Star Trek: The Original Series

"Turnabout Intruder"

3 stars

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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64 comments on this review

Dan
Wed, Feb 20, 2008, 5:09am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
@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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Ron
Sun, Sep 21, 2014, 12:13am (UTC -6)
Number One was an XO, an executive officer--true; but she made it clear that whenever a landing party was needed, she would be stuck back on the ship. She only got out because Pike and the other men were n a tight squeeze. That glass ceiling made sure she would never be captain no matter how good she was. Lester knew this, too. Just because the Romulans were no sexists that didn't influence the Federation one wit until at least 15 years later with that one woman starship captain in ST IV and even by the time of TNG, there weren't many more women captains-- just two in Next Gen and Voyager. Not a very good track record for the Federation. Except for a few plotholes, I liked this episode though.
todayshorse
Fri, Oct 31, 2014, 9:55am (UTC -6)
Watched this yesterday on the 'horror channel' of all things here in the UK. I quite enjoyed it. Not really sure of the sexist overtones but considering when it was made ill let that pass.

Greatest moment? Early on when they get back to the ship and Bones is talking to a seated Kirk. Note how Kirk is doing his nails! Subtle but brilliant.

Shatner i thought played the part really well, he stammers and 'ers..' his way through his rants, the crews faces as he/she gets more desperate towards the end are excellent.

Id give it 4 stars! Throughly enjoyed it.
stallion
Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:20am (UTC -6)
A weak season that represent a dark side of Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry abandoning it due to network politic. It's a shame to because a lot of these episodes had some good concept and ideas.

Top Five

The Enterprise Incident.
Day of the Dove
Tholian Web
All our Yesterday
Light of Zeter - Would had been perfect if it an Uhura episode.
navamske
Thu, Nov 27, 2014, 8:44pm (UTC -6)
I read that the production crew's name for Shatner's character in this episode was "Captain Kirk, Space Queen."
William B
Tue, Jan 27, 2015, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
I think the thing that distinguishes this episode from most of the 1960's-TV sexism of the original series is that it really does make broader implications about the world. Gene Roddenberry wanted to have a female first officer in "The Cage"; a few years later, he wrote the story to an episode which hinges on the *impossibility* of women becoming starship captains. It is true that we *can* believe that it's just a statement of the current state of starship captaincy that there are no women, and Janice Lester takes this as an unwritten policy but there are no rules on the books that actually prohibit female starship captains. Still, no one who isn't Lester ever makes a definitive statement, or replies to her angry tirades. Surely *someone* should say, "Women can be captains; it just has not happened yet," or some such, if that were the case. The thing is, the episode didn't *need* to be about misplaced feminist rage. A body swap, implausible or not, doesn't require a gender-flip as well. The idea of someone getting revenge on Kirk personally because Kirk succeeded in becoming a captain and the person having failed is actually the subject of "Court Martial," in which Finney's envy and anger over Starfleet's decision that he was unfit for command drives the plot. Someone like him, male or female, would be a great candidate to try to steal Kirk's life. But everything Lester says is specifically about her womanhood, and in particular a regular insistence that her womanhood is the cause of all her problems. She doesn't even hate *Starfleet* or *Kirk* the way she hates her own sex; but of course, she's undone because her Freudian starship envy still manifests in screaming fits and, as Scotty says, being "red-faced with hysteria," irrational, overly emotional, having poor impulse control, etc. even once she's got a man's body and all the perquisites that she thinks go with that. The episode's depiction of Lester relies so heavily on her femaleness, hatred of her own femaleness, and the impossibility of a woman ever doing a man's job, and has that last "if only" speech about how Lester could have had a much better life if she'd just gotten used to being a chick. It's funny that Shatner's acting as "crazy bitch pretending to be Kirk" is recognizably "Shatner playing Kirk," just ramped up to twelve (not even just to eleven), highlighting the overly emotional aspects of Kirk's usual comportment.

