Star Trek: The Original Series

“The Alternative Factor”

2 stars.

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

Review Text

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

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75 comments on this post

    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.

    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...

    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.

    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..."

    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.

    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.

    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.

    What the heck did I just watch?

    OK, for one, I've completely ignored TOS' lack of special effects so far, as I know they were doing the best they could with a limited budget and limited technology. My problems with Arena stemmed from the story, not with the absurdity of the Gorn captain. But here? The effects were just downright hokey. Stars randomly appearing? A spinning universe? Two people awkwardly struggling against a washed out monochromatic screen? Sure, special effects in other episodes can be bad, but you know what they're trying to convey. Here, well, I have no idea. This is supposed to be a high concept story, but they simply didn't have the tools to properly show it. It'd be like trying to play Beethoven with a kazoo.

    Actually, not really, because Beethoven's music is brilliant, and this plot is stupid. I'm in agreement with Jammer and others that the bizarre technobabble explanations just didn't make sense and seemed like a bunch of hooplah just to get to the ending they wanted. I mean, admittedly my attention was wandering by the end, what with the ridiculousness of the plot and all, but why didn't they just stun crazy Lazarus? Then drop him off at some loony bin, and drop his timeship off at the warehouse where they're storing the Ark of the Covenant. Voila, problem solved without the pathos of sacrificing sane Lazarus.

    It also didn't help that, even with the scar and all, I wasn't quite sure which one was which at times. Again, I admit this may be my fault, because I stopped caring about this episode about halfway through. It's too bad, really, because I was interested at first in the mystery of what was going on. But the hokey effects, the poor pacing, and the utterly ridiculous way the mystery unraveled killed any interest I had.

    Lame repetitive boring sequences of SFX tied together by random generic thoughtless technobabble topped off with such obvious incredulous leaps of logic?

    This is categorically the worst ep of Trek ever put together, an unredeemably sloppy lazy hot mess that must have been "phoned in" and then half heartedly put together in a week that the the technical department were all on annual leave and left it to the work experience kids

    Commits the two worst sins of simultaneously boring and confusing it's audience without any unintentionally comedic moments.

    Negative 5 stars

    This one is okay and I think Jammer's 2-star review is pretty fair. And it's definitely NOT the worst Trek episode ever -- there are huge swaths of Seasons 1-2 "Enterprise" (let's not even start on Seasons 1-2 "Voyager") that are completely absent from my memory, as they fell into a cookie cutter of phaser shootouts without any substantial story or ideas. By contrast, "The Alternative Factor" has some neat ideas and iconic imagery, even if the high-concept SF story does tend toward tedium and incomprehensibility.

    Despite the boredom in long stretches of this episode, I will give it this much: I have never forgotten it. The image of Lazarus fighting himself, the reverse-negative photography of their battles and Kirk's journey into the antimatter universe, and the nifty-looking "time ship" are all memorable concepts. It's the kind of "hard sci-fi high concept show" that TOS rarely did -- and in some ways, I suspect it set the stage for many later Trek stories, especially those written by Brannan Braga and Joe Menosky. Not a bad thing.

    Being memorable for its imagery and ideas, despite the average execution, is a solid point in this episode's favor. By contrast, there are many (many, many, many) other Star Trek episodes from each series from which I can recall nothing at all. And there are many Trek episodes which are downright offensive and dumb. While this one is a bit of a drag, it's sincerely executed and strives for some big ideas. So I do think an "okay for effort" is in order. And let me be daring: Maybe it even deserves 2 1/2 stars for the cool female assistant engineer with the short haircut.

    Not one of the episodes that will resonate with a lot of folks -- went too far on the sci-fi scale with plenty of technobabble resulting in a confusing story. Some interesting ideas - as is almost always the case with Trek TOS - but one major flaw it how Lazarus is just allowed to wander around the ship without restraint. He even threatens Kirk "Captain, I'll have my vengeance" and then is just free to go. Bizarre given the threat the Federation believes it faces (prelude to invasion).
    As for the special effects of the parallel universe and the transition between the 2 - I won't complain about 60s special effects but this episode made it hard not to cringe. It just seemed particularly low-budget / amateurish to me.
    I'm also not a fan of how the Enterprise is in a situation where the whole universe could be destroyed if the 2 Lazaruses meet. Seems excessive.
    Anyhow, this is a very disappointing episode. 1.5/4 stars for me and peculiar that it is sandwiched by 2 excellent episodes "The Devil..." and "The City on the Edge..."

    Add to all that the fact that they make Shatner's character so unnecessarily cranky - He's pissed off the whole episode!

