One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘Shore Leave’


Some of my favorite episodes of classic Star Trek feature plots that venture from science fiction into the realm of the surreal. The series wasn’t afraid to take chances with stories that seemed strange and fantastical, even for Star Trek’s standards. Episodes like The Savage Curtain, Catspaw and Shore Leave all feature elements that, at least initially, can’t possibly make any sense adding an air of other-worldliness that was Star Trek’s hallmark.

When the crew of the Enterprise survey a lush planet in the Omicron Delta region, the place quickly presents itself one of those “strange, new worlds” Kirk highlights in the show’s opening narration. McCoy spies Alice and the Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Sulu finds an ancient Colt revolver and Captain Kirk meets Finnegan, an upperclassman who tormented him endlessly at Starfleet Academy and a long lost love named Ruth. Both people from Kirk’s past can’t possibly be on this planet far from Earth, yet here they are in all their nostalgic glory.

Things get even more bizarre for the landing party when Don Juan shows up and Doctor McCoy is seemingly killed by a dark knight on horseback. The crew eventually discovers the entire planet was constructed so that its creators could come and visit and live out any fantasy they choose simply by thinking about it. One of the planet’s caretakers appears at the conclusion of act IV (accompanied by an alive and well McCoy) and suggests that with the proper precautions, their playground planet could just be what the exhausted Enterprise crew needs to relax.

I love many aspects of Shore Leave, especially how this episode set the stage for the creation of the holo-deck in Star Trek: The Next Generation – a place where you could go and magically experience anything you wished in an instant. The playground planet featured prominently in another episode of Star Trek: The Animated SeriesOnce Upon A Planet, and as you might expect, the crew encounters difficulties then as well.

Our one perfect shot from Shore Leave comes just as Kirk discovers his old adversary, Finnegan, leaning boyishly against a tree. The fantastic nature of his appearance, how director Robert Sparr decided to present him to the audience is wonderful. I always wished we had learned more about Finnegan, perhaps in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, but alas, that never materialized.

Next time Spock gets his first taste of command under extreme circumstances in ‘The Galileo Seven‘.

Check out the entire series of perfect Star Trek shots to date.


My Scrooge

Ask any person what’s their favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and you never know what they’ll say. There have been so many versions of the classic tale over the years, it’s daunting to pick a single version. I suspect that for most people, their favorite is the one they were introduced to as a child.

Without a doubt, my favorite version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the 1970 musical adaptation, Scrooge starring Albert Finney, Kenneth More and Alec Guinness. Produced by the same team that gave the world Oliver!, Scrooge is perhaps the liveliest version of the story I’ve ever known, and for my money the most satisfying. It features a memorable array of songs, strong acting and a large, energetic cast that gives the film the feeling of a broadway production.

Although the film never won any Oscars, Albert Finney did win a Golden Globe in 1971 for Best Actor in a musical or comedy. Finney is the heart and soul of Scrooge and manages to make us both despise and love the character simultaneously. From our glimpses into his past as an abandoned boy, to the heartbreaking loss of his finance Isabel Fezziwig, Finney’s Scrooge is a real person, with a host of dreams squandered in the pursuit of wealth.

When Scrooge’s transformation finally arrives at the end of the second act, it’s made all the more believable thanks to Finney’s incredible depth as an actor. As Ebenezer awakens at the foot of his bed to learn he has been given a second chance, Finney performs the moving “I’ll Begin Again” and makes us actually believe he has changed for the better.

Too many adaptations spend hardly any time after Scrooge turns from the dark side. I enjoyed the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol, but the end is very short and just doesn’t give you that “It’s a Wonderful Life” feeling that the end of Scrooge does. All this, combined with some of the most beloved holiday songs from composer Leslie Bricusse, add up to one of my all-time Christmas favorites. Since the soundtrack has never been released on anything other than vinyl, I’ve spent the last few Christmases making my own by digitizing and editing the audio from the DVD release. If you’re interested in getting a copy of it, drop me a line and let me know. I’ll be happy to share my efforts with you.

What version of A Christmas Carol is your favorite? Patrick Stewart’s performance? Bill Murray in Scrooged? Don’t forget Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol! Don’t be a humbug, drop a note in the comments and share your memories with the rest of us. Merry Christmas everyone!