9.07.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 68: Shore Leave

Directed by Robert Sparr, who died in a plane crash not long afterwards, and
Killdozer.
On one hand I feel bad about always doing the Killdozer joke. Sturgeon was so much more than that. On the other, I just can't help myself. When the roll call of great titles is taken, Killdozer will be in the top 5.


Script / Story: (8 / 8) The Enterprise approaches a planet in the Omicron Delta system that may be suitable for badly needed shore leave. The Captain in particular is off his game. In these two screencaps below, he for some reason mistakes Yeoman Barrows for Spock.

Spock seems confused by this, too.
Is it standard procedure for the first officer to knead out the knots in the Captain's back?
What first seems ideal quickly turns deadly.
    
    
        
   

The fantasy-planet idea is great. Very iconic. Not unique to this episode, of course, but Sturgeon knew what he was doing. A planet controlled by a sophisticated computer designed by aliens-unknown to externalize the images, fears and fantasies from the minds of those who walk upon it makes not just for fun TV/ fun Trek but also a funhouse mirror for 60s-America to ponder itself, primarily its sexual mores.

Kirk daydreams of getting even with the upperclassman who bullied him,
while Sulu...well.

This was one of my favorites as a kid. Then, whether from watching it too much or changing tastes I don't know, from around 1995 to 2009 I cooled on it substantially. But I've come back around to loving it in recent years. It's structured like a Shakespearean comedy, where every Jack gets his Jane, everyone ends up where they should be, and the social order is temporarily scrambled, then put back together.

While Kirk walks off into the sunset with Ruth,


it's Bones' interrupted romantic interlude with Tonia Barrows that takes center stage. Rare that McCoy gets to upstage Kirk in this department. (The Captain is busy grappling with Finnegan, so his passions are divided.)

The Bones/Barrows arc, however, is a bit of a nightmare as romantic interludes go, which has the added effect of making the story resemble some sort of swinging 60s couples therapy. Very revealing. The planet externalizes their neuroses, which allows them to explore their feelings and romantic arrangement in new ways, which immediately include rape fantasies, wife-swapping, and scream therapy. All things very much associated with the psychological chic of the 60s, couples therapy or otherwise.

Barrows barely escapes a sexual assault before her and McCoy's big date.
She is terrorized from that point on, up to and including seeing Bones killed in front of her.
But surprise! Bones returns from the underworld with some new ideas on how to enliven their relationship.
(Shakespeare Space Sex Comedy)
Barrows ain't buying it.

Before any permanent damage is done, the controller appears and tells them all was a dream. Session over. Use these techniques at home.

Interesting composition. Spock looks directly at Kirk, while Kirk, knowing he's being looked at, plays it cool, looking straight ahead, while all others gaze at Spock betraying their own post-coital states. "Couples Weekend Seminar" is over, wink-wink.
This extends to Esteban and (Angela) Martine, as well, whom you may recall was the widowed-at-the-altar lady from "Balance of Terror" which aired the week before this one. She flirts with him, he ignores her, apparently starts lecturing her on funny old flying machines (!), at which point they are strafed from above.


Esteban tries to do the action-movie guy thing and drag her along with him while they run.

But he's not so good at it.
No matter, though. She'll always love him. Spock's blocking this shot of their reunion, alas, best I could do.
All told, it's a multi-layered exploration of relationship dynamics.

One thing that struck me about the end this time around: no distinction is made between "real" hook-ups (Bones and Barrows, Martine and Esteban) and imaginary or replicated ones (Kirk and Ruth.) In the world of tomorrow, with its sexual menagerie of aliens, robots, fantasies, and holograms, are people more pansexual? This may have been less prominent in Sturgeon's original draft. I sense the hand of Roddenberry here. Though maybe not: Sturgeon was married three times with two other long-term relationships and fathered seven children. Probably no stranger to pondering the couples dynamics of the era, particularly among writers of science-fiction. Title: (2)

Kirk and the Gang: (33) Extra points for Bones. It's one of his stronger performances in the series, probably because he gets so many different things to do. First contact with the weirdness of the planet, death, resurrection, and the romantic lead, something he does surprisingly well. He always seemed to me too old to be romancing this girl (or perhaps the other way around) but such is life. Particularly fantasyland.


Unfortunately, I was unable to get a proper screencap of Bones yelling for Sulu after seeing Alice and the White Rabbit. For a split second, he cocks his head back and bellows, beagle-like, "Su-luuu!"

