Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Alternative Factor"


Air date: 3/30/1967
Written by Don Ingalls
Directed by Gerd Oswald

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Investigating what is apparently a "rip in space," a landing party beams down to a planet to find Lazarus (Robert Brown), an unstable man involved in a mysteriously bizarre problem: He's in a battle with his counterpart self from a parallel universe.

Among a stretch of shows that exemplifies many of Trek's most visible qualities is the arrival of this episode, which unfortunately exemplifies science fiction excess. First of all is the ridiculously extreme notion that the meeting of the two Lazaruses (or is that Lazari?) would mean the destruction of the "entire universe." Such overlarge devices are rarely effective. Also, this episode seems to be in love with its own use of sci-fi buzzwords. In addition to matter and antimatter, we've got the concepts of a "parallel universe," a "rip in space," a "time ship," an "inter-universal gateway," etc. Little of this makes much sense, no matter how hard Shatner and Nimoy try in bouncing incredulous dialog off each other.

The episode becomes an untenable collection of disjointed story items with no overriding cohesion. (And, by the way, why would the Enterprise destroying one time ship cause the parallel universe time ship to be destroyed?) Saving some face is the somewhat interesting implication of Lazarus fighting his duplicate counterpart "for all eternity."

Previous episode: Errand of Mercy
Next episode: The City on the Edge of Forever

◄ Season Index

7 comments on this review

Mon, Aug 16, 2010, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
The most obvious stupidity in The Alternative Factor is that Kirk kept allowing Lazarus to wander around without security - even dismissing security at McCoy's objection to his presence. Not the brightest behaviour for a starship captain trying to figure out if the universe was being invaded and knowing that Lazarus had something to do with it. Of course, keeping him under surveillance would have shortened the episode, but it would have been less ridiculous.
Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
This is one TOS episode I always skip. The contact of two MEN, leads to the destruction of the universe? I don't care what technobabble you use, that's ridiculous. If the choice is to watch this or "Mudd's Women", give me the latter any day...
Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 3:45am (UTC -5)
I'll echo Keith's sentiment, and I'll add that the special effects were particularly hokey and tedious in this episode. It almost made me wonder if the episode was filmed at the beginning of the season and then held back until later.
Sat, Aug 31, 2013, 6:03pm (UTC -5)
Actually, when I look at this episode, I see a potentially good story somebody was trying to make that obviously didn't quite manage to emerge on the screen. If I understand the technobabble correctly, one Lazarus was from the regular universe and the other from an anti-matter universe. If you put matter and anti-matter together, they'll explode, so obviously mixing one universe with the other would cause both to explode, and one Lazarus was determined to stop this at any cost while the other hated him and was determined to kill him at any cost, including the destruction of all the universe.

The story that this could have been? Had the technobabble been done better, maybe this whole situation would have made more sense. Also, instead of suggesting the whole universe was at stake, simply suggest you'll get a supernova-sized explosion if a planet from the other universe gets through, and worse if more than that does. Suggest also that tragic and disastrous stuff like this has happened before because there wasn't any Enterprise around to intervene (which might even make it a little more justifiable that the Enterprise keeps running across all these world-threatening cosmic events week after week; hey, here's what happened when it was Cyrano Jones who encountered the world-threatening anomaly instead--the whole sector got fried).

But what would have made it the best of all would be if anyone had been looking forward to the revelations of a slightly later episode. Imagine this ending: as the U.S.S. Enterprise goes its merry way after resolving the situation with Lazarus, the scene suddenly flips over--literally--to the anti-matter universe, where a certain other Enterprise is just arriving...

Kirk: "What was that? Spock, what the hell just happened down there?"

Spock: [Strokes his beard.] "I am unable to make any determinations at this time, Captain..."
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
This episode was a 6 min Clip shown over and over again. Lazarus lurching around as a madman, newspaper spinning, video negative of 2 stuntmen rasslin in a room, kirk asking spock whats up and spock saying it all makes no scientific sense. Repeat 6 or 7x, enterprise blows up george jetsons sspacecraft, run credits.

I would not give this 1 star.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
To me, this is without a doubt the worst episode of Star Trek: TOS, because it is the only truly boring episode. Even the way to Eden, the children shall lead, and Spock's Brain, as bad as they were (actually I think Spock's Brain is better than most people give it credit for, but still not great) weren't boring.
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 8:48am (UTC -5)
Yes, definitely not a hit. How many times is he able to just walk out of the sick bay and strolle around on Enterprise? Sci fi is a little bit like an alternative universe to me. You buy the concept of warp, parallel universe, time travel, beaming etc but expect some sort of clever behaviour of the human beings being a couple of hundred years ahead of us. Sometimes there is in TOS, this time not. The only positive with this episode was that it gave me a remaining memory that must be more than 45 Years. Yes, this episode created a strong impression on me in my childhood. At least a credit for that.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2016 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.