This episode is an example of why watching the shows in broadcast order provides a radically different experience than watching in series order. One of the first notable parts of this episode, and something Ando warned me about going into it, is the presence of Lt. Angela Martine, the bride-to-be from “Balance of Terror“, whose fiancee fell victim to the plot and was tragically killed during the cat-and-mouse game with the Romulans. This almost-widow is now seen snuggling up to Lt. Rodriguez, suggesting she got over her fiancee’s death surprisingly quickly. A little Wikipedia browsing reveals that in actuality, 7 episodes were filmed in between “Balance of Terror” and “Shore Leave”, and 1316.1 units of stardate (take that as you will; this early on, stardates meant next to nothing) have passed since Lt. Tomlinson’s death. Audiences of the time probably considered Lt. Martine a floozy, if they noticed her at all. The creators gave her much more credit than that, giving her what I’m sure they considered to be an appropriate mourning period, followed by the emergence of a new love interest.
Why were these episodes shown so out of order as to appear nearly randomized? I’m sure there were production reasons in some cases – special effects in post, delays in editing, etc. I like to think that in this case, “Balance of Terror” kept getting put off for some reason, and then all of a sudden, they realized, “Crap, that was the last episode before Christmas,” (aired Dec. 15, 1966) so then they gave us “Shore Leave” to apologize (aired Dec. 29, 1966). It’s an impressive episode, honestly – shot almost entirely on location, whereas most episodes up to this point are filmed primarily in studio. They also used this opportunity to do much more dynamic camera movements than we usually see.
Gene Roddenberry was a very forward-thinking man, but even he wasn’t perfect. Star Trek is still very much a product of the 60’s: aside from Lt. Uhura, we are very rarely presented with realistic and well-rounded female characters. I notice bits of casual sexism in every episode, but rarely find it worth bringing up. This isn’t a feminist Star Trek blog, and I don’t want it to be. But the character of Yeoman Barrows is worth mentioning as she is a shining example of a terribly-written female character. First, she gives Kirk a backrub on the bridge (is that really in a yeoman’s job description?), then she willingly objectifies herself as a prize princess, before finally perfectly personifying the Hysterical Female until Kirk takes her by the shoulders and shakes her in a classic “Get a hold of yourself, woman!” moment. Yeoman Barrows is an amusing character indeed, but one that leaves me shaking my head.