At this point in the series, Sulu has two firmly established hobbies: botany and 20th century firearms. Luckily for the show, since familiarity with both comes in handy so often.
Kirk's running around and his fight scenes with Finnegan are pretty epic.

This above isn't it, but keep an eye/ ear out for the scene where Kirk runs away from Finnegan the first time, after hearing the gunshots. It's such an oddly-paced run but timed so perfectly to the long tracking shot. Screencaps don't give it justice. But it must have been fun. And it showcases Shatner's uncanny syzygy with the camera during this phase of his career.

Internal Logistics: (2) I'm unsure why no one mentions the possibility of using the shuttlecraft after Spock tells them the transporters aren't working. It'd already been introduced in the series.


I'd be remiss not to point out that the policeman's special that Sulu finds holds only 6 rounds, but 7 shots are fired in all. It's possible (and probably reasonable to assume) the gun is magically animated, as everything else is, so who's to say it doesn't just reload automatically?


Visual Design: (2.5) Great use of location shooting, and many memorable images.

Guess it was Sulu who was thinking of the plane, too, eh? (i.e. the close-up is a Japanese zero fighter.)
Not a Zero.
Guest: (3.75) First and foremost, we have Emily Banks as Yeoman Tonia Barrows:

 
You may recognize her from Bewitched, as well.
Or Knight Rider.
While casting about for info on here, I came across this site about the Miss Rheingold tradition. I misread that as "Das Rheingold" originally, something quite, quite different. Fascinating - I had no idea.

Maybe it's not "fascinating," okay, but I love retro Americana.
Bruce Mars plays Finnegan:

Good to know that the future is not bereft of Lucky Charms-esque pranksters.

A friend and I used to fall out of our chairs imagining an extended sequence of the "my back... ye've broken it" bit:


In our version, Finnegan would do the fake-out, as he does here, then Kirk would, fooling Finnegan, whereupon Finnegan would, again, then Kirk, and so on. This would go on for 20 minutes or so. We were in 8th grade at the time; this was the funniest thing we could possibly imagine.

Seth MacFarlane got rich from doing the same joke, ad infinitum, on a weekly basis. Further proof that I'm an idiot.

Speaking of idiocy, when Kirk believes Finnegan may indeed be injured, for some reason he grabs his foot - I guess to see if he can move his foot? Though he's clearly moving it? -  and says "Can you feel that?" First Aid is not Kirk's strong suit. But, we know this:

From "The Paradise Syndrome."
And finally, Ruth, played by Shirley Bonne:

Dooooo-doo-de-dooooo, dooo-doo-de-doooo
Ruth's musical cue is played about 85,000 times in this episode. But it's such an indelible part of the experience for me I can't imagine it / wouldn't have it any other way. The musical cues all around are lots of fun in this episode, particularly the wind chimes audio and the bits associated with the tiger and the samurai. (Don Juan, that whimsical rapist, even gets one.)

Memorability: (4.5) Dooooo-doo-de-dooooo, dooo-doo-de-doooo

Total Points Awarded: 63.75

5 comments:

  1. * The logical conclusion is that Spock and Kirk have been undergoing the same sort of Vulcan nerve therapy that T'Pol gives Trip on "Enterprise." This may be the gayest thought I have ever had in my entire life, or at least since seeing "Magic Mike." Hurm...

    * Barrows is cool; a shame she never came back. Emily Banks is a nice thing to think about after that "Magic Mike" / Spock-Kirk massage incident of a few moments ago.

    * Who do I hate more: Yoko Ono or Finnegan? Too close to call; I despise them both.

    * Good call on how well DeForest Kelley does with all of his material. It's a shame he didn't get more episodes like this one.

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  2. "Yoko Ono or Finnegan?"

    And I had a pic of Yoko in yesterday's! I'm on a roll.

    I'm sure someone somewhere saw the T'Pol/ Trip touch therapy scenes and has already put the requisite slashfic together for Kirk and Spock. Damn it.

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  3. Emily Banks as Yeoman Tonia Barrows is one of my favorite females guest stars on TOS. It's really a shame she was never brought back, although I guess this could have led to some awkward moments for Bones.

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  4. Another of Kirk's long lost loves -- Ruth. I love Star Trek! I really do! It's probably my all time favorite show. But there were just too many long lost loves.

    Theodore Sturgeon invented the Prime Directive, by the way. That's an important contribution to the Star Trek phenomena.

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    Replies
    1. Been meaning to read some of Sturgeon's work for years now; really got to make time for that one of these days.

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