    The resolution to the episode is a textbook case of something rigged up for dramatic effect without a sliver of logic.

    1. If all that was necessary was to destroy a ship on one side, why didn't "sane" Lazarus do that years ago?

    2. Why was it necessary for them to be trapped between universes? Simply destroying the ships was all that was necessary. The insane Lazarus could have been imprisoned and treated. "Sane" Lazarus would be free (albeit possibly stranded).

    3. Why did Kirk tell Spock and two security guards to "stay back" as he struggled to throw insane Lazarus into the portal? Wouldn't it have been easier to just stun him and throw him in or at least make it 4 on 1. Stunning would have given "sane" Lazarus a little time without having to hold his counterpart and given Kirk and company time to get to cover.

    4. Why did Kirk and company beam back to the ship and then go from the transporter room to the bridge BEFORE ordering the ship destroyed? They could have sought cover on the planet surface or if was quicker, beam up and order the strike to occur as soon as their arrival was confirmed.

    5. Like with most such technologies in Trek, what's to prevent some race somewhere else from discovering the same technology when a ship without Starfleet's best and brightest in the vicinity? What if they let the Lazarus twins out? That's why just destroying the ship and keeping on Lazarus imprisoned makes more sense.

    Just plain awful. No reason to wonder why this was held back and put in the stinker slot as next-to-last episode of the season, huh?

    There might have been a good story here, but multiple circumstances doomed this poor episode. First, they removed a huge sub-plot where Charlene Masters was supposed to be in love with stable Lazarus and taken advantage of (not that way!) by the unstable one. Roddenberry and company didn't want two scripts (this and the up and coming "Space Seed") have crew women who forgot their duty by going gaga over a handsome face. So Lt. Masters just became the engineer (in blue) who was in charge of the Lithium Crystal Recharging Section.

    (Recharging the crystals? Hm, that would have been a nice thing to be able to do in future...)

    And when it came time to shoot this gutted script, the guest star (John Drew Barrymore) decides to up and not show up on the first day of filming. And to not answer his phone when they called. They shot around him and hired Robert Brown ASAP, altered the costume, glued some random beard on him, and shoved him in front of the cameras. Not a good situation even if the script had been top notch.

    Hello Everyone!


    I never knew those things about this episode and I always thought his beard looked funky. I suppose they thought he/they needed a beard, because where was he going to shave? :)

    I wonder what they added into the episode? It always seemed a decent(ish) premise to me, but felt like it was half an episode stretched out. Perhaps it was...

    Thanks for the insight... RT

    It's funny that many episodes have alien species that happen to look virtually identical to human beings. Highly unlikely.

    This episode is the anti-Tylenol: guaranteed to induce headache upon viewing.

    Events do not follow logically from one event to another. We have no rooting interest in Lazarus, or hissing interest, for that matter. He's a plot device. The episode is also unceasingly boring. Characters make obvious or inane observations. The pacing is way off. I John Drew Barrymore, who was contracted to play Lazarus, probably made the smartest career choice ever when he refused to show up for work when filming began.

    The Memory Alpha wikia for this episode states that he grievance filed against him by the Star Trek production team led to him being unable to obtain acting work for six months in 1967. Better a mere six months than an eternity of humiliation, sneers, and snickers whenever the mention of who played Lazarus would have come up.

    Where was Scotty? Why was Engineering relocated to some broom closet sized room off some random corridor? And yes, it was indeed ludicrous that Lazarus was allowed to simply roam around the Enterprise as he saw fit. Lol, strange episode.

    Two stars is exceedingly generous for this one; it's so bad that before I did a full TOS rewatch last year I actually misremembered it being a season three episode 😁

    Just awful. One of the all time worst episodes to me.

    These comments are so funny!! I think this episode was unintentionally funny and terribly overacted by Robert Brown. Yes this episode is boring and ridiculous and the special effects are amateurish.

    So tedious. Half the episode was spent on these lame special effects. Meanwhile the concept is ridiculous. A man has a mass of what, 90 kg? That much matter meeting an equal quantity of antimatter would be insanely destructive but it would hardly blow up the universe.

    The second time (or third... I lost count) Lazarus screamed and fell off the rocks I just said to myself "Oh I remember now, he does that a lot".

    Nothing else to add. I'm pretty tolerant of the weaker episodes and the poor special effects of the time, but this one was just a terrible.

    Oh, also pleased to see these forums still so active after all these years.

    Boring and nonsensical, not a good combination. Awful.

    But plusses:

    Robert Brown is good looking.

    Props for the Lt Masters character, a black woman with a short fro even, and in Engineering! She's taken seriously and given important responsibility. Really daring for its time.

