Seasons of Seasons: Star Trek Season 1, “Shore Leave” & “The Galileo Seven”

Shore Leave is one of the more interesting entries in Star Trek so far, but less because of what happens on the screen and more for what conspired behind the scenes. Before creating Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry created The Lieutenant for NBC and barely had a break between the two series. At the insistence of his wife and doctor, Roddenberry took a well-deserved vacation to relieve some stress. Though the script comes from Theodore Sturgeon – a prolific and respected sci-fi writer and the inspiration for Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout character – you can see Roddenberry’s fingerprints all over the themes of Shore Leave.

That is, the idea that taking time away is virtually impossible for someone in Captain Kirk’s position. The episode begins with McCoy and Sulu – who’s been unfortunately absent the last few weeks – scouting an abandoned planet nearby in order for more members of the crew to take a brief leave of duty. We’ve seen a number of episode with overly silly developments but Shore Leave is chock full of those moments, and it all begins right at the opening, as Bones sees an embodiment of Alice in Wonderland with a White Rabbit (you cannot tell me the costume didn’t come from a local mall after the Easter Bunny finished his last shift) and Alice disappear into the distance.

The episode just gets more and more bizarre from there, with everyone experiencing their own hallucinations, including Kirk seeing a former tormentor and a lost love. Sturgeon reportedly wanted to lean into the planet’s sci-fi elements a little more but after some network pushback, Roddenberry had to hurriedly rewrite the script as the episode was being made. Knowing this, it helps to explain the rushed nature of the finale. We’ve also seen a number of episodes that deal with the Enterprise crew becoming disillusioned with reality and Shore Leave is among the lesser of that subgenre.

The episode at least shows how Star Trek was able to stretch its budget to maximum effect; it looks as if the crew taped off a portion of a local park. In actuality, Shore Leave was shot in an animal park and nature preserve in California, which helps explain the appearance of a tiger at one point. But whereas Shore Leave felt like an exercise in minimalism, The Galileo Seven sees the show utilizing more of its resources to create more fantastical worlds and visuals.

Star Trek has given the spotlight to Spock a few times already but this episode shows just how insufferable he is to the rest of the Enterprise crew. Spock may be the show’s most enduring character, and I have no doubt he was just as much of a conversation point when the show originally aired. Leonard Nimoy perfectly embodies Spock’s emotionless approach to problem-solving, and his crew has to put up with too much of him when they’re marooned on a distant planet after passing through a quasar.

The show’s production does an effective job of setting up the mysterious planet and, though they’re purposefully under-shown, the violent native creatures elicit a primal dread. The Galileo Seven sees the show returning to a familiar well – that is, the ticking clock, in this case it’s the galactic commissioner only giving Kirk a limited amount of time before he must abandon Spock and the small ship’s crew. But here, Spock must literally choose who lives and dies in order to give the shuttle enough weight to get off the ground. Aside from the set decoration, the episode sees perhaps the most use of CGI so far, both with the depiction of the quasar and the Enterprise and Galileo’s voyages.

Neither episode really reveals anything new about the crew, Kirk, Spock, or the galaxy at large, but they still manage to be enjoyable times with creative adventures. Most shows ordered to air 23-26 hour-long episodes will inevitably hit a creative rut around the midway point, so it’s no big shock to see it happen to Star Trek. I never felt the length of either episode drag on as in some of the less enjoyable entries, but I don’t rank either as among the best of the show so far.

Shore Leave Grade: B-

The Galileo Seven Grade: B+

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