Sunday, April 14, 2013

Star Trek: Shore Leave

This is one of those episodes that has everything that's been hanging around from the studio back lots: a Black Knight, a damsel in distress, stock footage, a guy in a Don Juan costume, show girls, a samurai, a tiger, and even Alice in Wonderland, with the white rabbit too.
It is also one of those episodes that I used to like a lot more than I do now. The premise is interesting enough. The crew is to beam down to this beautiful planet for shore leave. It is garden-like and has no animal life at all. McCoy's sighting of the rabbit and Alice is just the first of many events where people encounter things that they had been thinking about.

Part of what bothers me about the episode is that there is all kinds of evidence that the supposedly uninhabited planet that they are on is really just a park. You can see places where the grass was & wasn't cut. There are paths and walkways clearly visible - like in the shot below:
This sort of takes you out of illusion, doesn't it? Of course Star Trek was never intended to be watched on a big screen or on a device where you can do screen grabs, was it?
And the planet they are orbiting? It's Earth. They made it green and flipped it left-right so you likely wouldn't notice (I flipped it back for you here), but it is the same cloudless Earth that was used on Miri. Of course, up to this point the variety of planets portrayed has been pretty dismal. That's something I will follow up on in a future post.
There's a lot going on down on the surface and that makes the episode a bit scattered. Kirk meets an old love, Ruth, and an old foe, Finnegan. Finnegan was pretty much the only person ever to beat up Kirk and there's a lot of time in this episode spent with Kirk chasing and fighting him.
Spock calls down to say that there is a "highly sophisticated type of energy draining our power and increasing. Beginning to affect our communications." He asks to beam down and Kirk tells him not to do so. Yet soon he beams down anyway saying "the transporter is useless to us now. As I told you before, there's an unusual power field down here. It's soaking up all the energy at the source. I calculated the rate of its growth, and reasoned that I just might be able to transport one more person."

So there's an energy field draining the ship's power and Spock left his command? For some reason Kirk doesn't seem to mind. Kirk also didn't seem to care or do anything to investigate the power field.
McCoy is killed by the Black Knight (don't worry he comes back) and Sulu faces the worst samurai ever. 
At the end the planet's Caretaker reveals himself and explains what is going on - the planet is an amusement park. Think of something and it will appear for you. It is an amazing technology. Even more amazing to me is that Spock fails to ask a single question about how they are reading everyone's thoughts or how it is all manufactured. Perhaps he was distracted?
Maybe it is because the Caretaker explains "your race is not yet ready to understand us." Spock says "I tend to agree." And it is left at that.

In the end, they decide to control their thoughts and have that vacation after all.

Composer Gerald Fried wrote over 20 minutes of music for this episode. All of it is available on the awesome complete release of all the TOS music available from La-La Land Records. One of the tracks, of Kirk's full fight with Finnegan is available for preview here. While the score works well in the episode, it isn't among my favorites. It does have a lot of range though - romantic, comic and adventurous.

Five Year Mission covered the episode, their music video summarizes things nicely and is below:

Next up: The Squire of Gothos

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