Star Trek Re-Watch: “Turnabout Intruder”

Turnabout Intruder
Teleplay by Arthur Singer
Story by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Herb Wallerstein

Season 3, Episode 24
Production episode: 3×24
Original air date:  June 3, 1969
Star date: 5928.5

 

Mission summary

The Enterprise has arrived at Camus II where a team of researchers exploring a long-lost civilization have sent out a distress signal. When they beam down they find that only two scientists have survived the mysterious circumstances: Dr. Coleman, the surgeon, and Dr. Janice Lester, the expedition’s leader and an old flame of Kirk’s. Dr. Lester is bedridden from radiation poisoning and seems on the brink of death. Kirk goes to her, but she can barely speak. (He’s just that impressive.) He stays with her as Spock, McCoy, and Dr. Coleman detect weak lifesigns elsewhere on the station and exit in pursuit.

While Kirk and Dr. Lester arbor some residual tenderness towards one another, they have some resentment issues like you wouldn’t believe:

JANICE: I hoped I wouldn’t see you again.
KIRK: I don’t blame you.
JANICE: The year we were together at Starfleet is the only time in my life I was alive.
KIRK: I never stopped you from going on with your space work.
JANICE: Your world of starship captains doesn’t admit women. It isn’t fair.
KIRK: No, it isn’t. And you punished and tortured me because of it.
JANICE: I loved you. We could’ve roamed among the stars.
KIRK: We’d have killed each other.
JANICE: It might have been better.

Kirk, in his wisdom, doesn’t respond to that particular remark. Instead he explores the room he’s in a little bit. Short attention span, that captain. Against the back wall of the sick room is a lighted structure, with some kind of alien markings all over it. With his back turned to Janice, Kirk inspects the strange wall. Seems… wall-y. Yep. Well, that was productive. Meanwhile, Janice pulls out a remote control and points it at Kirk. With a buzz from the remote he is pulled against the wall and immobilized. It’s a trap!1 Dr. Lester, smiling, gets out of bed easily–so much for radiation sickness–and walks toward him. On the side of the structure are two switches, and she flips one and then stands beside Kirk against the wall. Thanks to the wonders of crappy special effects, we see a shadow of Kirk lift out of his body and overlay onto hers, while a shadow of Lester lifts out of her body and onto the captain’s. They’ve switched bodies!The captain–now possessed by Dr. Lester2–awakes first, and switches the machine off. She carries her old body to the bed and delights in her victory:

LESTER (AS KIRK): You had your chance, Captain Kirk. You should’ve smothered the life in me. Then they would have said Dr. Janice Lester died of radiation poisoning in the line of duty. Why didn’t you do it? You always wanted to. Didn’t you? You had the strength to do it. But you were afraid. You were always afraid. Now Janice Lester takes the place of Captain Kirk. I already possess your physical strength. Only this Captain Kirk is not afraid to kill. Now you know the indignity of being a woman. For you this agony will soon pass, as it has for me. Quiet. Quiet! Believe me, it’s better to be dead than to live alone in the body of a woman. It’s better to be dead.

Are we back on Elba II?? This woman’s a few warp cores short of an engine. She hovers over Kirk, who is unconscious and trapped in her weak womanly body, and begins to wrap her scarf around her hands to choke him. But as she hesitates she hears footsteps and voices approaching. Too late! Damned womanly hesitation! McCoy, Coleman, and Spock return. The person in distress didn’t make it. McCoy believes it’s celebium radiation that affected the scientists, but Coleman disagrees. In either case (the person who seems to be) Dr. Lester, unconscious on the bed, will die without treatment. Will Kirk beam her up to the Enterprise?

Lester takes a moment to consider the possibility: does she raise suspicion and get her goal, by leaving Kirk to die alone on the planet, while she takes his place? Or does she do what she knows Kirk would do and try to save her? She opts for the latter, and they all beam up to the ship. The unconscious body of Lester is taken to sickbay, while Kirk tells McCoy to take “special” care of her:

LESTER (AS KIRK): It’s been a long time since I saw her. I walked out on her when it became serious.
MCCOY: Well, you must have been very young at the time, Jim.
LESTER (AS KIRK): Youth doesn’t excuse everything, Doctor McCoy. It’s a very unhappy memory for me.

