Star Trek N00b, Episode 16: Shore Leave (The Caterpillar’s Pipe Dream)

Star Trek N00b_(2)_Rory Midhani_640

This is seriously one of the most cracked-out Star Trek episodes I’ve covered so far. Therefore you should ABSOLUTELY watch along here or maybe bake this episode into brownies, IDK.


Rest, Relaxation, and Rabbits

We open with Kirk batting his eyelashes at the new Yeoman, Tonia Barrows. He asks her to massage the “kink” in his back. Yeah huh. Spock is disgusted.


Spock mentions that Bones has recommended that everyone on board take a break with some well-deserved shore leave. “Myself excepted, of course,” says Spock, ever the proud Vulcan.

Sulu and Bones land beam down to a deserted jungle planet in the Omicron Delta region. Sulu frolics off to get his botany nerd on, since the plants look extremely similar to those found on Earth. “It’s like something out of Alice in Wonderland!” Bones marvels. Great timing, because a giant white rabbit being chased by a little girl go crashing through the bushes in front of Bones.

via Huffington Post. Rabbits are like the new clowns. They're after yer soul.

via Huffington Post. Rabbits are like the new clowns. They’re after yer soul.

Bones is understandably freaked out, and he radios Kirk to let him know that he’s unfit for duty. Why? Because he just saw a man-sized bunny wander by like they’re at a furry convention. Kirk laughs, convinced that this is just a prank. He decides to beam down to the planet with Yeoman Barrows and check things out.


When Kirk arrives, he asks if Sulu witnessed the giant rabbit chase. Bones explains that Sulu was “examining the flora at the time.” Yeah. That’s gotta be a euphemism for something.


Trigger Happy Sulu

Cut to a scene where a rock magically lifts itself up and poops out a gun. Or lays it, like a hen lays an egg. I don’t know WHAT fairy tale that’s from!

Don't question it. It's Star Trek physics.

Don’t question it. It’s Star Trek physics.

Meanwhile, two other crew members, Teller and Rodriguez, are scanning the plans so that they can deliver a report to Captain Kirk. I feel like we’re being lulled into a false sense of security—who knows what strange horrors will find them? Kirk orders the Enterprise to keep everyone on the ship until they investigate.


Looks like Bones wasn’t hallucinating after all. They find giant footprints, and Kirk uses his Star Scout skills to begin tracking the creature.


But they’re interrupted by gunshots!

Kirk, Bones and Barrows go running toward the gunshots with their phasers drawn. I wonder if anyone on the Enterprise has heard gunshots before—or if it’s something they learned about from TV? I mean, it seems like bullets would be obsolete tech, right?

They find Sulu grinning and shooting into the bushes. He does love his weapons — remember his obsession with bare-chested sword fighting? The captain demands to know where Sulu found the gun.

I swear, Captain! I just found it on the ground!

I swear, Captain! I just found it on the ground!

Sulu thinks it’s strange that he found this particular vintage gun model, since he’d just been thinking about it earlier. Hmmmmmm. Kirk orders Sulu to hand over the weapon, since he’s too “trigger happy” out here in the wild.


Kirk, the Bullied Student

Kirk and Bones walk back toward the rabbit tracks. Since Bones got teased by the crew for his alleged hallucinations, Kirk tries to make him feel better by reminiscing on his old Academy days. Kirk describes himself as “serious” and “grim.” It’s really hard to imagine this. For some reason, I keep picturing Kirk as a frat bro, but maybe that’s unfair.

Kirk describes how a little shit named Finnegan used to pick on him all the time. Kirk sounds wistful, like he wishes that he could have done something different. If you’ve caught onto the common theme of this episode then you probably won’t be surprised: whenever you wish for something on this planet, it becomes reality. Be careful what you wish for!

When you wish upon a star... yeah. This is the bully from Kirk's past. Doesn't he look so punchable?

When you wish upon a star… yeah. This is the bully from Kirk’s past. Doesn’t he look so punchable?

Finnegan appears and clocks Kirk in the face. Before he can do anything about it, they hear Yeoman Barrows screaming bloody murder.

Kirk and Bones rush to help her, and Barrows is crying with her shirt torn. She explains that a man with a cloak and a jeweled dagger attacked her. Instead of taking her seriously, Kirk questions her credibility, asking, “Are you sure you’re not imagining all of this?” Really dude?

This some bullshit.

This some bullshit.

