Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Original Series

"Turnabout Intruder"

***

Air date: 6/3/1969
Teleplay by Herb Wallerstein
Story by Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Arthur H. Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

There's something to be said about watching characters toy with bizarrely impossible situations, as in "Turnabout Intruder," a perfect example of style over substance. This is little more than an excuse for Shatner to engage his overacting skills at full throttle. (Say what you will about his acting choices, but the bottom line is that he's entertaining.) Is the story remotely plausible? Probably not, even for Trek.

But I can't help myself; this episode—in which Kirk's consciousness is swapped with that of the insanely jealous Janice Lester (Sandra Smith)—is just too entertaining to deny. The concept arises from Lester's former relationship with Kirk gone bad, combined with her deep-running rage over being rejected by Starfleet. She wants his command of the Enterprise, and then wants to stomp on Kirk until he dies.

There's a mad zeal in Shatner's scenery chewing that's appealing, as the Lester-as-Kirk abuses of captaincy extend beyond any realm of sensibility, causing the entire crew to turn against "the captain" one by one. The most interesting aspect of the plot is watching the other officers try to deal with this mess, as they watch their captain descend into lunacy while Spock continues to claim that he isn't their captain. Eventually, Scotty and McCoy are whispering mutiny in the halls. Is this episode in good taste? Not likely. (Some sexist overtones are the most uneasy.) But good fun? I'm inclined to say yes.

Previous episode: All Our Yesterdays

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12 comments on this review

Dan - Wed, Feb 20, 2008 - 5:09am (USA Central)
I just watched this episode for the first time. It is most certainly sexist. Shatner acts so girly and dramatic I literally "LOL'd". It is very entertaining, but not very sci-fi. I think your review is spot-on.
Sanagi - Thu, Nov 8, 2012 - 4:44pm (USA Central)
One of the recurring shames of early sci-fi is the treatment of femininity as just another alien land populated by simple stereotypes. This episode's a prime example. Even while raising the subject of misogyny, the episode depicts its central female character as jealous, hysterical and incompetent, while the displaced Kirk remains level-headed and practical. Setting this aside, the episode is as entertaining as any other Trek cheesefest. This one in particular demands MST3K-style remarks from the viewer, especially when McCoy finishes giving Kirk a physical, then tells him not to put his shirt back on just yet. The Shatner-meltdown at the end of the episode is also not to be missed.
William B - Thu, Mar 28, 2013 - 2:13am (USA Central)
For interest, Jammer's ratings for each season break down as follows (where the first number is number of 4* episodes, second is number of 3.5* episodes, and so on):

S1: 2/6/9/7/3/2/0/0/0, av. 2.84 stars
S2: 3/3/8/6/4/0/2/0/0, av. 2.75 stars
S3: 1/2/6/5/4/2/1/2/1, av. 2.27 stars

Series: 6/11/23/18/11/4/3/2/1, av. 2.64 stars

According to Jammer's ratings then obviously the series is strictly decreasing in quality by season (S1 > S2 > S3) with a small drop-off between s1 and s2 and a large one between s2 and s3. This is about what most fans believe, I think.
Lorene - Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
"Her life could have been as fulfilled as any other woman". The sad, sad last line of a series I loved.
Paul - Tue, Oct 1, 2013 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
@Lorene: I've always been struck by that, too. Of course, as progressive as Trek was at the time, it certainly doesn't look that progressive nearly 50 years later. Also, TOS was always least progressive when it came to gender -- other than Gene's decision to make Majel first officer in "The Cage".

There are quite a few fratboy moments between Kirk and McCoy and from other members of the crew -- remember Sulu's reaction to seeing Ilia for the first time?