That’s an understatement! Lester-as-Kirk then meets up with Dr. Coleman, who seems a little put out. He knows exactly what’s going on, but why isn’t the real Kirk dead yet?

COLEMAN: That’s all we can ask for. How can death be explained now?
LESTER (AS KIRK): I tell you it can’t continue.
COLEMAN: You killed every one of the staff. You sent them where you knew the celebium shielding was weak. Now why didn’t you kill him? You had the perfect opportunity.
LESTER (AS KIRK): There wasn’t enough time.
COLEMAN: I gave you every minute you asked for.
LESTER (AS KIRK): He hung onto life too hard. I couldn’t–
COLEMAN: You couldn’t because you love him. You want me to be his murderer.
LESTER (AS KIRK): Love? Him? I love the life he led. The power of a starship commander. It’s my life now.
COLEMAN: I won’t become a murderer.
LESTER (AS KIRK): You are a murderer! You knew it was celebium. You could’ve treated them for it. You’re a murderer many times over.

Before we can settle this very important “who’s the biggest murderer” fight, though, McCoy enters and wants to know why Kirk is hanging out in the sick ward. He claims to have been there to comfort Janice, but even McCoy knows something’s up. Moreover, there’s no radiation damage to speak of, so what’s Dr. Coleman on about? He thinks Janice will be coming around shortly and can’t really find anything wrong with her–maybe her paralysis is the result of a phaser stun? Coleman insists it is radiation and that she must be kept sedated–a move McCoy thinks is risky. In the end, Coleman whines loudest and prevails: Kirk decides to give him authority over Dr. Lester as a patient. McCoy’s furious, but he tells Nurse Chapel to do as ordered and apply the sedative anyway. Just as she does so, Dr. Lester seems to mumble something about losing command of the Enterprise.

You know, standard Federation fever dream.

The real Lester, meanwhile, is gloating in voiceover about her amazing success:

LESTER (AS KIRK): Now the years I spent studying every single detail of the ship’s operation will be tested. With a little experience, I will be invulnerable to suspicion. At last I attain what is my just due. Command of a starship. All the months of preparation now come to fruition.

Unfortunately, we know from repeated third season outings how right she probably is about her ability to take over the ship. She gets started right away by getting the real Kirk out of the picture, and plotting a course to the Benecia Colony. It’s not just out of the way but in the opposite direction they want to go, which raises the suspicions of her bridge officers–but its primitive resources and remote location make it the perfect place to dump the newly feminized Captain Kirk.

From there, she retires to Kirk’s room…. to file her nails. Sigh. McCoy enters, sweaty-browed and angry, and she continues to primp her new body during the conversation. McCoy has discovered that Dr. Coleman, if that is his real name,3 was fired from starship duty for incompetence and gross medical malpractice. This doesn’t seem to faze the new Kirk, who suggests political reasons for his dismissal. But McCoy is on a mission now, and has an additional demand: that Kirk report for a full physical exam. The reason? “Emotional instability” and “erratic mental attitudes.” Lester rebuffs him but is called to the bridge before they can hash it out further.

Meanwhile, Kirk slowly awakes in sickbay a little confused. He approaches the mirror and discovers the body upgrade since he was last reliably conscious. He shouts for Dr. McCoy but is greeted instead by Dr. Coleman, who doesn’t seem particularly persuaded by Kirk’s entreaties that he’s not Lester. Nurse Chapel enters and Kirk tries to appeal to her, but Coleman explains that she has been delusional for months, specifically believing herself to be Captain Kirk. Chapel brings a sedative and puts the old girl down.

Later, Kirk awakes again, this time strapped to the bed, to find only Chapel in the room. Chapel has brought her a drink, and she asks to drink it slowly, but promises she’ll “be good.” Chapel seems reassured by her newfound sanity and acquiesces, leaving Kirk in the room alone with the drink. As soon as she leaves, Kirk smashes the glass against the bed and uses the sharp edges to saw through the restraining strap.