That's a shame, because the aspects of the episode which are *not* centrally about Lester and why women need to accept their inescapable womanhood to be happy have some merit and are even particularly appropriate for a series finale. The domino-effect of Kirk getting through to Spock, then consequently to McCoy and Scotty, and then to Sulu and Chekov and finally as a result to the whole of the ship is a pleasing demonstration of the bonds that have cropped up over the series. In his talk with Spock, Kirk-in-Lester's-body explicitly mentions "The Tholian Web" in one of the series' relatively rare direct nods to past episodes; that the two then share a mindmeld (for the first time? I forget) reinforces their closeness. I like that, during the recess, it's Scotty and not McCoy who suggests mutiny, because of course Scotty is the line officer there and the one who has to worry more directly about the ship. I love Sulu and Chekov's passive resistance. There's no Uhura (or Chapel), but maybe there's a good reason for the female cast members to miss out on this episode. That they have a greater loyalty to each other than the letter of the rules, and as such rally around their real captain rather than the impostor, is a good way to demonstrate how their time in space has brought this crew together.

Rating this episode is very hard. I guess I will say 1 star for the Lester material, 3 stars for the crew-mutiny material, for an average of 2 stars.

This leads to ratings for the season, overall. Ratings included where my rating disagrees with Jammer's (parenthetical is the difference between my rating and Jammer's):

The Paradise Syndrome: 1.5 (-1)
Is There in Truth No Beauty?: 3 (+1)
For the World is Hollow...: 2 (-.5)
Plato's Stepchildren: 2.5 (-.5)
Wink of an Eye: 1.5 (-1) (down from the 2 I suggested in the review, after more consideration)
Elaan of Troyius: 1 (-1)
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield: 2.5 (+1)
The Mark of Gideon: 1 (-1)
The Lights of Zetar: 1 (-1)
Requiem for Methuselah: 2.5 (-.5)
The Way to Eden: .5 (+.5)
The Cloud Minders: 2.5 (-.5)
The Savage Curtain: 1 (-.5)
Turnabout Intruder: 2 (-1)

The episodes I'd recommend this season are: The Enterprise Incident (****), The Empath and All You Yesterdays (***1/2), and Is There In Truth No Beauty?, Day of the Dove, and The Tholian Web (***), with a fair number of 2.5 star episodes (Spectre of the Gun, Plato's Stepchildren, Whom Gods Destroy, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, Requiem for Methuselah, The Cloud Minders) that sort of work for me. Overall, the season is one of the weakest in Trekdom, a rambling affair with few highlights and a great chunk of boring stories with maybe one or two decent ideas with wan execution, or sometimes terrible ideas with a few moments executed well. This sense that the show had run out of ideas and was running on fumes is sometimes present in TNG's last season, of course, but TNG's seventh season had many more memorable episodes and highlights, IMO. The thing that's frustrating about TOS season three isn't so much the worst-of-the-worst episodes, because "Spock's Brain" and "The Way to Eden" are fascinating, not just bad but endlessly *weird*. Episodes like "The Mark of Gideon" or "Wink of an Eye" or, at worst, "The Lights of Zetar" just sit there doing very little, having the appearance of a Trek episode with almost none of the passion that makes this series work.

While "The Lights of Zetar" is arguably Scotty-centric, Chekov gets big roles in "Spectre of the Gun" and "The Way to Eden," and there's a lot of Scotty and Sulu screentime in "That Which Survives," I mostly feel that the season boils down, even more than previous seasons, to the Big Three, to the point where in some episodes like "The Empath" or "All Our Yesterdays" the crew besides them are completely irrelevant to the story. Still, what the season does do well, in some of its better episodes, is depict the slow shift in Spock and McCoy's affection for each other, and the way Kirk fits into their new dynamic as a result. Spock and McCoy were "friends" before this season, but "The Tholian Web" and "All Our Yesterdays" place special emphasis on the relationship between those two with Kirk absent, and the strengthening of that bond makes episodes like "The Empath," about all three of them sacrificing for each other, with all three bonds (Kirk-Spock, Spock-McCoy, McCoy-Kirk) well developed, work. This puts the characters in good position for the movies, especially the way STII and STIII play with the Spock/McCoy bond.
William B
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 10:16am (UTC -6)
Comments on TOS overall:

I was overall very pleased with TOS in this rewatch. Season one, in particular, is fantastic, even the weak episodes being quite fresh. Season two is a little bipolar, with some of the series' very best and very worst mixed together, and some mediocre periods as well. What really impressed me, and what I wasn't in a good position to note when I watched the series (scattershot, out of order) when younger, is how well the character development works, in particular Spock's subtle changes with respect to humanity (and his own humanity), and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy bond. There does seem to be a progression through the series, more so than is obvious at first glance. I was also a little surprised that the fairly routine Kirk-bangs-hot-alien-chick material didn't become a cliche until the second season. I was also impressed with Kirk's stoicism, particularly in season one; the exaggerated acting style Shatner is known for in the role is something that gathers steam as the series progresses (partly as the scripts get worse), but initially at least Kirk really does seem a balance between Spock's excessive dislike of emotionality and McCoy's excessive position against Spock's rational nature.

My personal top ten:

1. The City on the Edge of Forever
2. Mirror, Mirror
3. The Doomsday Machine
4. The Trouble with Tribbles
5. Balance of Terror
6. Amok Time
7. The Enterprise Incident
8. The Menagerie
9. Space Seed
10. Tomorrow is Yesterday

Some candidates for the top ten which just missed: The Enemy Within, The Galileo Seven, The Ultimate Computer, The Empath, All Our Yesterdays.
Dimpy
Tue, Nov 24, 2015, 11:03pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. For its time, its a liberal portrayal of women, to even suggest a women can be a captain is a big step forward. Its also Roddenberry's revenge, because he wanted a female second in command, so that if Kirk is out of commission, the women would take over. The network nixed the idea, hence this production.
Lt. Yarko
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 2:42am (UTC -6)
You know, I didn't find this as sexist as I thought it was going to be. Kirk's tantrums could have come from a deranged man as much as from an irrational woman. However, when he sat down and started doing his nails, I HAD to laugh. What silliness.
Bob
Tue, Dec 15, 2015, 3:08am (UTC -6)
"femininity as just another alien land". Pardon me, but femininity IS just another alien land. The longer I've been married the better I have been able to overcome my pc brainwashing to realize it.
Sean
Sat, Mar 19, 2016, 12:10pm (UTC -6)
I'm always at a crossroads with this episode. I try to watch as just another trek story and not as the last episode of Star Trek. Unfortunately, either way it isnt a very good story.
Peter G.
Wed, Apr 27, 2016, 3:54pm (UTC -6)
I'm sorry, but this is not a sexist episode. If anything it's meant to be feminist even though it's imperfect. Its message is clearly that women being denied captaincy is a gross injustice, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was meant to be a big middle finger to the studio. Its flaw, though, is that the message is injustice is spoken by a lunatic.

We can try to justify why Janice had to be crazy, but in the end I think it was a case of the individual story (crazy person steals Kirk's body) conflicting with the theme (denying people basic dignity can make them hate themselves as well as you). That she was resentful could be explained by her sense of justice, but the sheer lunacy hurts her message.

The audience would do to remember that it is Janice herself who claims the issue is about being a woman, and while we don't hear anyone else's perspective on the subject the message of one person on a show is not necessarily the viewpoint of the show. If she is insane with jealousy and hatred we don't have to take her word for it but can instead step back and notice that there were probably many discontented but reasonable women in the Federation who we DO NOT hear from about this, and the only reason we hear it from Janice is because she can't take it any more and loses it.

That being said the last line of the show was probably a mistake, but growing up I never made to much of that line to be honest. The takeaway I always had was just that a crazy person tries to take over the ship. That she was a woman mattered to her but it didn't seem to matter much to the story. The crew figures out it isn't Kirk not because he acts like a woman but because he acts like a madman. In short, the feminist thread never really came through, which is perhaps confusing to people who see that it should be there but all they see is a crazy woman.
Tony
Sun, May 8, 2016, 6:24pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode a lot. I firmly believe there were other female captains, and commodores and admirals, but Janice wasn't one of them. I think she was too mentally unstable to be given a command, and blamed her gender and not herself.

