It had to happen, I know. I knew that if in every Star Trek series I’ve watched there are a number of “lighthearted” episodes, obviously everything the tradition started with The Original Series. And here we are with the first non-serious episode (in Mudd’s women at least there was a theme, even though it was treated very badly), number fifteen, Shore leave. I suffer a lot with these episodes, I deeply hate those with Lwaxana Troi in The Next Generation, I can barely stand the Ferengi episodes in Deep Space Nine, while the first two seasons of Voyager (the only ones I’ve seen, for now) so far have avoided 100% silly episodes. Thank goodness.
I have found Shore leave quite awful. I understand its objective, I understand the reasons behind it, and while watching it I understood quickly enough how it was going to play its cards (as soon as the White Rabbit showed up, let’s say). Anyway, I suffered to get to the end. For me, in an episode like this, nothing works: the characters behave like fools (for example, Sulu finds a terrestrial gun on a distant planet and simply decides to try it out, without asking any questions), the situations lead to nothing, the entire plot is meaningless and leaves no mark at all.
But I realize that it was the Sixties and that we were coming out of fourteen episodes all written seriously, with science fiction themes that sometimes touched the horror genre (Miri) and sometimes the action genre (Balance of terror). Perhaps in order to get another slice of audience, either Roddenberry or the producers thought that a bit of humor, actually a lot of humor, was the way forward. For me, humor works in small doses, as seen in excellent dialogues between Spock and McCoy in some previous episodes, for example. But an entire episode full of absurd situations with the bully tormenting Kirk, McCoy happy to find his half-naked escorts, Sulu shooting at the trees, yeoman Barrows (the splendid Emily Banks) claiming that all women want a Don Juan (olé, a bit of sexism had to be there)… that’s heavy. Really heavy.
In short, I am sure that I won’t watch Shore leave ever again. I can justify its existence more than I can justify that of the Ferengi episodes in DS9, which are truly unbearable, but it’s not my cup of tea. Ciao!
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Next episode: The Galileo Seven