In his hospital dress, he runs through the hallways of the Enterprise half-mad, shouting for Spock and McCoy. He finds them both in the main sickbay area–with Lester. Lester forces Kirk out of sickbay and karate-chops her old body. Kirk slumps to the floor, helpless. Even McCoy is freaked out by this incident, but Lester just says, “She might’ve killed someone,” and orders some redshirts to lock the real Kirk up in isolation where no one can speak with him.

McCoy takes advantage of the opportunity to subject Lester to an exam. She passes all of the physical tests with flying colors (that Kirk is a fine, fine man), but there’s one more test: the Robbiani dermal-optic emotional structure test. McCoy flashes some colored lights at him to see how he responds. Alas, Lester manages to pass this test, too, which proves it’s about as scientifically accurate as seeing whether or not he cries during Ghost. (Pfft. Women.)

Spock has picked up a trail, though. He heads to Lester’s confinement and is stopped by a guard. Luckily he convinces the poor fool that it’d be just ludicrous if Kirk intended that he, the first officer, couldn’t speak to the prisoner. This seems reasonable to the redshirt so he accompanies Spock into the room to speak to this Janice Lester. If that is her real name.4

Kirk explains everything to Spock. He alludes to their adventures with the Vians and the Tholians, but Spock suggests that both those incidents are part of the public record. So he decides to prove it the only way he can–with a mind meld.

Yep, it’s Kirk.

The redshirt thinks this is all kinds of fucked up, but isn’t about to disobey orders to let his first officer worship some crazy woman who thinks she’s the captain. Spock goes to nerve-pinch him on his way out, but Galloway catches him in the act and cries for guards! That’s okay, though, because Spock has two hands, and gets him with the second one. He nerve-pinches the guard outside, too, but someone was able to warn Lester, and Spock and Kirk are soon overwhelmed. Lester demands that both Spock and Kirk be arrested on the charge of mutiny, and she immediately convenes a court martial to sentence them for their crimes.

Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, McCoy, Spock, and some redshirts are all convened in the briefing room. Spock testifies first, but has no physical or scientific evidence that the body-swap occurred. His mind-meld cannot be proven, and McCoy’s tests of “Kirk” checked out exactly fine. He does, however, demand that “Lester” be allowed to testify in her defense. At first the real Lester refuses, but then she agrees. After all, Kirk will simply look completely insane.

LESTER (AS KIRK): You claim that, that you are Captain James T. Kirk?
KIRK (AS LESTER): No. I am not Captain Kirk. That is very apparent. I claim that whatever it is that makes James Kirk a living being special to himself is being held here in this body.

Hmm. Well that didn’t work out so well.

LESTER (AS KIRK): Oh. Well. However, as I understand it, I am Dr. Janice Lester.
KIRK (AS LESTER): That’s very clever, but I didn’t say it. I said, the body of James Kirk is being used by Dr. Janice Lester.

Hmm. Again, this doesn’t seem to be helping Lester’s case. What else could make Kirk seem crazy…

LESTER (AS KIRK): Violence by the lady, perpetrated on Captain Kirk? I ask the assembled personnel to look at Dr. Janice Lester and visualise that historic moment. Can you, can you tell me why Dr. Janice Lester would agree to this ludicrous exchange?
KIRK (AS LESTER): Yes. To get the power she craved, to attain a position she doesn’t merit by temperament or training. And most of all, she wanted to murder James Kirk, a man who once loved her. But her intense hatred of her own womanhood made life with her impossible.

At this point Spock jumps in, but Lester accuses him of trying to discredit her so that he himself can take over the Enterprise. She begs him to rescind his accusations:

LESTER (AS KIRK): Spock. Spock, give it up! Return to the Enterprise family. All charges will be dropped and the madness that temporarily overcame all of us on Camus II will fade and be forgotten.

Alas, Spock’s gotten a taste of mutiny, and he likes it:

SPOCK: No, sir. I shall not withdraw a single charge that I have made. You are not Captain Kirk. You have ruthlessly appropriated his body, but the life entity within you is not that of Captain Kirk. You do not belong in charge of the Enterprise and I shall do everything in my power against you.