The second captain ever of a starship was female. Watch "Enterprise."
KuberShark
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 6:49am (UTC -6)
I can see how female reviewers would cringe at this episode - and all reviewers for that matter from a 21st century perspective. Imagining though just for a second that the opponent was male (i.e. eliminating the gender issues) I think this one of the best episodes in that it posits relocating souls from one body to another - a concept which has some traction now in alt-media. Again ST light-years ahead of main stream. Then supposing you are stuck in someone else's body how do you free yourself? How do you convince others when we are all conditioned to accept identity from outward appearance? ps. LOL @ scene chewing!
Tanner
Sun, Oct 23, 2016, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
So the 4-star episodes in Season 1 both took place in the 20th century, while all the ones in Season 2 occurred in the. "present".
Richard
Wed, Nov 23, 2016, 6:10pm (UTC -6)
I can't believe this got 3 stars. To me, this is one of the worst Star Trek episodes. While I normally think Shatner is a good actor (I know a lot of people disagree), I thought he did a poor job in this episode. Although to be fair, Shatner is having to play an insane woman in a man's body. Not an easy role for any actor to play. Also, the whole "woman can't be starship captains" goes against all Star Trek's high ideals. For 3 years, we've been told everybody in the Star Trek universe has equal opportunities - whether you're a man or a woman, a human or alien, or what race of human you are, none of that matters - until this episode. As it pointed above, the very first Star Trek episode had a female second in command. Whatever happened to her? It's hard to believe she didn't make Captain, as she definitely looked like command material.
R.J.
Sun, Apr 2, 2017, 2:32pm (UTC -6)
Upon watching recently, I too took the line "Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women" to mean she was talking about Kirk specifically. He had said in The Corbomite Maneuver, "I've already got a female to worry about. Her name's the Enterprise."

In Court Martial, it's stated that "Not one man in a million could command a starship. A hundred decisions a day, hundreds of lives staked on you making every one of them right." When Kirk (in Janice Lester's body) says why she isn't qualified for the captain's chair we hear about her quest for "the power she craved, to attain a position she doesn’t merit by temperament or training." Nothing about being a woman just that she was nuts and lacked the proper training.
Caedus
Wed, Apr 5, 2017, 10:26pm (UTC -6)
I just love how fucking feminazis and other losers hate this.

Watching them squeal is awesome, just like watching Kirk bag every woman like the pieces of joyous flesh they are.

Fuck feminists!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ivanov
Wed, Apr 5, 2017, 11:18pm (UTC -6)
@Caedus Your that same guy who got triggered watching Profit and Lace. You certainly seem like a stable individual.
Linda
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 12:31pm (UTC -6)
Are there enjoyable moments in this episode? Yep. Enjoyable for the right reasons? Probably not. Kirk’s face as Kirk’s consciousness tries to reclaim his body, definitely LOL. When Kirk (in Lester’s body) tries to convince Spock of his real identity by relaying incidents that we’ve seen in prior episodes, that worked. But it made me wonder why Spock and the crew never turned about and tried to get “Kirk” to relay past incidents. Cause obviously "Kirk" would have failed that test big time and the writers didn’t want the problem solved that way. The premise was an interesting idea, but its execution left something to be desired.
William Barklam
Fri, May 12, 2017, 5:53pm (UTC -6)
Definitely one of my favourite Third Season episodes. I don't get all the outrage that this is sexist. The fact is that Dr Lester was probably passed over for captaincy not because she was a woman, but (a) she is unhinged (b) she's a Doctor, not an officer aiming for the top position. I mean seriously how many Doctors have you seen in the captain's chair? None ! As to Kirk's assent that it's not fair she wasn't considered, you have to remember the context in which that line was spoken. Kirk is visiting his old flame who, as far as he has been led to believe, is dying. Of course he's going to agree with her-he's clearly humouring her to appease her in what he thinks are her final moments. As to the notorious final line which seems to upset a lot of fans, I'm afraid I can't empathise with that outrage. What Kirk is saying is that Dr Lester's life could have been as rich as any woman's because the most successful women would focus on the strengths that they have as women, maybe different is some cases to the strengths that men have, but no less important. I think it's a compassionate line, not a sexist or patronising one. The bottom line to this episode's message is that Dr Lester is not penalised for being a woman ( though SHE thinks she is ) but rather given a wide berth because of her mental instability. When Shatner portrays Lester in Kirk's body, he's acting hysterically not because he's emulating a woman, but a very disturbed and unhinged individual who just happens to be female. And the other reason is that this episode is not sexist is that for at least half of the episode Lester does a pretty good job of being captain. So the underlying message here is "Yes, a woman CAN captain a starship" It's only Lester's own panic that she will be found out that puts a stop on her leadership skills on the bridge. I personally find this a thrilling, suspense-ridden episode with both Shatner & Smith at the top of their game, especially in the wonderful courtroom scene. Certainly compared to frankly turgid episodes such as "The Savage Curtain" and "The Mark of Gideon" ( both episodes with hardly any pace or energy to them at all ) "Turnabout Intruder" was a healthy dose of wild melodrama, excellent special effects, thoughtful acting, and an overall interesting take on the eternal Battle of the Sexes in an innovative sci-fi context.
MMM
Sat, Jul 8, 2017, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
"(Some sexist overtones are the most uneasy.) "

