“Star Trek” would not be complete without the episode about the crew going to an Earth-like planet to have some rest — and everything goes wrong. This has been redone with every version of Trek thus far. It’s not a cliché, but rather a peek into what the crew does when they are not on duty. But these sorts of stories would not be worth telling unless something crazy did happen.
We join the crew as our ship is orbiting an uninhabited green planet in the Omicron Delta region. From the bridge, Kirk asked Spock if there was any word from the landing party, and as he did, he complained about his stiff back. The captain started to get a massage from his beautiful yeoman, while he thought the rubs were coming from his first officer. Awkward!
On the planet’s surface, McCoy and Sulu were conducting a survey, to ensure that this planet was a good spot for some shore leave. Sulu noted that the planet had no animals and no “people” either. McCoy mentioned that this planet was something out of “Alice in Wonderland.” Sulu walked off to continue to collect specimens, and when he did, McCoy saw a giant rabbit who was followed by a small human female girl — Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
Back on the Enterprise, Kirk asked Spock which group of vacationers he’d like to be beamed down with. Spock said that relaxation is a waste of time for him.
McCoy called to the captain to tell him that he had seen a few unusual things while on the planet’s surface, namely the giant rabbit and human girl. Kirk smirked and said that was McCoy’s attempt to get him to spend some time on the planet.
Spock said that he did want to address an issue with the captain. There was one crew member who was showing signs of stress and fatigue, his reaction time was down, and he refuses to take any time off. Kirk said that the crewman’s rights end where the safety of the ship begins. This crewman will go to shore under the captain’s orders. Spock noted that this crewman was named James Kirk.
“Enjoy yourself, captain,” Spock said with the hint of a smile. He noted that the sensors detected only peace, sunshine, and good air.
On the planet’s surface, Crewmen Esteban Rodriguez and Angela Teller were collecting data on the flora, when Kirk and Yeoman Tonia Barrows beamed to the surface. They reported to Kirk that their report was complete. The captain told them to turn it into Spock and they ought to now enjoy themselves.
Kirk found McCoy in a glade, who showed the captain the tracks of a giant rabbit. Kirk contacted Uhura on the ship and told her that all shore parties were to “stand by,” and that none of them were to leave the ship.
Then, in the distance, they heard multiple gunshots. All three ran toward the noise, which turned out to be Sulu target shooting with an ancient revolver. He said that he’s always wanted one like that, and he just found it sitting on the ground.
Just then they noticed more rabbit tracks. Kirk ordered Sulu and Barrows to find the source of the tracks. Kirk and McCoy would go back to the glade to take another look at the whole area. As they walked, a mysterious antenna popped up from behind a rock.
Kirk joked with McCoy about feeling picked on, over the lack of finding his giant rabbit. The captain said that he knew what that felt like, after his time at the Academy. He noted that an upperclassman named Finnegan used to pull one prank after another on him. They found more rabbit tracks, and this time, the tracks of the girl as well. They decided to split up; McCoy would go after the rabbit, Kirk would find the girl.
As Kirk walked away, he heard a voice. It was Finnegan, leaning on a tree. Finnegan immediately attacked Kirk while laughing, calling the captain “Jimmy Boy.” Kirk smiled and attacked Finnegan — but he pulled away when he heard screaming.
Kirk and McCoy hooked up again and ran toward the screaming together. It was Yeoman Barrows, who said that she’d been attacked by a man in a cloak holding a dagger with jewels on it. McCoy said it sounded like Don Juan, the 18th Century swashbuckling fictional character. Barrows then admitted that it was Don Juan who she had been thinking about as she walked. Kirk asked McCoy to stay with Barrows, as he left to find where Sulu went to.
Kirk called out for Sulu as he ran along, and another antenna followed his motions from afar. He ran into a rocky, desert-like area and found a flower that reminded him of someone from his past, who suddenly appeared. “Ruth?” he said.
She smiled and walked toward him slowly. “Jim, darling, it is me,” she said before she kissed him. As they sat down to chat, McCoy called on Kirk’s communicator, asking about Sulu. Without breaking his look at Ruth, Kirk said that he hadn’t found Sulu, but he was quite sure that Sulu was all right.
Rodriguez called soon after, reporting that he’d seen a flock of birds. Kirk said that the ship’s instruments must be off because there are life forms on the planet. Kirk told Rodriguez to have the search parties rendezvous at the meadow, so they could get some answers.
Kirk got up to leave, and Ruth said that she would be waiting for when he was ready. While he was with Ruth, Kirk seemed to act as if he were in a daze. Would Ruth ever appear in future episodes of Trek?
Spock called from the Enterprise to say that they were now detecting “highly sophisticated” power readings from the planet’s surface. This energy was giving their communications signals trouble. He added that the energy could be coming from beneath the planet’s surface.
McCoy and Barrows walked arm-in-arm, and as they did, she said that a girl in this place should be dressed like a fairy-tale princess. Seconds after he said this, the dress appeared. McCoy said that he’d like to see her in the dress, and she agreed.
