From the opening moment of “Shore Leave” you can tell this will be a different type of Star Trek episode. Kirk’s mistaking a backrub from the lovely Yeoman Barrows to be one from Mr. Spock shows the whimsical and subtlety sexually charged nature of one of the more fun outings for the Enterprise’s crew. Down scouting out a rest stop Sulu exclaims “no animals, no people, no worries,” seemingly shocked to find a planet that isn’t overrun with gangsters, Indians, or Nazis. What they have found is an idyllic planet full of misadventures that looks ever better now fully remastered in living color. It is a good thing that Kirk ignored McCoy’s report of spotting a large white rabbit (with Alice of Wonderland trailing) or we would never get to visit this "Shore Leave" Planet.
Although the making of fantasies into reality is a bit of a silly plot device, it actually allows some interesting insights into the characters…especially the captain. We learn that our ever so confident and yet fun loving Kirk was ‘serious’ and ‘grim’ in his days at the academy only 15 years prior. Plus he seems to be carrying some baggage in both the way he was mistreated by an upperclassman (Finnegan) and a certain long lost love (Ruth). Might this Ruth actually be that ‘little blonde lab technician’ that Kirk almost married? Although we add some depth, in the end we see is that our Captain Kirk really just likes a good dustup in a classic fight scene with one of Trek’s most memorable characters – Finnegan. For Sulu we learn that he is a weapons fetishist when he finds an ‘ancient’ six shooter (which ends up shooting seven shots). And we learn that McCoy is a bit of a horn dog. Not only does he reveal genuine feelings for the young Yeoman Barrows, but moments after being resurrected the first thing that comes to mind was a couple of strippers (sorry chorus girls) from Rigel II….much to the chagrin of the aforementioned Yeoman. It is a pity Scotty doesn’t appear in this episode, who knows what kind of bacchanalian fantasy that guy could cook up. And even though Spock has no need for the planet we get a glimpse of a previously unseen devious streak when he tricks Captain Kirk into ordering himself down to the planet with a report of an unnamed crewmember performing below par.
McCoy and Kirk indulge their favorite hobbies
Underlying all the silliness and character development is quite a lot of sexuality. This is not a surprise as the episode was written by Theodore Sturgeon who also wrote the ‘Spock gets horny’ episode “Amok Time.” Sturgeon’s work outside of Trek was also known for its sexual themes and fellow sci-fi and Trek writer Norman Spinrad told me that it was something of an obsession for ‘Teddy.’ Characters are hooking up all over the place. Kirk starts with Barrows and then upgrades to Ruth. Barrows first thinks being ravished by Don Juan is a good idea, then moves on to playing princess for McCoy. All the while Angela Martine cowers with Lt. Rodriguez. Alas poor Sulu only gets is a Samurai…until McCoy hands him one of his ‘extra’ girls in the end. Even though it is intriguing to see the show deal with so much sexuality, it is disappointing to have most of the women be so submissive. Barrows line “look at me doctor, a lady to be protected and fought for” is not exactly a rallying cry for women’s lib. That being said Emily Banks actually gives a good performance as Barrows, especially in the scene when McCoy (apparently) gets killed. Her wardrobe also gives a good performance by getting ripped and then moving the rip around from scene to scene and then magically fixed. The one relationship that seems a bit more equal is that of the enigmatic Ruth and Kirk. Ruth is quite different than the usual love-em-and-leave-em variety for Kirk and we can see some genuine emotion between the two. This is enhanced by Ruth’s own theme provided by Gerold Fried (who coincidently also did the score for “Amok Time”). Ruth must have been some woman since the episode ends with Kirk going off to spend a few days with just this idealized fantasy version of her.
Protect me you big strong men
Probably the most notable thing noticed with the remastered version are the colors. This episode has more location shooting than any other and the outdoor scenes look brighter and more colorful than ever. You can now see clearly where the production team dressed the planet with oddly colored plants in the background. And the Rigel II dancers never looked so good.
As for the new CGI, these were limited to a number of establishing shots of the Enterprise in orbit. The original version had an oddly green blob with the ship (strangely) orbiting right to left. Although it is likely this was due to simply reversing a previously used image to create a new show, it could be argued that the reverse direction also hinted at the strangeness of the planet. The CBS-D team decided again to simplify. So the strange looking planet gets redone as a perfect looking Earth-like planet and the direction is turned around to conform with all other orbits. It appears there is some Starfleet rule that says the port side of the ship must face the planet. However I see no need for them to change the direction. The shots are done well and the ship is lit perfectly, even with nice blue reflections of the planet off the hull. CBS have certainly got very adept at making these planets and one by one all the weirdly colored planets are being redone as variations on our home world. Maybe this world can create Earth like environments for its visitors, but does it have to appear just like Earth from orbit? This is a wacky zany planet and the crew showed up a bit off their game, so why not have the wrong direction around a strange new world?
Ship and planet look great, but must all orbit shots be the same?
All in all one of Trek’s funnest episodes gets a needed (albeit playing it safe) digital upgrade.