    Come on didn't anyone else think this was an imaginative, original, and memorable unconventional sci fi outing..other than Lazarus looking human? Original premise, if repetitive..

    Agree with all the criticisms above. The scenery chewing acting from Lazarus was as headache-inducing as the constant ear splitting sound effects and music. The long-lived sci-fi plot device of intelligent characters doing stupid things to make plot happen seems to have been invented here. He's the most dangerous man in the universe and 1701 is the only ship within hundreds of light years specifically tasked with stopping him. But Bones is just "IDGAF where he is captain, I'm from Texas" and dudes in the bar grin at him inanely like its a rough pub in Ireland where you expect injured people with torn clothes to just wander about whilst in the most severe alert condition Starfleet ships have. Then there's the "fight" scenes, which are a huge step back from previous episodes.

    When Lazarus made his plummet off the cliff, I prayed he was dead so we didn't have to see any more of what has to be the worst acting by a supporting cast member in Trek. Then, still wandering about the ship rather than being in the brig where by now he absolutely should be, we have a fire in not-engineering affecting two characters we give zero shits about. Presumably Scotty was attending a warp drive symposium during the gravest threat the universe has ever known. Everyone just abandons any semblance of intelligence from this point on to make the ending happen.

    KIRK: (fighting mad Lazarus) "Stand back!"
    Redshirts: * nowhere near Kirk, do not move at all *

    This episode was utterly awful. Even the mediocre episodes usually make you feel something when it ends, but this one dragged so much that the only thing I felt at the end was relief. Worse than Threshold. Zero stars

    Love how this whole episode could have been prevented if they had used their security forces, brig and fire suppression systems

    This feels more like a bad episode of The Outer Limits rather than a bad episode of Star Trek. The montage-style effects have an Ed Wood quality, or rather lack of quality. It works for me on one level only... it's creepy. The Lazarus(es) are creepy. The music is creepy. Anything involving "for all eternity" just gets to me no matter how stupid it is. Also: I saw this as a child. Total nightmare fuel, logic be damned. TOS to me is like a beloved, battered old teddy bear. I can forgive practically all its missteps while not being blind to them, sometimes out of sheer kindertraumatic nostalgia and remembered wonders.

    Regarding matter/antimatter annihilation, there seems to be an old SF trope (if not an actual theory) that all particles may have very specific (unique) counterparts that are apocalypse-level destructive when they meet, rather than the generic kind of antiparticles meeting in the engine room. I know I've seen it used somewhere besides this (?!) but I really can't remember (or care?) when. And how does the Mirror Mirror universe fit in to all this?

    Ok, I didn't notice this when I was a child, but, just rewatched, THANK YOU NeTFLIX, and....... Lazarus's Beard kept changing, in the corridor, full as at first, still, looked like a lost whisk broom, then, sitting at table, almost clean shaven, then, beamed down to time ship, back again....... why am i so bothered by this ???? I can overlook everything else, but, please tell me I am not hallucinating ???? Nope, rolled it back..... uGHHHHHH, the HORROR, the HORROR ! ! !

    I rewatched this to decide which was the worst TOS episode. Yes, this was the winner. Nothing made sense. The Galaxy winking out where everything had zero gravity? Why did Star Fleet think there was an invasion? The constant switching of good vs bad Lazarus. How did this happen? What started it and what ended it? Sometimes they switched, sometimes they didn't. What's up with the safe corridor? How did they even get into it? How did good Lazarus end up in this universe in the first place if dilithium crystals are needed? Why should a parallel universe be anti-matter? How can whole existence be wiped out? How could Lazarus be a time traveler? What was the relevance? Where was Scotty and Sulu? Why did Kirk risk the universe by wrestling Lazarus into his ship rather than just using his phaser?

    lol, like others, I quite distinctly remember this episode from my childhood, literally 40 years ago! I didn’t like it whatsoever, but it sure stuck in my head.

    Ok, I actually did quite like the Lazaruses spaceship/time machine. Nice little prop.

    It’s really not clear that one Lazarus is sane and one crazy. I could scarcely tell the difference. Bones couldn’t seem to tell either.

    What really always bothered me was the place they get trapped to fight for all eternity... so, they are immortal? Is there food there?

    Also, considering the two Lazaruses NEVER meet outside the over-exposed room, it seems a reasonable explanation is that they CAN’T, so there was actually no danger. How would they *know* that meeting would destroy the universe? Its not exactly something you can test.

    Lol, horrible episode, but a good conversation starter.

    Didnt anyone elae think rbis had aome neat, original sci fi concepts and a decent character core?