Nonya - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 4:14pm (USA Central)
Yuck. This episode gets three stars? Please, Jammer. I'm no feminist, but this is simply the most sexist thing I have ever seen in my life. It's terribly disgusting and cringe-worthy. The idea that everyone knows right off that the Captain isn't really Kirk ruins a lot of dramatic tension. It would have been much funnier if she'd actually done a semi-good job as captain, and that some of her policies remain in action even when everything gets sorted out at the end. As it is, it's just sad.
Jammer - Tue, Dec 31, 2013 - 11:33am (USA Central)
Yeah, there are probably a few reviews I look back at and wonder what I was thinking -- or at least that I wouldn't make the same case I made. This is one of them. I won't even bother trying to defend it.
Paul - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 9:37am (USA Central)
@Jammer: The closing line is really pretty terrible. But, aside from that, it's up to the individual viewer to determine whether Janice in Kirk's body acts so frantic because she's Janice or because she's a woman. Even the dialog where Janice in Kirk's body scoffs at the idea of Janice overpowering Kirk makes sense if you consider that Janice is a relatively small woman -- as opposed to JUST being a woman.

As for the whole matter of Starfleet having no female captains, it could be argued that no STARSHIPS had female captains up until that point. As we learn in "Bread and Circuses," being the captain of a starship is a bigger deal than being the captain of other Starfleet ships. It's possible that Janice was upset that the very, very top positions (we know there were only 12 Constitution-class ships) had gone to men and blamed gender bias when other factors were in play.

I guess what I'm saying is that this episode isn't necessarily more sexist than, "Spock's Brain," "Who Mourns for Adonis" -- where it's strongly implied that Palamas will leave Starfleet when she meets the right man -- or "Mudd's Women," which is the worst example of sexism in the entire Trek canon.

I probably wouldn't have given this three stars, but it's certainly more watchable than most of the third season. I'd rather watch this one three times than sit through "And the Children Shall Lead."
James - Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - 1:49am (USA Central)
I agree this episode is horrible, not because of any perceived sexism, but because it's just an awful episode. There are some shows that, when I see them re-run on MeTV, I just don't bother to watch. This is one. Catspaw and Space Hippies are two others.

I noticed from the reviews that there is an almost 3 month gap between All Our Yesterdays (one of my very favorites), and this swill. I wonder why. Could it be, given Roddenberry knew the series was finished, he hesitated to make this piece of land fill the final curtain call for the show? Personally I think AOY would have been a much better note to go out on, even if it meant eating the production costs of Turnabout. It's one of those episodes that, were I Roddenberry, I'd rather burn the negatives than let anyone see this waste.

And for what it's worth, considering Janice Lester's behaviour here, it would seem StarFleet was correct in not giving her a command. She clearly has psychological issues and is thus unfit for the job.
Paul - Fri, Jan 24, 2014 - 8:58am (USA Central)
@James: I guess I'm in the minority. I don't think this episode is that terrible (though it's not good). I'd rather watch it several times before "And the Children Shall Lead" or "The Alternative Factor", TOS's worst two episodes, IMO. "The Gamesters of Triskelion" was pretty bad, too.
Nick P. - Fri, Feb 7, 2014 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
For all crying sexism, what episode were they watching? It certainly wasn't this one. I wonder if people just comment without watching the episode. Outside of that last line (and even that really isn't sexist) there is not a single thing that make this episode sexist. I actually find it a fun episode. It is certainly no dumber than Captain Picard being a space-pirate! I felt genuine tension when they kept knocking out lest/kirk with sedatives.

At the end of the day, Lester was crazy, so Shatner had to act crazy! (and man does he chew scenes and spit them out in this one!)

I would love someone to explain to me how this episode is sexist?
Jamie Stearns - Thu, Mar 6, 2014 - 5:08pm (USA Central)
About the "no female captains" issue, I think Lester's line about "your world of starship captains doesn't admit women!" was referring to Kirk leaving her for the Enterprise.

While it's true there were no female Starfleet captains seen in TOS, that doesn't mean they didn't exist, and what has been seen supports the possibility: The Romulans had female captains ("The Enterprise Incident") and it's hard to see them as being more progressive than the Federation. More importantly, "The Cage" and "The Menagerie" establish that the Enterprise's previous first officer was a woman, and that she took command of the ship after Captain Pike's abduction without any objection from the rest of the crew.

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