The crew realizes that their wishes and daydreams are coming to life, since Barrows had been thinking about Don Juan just a few seconds earlier. I’m not sure if they’re trying to imply that Barrows was secretly dreaming about an assault, but this scene creeped me out. Ugh.


Mysterious Forces

The crew realizes that they haven’t seen Sulu for a really long time. Who knows what kind of trouble he’s in! Kirk runs off to find him.

Meanwhile, this cheap looking antenna pops out of the ground.


But Kirk runs into a ghost from his past — a woman named Ruth, who seems like she was an old fling. They rub their faces against each other.

Yeah Kirk, we're confused too.

Yeah Kirk, we’re confused too.

The Enterprise calls Kirk on his communicator, reporting that an immense power field is emanating from the planet’s underground, affecting their communications with the landing party. Uh oh!

Teller and Rodriguez hear some weird noises in the bushes, and I’m not sure who’s dreaming about tigers, but here it is!




Renaissance Fairs and Samurai

This trippy episode just keeps getting weirder, as people’s fantasies manifest themselves!

Bones and Yeoman Barrows have become really chummy, and Barrows daydreams about new clothes. In fact, she thinks that “A girl should be dressed like a fairy.” I can’t say this would be my own gendered fantasy. I’d want some kick-ass survival tools and maybe some breathable armor to protect me against mosquitos. But hey, to each their own!

And tadah, look what the cosplay fairies drop off for Barrows!

Wow, this same-day shipping really came through for us!

Wow, this same-day shipping really came through for us!

Barrows goes on to describe herself as “A lady to be PROTECTED and FOUGHT for!” Really? Great way to perpetuate destructive stereotypes. And Bones, thinking with his bone, replies “You are all of those things.”

I’m crossing my fingers at this point, wishing for a strong female fairy tale character to just APPEAR. Where’s Mulan at?! Where’s Elsa at?! How bout Jane Lynch’s Wreck-It Ralph character, Sergeant Calhoun? She’d just shoot her way outta the jungle.

Meanwhile, Sulu’s being chased by a samurai that just popped out from a trap door on the ground.


This is probably a bad time for Sulu to realize that his phaser is broken.


Poor, Mistaken Bones

Sulu runs into Kirk, and they run away to meet the rest of the landing crew at their start point, near the bunny rabbit tracks.

Sulu is SO over this planet.

Sulu is SO over this planet.

They get one last call from the Enterprise from Spock, who says that the subterranean power source is draining the phasers and breaking up communications. Spock beams down, and barely makes it before the transporter gets blocked. Now they’re all trapped!

But hey, maybe we’ll get to see what Spock wishes for!

Bones and the Yeoman are still doing their freaky cosplay thing, and they’re getting pretty cuddly. Bones imagines that he’s the Yeoman’s knight in shining armor. Well, that’s great because here comes an Actual Knight in Actual Jousting Gear!


Bones announces that “Hallucinations can’t harm us!” standing in the way of the charging horse. Too bad, because he gets lanced right in the chest. Bones falls over. Dead. Yes. You read that right. Bones is FREAKING DEAD!


Kirk shoots the knight down with the old-school pistol, and they run toward Bones in shock.


Let’s GTFO

Yeoman Barrows is losing her shit and screaming. Kirk snaps her out of it, explaining “Yeoman. We’re in trouble. I need every crewman alert and thinking.” Yup. This is some serious shit they’re in. I don’t know what I’m gonna do without Bones! Bones drinking! Bones derping around in Sick Bay! Bones disagreeing with Jim!

Sulu examines the fallen knight and realizes that the armor just contains a creepy, inanimate doll. And then some airplanes fly overhead distracting the crew from the Doc’s body, which is stolen by forces unknown. Someone please explain, WTF is going on?!

Nope. Sorry Sulu!

Nope. Sorry Sulu!

Finnegan, Kirk’s old nemesis from school, appears and taunts the Captain. Kirk runs off to get revenge, leaving Spock to stand there and scratch his head at all these irrational humans.



A Vacation of Freaky Fantasies

The Captain has done lost his mind. He and Finnegan beat the shit out of each other.



Kirk’s got this weird look of maniacal glee on his face the whole time.



Once Kirk knocks Finnegan out, Spock asks him, “Did you enjoy it, Captain?” Kirk replies yes, that he’s always wanted to beat the crap out of Finnegan. There’s gotta be a better way to work through these anger issues.


Remember those airplanes from earlier? Well they start shooting at Kirk and Spock, and they grab at each other and run for cover.