    Zero stars.

    Zero fucking stars.

    Absolutely worst episode of the season. Reminds me of that abomination What the Bl**p do we Know. Nothing. The answer is nothing. We know nothing. Because after watching "The Alternative Factor" we blew our fucking brains out.

    Zero stars is frankly too high.

    Now, at 27 episodes * 50 minutes an episode = 22 hours of Star Trek by this point. That means TOS had more Trek in its first season than all of Discovery or Picard have had so far. There was bound to be a clunker. What is amazing is that there was only one.

    The only saving grace is that TPTB understood what a piece of luh-suh ( ) this hour was, and stuffed it full of red-SKIRTS of the week.

    The first red-skirt wore gold

    Blink and you'll miss her.

    The second red-skirt was a dusky brunette who I imagine might have had a sultry voice, if she had any lines.

    But her smile spoke a million words, and she wore blue.

    And of course also in blue, was the third red-skirt of the week, the lovely Ms. Masters.

    @Bill tells us that Ms. Masters was supposed to get down and dirty with Lazarus. As much as that might have improved the episode, I have to think that the actress took one look at the script and said no fucking chance!

    Burn it with fire. She's dead Jim.

    You know I won't even say I disagree with zero starts, Mal. Even though on some level I want to give it four stars. This is one of the most out there episodes of Trek. So out there we are not even in the same universe, same cosmos, or with the same stakes. I *love* some of the weirdo an inexplicable textures in this episode. I love that the states seem to be about some kind of balance between two universe, both defended (or threatened) by two sides of the same lunatic; or perhaps two lunatics of the same side. That the universes would annihilate if some relatively small even happened is chilling. That these men are fighting for something so insane and beyond comprehension that all we know is they are both dangerous, is also chilling. That the universes have such a weak spot in their fabric is maybe most chilling of all. I would say this episode is more like Doctor Who than Trek, but in its view of the world it's almost Lovecraftian. Things are at stake, we can barely comprehend them, a state of insanity accompanies those who know even a little, and killing might just fix - or possibly ruin - the balance.

    What even goes on in that pod? What is it? This is really 'beyond us' kind of stuff, like giving us a glimpse of either far-future tech or else ancient advanced tech. It's a passageway...maybe? Or is the single nexus between worlds? If so that is nexus artificially generated? Or is it a natural phenomenon and Lazarus just knows how to get through it? The entire affair is mystifying. Add all of this up to the shots, the spinning, the hysteria, the dizzying and often confusing sense of reality, and what we have here is an episode leading Kirk right into the Mouth of Madness. The episode is the equal and opposite of Mirror, Mirror, where we can know and understand out equal from another universe. Here, the 'other' is something unknowable, dangerous, delirious, and dangerous without us being able to understand why. I always got a totally epic sense of potential doom from this one. Incidentally I also like the Lazarus character.

    I won't analyze this one right now, but suffice to say it's never been a go-to for rewatch, but when I do it's a trip, man. Zero stars, four stars, two stars, eh - what's the diff? The episode is too insane to be able to be brought down to a logical rating. It's like trying to rate a wild dream you once had where you have a distinct idea it was important but can only remember vague images and a nervous tension.

    @Peter G., actually, I completely agree with you, and killer point regarding Mirror, Mirror - that's exactly how I think of it too. If we could grade on the Complex Plane, I'd happily give this one 4i stars ;)

    For the first time ever, I used the Netflix “skip forward” button repeatedly to see if anything worthwhile was developing. No. A ludicrous, poorly written and executed episode. Definitely the worst I’ve seen of Season 1.

    There was a wasted story here: the touching of parallel universes and what might happen as a result. Ironically, the next episode “City on the edge of Forever” is not only one of the best, it provides the Alternative Factor story in a completely different way.

    One thing that this episode gave us was the über glamorous Lt. Masters. — does she appear in any other episode? A great shame if not, as she is both very good looking and also bright, intelligent and capable. A permanent crew member wasted.

    An almost completely worthless episode - definitely the worst of the first season. Bad editing, bad script, bad direction, bad everything. A 10-minute story padded out to fill an hour, it is laughably bad. How many times does this Lazarus guy fall off a cliff anyway? My only suspicion is that the production team was so heavily involved with the subsequent episode (City on the Edge of Forever) that they flung this one out without any thought. Even the original actor, John Blythe Barrymore, didn't show up to play the part so Robert Brown was hastily cast as the annoying "Lazarus."


    I probably did watch *some* of this episode as a kid. If I know my young MidshipmanNorris, though, I probably wandered off to play Nintendo at some point.

