kirk wakes up, Finnegan still won't give any answers to him, continuing the fight with the handful of sand in the eyes trick. This time though, Kirk seems to get the upper hand early (probably because Finnegan senses Kirk is finally getting it, and more or less throws the fight), and finally knocks Finnegan out, with a savage grin on his face. Spock shows up then and asks if Kirk enjoyed it, and of course he did! This supports the theory Spock's been working on, simply that the planet is built to manufacture quickly the thoughts of the people on it. As long as people are able to wrangle their thoughts, keep them away from highly dangerous ones, there would be no peril. But knowing the flights of fancy of his crew members, Kirk rushes back to the Glade (ahead of the tiger that Spock mentions, as well as another airplane, and Sulu's samurai)...

And again finds Don Juan there, trying to take Barrows away! He threatens them with his foil, but when it's evident that he's outnumbered, he runs away. Kirk orders his crewmen to just stand where they are, and don't think of anything, concentrating on being at attention. After a few seconds of this...

An old man steps out from behind the hedges, wearing a somewhat impish grin. He reveals himself as the "Caretaker" of the planet, a member of a very intelligent race, and explains to the captain and everyone else that that the planet is used as an "amusement park" by his people and assures them that everything they've seen and experienced has been completely harmless. At this point McCoy steps out, complete with two befeathered showgirls (much to Barrows' annoyance), and it can be briefly seen that Angela is all fine as well. McCoy explains that the facilities down there are quite impressive, and they can "build or do anything."

The Caretaker extends an invitation for Kirk and his crew to come down, with the light admonition that as long as they control their thoughts, everything will be safe. Kirk communicates to Uhura, reactivating shore leave for everyone, then Ruth shows up again, and Kirk decides to stay around for another day or two himself.

An indeterminate amount of time later, we're back on the bridge, where Spock asks if everyone had a good time. They confirm they did, and everyone has a good chuckle as they recall their experiences, and Enterprise flies off to her next adventure.

Shore Tropes:

  • Adventurous Irish Violins: Finnegan's Theme is very much this.
  • Alice Allusion: McCoy's first sighting.
  • All Part of the Show: McCoy's apparently-lethal lancing and Angela's seemingly-fatal death by strafing bullets ultimately turn out to be this. The planet's technology prohibits anyone from being hurt, but the immersion needs to be complete for the visitors, so it's as realistic as possible without actually killing anyone.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Though it's implied the planet is so pleasant and green and lovely because that's exactly what the predominantly-human crew of Enterprise wanted in a shore leave planet.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: The planet is meant as a place to relax...and it can definitely be deadly if you don't know what you're doing. But only temporarily.
  • Bucket Booby-Trap: According to Kirk, Finnegan was notorious for this.
  • Busman's Holiday: As the title of the episode says, this was supposed to be shore leave for the Enterprise crew (though unlike what usually happens, they actually do get proper shore leave — as the end of the episode happy ending).
  • Call-Back: Sulu is assigned to take biological samples. An odd job for the chief helmsman - but his passion for biology was established in earlier episodes, most particularly Charlie X.
  • Casanova Wannabe: McCoy spends a lot of time flirting with Barrows.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, Sulu's gun, actually. Sulu, a fan of old-fashioned firearms, imagines one into existence. Kirk confiscates it, and later uses it to shoot the Black Knight after he spears McCoy.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Finnegan gets mentioned during Kirk and McCoy's talk and then turns up to torment Kirk at various points in the episode. They couldn't very well mention Kirk's Academy nemesis without said nemesis showing up.
  • Clothing Damage:
    • Barrow's tunic is torn by Don Juan.
    • Kirk's shirt is nearly destroyed while fighting Finnegan.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Kirk knows the "Ruth" and "Finnegan" he meets cannot be the real deals (for one thing, Finnegan hasn't aged since the Academy) but he still enjoys indulging his emotions with each of the duplicates (having a romantic time with Ruth and whaling on Finnegan).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Enterprise is shown orbiting the planet in a clockwise pattern (with the planet at the ship's starboard side). In every other episode, the Enterprise's orbit is counter-clockwise, to the point where showing the Enterprise flipping from counter-clockwise to clockwise is how the effects team shows Kirk and his landing party first arriving in Mirror Universe in "Mirror Mirror".
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: At the end, Spock comments that the crew's enjoying their shore leave is illogical, and the other characters present (Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Ensign Barrows, and Lieutenant Sulu) all laugh.
  • Everybody Lives: Though McCoy and Angela seem to die, it turns out that their injuries are All Part of the Show. They're completely healthy at the episode's end, and as a result, no one—not even a single Red Shirt—perishes in this episode. The Black Knight is taken down with a few bullets, but since he's a non-living machine generated by the planet, he's an exception.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: Alice curtsies as she thanks McCoy for his help.
  • Everything's Better with Samurai: not for Sulu, though.
  • Exact Words: Spock tricks Kirk into ordering himself on shore leave.
    Spock: We have a crew member aboard who's showing signs of stress and fatigue—reaction time down 9-12%, associational reading norm minus 3.
    Kirk: That's much too low a rating.
    Spock: He's becoming irritable and quarrelsome, yet he refuses to take rest and rehabilitation. He has that right, but...
    Kirk: A crewman's right ends where the safety of the ship begins. That man will go ashore on my orders. What's his name?
    Spock: (pretends to study paper) "James Kirk."
    Kirk: (makes "You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!" face)
    Spock: (smirks) Enjoy yourself, Captain.
  • Fighting Irish: Finnegan (or his simulacrum) fits this trope as he gives Kirk a hard time taunting him into a fight. Complete with a Leitmotif straight from Oireland.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: Appropriately part of the aforementioned Alice Allusion, as it involves an actual talking white rabbit. Also a variation, as its appearance, rather than the chase for it, clues our heroes in that things aren't as they seem.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Kirk has to remind Barrows that they can't afford the distraction of open grief right now. Perhaps because she's a woman, he shakes her by the shoulders rather than hitting her.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: Barrows performs one after changing into her Pimped-Out Dress.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Barrows, when McCoy shows up with two beautiful show girls on his arm. She quickly takes the opportunity to remind him that she is still present.
  • Gun Nut: Sulu, for this particular episode. And yet his muzzle discipline is atrocious.
  • A Handful for an Eye: During their fight Finnegan throws dirt into Captain Kirk's eyes, grunting.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: For a given definition of "malfunction." The "amusement park" is actually working perfectly, and has systems in place to heal any guest injuries, but with no access to the instruction manual (or even a disclaimer), the Starfleet crew has no idea what's going on. Until Kirk uses their military discipline to essentially summon up an interactive guide to explain things.
  • I Have This Friend: Spock tricks Kirk into ordering himself to go on shore leave by describing the effects of Kirk's fatigued state as if he were talking about some random crewman.
  • It's All My Fault: Barrows, when McCoy gets skewered.
  • I Will Wait for You: Ruth to Kirk. Justified in that she is only a construct, meant to interact with whoever conjures her up.
  • Large Ham: Finnegan seriously out-hams Kirk while taunting him.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: as much as Kirk would like to stay with Ruth, he knows he's got a job to do.
  • Massage of Love: Kirk (who's been very stressed and is refusing to admit it) complains of a backache, and one of the lieutenants moves to alleviate it. Spock is standing behind Kirk at the time and Kirk asks him to push harder, implying that he has been known to take a hand in dealing with the captain's aches and pains. Canonically, this is a platonic example, though shippers will of course have their own ideas.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Yeoman Barrows' princess dress shows a level of decolletage that is usually reserved for green-skinned space babes. She fills out her standard duty uniform quite nicely as well; this gets ripped as much as could possibly be allowed on broadcast television and remains so for the duration of the episode. The main reason she switched to the princess dress, in point of fact, was it was currently far more modest than her damaged uniform. The result is a one-off female character likely to leave quite an impression in the minds of many viewers.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: Yeoman Barrows finds a princess gown on the planet they're visiting that Dr. McCoy encourages her to try on. Before she starts changing in the bushes she tells him not to peek. He replies, "My dear girl, I am a doctor. When I peek it's in the line of duty."
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: After Kirk has been refusing leave for half the episode, Spock informs him of "a crewman" who refuses to rest despite showing signs of extreme fatigue. Kirk declares that this is unacceptable and the man will take leave on his orders, and asks Spock the man's name — it is, of course, James Kirk.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Both McCoy and Angela are killed by the constructs and resurrected by the park's creators.
  • Panthera Awesome: A tiger shows up to scare the crew.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Luckily, the actual "killing" part is only temporary. These aliens should really invest in putting up a dang sign somewhere about what people can expect.
  • Princess Classic: Barrows really enjoys her time as one.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better:
  • Say My Name: Bones overly dramatic screams "SULU!" after seeing the Rabbit.
  • Shout-Out: Shortly after Bones sees the White Rabbit, Sulu asks him "What is it, Doc?", which sounds a lot like Bugs Bunny's Catchphrase "What's Up, Doc?"
  • Smug Smiler: Spock, of all people, edges on this after he tricks Kirk into ordering himself on shore leave.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: While on a planet where anything you think of becomes real, a crewman thinks about a fighter plane on a strafing run, and one appears and attacks. Later on, the plane appears again and strafes Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.
  • Stock Footage: Footage of the Enterprise orbiting "Earth" (without any clouds) was taken from "Miri" to represent the Shore Leave Planet. However, the planet was optically tinted green and the shots were reversed, so it wouldn't be so obvious. Except for a brief shot in "Mirror, Mirror", this marks the only occasion when the Enterprise orbits a planet from right to left. Also used for the airplane, spliced together to the plane changes between approximately three different models.
  • Stunned Silence: Seeing a six-foot talking rabbit followed by a little blond girl leaves McCoy utterly unable to speak for several seconds.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The builders of the park.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Yeoman Barrows fills the role meant for Yeoman Rand.
  • Taunting the Unconscious: Kirk gets into a fistfight with a man named Finnegan, and at one point Finnegan pretends his back is broken. When Kirk falls for it, prodding him in the leg and asking if he can feel that, Finnegan suddenly ambushes him and knocks him out. As Kirk lies on the ground unconscious, Finnegan says to him, "Can you feel that, now?"
  • Tempting Fate: Kirk's comment that there hasn't been any real danger yet. The operative word being yet. Rodriguez' comment about being safe "unless they try a strafing run" might also count.
  • Workaholic: Kirk has overworked himself so much that he almost forgets the stardate when dictating his log. As Spock points out, he is definitely in need of some R&R.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: McCoy incorrectly concludes that this is one of those Psychological Torment Zones of illusions where Your Mind Makes It Real, and if you just face the illusions while telling yourself they're not real, they can't hurt you. Unfortunately, he's wrong on one crucial point — the things they see may be fakes, but they're very solid. Including their weapons.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Sulu trying to convince Kirk that he was just attacked by a samurai. Fortunately, Kirk has seen enough weirdness to believe him.