Some? This episode wasn't surpassed until Profit and Lace. Awful!
Daniel B
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 2:52am (UTC -6)
This could have been a great episode to end the series on. If only if only.
Bill
Thu, Aug 24, 2017, 8:31pm (UTC -6)
Yeppers to the prior comments. What a sad last line to end the series when The Beatles left us with (not counting John's final ditty to Her Majesty):

"And, in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take."
Trent
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 8:19am (UTC -6)
Here is a letter from Gene Roddenberry to reknowned SF writer I. Asimov. Gene is writing to Asimov with regards to an article Asimov wrote which criticised the way science is written on television. I thought this might be an appropriate place (the end of TOS) to paste the letter in full:

______________

29 November, 1966

Dear Isaac:

Sorry I had to address it in this round-about way since I did not have your address and Harlan Ellison, who might have supplied it, is working a final draft for us and is already a week late and I don't want to take his attention away from it for even a moment. On second thought, I believe he is a month or two late.

Wanted to comment on your TV Guide article, "What Are A Few Galaxies Among Friends?"

Enjoyed it as I enjoy all your writing. And it will serve as a handy reference to those of our Star Trek writers who do not have a SF background. Although, to be perfectly honest, those with SF background and experience tend to make the same mistakes. I've found that the best SF writing is no guarantee of science accuracy.

A person should get his facts straight when writing anything. So, as much as I enjoyed your article, I am haunted by this need to write you with the suggestion that some of your facts were not straight. And, just as a writer writing about science should know what a galaxy is, a writer writing about television has an obligation to acquaint himself with pertinent aspects of that field. In all friendliness, and with sincere thanks for the hundreds of wonderful hours of reading you have given me, it does seem to me that your article overlooked entirely the practical, factual and scientific problems involved in getting a television show on the air and keeping it there. Television deserved much criticism, not just SF alone but all of it, but that criticism should be aimed, not shot-gunned. For example, Star Trek almost did not get on the air because it refused to do a juvenile science fiction, because it refused to put a "Lassie" aboard the space ship, and because it insisted on hiring Dick Matheson, Harlan Ellison, A.E. Van Vogt, Phil Farmer, and so on. (Not all of these came through since TV scripting is a highly difficult specialty, but many of them did.)

In the specific comment you made about Star Trek, the mysterious cloud being "one-half light-year outside the Galaxy," I agree certainly that this was stated badly, but on the other hand, it got past a Rand Corporation physicist who is hired by us to review all of our stories and scripts, and further, got past Kellum deForest Research who is also hired to do the same job.

And, needless to say, it got past me.

We do spend several hundred dollars a week to guarantee scientific accuracy. And several hundred more dollars a week to guarantee other forms of accuracy, logical progressions, etc. Before going into production we made up a "Writer's Guide" covering many of these things and we send out new pages, amendments, lists of terminology, excerpts of science articles, etc., to our writers continually. And to our directors. And specific science information to our actors depending on the job they portray. For example, we are presently accumulating a file on space medicine for De Forest Kelly who plays the ship's surgeon aboard the USS Enterprise. William Shatner, playing Captain James Kirk, and Leonard Nimoy, playing Mr. Spock, spend much of their free time reading articles, clippings, SF stories, and other material we send them.