    I do like it that there seems to be a solid sci-fi concept underpinning the whole deal, but the "whole deal" as it were, turns out to be lots of talky, boring exposition with very little forward momentum, and lots of extremely ridiculous out-of-character decisions.

    James Doohan and George Takei do not seem to have been available for filming, as they don't appear in this one, and neither does Grace Lee Whitney. They saved themselves the trouble, it seems. What a bunch of crapola.

    So, they're mapping a planet and then the universe disappears, for a split-second, twice. This episode has already had the universe disappear (twice) before the teaser is over. Yikes #1.

    Then they find a weirdly unshaven guy in sparkly space pajamas babbling like a cretin, and get a message about a possible invasion force from Starfleet... and Kirk, being the supreme starship commanding Errol Flynn man-of-action... does next to nothing. Must've been an off day, huh? Wonderful stuff, that Romulan Ale... I mean, even when he and Spock (after a long, boring talky expositiony scene together in the conference room) realize that both universes could be annihilated, Kirk just sort of meanders through the rest of the episode without even trying to take some kind of action. Yikes #2.

    After the 3rd time Lazarus had one of his little freak-outs, I started zoning out. I have a hard time believing that these overlay effects were very novel, even when this episode originally aired. "Oh wow, you made a TV show that makes me naseuous. Whoopty doo." Yikes #3.

    This episode is trying to stop you from finishing watching it, as hard as it can. It's like it's remodulating the boring frequencies faster than you can adapt to them.

    I give it 0.5 stars for having a cool sci-fi idea under it. It's what's on top of that idea that's literally all space garbage.

    A certifiable Harve Bennett "Ugh" episode if I ever saw one. More like The Alternative F***tor.

    It's interesting to see the actor cast to play the Lazaruses (Lazarusi?) just didn't show up and they had to hurriedly cast a replacement.

    That probably ruined whatever chances this episode had. After all, many posters are saying they couldn't tell the two Lazaruses apart, and that's probably because the guest star Robert Brown had no time to prepare and was just winging it.

    There's plenty of stories where an actor can wing it without betting all that impactful, but not a situation like this.

    I also agree there was a nugget of a good sci-fi premise here, but it's just all but lost. There's enough idea here that it could make a decent episode. The stakes need to be dialed way back, for starters.

    It seems obvious they knew it was a turd and just said "screw it, ship it".

    Personally, I give it half a star at best, and that's because the George Jetson ships looked cool. Give me Voyager's Threshold any day over this.

    The trailer makes it sound pretty good:

    I don't agree with you people at all. This is literally my favorite Trek episode of all time, because I love the Lazarus character so much. I enjoy seeing him fighting himself in the cube too. So mileage varies when it comes to personal opinions : )

    A lot of people are harsh about this one.

    It's a challenging episode. After years of watching it I still get slightly confused. Basically the great monster is the Lazarus we can agree is the rational one. Robert Brown plays him as all wise, and very effectively too.

    I liked the sky turning dark in this one, and the surface of the ground in upheaval. A decent visual experience.

    As a piece of entertainment, it's not a bad episode.

    It just has the 'slight' problem of not making any kind of logical sense.


    "It just has the 'slight' problem of not making any kind of logical sense."

    I has a terrible reputation as making absolutely no sense, or as being a huge bore that was abyssmally executed. People's comments really get me chuckling, and they are certainly correct on so many levels (including the fact that Lazarus' beard pretty much disappears in the middle of the episode due to a lack of spirit gum), but the show still attracts as much as it repulses.

    It's clear the creators were experimenting with concepts, but kind'uv got confused themselves. I think that may have been because people were away for summer vacation. Sulu's gone, Scotty's gone. It's like a bottle show where they even were forced to film during terrible weather out at Vasquez Rocks, but the ominous skies they captured are actually fascinating (the show becomes atmospheric like Blow Up, or Zabriskie Point). The music is pulled from several of the other season 1 episodes: lots of typani from Arena; that weird riff from the Man Trap, and a few strains from Where No Man Has Gone Before. It all combines into a kind of psychedelic headtrip.

    One of the reasons for the episode's perplexing quality is the fact that the Rational (anti-matter) Lazarus (the one without the bandage on his forehead) behaves too much like Nutty Lazarus in the middle of the episode while securing the first pair of dilithium crystals (assaulting the Lieutenant Masters and the engineering assistant dude). Rational and Nutty are basically indistinguishable. So later, when Kirk again meets Rational Lazarus in the other universe, he is so composed and Christ-like, it's as if there's a third Lazarus!

