Star Trek: The Original Series, & VR ~ Shore Leave
The USS Enterprise has been through a tough, ongoing three month slog: The crew are tired, overstressed, irritable, and prone to mistakes.
The sensor arrays are sweeping space in search of something that can be used for rest and recuperation. They find one such possibility in the Omicron Delta system nearby: A lush class M planet, with no traces of civilisation.
Landing parties are sent down to verify suitability, helms officer Sulu and Dr McCoy among them. They catalogue all manner of flora, but no sign of any fauna. Until, that is, McCoy sees a giant white rabbit in a waist-coat. It dashes up to him, stops, takes out a pocket watch and stares at it.
The rabbit proclaims in English "Oh dear oh dear, I'm late. I'm late for a very important date." And dashes off. Stunned, McCoy is caught unawares when a second creature, a young blond girl in a blue dress, stops by, addresses herself as Alice, and asks if he has seen a rabbit dash past. McCoy, unable to speak, just points, and the girl dashes off.
Meanwhile, a katana-wielding, armoured samurai from old Japan - who tries to attack Sulu, interrupts Lieutenant Sulu's botany study. Elsewhere, Yeoman Tonia Barrows is accosted by Don Juan.
By this point, McCoy's report of having seen characters from 'Alice in Wonderland' living on the planet, has reached Enterprise. Kirk is reading through them incredulously, when Spock approaches him, concerning a crewmember that is of concern.
"He's becoming irritable and quarrelsome, but he refuses to take rest
or rehabilitation. Now, he has that right, but we've found..."
At that point, Kirk has no choice but to beam down for shore leave, so he decides to investigate McCoy's sighting. At first, he does not believe the story, believing instead McCoy's mind is playing tricks under strain. However, he starts to believe when he finds giant rabbit tracks with dainty shoe prints beside them in the soft earth. Kirk tracks the footprints, thinking of how this is like his academy games - following tracks. Suddenly, a figure from his academy days jumps out from behind a tree in front of Kirk. The insufferable, thickly accented trickster Finnegan. He goads Kirk on just like in Kirk's younger days, and Kirk, after pausing ineffectually to wonder why Finnegan is here - Finnegan continually taunts him until Kirk snaps - gives chase.
After losing Finnegan in the forest, Kirk uses his communicator to order a temporary halt on beam-downs until they can figure out what is happening. Finnegan reappears, taunts Kirk, then runs off once more. Before he can give chase, Kirk meets another person from his academy days; former girlfriend, Ruth, whom he hasn't seen in years.
Spock calls down from the ship that things are not right up there either. Something on the planet has begun to drain the ship's power. If the drain continues, they could lose power to maintain orbit. Spock additionally points out that energy patterns now emanating from the surface suggest industrialisation, and a flurry of industrial activity.
Communications start to break up, and Spock beams down to take sensor readings personally. He very nearly does not make it, as the planet latches onto the transporter beam as yet another source of power. No further transporter use will be possible.
Elsewhere, McCoy and Yeoman Burrows are chatting about the strangeness, and Burrows remarks its like a fairytale. At that point she notices a fairytale princess' costume has appeared, neatly folded on a bush nearby. It is exactly her size. Both remark on this, but Burrows decides to try it on.
Dressed as a delicate princess, she giggles and says to McCoy that all she needs now is a knight on a galloping Stallion. Soon after, he appears. Dressed in black armour, the knight lowers his lance and charges. McCoy steps in front of her to protect her, and takes the lance in the middle of his torso, pulping his internal organs, and snapping his spine in half. He dies immediately.
Kirk and Sulu - who has found a pistol lying on the ground - dash over after hearing her screams. Kirk takes Sulu's pistol, and shoots the knight as it charges them, knocking him dead from his horse.
They remove part of the body's armour and find the form inside isn't human. It is some sort of mannequin, constructed from cellulose. As the face was covered up by armour, it did not need details, and so, it does not possess any.
Sulu comments on the odd range of weapons; a pistol, a swordsman a medieval knight. The planet is so unpredictable, one might expect something as ludicrous as a biplane next. Bad choice of words, for the biplane appears high above them, turns, and begins what Sulu calls a 'strafing run'. Everyone scatters as bullets ping off the soil all around them. In the commotion, McCoy's body and that of the knight's just disappear.
Logical Spock arrives in time to see the commotion, and deduces that whatever the landing party think of, is created for them. Spock asks Kirk what he was thinking of before Finnegan appeared. Kirk answers that he was reminiscing of his academy days, and, predictably, as he reminisces, Finnegan reappears, taunting Kirk. He then runs off with Kirk hot on his heels.
The chase ends in a ravine where Finnegan sneaks up on Kirk and attacks him. Remembering all the torment the older cadet put him through, Kirk fights back and knocks Finnegan out. Spock catches up to the captain, who is panting, clothes half torn off. Spock speaks first.
"Did you enjoy that, captain?"
Both now realise whatever they think of, is created for them, but their thoughts are turning deadly, and the creations are responding.
Kirk orders everyone to come to him, and to stand at attention, stop thinking about anything but being at attention.
After a few minutes, an elderly biped appears. He identifies himself as the "Caretaker". Accompanying him is Dr. McCoy, who was revived by the sophisticated machinery below the planet's surface. McCoy smiles and confirms he's all right and shows off the two sexy Rigelian cabaret girls he thought up.
The Caretaker informs Kirk that planet is a sophisticated "amusement park", but the illusions are not designed to be harmful or to last permanently. He apologises for the misunderstandings and offers the services of the planet to the Enterprise's weary crew. Kirk accepts the offer as Ruth appears again, and authorises the crew to beam down.
Shore Leave is really all about augmented reality.
If the technology is advanced enough, augmented does not have to mean virtual data superimposed on a physical world. That underground complex is largely comprised of 3D printers able to swiftly produce robotic components and bodies, in the same way as we use 3D printers nowadays, to print bulkier contrivances.
It could be a large holodeck, but the necessity of manufacturing hints against it. McCoy's recovery could also in part be due to 3D printing: His DNA is sampled, and a new section of body printed using sinew, nerve and bone as 'colours'.
The robotics act according to instructions gleamed from a wireless non-invasive monitoring of brain patterns. Throughout the episode, you see a lot of uni-directional arrays disguised as flowers, which pop up from thick undergrowth and aim themselves at people'' heads. Basically, they are trying to read neural patterns, and deduce what people are thinking: Thus, what they want.
Hidden cavern entrances and tunnels then transport the robots as near as possible, after which they make their own way.
Westworld, on a grander scale, with less fluke failures, and robots that are designed to be single use shots, preventing lasting attachment or grudges on the simulated being's side.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS, built up one by one in chronological order, regardless of the strength of their connection to VR & AR. Set included for the sake of completeness.
A complete listing of Star Trek: TOS which reference virtual reality, alternate lives, AI, or augmented reality. They are built up one by one in chronological order.