This infuriates Lester. It was all going so well! She shouts and bangs her fists and demands that a vote be taken immediately on the fate of these mutineers. Everyone seems kind of uncomfortable about this outburst. They adjourn, and in the hallway Scotty confronts McCoy about how he will vote. He suggests that if this “Kirk” goes crazy again with another outburst and does not accept their votes against him, that they should mutiny. McCoy looks grim.

When they re-enter the room, Lester has the court reporter/communications officer play back their conversation in the hallway. Busted! And now Lester’s REALLY fuming. She flies off the handle and demands that the traitors be executed. Chekov and Sulu are both shocked–executions are forbidden! But no, it’s not up to them. The traitors will be executed immediately. And by immediately, she means after several scenes unfold, showing how our heroes are going to stop it.

Sulu and Chekov are busy planning how to stop the executions when Lester loses it, and not in the usual crazy murderer way. The link between her and Kirk begins to weaken, and for a moment she senses that she’s in the brig. She finds Coleman and he says that she must kill her body with the real Kirk soon or the transference will be broken. But killing is just so manly, she can’t handle it, and tells Coleman to do it–or else risk his own exposure as a murderer. Reluctantly he drums up a lethal dose of something into a hypospray and they set off to to the holding cell.

They open the cell to “sedate” Kirk, but Kirk attacks! That wily fox! Some man(??)-wrestling ensues, and during the fray the transference is broken, this time for good. Lester–back in her own body–sobs uncontrollably.

LESTER: Ohh! I’ve lost to the captain. I’ve lost to James Kirk! I want you dead! I want you dead! I want you dead! Oh, I’m never going to be the captain. Never. Kill him.

Coleman takes her in his arms, confesses that he loves her, and McCoy escorts them to sickbay. Kirk, relieved to be himself again, reflects:

KIRK: I didn’t want to destroy her.
SPOCK: I’m sure we all understand that, Captain.
KIRK: Her life could have been as rich as any woman’s, if only… If only…

__________________________

1 Where’s Admiral Akhbar when you need him?

2 In this review I refer to each character by the person who inhabits the body, not the appearance of the body. So Kirk in Lester’s body is still Kirk, and Lester in Kirk’s body is still Lester. Seeing as the point of the episode is to communicate that physical appearances cannot hide who we really are, this seemed an appropriate tack to take.

3 It is.

4 It’s not.

Analysis

Fiction can have value and merit even when it offends. Mildred Pierce is a sexist propaganda piece from the ’50s, but it’s a brilliant noir. Ezra Pound was a fascist and a Nazi sympathizer, but he wrote some of the most significant poetry of the 20th century. And H.P. Lovecraft, the man who has come in many ways to define horror, wrote some of the most appallingly racist fiction you’ve ever laid eyes on. Even with the warts–and those are some huge, monstrous warts–it’s difficult to deny the incredible power and brilliance of their work.

“Turnabout Intruder,” on the other hand, should probably be buried in the deepest volcano to burn for a thousand lifetimes and be seen by no one.

Janice Lester is the most sexist character to ever appear in Star Trek. Her complete incompetence as a captain, uncontrollable emotions, psychological instability, and sociopathic disregard for any human life but her own cast her as one of the great villains of the series. None of these qualities are in themselves problematic–they’re the makings of a great villain, actually. The problems are all motivational. She’s power-hungry and ambitious not because she’s been shut out of a culture that refuses to accept women: it’s because she’s actually that incompetent. Kirk calls the captain’s chair the “position she doesn’t merit.” She doesn’t resist killing Kirk because she has empathy for her antagonist or a deeply rooted respect for all life: it’s because she’s actually a coward. Dr. Coleman calls her on it and she basically agrees with him. She doesn’t even have confidence: she has arrogance. It can’t rightly be called hubris because she hasn’t enough judgment to reasonably err from it.

There’s no perceptiveness, no depth to her. She believes that because she has passed the physical tests and successfully overcome any doubts about her outward appearance that she will be accepted as the captain, utterly failing to understand that Kirk’s leadership lies in his respect for his crew. It is that, and not his title, that commands their loyalty.