    Peter G. (Nov. 23rd 2020) used the words "almost Lovecraftian" in connection with the episode. That's an interesting viewpoint which is worth pondering while watching.

    @ Sigh2000,

    Yeah, Alternative Factor is really a monumental undertaking...of something.

    There's a problem in physics where we won't understand why our universe has mostly matter, rather than antimatter: why the asymmetry? This episode suggests that there is in fact symmetry, and that the equal and opposite will indeed annihilate with ours if they come into contact. What's more, this is a hair's breadth away from happening at all times, except for the fact that the two Lazarus's are so evenly matched. It's like the Cuban Missile Crisis, where anyone not involved would have had no idea the world almost ended.

    @Peter G.
    It seems like knowledge of the theoretical asymmetry was relatively new (only around 10 years old) in those days...maybe the writers were using some dog-eared copy of a Manhattan Project cast-off when thinking up the episode. The 1964 revelation about the "violation" was likely still completely unknown to them.

    If both Lazarus' were willing to sacrifice themselves (and in the case of the crazy one sacrifice both universes) in order to kill the other, why wouldn't they just commit suicide? That way both of them die, the universe is saved, and there would be no need to be trapped for all eternity strangling each other.

    I wouldn't call it a terrible episode though, not great either but I always found it entertaining. The spinning newspaper effect was really lame though. The thing I remembered most about it from watching it as a kid was that crazy beard.

    John Drew Barrymore was cast as Lazarus. He saw the script and never showed up, indicating good sense on his part. If only the rest of the cast, and crew had not shown up, we would all be better off. I don't mind calling a spade a stinker and this was a spade full of stink. Special effects were on the scale of 8mm home movie, music/sound was crashing, or screaming, or shouting, or startling - none of it good. Vasquez rocks are always good for sets, but they didn't really get good use of the lighting there either. None of the continuity fit, notwithstanding the obvious plot breaks and disjoint logic. Lazarus space ship was surely Sat morning cartoon sourced. Just - awful, across the board. 48 minutes of torture that everyone involved wish they never heard of.

    Leif: "Didnt anyone elae think rbis had aome neat, original sci fi concepts and a decent character core?"

    You are in the vast minority. I do agree that the image of the two men fighting was memorable, but that has almost nothing to do with the script. One thing I did like in the script was the implication that "the enemy" was actually the sane one. If I understood correctly.

    I think giving a single star to this would be a stretch. But if you enjoyed it, then great.

    As much as Robert Brown's performance is actually pretty good, it's a shame John Drew Barrymore didn't show up for work. I'd be so funny to have a no-foolin' Barrymore -- son of John, father of Drew -- in this mess.

    Couldn’t Lazarus have simply been shot and killed? That was the solution that occurred to me about halfway through.

    And why only Lazarus? The “antimatter” Lazarus and “his people” successfully found an “alternative warp corridor” into our universe, but apparently “our” Lazarus is the only one in existence who faces this purgatory of trying to destroy his double every few minutes in that psychedelic miasma of bad lighting, negative filming and newsreel affections left over from the 1930’s. For all I know they adequately explained it and I just forgot, but I don’t care. If someone would like to fill me in, please do. It would save me from having to watch the episode again for clarification.

    A passable notion is that Matter-Lazarus’ ultimate motivation of wanting to destroy his antimatter counterpart was simply because of his ego--he didn’t want to tolerate the existence of another man who was pretty much just like him. And isn’t that true of all of us? Who would want to discover that they have a clone? Also, I suppose it was a wicked twist that the “other” Lazarus was the one who was measured, sane and reasonable by comparison.

    And sure, at least we got another cheesy cockfight at the end. This one between Kirk and Matter-Lazarus was so goofy that my son and his friend immediately proceeded to reenact it themselves, complete with my son (as Kirk) being picked up and thrown down onto the couch at full speed. His buddy did a fair impression of Lazarus’ “I’M NOT READY! I’M NOT READY!” At least they got some amusement from “The Alternative Factor,” unlike me.

    Best Line:
    Spock -- “Madness has no purpose, but it may have a goal.”

    My Grade: F

    I am going through a rewatch of TOS. I don't remember having ever seen this episode before, although I can't think why I would have missed it. I can't add much to what has already been said. There are certainly better episodes of Original Trek, and probably worse. An already mentioned highlight was Lt. Masters. I kept getting Tom Baker era Dr Who vibes from Lazarus, but that might of been because of a vague resemblance between the two actors.

    @LtCmdrjo maybe it was because Tom Baker played Rasputin in the film of Nicholas and Alexandra?