As she dressed, Rodriguez called saying that he was starting to have trouble with his communicator. McCoy then lost touch with Rodriguez, who suddenly had a tiger stalking him and Teller. Rodriguez continued to try to call McCoy as the tiger padded around them. Back with the princess, McCoy beamed as Barrows came out in her new dressed.
Spock called down to Kirk, who asked if there was any explanation of what they were seeing. Spock said that he did not have a reason for what they were experiencing, and suggested sending an armed landing party for safe measure. Kirk said that was not necessary.
Meanwhile, Sulu found that he must defend himself against a samurai warrior with a non-working phaser. Sulu escaped and ran into Kirk, who saw no samurai. Just then, Spock materialized in front of them. The transport was a struggle, and it took several attempts to achieve complete “beaming successfully.” Spock said that the transporter was now useless and the Enterprise was unable to reach the landing party via communicator.
McCoy and Barrows arrived at the glade when a knight on horseback appeared. The doctor refused to believe that it was a real knight, and he stood his ground as the warrior charged. The knight lanced McCoy in the chest, and he fell to the ground. Barrows screamed. Kirk, Spock, and Sulu arrived on the scene, and Kirk used the pistol to shoot the knight, which fell after a few shots.
Kirk and Spock examined McCoy, who appeared to be dead. Barrows stood over his body and cried. Kirk grasped her and told her5 that he needed every crewman alert. She agreed. Sulu looked at the knight’s face, which appeared to be made of plastic. Spock used the tricorder to determine that the knight’s skin was similar to artificial skin used for wound repairs.
Spock said that the knight and everything else surrounding them were multi-cellular “castings” and someone, not nature, had manufactured them.
Rodriguez and Teller saw a World War II-era Japanese Zero fighter plane flying overhead. This happened to be something they were discussing as they walked together. After Rodriguez described the “strafing runs” the Zero could perform to attack people on the surface, the Zero fired upon them. Rodriguez and Teller ran to a cluster of trees for cover, but Teller appeared to have been knocked out as she ran into a tree.
Sulu called out to Kirk, saying that the bodies of the Black Knight and McCoy had been taken somehow while they were watching the Zero.
Spock started asking Kirk what he was thinking about before the people from his past appeared. He said that he was thinking of his Academy days… when the impish Finnegan appeared once more. Finnegan goaded Kirk into chasing, and Kirk ordered Spock and Sulu to find McCoy’s body while he ran off.
Kirk chased Finnegan for some time. When he caught up, they traded blows for some time. Kirk finally prevailed. Spock caught up and asked the captain if he enjoyed the fight. Kirk said that he had.
They now decided that they must control their thoughts, so no more dangerous ideas come to life. As they walked back to the glade, the Zero appeared in the sky again, and dove at them, firing. Kirk and Spock ran into a canyon pass and avoided the bullets, only to encounter the samurai. Kirk lowered his shoulder, and with a move worthy of an NFL linebacker, he smashed the warrior out of the way.
At the glade, just as Barrows shed her princess outfit, Don Juan appeared again. He grabbed her and started to drag her away, but Sulu and Rodriguez stood ready to fight. Kirk and Spock rolled up, and Don Juan released Barrows and ran off.
Kirk lined them up at attention and told them not to talk, think or breathe. As he said this, a humanoid male walked out from the trees. He was pale and had white hair, and wore and an elaborately decorated thwab. He called himself the Caretaker and addressed the crew by name.
He explained that the crew of the Enterprise was guests on this planet, and everything that happened to them was designed for their entertainment and pleasure. Merely imagine your wishes, and they will come to life.
Spock said that the Caretaker described an amusement park. He agreed with Spock. The being said that this place was created to entertain his people. Kirk said that this all does not explain the death of McCoy.
“Possibly because no one died, Jim!” said McCoy, who came sauntering out from behind the trees, arm-in-arm with two exotic showgirls, wearing just enough to be legal for 1960s television.
McCoy explained that he was taken below the surface for some “rather remarkable repairs.” He described the underground factory where all of the fantastic creatures and people were created. Sulu smiled wide as he looked at McCoy, but Barrows grimaced. Barrows asked McCoy to explain the ladies. He said that he thought of a cabaret he knew on Rigel 2, and they appeared.
The Caretaker apologized for any discomfort the crew may have endured. Kirk asked about the Caretaker’s race and planet origin. The being said that humans were not ready to understand his people.
Kirk called to Uhura to tell them to prepare to beam down. Spock told the captain that he would beam back up and take over, while the captain relaxed on the planet. Kirk began to argue, but then Ruth walked into view. Kirk then decided that he would stay for a day or two.
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
I enjoyed “Shore Leave.” In a way, this episode laid the groundwork for the series of Holodeck episodes on TNG years later. This sort of “advanced technology” allowed writers to have nearly complete creative freedom. I also enjoyed Kirk’s past coming to life in a way that only flashback episodes, or an entirely new reboot movies series could have created. “Shore Leave” was also responsible for creating some of the most referenced and iconic moments from the series, the post-Finnegan fight Kirk, with ripped uniform has been in countless magazines and books. “Shore Leave” is a worthy watch.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5