And why? Because she’s a woman scorned. I’m sure getting dumped by Kirk is rough, but really? Driving you to murder your entire scientific outpost? There are other fish in the great galactic sea, lady. It’s not just break-up blues, either. She does it because, as Kirk says, of her “hatred of her own womanhood.” What the hell does that mean? Does she write angry screeds to her uterus? Then there’s the little gem about how she would not accept the “richness” that other women enjoy in their womanly lives. Again: what? Is this about giving up her career to get married and have babies? Is the implication that that life wasn’t good enough for her? And lastly, she says herself that she wants Kirk to suffer the “indignity” of being a woman. Which indignity? Do they have jeggings in this quadrant? Oh, I know! The indignity of having to watch offensive portrayals of ourselves in fiction! Or does she just attribute her exclusion from the command track to her lady parts and not her obvious psychosis? I can’t even comprehend her motivations. Fans seem to agree that her remark about women not be admitted to the world of starship captains has to do with Kirk’s marriage to the ship and not any kind of official policy. But then, what exactly is her motivation? Janice Lester does not have to be a bad character. If she had simply gone mad from loneliness in space, or from feeling like a failure by not making it to the command track, or from pretty much any other reason than that she hates being a woman, this episode could have been good. Still weak, but watchable. Compelling, even. But no. She “tortured” Kirk for the unfairness of her station. Because his world won’t admit women. Even if it were policy, I wouldn’t blame them, though I think she should’ve gone for a Commodore instead–they tend to be so batshit crazy that I doubt anyone would have noticed the switch.

The premise is just so antithetical to the ideals of Star Trek. Where’s Kirk’s promise of equality? Of people not seeing you for your size or your skin? Why do the Romulans have a woman commander and the Federation doesn’t get one for four iterations? It’s appalling and it’s shameful. Janice Lester is a disgrace. We’ve seen good women before, there’s absolutely no reason for this and no excuse. We’ve met Edith Keeler, the Romulan Commander, and Areel Shaw. We know the show can do better and has done better. This is the show just giving up. What a disastrous and disappointing note to end such an optimistic series on.

I’m also not so generous as to cite sexism as the episode’s only weakness. The plot only works (well, “works”) because Kirk is incapacitated for the entire episode. They keep him sedated, as they must, or else he could find some way–or ten–to take back his ship. I was baffled by his inability to do so. Proving that he was the real Kirk should be trivially easy. He’s done it before! I can’t imagine that he and Spock haven’t got a thousand embarrassing secrets between them. But nothing really comes together, does it? The entire crew speaks in whispers of a mutiny, yet Lester, red-faced with hysteria and on a murder rampage, is so obviously not the captain that I don’t see how it qualifies as a mutiny. They’re deposing a tyrant masquerading as their actual leader. Where’s the problem? Then there are things like Coleman’s motivation, which I guess got mixed in with the recycling.  Why would he help this person? At the end he suddenly declares that he loves her, but there’s no evidence of that at all prior and certainly no indication she reciprocates. And why does the transference suddenly stop working? Did they hit a low signal area? I hate it when I have no bars.

But I have to give credit where it’s due, even here, at the bottom of the volcano, with Xenu. The performances are nothing short of incredible. Shatner, playing Janice playing Kirk, acts his socks off. Physically, he’s extremely effective at conveying both the little and the not-so-little ways in which she differs from our hero. I love when they first swap bodies and he lightly touches his hips and his hair: those are new. When McCoy suggests beaming “her” up to the ship, his voice hesitates before making a decision. The real Kirk would never hesitate to help someone in need. There’s the moment after they beam up when McCoy says “Dr. Lester” and Shatner twitches at her name, suppressing the urge to respond. He touches the captain’s chair with reverence rather than familiarity and ease. But what really gives it away are the facial expressions. Shatner smiles at all the wrong times. He laughs confidently when he should feel shame or fear. He even walks differently, with a kind of unearned contempt for those around him. It’s brilliant. It’s amazing to watch.

Sandra Smith is no slouch, either. She exudes confidence and poise. She speaks slowly and deliberately, maintaining eye contact, never wavering. You can really believe that she’s Captain Kirk. There’s a fierceness in her eyes when she breaks that glass and begins to saw away at the straps. It’s creative and bold. It’s so very much the kind of thing he would do. And he doesn’t dwell on what’s happened. He doesn’t try to figure out how, or even why–he simply starts the work of getting his ship and his body back. She doesn’t have many lines but she manages his presence very well nonetheless.