    Yes this one is confusing and not well written. Having seen it again last night, Sane Lazarus does come across as pretty self sacrificing/noble but it's a good job that the matter-antimatter explosion problem only happens with identical particles as otherwise I thought Kirk going through to the other universe would pretty much guarantee the planet at least blowing up!

    I always hated this one as a kid...cuz of all the reasons mentioned above...

    But it's our Trek....You just cant hate it...even though it's goofy as.

    I just realized....Lazarus' crazy UFO-looking 1960's ship...It's pretty much Rick Sanchez's

    Also...he says, "What of Lazarus" like twice in 2 minutes.

    Did they run out of English or something?

    @Peter G.:

    ))I *love* some of the weirdo an inexplicable textures in this episode.((

    You're like some guy in the 60s, experimenting for the first time with LSD, who is suddenly fascinated by his *hand*

    Yes, on *that* level, "The Alternative Factor" is interesting! If a succession of bizarre "what-ifs" and fantastic suppositions and weird imagery without rhyme or reason is all it takes to "float your boat..."

    With all due respect.

    This is good story that makes sense somewhere, but clearly that place is not our universe. At first it seems there's a lunatic Lazarus, and a calm one, and they swap places when the universe winks out. OK. Then it seems the writers add a bandage to one of the Lazaruses to help us keep track. Things are looking up! Except then the universes wink out and the Lazaruses don't swap, while other times there is no wink out and they do swap. To pile on more confusion, then their personalities don't swap when the bandage does. I'd like to think that difference is intentional and means something profound, but more likely it means the production crew themselves got confused.

    Despite the confusion, the main problem is the viewer has no reason to feel compassion for either Lazarus. Kirk's "But what of Lazarus?" comment is meant to evoke a sense of tragedy about the two Lazarus versions being locked in the "alternative warp" corridor at each other's throat for the rest of eternity, but instead we're just glad we can stop trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

    This episode belongs in Season 3. If our universe would wink out and swap this ep with, say, All Our Yesterdays, now, that would make sense. Me? I'm going to steal some Federation dilithium crystals because my car already has a place they will fit perfectly.

    I remember this as the episode where I learned as a kid the scientific principle that if a particle of antimatter encountered a particle of matter, the entire universe will explode.

    This is a good episode, much to the chagrin of the written diatribe writers above.

    Going through a TOS rewatch I was dreading this one. And my fears were justified. This is definitely the worst episode of season 1, and on a technical level the worst episode of the whole of TOS. It’s not as offensive as say, Turnabout Intruder, or as jaw-droppingly “say what??” inducing as, say, Spock’s Brain, but it does something just as bad by being straight up boring. After about the 10th or 11th time Lazarus fell off a cliff and into his psychedelic fugue state I was ready to blow up the universe myself.

    However, I actually appreciate The Alternative Factor for precisely that reason, it is so very terrible. If the entire episode line-up of season 1 had been home run after home run, it might have started to feel conspicuous, like maybe I was lauding praise and getting good vibes where none were really deserved and it was all reputation and nostalgia talking. But then along comes AF and fully reassures me that I am fully capable of seeing TOS episodes for what they truly are, whether that’s good or bad. And in this case it’s bad. So bad. So thank you Alternative Factor for taking one for the team, the contrast you provide against good episodes is not a sacrifice that will be forgotten. Even if I wanted to.


    The one thing I'd say about this episode is that it starts out quite promisingly and poses an interesting sci-fi premise. The problem is when we meet Lazarus things go south pretty quickly and AF is truly one of the worst TOS episodes. You're right that on a technical level this is the worst TOS episode - the "special effects" are a product of their era but are truly woeful, as an example.

    But when I re-watched parts of AF not long ago, I felt the dialog between Kirk & Spock when they were assessing what had happened and what it could imply was pretty intriguing. It's hard to go wrong when these 2 have one of their discussions. So there was potential for some good sci-fi here and we get it in the abstract from Kirk & Spock's discussions.

    I would contrast that with 4 other TOS episodes which I think are slightly worse to significantly worse: "Shore Leave", "The Way to Eden", "And the Children Shall Lead" and "Spock's Brain". In all 4 of those episodes the opening acts are weak and sure enough it goes downhill from there. Whereas with AF, it builds up your hope and then dashes it.


    It’s super difficult to judge what makes one episode worse than another. The four you mentioned all deserve some serious roasting, but for differing reasons. Some are offensive, some are stupid, some are lazy. I think for the Alternative Factor it’s incompetence. However, I agree that there is a hint of ambition somewhere in there, and for that it deserves at least a little pat on the back.