Despite all of this we do make mistakes and will probably continue to make them. The reason—Thursday has an annoying way of coming up once a week, and five working days an episode is a crushing burden, an impossible one. The wonder of it is not that we make mistakes, but that we are able to turn out once a week science fiction which is (if we are to believe SF writers and fans who are writing us in increasing numbers) the first true SF series ever made on television. We like to think this is what we are trying to do, and trying with considerable pride. And I suppose with considerable touchiness when we believe we are criticized unfairly or as in the case of your article, damned with faint praise. Quoting Ted Sturgeon who made his first script attempt with us (and now seems firmly established as a contributor to good television), getting Star Trek on the air was impossible, putting out a program like this on a TV budget is impossible, reaching the necessary mass audience without alienating the select SF audience is impossible, not succumbing to network pressure to "juvenilize" the show is impossible, keeping it on the air is impossible. We've done all of these things. Perhaps someone else could have done it better, but no one else did.

Again, if we are to believe our letters (now mounting into the thousands), we are reaching a vast number of people who never before understood SF or enjoyed it. We are, in fact, making fans—making future purchasers of SF magazines and novels, making future box office receipts for SF films. We are, I sincerely hope, making new purchasers of "The Foundation" novels, "I, Robot," "The Rest of the Robots," and other of your excellent work. We, and I personally, in our own way and beset with the strange problems of this mass communications media, work as proudly and as hard as any other SF writer in this land.

If mention was to be made of SF in television, we deserved much better. And, as much as I admire you in your work, I felt an obligation to reply.

And, I believe, the public deserves a more definitive article on all this. Perhaps TV Guide is not the marketplace for it, but if you ever care to throw the Asimov mind and wit toward a definitive TV piece, please count on us for facts, figures, sample budgets, practical production examples, and samples of scripts from rough story to the usual multitude of drafts, samples of mass media "pressure," and whatever else we can give you.

Sincerely yours,

Gene Roddenberry
Trek fan
Thu, Dec 14, 2017, 8:16pm (UTC -6)
@Jammer -- Why not defend your original review of this episode? You made a great argument: Shatner's acting is highly entertaining in this one, and that's enough. Despite some retroactive gender critiques, which I feel are unfair, "Turnabout Intruder" is a solid episode and I'm going to elaborate here on its strengths.

As I wrote in my review of "All Our Yesterdays," there's something very uncomfortable and weird about watching Shatner play a woman in his own body and the female guest star do likewise, but that is both the weakness and strength of TOS's final episode "Turnabout Intruder." This story by Roddenberry takes the classic Sci-Fi concept of people switching bodies -- later cheapened by Tom Hanks's "Big" and other sitcom-style imitators on TV and film -- as the vehicle for a fresh and tense examination of the great Kirkian fear of losing his ship. There are strong echoes of the Hitchcockian "wrongly accused man" trope in watching the helpless Kirk, trapped in the body of an ill woman, struggle to make people believe him as two enemies continually sedate him (her?) with claims he is delusional. Again, I think "All Our Yesterdays" is the superior episode, but I agree with Jammer's review and give "Turnabout Intruder" a solid three stars.

It may be politically incorrect, and a dramatized reflection of Shatner's own preening egoism projected into the body of Kirk, but "Shatner plays a hysterical woman out for revenge" (not that all women are hysterical, of course) is entertaintly executed in all its details from Shatner doing his nails to clucking his tongue. The early pre-credits line "your world of starship captains doesn't admit women" is clearly a reference to Kirk jilting Lester and driving her mad with the desire for revenge. Her ensuing revenge plot, carried out with the aid of her quack doctor minion, generates real tension in this episode as we watch Lester and Kirk squirm around in each other's bodies like two parasites. Say what you will, but "Intruder" is EDGY about pushing gender boundaries in a way that still feels fresh to our present debate about the impact of sex change operations on public restrooms, and this edginess generates a real discomfort that makes us wonder how the crew will resolve this situation.