With those performers the show could’ve ended as richly as it began. If only… if only…

Nonetheless, if I am here, I am glad to be here with you, our fine readers. Here, at the end of all* things.

__________________________

*It’s a relative term.

Torie’s Rating: Full Stop  (on a scale of 1-6)

Eugene Myers: THUD.

What was that? Oh, it was the sound of Star Trek falling flat on its face.

It’s a shame that the series officially ends on such a weak episode. Before I dwell on the many ways “Turnabout” disappoints, let me point out a few things. First, as much as this is indicative of the general quality of the third season, it’s also very much a quintessential Star Trek story. 78 episodes after “The Man Trap”–which also involved an old flame, a remote outpost, and strange deaths–the show is still exploring unbearable loneliness, albeit the supposed agony of being “alone in a woman’s body.” Just as early episodes like “The Enemy Within” addressed the question of identity, “Turnabout” attempts to define personality. I rather how Kirk–in Lester’s body–focuses on the importance of the mind in determining who he is, regardless of the body his consciousness is in. I think this is incredibly insightful, especially in an episode that nominally struggles with gender issues via a woman who wants to be a man.

As usual, loyalty is also a key component of the drama that unfolds. Kirk appeals to Spock to trust and help him by reminding the Vulcan of other missions where their friendship affected his actions, most notably “The Tholian Web,” one of several neat little tidbits of continuity in the script. Naturally, this theme resonates through the films, especially Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

Spock handles the bizarre situation admirably, and it’s fascinating that he ends up following his feelings more than Dr. McCoy does. The doctor is too caught up in the need for hard evidence; he says this is the only thing that will satisfy Starfleet Command, but I think he’s also relying on his medical expertise to assess the captain’s condition, and he can’t accept that his tests and instruments can fail him. McCoy’s friendship with Jim is just as strong as Spock’s, yet they act in opposition to each other. Or is it that even in the face of Kirk’s aberrant behavior, is McCoy trying to give his captain the benefit of the doubt?

The performances are strong, to a point. Oddly enough, I couldn’t stand Lester whenever she’s hysterical and weak–whether it was Shatner or Smith playing the part. But Smith is wonderfully evil as a strong woman acting out her plot for revenge, and she has good moments as Kirk as well. Shatner was less successful getting in touch with his feminine side, though his initial behavior strongly reminded me a lot of his turn as the shapeshifter in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; he brought a playfulness to the character, a lightness in his voice and manner, that perhaps belies his traditionally more serious portrayal of a starship captain bearing the burden of 430 lives on a daily basis.

So, okay, the episode wants to examine women’s rights, sort of. Though this was certainly a hot button issue in 1969, it’s embarrassingly out of place in humanity’s enlightened future. From a plot perspective, the problem is that the situation is too close to real life. There’s no metaphor involved here–Starfleet is just as bureaucratic and misogynistic as the U.S. government in the Sixties.

The science fictional spin does nothing to highlight the wrongness of that attitude–if anything, it enforces it. Starfleet doesn’t trust a woman to command a starship, and indeed she can’t: Lester’s shown to be irrational, weepy, power-hungry, and incompetent. I was stunned when Kirk was actually filing his nails while talking to Dr. McCoy. Unfortunately, no one points out that Lester in particular is not firing on all thrusters, that her behavior isn’t representative of all women. No one acknowledges that Starfleet’s policy is inappropriate for a culture that embraces everyone for who they are.

I could go on about this for a while, but it just seems like a missed opportunity to have Lester herself buy into female inferiority to the point that she wants to be a man. Does she want to be a man because she truly believes they’re superior, or because it’s the only way for her to command a starship? How much more interesting would it be if she had been fully competent in command of Enterprise, perhaps even in a crisis? Instead, her unsuitability for the role was pushed to comedic levels–or at least, it would be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. (Incidentally, how many male Starfleet captains have we seen go off the deep end since the series began? Oh yeah, they’re definitely much better candidates for command.)

