Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Trek--"Shore Leave"

The science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon makes his trek debut with this episode. It is the weaker of his two outings, but considering his second was the Hugo award winning “Amok Time” in which much of Vulcan culture was established, it is not much of an insult to call it the weaker. Sturgeon wrote a third script, titled ‘The joy Machine,” but is was never filmed. The story was a standard computer controls an entire planet plot used several other times in the series. It is not really surprising the script was rejected. It was adapted into a novel in 1996. I read it in 1998. I enjoyed it more than most of the handful of Trek novels I have read, but considering their general quality, your mileage may vary.

“Shore Leave” is one of the more iconic TOS episodes, so there is a tendency to overlook it flaws. I found it enjoyable enough to forgive errors as well, but they are worth noting in a review. The biggest is the logical lapse in having an amusement park planet without any instructions readily available.

You could argue that is because the planet is intended for the private amusement of the Caretaker’s people, in which case better efforts should have been taken to prevent trespassing. But if the Caretaker was open to others enjoying the planet, as he apparently was, then how the place works should have been made clear from the beginning. At the very least, the reality of pain and “death” should have been noted. McCoy was very clearly in pain when he was stabbed by the Black knight’s lance, Kirk was beaten and bloodied by Finnegan, and surely Sulu’s gun could have killed or the tiger could have mauled anyone. The creations are dangerous things to not have any warning about.

Think about the hypocrisy, too. The Talosians have technology to create illusions so real, the federation has cast aside its ideals and imposed the death penalty on anyone going to Talos IV to use. Then, in the very next episode, the Enterprise arrives at a planet where tangible creations of the imagination or not only possible, but can cause pain and suffering. The place is more dangerous than Talos IV, yet Kirk not only opts to stay and enjoy the technology, but invites the entire crew to join in. let us have some consistency here, shall we?

“Shore Leave” is another one of those episodes that you will enjoy a heck of a lot more if you do not think about it much. Thirty years later, VOY would make an entire seven year run with the same problem, so I can swing it for a TOS installment or three.

Rating: *** (out of5)

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