    Oh well, you can't win 'em all. If you could, what would Jammerfans (c) do?

    For some strange reason I really like this episode. The concepts brought out. Good and bad, right and wrong, life and death all come into play here. Also the Jekyll and Hyde element too. This does have a feel of the classic Outer Limits, mostly due to Director Gerd Oswald known for doing many of the best Outer Limits episodes. That must have impressed Gene Roddenberry at the time back then and for good reason.
    I met actor Robert Brown and he only did it as a favor to help Mr. Oswald out of a jam. Plus to be paid more than star William Shatner for the last minute task of pulling this episode together. This might explain why William Shatner was a little more subdued in his role of Captain Kirk here, being upstaged.

    I watched this episode (again, of course) last night. I watch them as they're presented on the public feed tv, even though I could watch any episode at any time through other modern means. Anyway, I was surprised by the comments dissing this episode as one of the worst, even though I like the episode and can agree with much of the critique. Any episode could be critiqued on the basis of the implausibility of the scenes and events portrayed, but of course the entire series is based on an accumulation of premises distilled into "canon" by fans, which is the basis for much argument apparently. I could add a few. For instance, if the two Lazarus characters have independent will, how can their space ship always be at the same location at the same time, and how can they be dressed similarly all the time? The audience, and eventually the crew, eventually come to realize there are two Lazarus differentiated by their attitudes and the superficial injury to one that doesn't appear on the other. As the plot distills, both learn that the "monster" Lazarus is actually the sane logical one. That is the "lesson" of the episode that can be applied to life, through this art. "It all depends on your point of view!" (Lazarus quote) The Jekyl and Hyde plot device was repeated on other episodes like Mirror Mirror and the other one with Kirk split into two Kirks with strong and weak personalities of human nature. And the andoid Kirk who jousted with the real Kirk over their superior attributes. I'm sure everyone will agree that these plot devices, while implausible, at least were sci fi that could be produced on a measely budget. And is better than most season 3 episodes that relied on Kirk's womanizing for drama. I used gifs and images of Lazarus to lampoon the former head of Twitter who closely resembles Lazarus, although not many got the joke, probably because the source material is so much older than most people. I enjoy this episode, but take comfort that near the end, when Kirk crosses over into the matter universe for the last time, the portal blue screen room sequence is abbreviated, for that gimmick may have been overused. Give them a break, it was 1967, on a 19" black and white.

    Jamahls review is spot on. Concept could have been good with the matter/anti matter idea. But it was a half hour concept stretched to an hour, and became very tedious. O well. One of my least favorite but its still OG Trek.... i got a kick out of it regardless...

    "John Drew Barrymore was cast as Lazarus. He saw the script and never showed up, indicating good sense on his part"

    I'm afraid not. He was grossly unprofessional and got suspended from SAG for six months for blowing this off. And he barely worked again after this.

    Probably they should have scrapped the episode due to that. The replacement actor, Robert Brown, had way less than 24 hours to prepare for a rather complex role that is really two roles.

    This likely contributed to the confusion viewers have over which Lazarus is which. And I agree with Sigh2000, the final "sane" Lazarus is so different, it feels like a third Lazarus.

    I am joining Leif, Mr. Jimmy and several others in the minority of liking this episode.
    I’ll certainly admit it takes a heck of a lot of ‘reality suspension’ to put aside some of the obvious loopholes in the plot line.
    Yes, as many have mentioned- it’s more than a bit absurd that Kirk leaves Lazarus unguarded in sick bay several times. It’s also never explained how Lazarus and anti-Lazarus can live for eternity strangling each other in the portal. Is there a Denny’s in there and they periodically take a break before resuming the struggle? And they’ll never aga?
    On the other hand, even in the best TOS episodes we make peace with the idea that engineers designed a ship that can approach light speed with ‘warp drive’ but didn’t include seat belts (allowing the crew to endlessly fly about the bridge getting whiplash with every Klingon attack or but of turbulence )
    I have a soft spot for the large canvas ideas in this one- the priority one message from Star fleet leaving the Enterprise on an almost suicide mission etc. but especially the physics concepts- flawed as they are. When Kirk breathlessly says “do you know what you’re saying?’’ to Spock and Spock eventually responds “total annihilation of everything, everywhere “ and the ominous music swells- that for me is a good moment
    Of course in physics, antiparticles have been created in accelerators and have been annihilated as well without the entire universe being dragged in- so admittedly that’s a big stretch. But I think Brown gave a string if slightly over dramatic performance
    Ok- it’s no Space seed or This side of paradise or Trouble with Tribbles, but I don’t think it deserves the bashing it gets

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