From another perspective, the episode just fails to be interesting or entertaining. It devolves into another boring court martial, which doesn’t even make any sense. They can record other people’s conversations and use it as evidence against them when they aren’t even on trial? Why wouldn’t Spock’s testimony as a Vulcan, scientist, and Starfleet officer be admissible as evidence? How can Kirk be an impartial judge when he was the victim of the crime? How can he offer to pardon Spock if he cooperates?

Worst of all, the script just doesn’t take any chances with its provocative material, and it chooses the easy way out by allowing Kirk and Lester to switch back without the aid of whatever alien technology made the swap possible. Strange that Starfleet never studies this miraculous device and we never hear of it again in canon–except obliquely on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where they rightly decide to just skip it all together.

Speaking of mind transference, I’ve seen that visual effect in cartoons when characters switch places, but somehow it looks sillier in a live-action drama intended for adults. And how are Lester and Kirk recording logs about what’s going on? And why would she?

Deep breaths. I just wish the show’s conclusion weren’t so anticlimactic, and that the last season hadn’t so frequently gone where the show had gone before–and poorly at that. I imagine that back then, even the most hardcore Star Trek fans might have felt the show itself had betrayed them and swapped places with some other series, or that it had done as much as it could on network television. Though I’m sorry that this re-watch is over, I’m also relieved that I don’t have to suffer through the weekly disappointment of wasted potential.

Eugene’s Rating: Full Stop  

Best Line: LESTER: Believe me, it’s better to be dead than to live alone in the body of a woman.

Syndication Edits: Scotty’s comments in the transporter room that Lester is fortunate to be alive; Lester enjoying the feel of the captain’s chair when she first arrives on the bridge; Sulu interrupting Lester and McCoy’s fight over the physical exam; some slow pans and shots; a huge portion of the discussion between Spock and McCoy about Kirk’s emotional state and what they can do to find out more; the horizontal stairmaster portion of the exam; Lester’s captain’s log about how she has no fears of discovery after the exam; redshirts laughing at Kirk’s insistence that he’s not Lester, and reaction shots from the rest of the witnesses; Lester asking Spock if he’s ever heard of a body transfer before, and Spock saying no; more reaction shots (a shame, because some of those facial expressions are priceless); McCoy’s initial quiet contemplation about the vote and Scotty’s entrance; the first part of Sulu and Chekov’s discussion on the bridge about whether they will allow the executions to take place.

Trivia: The on-set nickname for this episode was “Captain Kirk, Space Queen.”

Galloway, the redshirt who accompanies Spock when he questions Kirk-as-Lester, actually died in continuity in “The Omega Glory.” Whoops. The actor was recast as Lt. Johnson in “Day of the Dove.” Double whoops.

Chekov tells Sulu that only General Order 4 carries a death penalty. Either he’s misremembering or they got confused with General Order 7, from “The Menagerie.”

If you pay attention during the court martial scene, Lester-as-Kirk exits the room via… wall. Apparently Shatner tried to explain to the director that there was no door there, but the director wouldn’t listen.

Until NewTrek, Sandra Smith was the only person other than Shatner to ever “play” Captain Kirk.

Shatner was sick with the flu during the production and had trouble carrying Smith in take after take.

In a famous outtake, Shatner replaced the line “Spock, give it up. Come back to the Enterprise family. All charges will be dropped. And the madness that overcame all of us on Camus II will fade and be forgotten” with:  “Spock, it’s always been you, you know it’s always been you. Say you love me too.”

Other notes: The only regular character missing in this episode is Uhura; Nichelle Nichols had a singing engagement.

The episode was inspired by a 1930s comedic novel called Turnabout, in which a husband and wife switch bodies. It was made into a movie directed by Hal Roach in 1940.


Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 23 – “All Our Yesterdays.”

William Shatner flubbed the line, “Spock, give it up. Come back to the Enterprise family. All charges will be dropped. And the madness that overcame all of us on Camus II will fade and be forgotten.” Instead, he blurted out, “Spock, it’s always been you, you know it’s always been you. Say you love me too.
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About Torie Atkinson & Eugene Myers

TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.

EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is available now from Pyr.