“The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.”
If you watch the original series in the order that NBC aired the episodes instead of production order, it may seem that Ensign Martine gets over her fiancee relatively quickly. The end of one episode she’s mourning him in the Enterprise chapel, the next she’s on shore leave in the company of another guy and showing little or no after effects of having just lost someone she was ready to marry the week before.
But if you watch in production order where we have a few installments between meetings, it makes a bit more sense that she could be moving on with her life. You can also give the character the benefit of the doubt since the script doesn’t come out and directly say that she’s down on the planet with a new romantic interest. Could be that she needs the time away to process what’s going on and she’s in one of the five stages of grief.
These are the things you begin to notice when you watch the episodes a zillion and one times.
As I’ve said before, this run of episodes is among my favorite in not only the original series but the entire canon of Star Trek. In many ways, it feels like “Shore Leave” is the first “funny” episode of the original series. It’s a bit of a companion piece to “The Naked Time.” But instead of breaking down the crew and removing their inhibitions, the Shore Leave world (it’s never named) gives us some further insight into the private thoughts of the crew. We see some of their regrets, some of their interests and some of their fantasies.
The fact that all of these are playing out on a world that can bring all of this to life for you is an interesting concept. I find it fascinating to see that Kirk has some regrets from his past — not belting Finney, who bullied him and who Kirk feels deserves a good beating (if only so we can get another moment with Kirk in a ripped shirt) or that he left Ruth behind. McCoy it seems is a bit of a fan of classical young adult literature, seeing the White Rabbit and then facing down the Black Knight in defense of a lady.
It’s interesting that McCoy is the one who “dies” making his fantasy life come true. The episode takes a very dark turn there at the end of act two. And at this point in the series, it’s possibly (though not likely) that McCoy could just end up as nothing more than a series regular red-shirt. Of course, we all know that doesn’t happen and that DeForest Kelly was proving vital as one third of the triumvirate. But I can’t help but wonder if I’d watched this one in 1966 when it first aired if I might have been more willing to think that McCoy had shuffled off this mortal coil since he wasn’t one of the big two included in the opening credits just yet.
My biggest gripe with the episode is that the audience seems to put the clues together as to what’s going on long before the crew does. Or maybe it’s just that some of the fantasies realization begins to feel more like it’s treading water than necessarily moving the plot forward or revealing anything about the characters. I’m not referring to Kirk or McCoy necessarily. But by the time we see the poor chained up tiger for what feels like the fifth or sixth time, I can’t help but feel like this episode is treading water until we find out who is behind this whole thing.
All that said, it’s not terrible. It’s got some great location filming, some of the series’ first and it’s got a memorable musical score that will be sampled many more times over the course of the next two and a half seasons.
Here’s What Others Are Saying About “Shore Leave”