An Open Invite to the Planet of Wishes

The landing party regroups, and a mysterious Caretaker appears. He explains that the planet is meant to be an “amusement park” for beings of higher intellect. Bringing their wishes and desires for sex, battle, and adventure to life. When Kirk asks where the Caretaker is from, he explains: “My impression is that your race is not yet ready to understand us, Captain.”

Yes, you humans would never understand.

Yes, you humans would never understand.

Since this is all meant for pleasure, and none of it is real, that means that Bones isn’t really dead! He appears with a bunch of go-go dancers clinging to his arms, and the Yeoman gets uber jealous.

Bones: Well, you got your fancy threads. And I went to Vegas!

Bones: Well, you got your fancy threads. And I went to Vegas!

Kirk makes the really fuckin’ weird decision to INVITE EVERYONE down to the planet. Seriously Captain? Let’s recap all of the horrible stuff that happened to just your small landing party:

  • Scary giant rabbits
  • Attempted sexual assault
  • Sulu shooting off guns
  • Tigers
  • Old bullies from school
  • Airplanes shot at you

Amusement park? More like house of horrors.

Ruth appears once again, and Kirk is entranced. He wanders off into the forest to go uhhhhh enjoy his vacation / get laid.



Poor Forever Alone Spock.

After the vacation is over, everyone returns to the Enterprise laughing and relaxed. I’m pretty sure everyone, except Spock, got their freak on like some sailors on, well, shore leave.


Spock looks on at the laughing crew, and simply says, “Most illogical.”

Growing up, I had never watched a Star Trek episode all the way through. My family members weren’t huge sci-fi fans, and they’d flip the channel whenever Star Trek came on. Now I am embarking on an epic nerd rite of passage, chronicling my reactions to every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).

Header by Rory Midhani

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Queer hapa writer inspired by gadgets. Attending the Ada Developers Academy in the third cohort. Uninterested in quitting her coffee habit. Reads and writes sci-fi and horror. Find her at or on Twitter.

Loraine has written 33 articles for us.


  1. Basically everything you had to say about Bones made me laugh, but omg, I demand you watch the opening scene again, because it would be a crime to miss out on such a classic/hilarious homoerotic spock/kirk moment. Kirk complains of a kink in his back while Spock and the Yeoman are both behind him, and when someone starts massaging it of their own accord, he assumes it’s Spock, enthusiastically asking for it lower and harder, “Really dig in there Mr. Spo-” until Spock sighs and steps forward to let Kirk know they’re not currently engaging in some on-bridge PDA, and Kirk freezes at the realization and quickly dismisses those non-vulcan hands. XD


    • You stole my comment! That’s my favorite moment in maybe the entire series! Priceless!

    • I have absolutely no idea how I missed that!!!

      I think maybe my brain was like, “Nah, something that slashy COULDN’T have happened!”

  2. This episode was written by the great SF writer Theodore Sturgeon (“More Than Human”, which everyone should go read right this minute), who wrote it before Star Trek had even started filming. It was then re-written on location by Roddenberry, who kept the story mostly intact with just a few changes for practical reasons. Sturgeon also wrote the classic episode “Amok Time” (S2, Ep1), where we go to Vulcan. A kind of general call was sent out to the SF writers of the day right at the start of the show being picked up, asking them for ideas and scripts. The episode was shot at “Africa USA”, a kind of cheesy park where lots of Hollywood stuff was filmed.

    Random notes:

    I’d love to hear Bones actually say, “It’s as though I’m at a furries convention!”

    I rather doubt that guns will ever be obsolete, sadly.

    60s sexism, ugh indeed. Have you made it through more than one episode of Mad Men, Loraine? But still, remind me to avoid Don Juan (who according to Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a sex addict anyway, and who needs that?).

    Ruth is a bit stiff, but then, so was Kirk, probably.

    In (feeble) defense of the chick fantasies, maybe too much equality gets to a girl and she needs a break? Just a thought…

    Very funny recap of a very strange episode!

  3. So I started watching this show recently, only a few months before the recaps began. And I love it, I do. I love sci fi, and space ships and salt monsters and gay subtext, and the crew.

    But its really really hard to watch the blatant sexism. This is the only thing from the 60s that I’ve watched, so I don’t have lots of context, but it’s still abhorrent.

    what I’m saying is, this episode was supposed to be fun, but it made me cringe.

    But that back rub was super gay.

    • Yeah, it’s rough to watch sometimes, but it also cracks me up that people could buy into this silly coffee server caricature in one scene, and then watch Uhura take over navigation in emergencies.

Comments are closed.