Indeed, the fun of "Intruder" also includes Lester-as-Kirk testing the depth and strength of the crew's loyalty to him, especially the response of McCoy and Spock to the crisis. The threat here is really to the Big Three, as Lester threatens to destroy their three musketeers vibe by killing Kirk and replacing him. It's enjoyable to watch Spock -- him going rogue on the security guards with neck pinches is a nice touch -- and McCoy unravel the mystery and figure out how to fight Lester-as-Kirk. Incidentally, did anyone else notice that Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) has given up the platinum blonde hair of seasons one-two and gone brunette for this season three? There's still some blonde highlights there, but it's nice to see Barrett wearing her own hair color. As for the rest of the crew, Uhura doesn't appear in this one and only the Big Three appeared personally in "Yesterdays," so it's interesting to note that "Savage Curtain" is really the last TOS show with the full cast of regulars -- minus many of the semi-regulars like Chapel.

Finally, I don't see how the "jilted ex-lover out for revenge" plot is necessarily sexist or demeaning to women, as it's still a staple of modern-day relationship fiction. And frankly, let's admit it: Kirk can be a colossal jackass even at the same time he is impossibly heroic. Since it's clear that Captain America in Space loves only his ship, and we've seen countless women on this show end up thrown to the side of the road after entering his life briefly, I find it totally plausible that one of them might come back to haunt his paunchy butt. And what's really infuriating is that he's so freaking heroic: How the heck do you win against someone who keeps saving the universe? That seems more than enough to drive someone like Dr. Janice Lester, who really acts no less hysterical than Commander Ben Finney in Seasone One's "Court Martial," crazy. And let's remember that Lester is a DOCTOR -- a rarity for the 1960s, she's obviously a very smart and accomplished woman who (like Finney) can't stand a pompously self-assured ass like Kirk passing her by in life on his long climb to galactic fame. So yeah, I totally buy this story, and I welcome it as a sign of imperfection in the Trekverse that dissenters to the Legend of Kirk exist and are willing to go to the mattresses to wipe the smug grin off of his face. (That sounds more hostile than I mean it, as I personally love the Kirk character, but I think it makes the motives of a Finney or Lester quite relatable to us 21st century plebes.)

Other thoughts: As a series ending episode, I like how the show played its cards close to the vest here, generally running "Intruder" like an ordinary episode but including great callbacks to earlier shows as a sign of self-awareness of the ship's history. In addition to Kirk-as-Lester describing earlier Season Three stories to Spock, the Sulu/Chekov reference to the only death penalty offense being General Order 4 (visiting Talos, as we learned in "Menagerie Part I" back in Seasone One) is a nice touch. For an episode series, these overt continuity references are stronger her than in any earlier episode, giving a sense that the producers were at least aware the series cancellation might actually stick this time even as they were holding out for another writing campaign to get Season Four. As for the "Five-Year Mission," I have always considered the two seasons of "Star Trek: The Animated Series" to represent the final two years of that mission, despite Roddenberry later trying to exclude them from the franchise continuity. Since that continuity is completely muddled after 50 years of self-contradicting incarnations, and Roddenberry-produced TAS (with all its original cast, writers, and sequel episodes) explicitly cites the five-year mission in its opening narration and presents itself as "Star Trek," a continuation of the original show, I feel quite free to claim it as part of the franchise. Now I say to Jammer: Give us some TAS reviews!!! There are only a few 30-minute episodes and you've got plenty of time before "Discovery" (next month) and "Orville" (next fall) come back.

And I'll also say this for "Turnabout Intruder": There's a strong sense that the cast has matured as a unit as TOS ends here. I love how Spock and McCoy doubt almost from the start that Lester-as-Kirk is himself, how they quickly form ranks to investigate and help, and how they instantly risk their careers to fight the intruder. Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu planning mutiny is also a cool bit -- showing how the other series regulars (foreshadowing Star Trek III) have also grown close enough to the Big Three that they will likewise throw their careers under the bus for the group. It's too bad there's no Uhura in this final episode, but I think we can assume where her sentiments would have lain. That this series and TAS ends without trying to "resolve" anything doesn't bother me since the movies (especially Star Trek VI) do that quite well, and TNG has the opposite problem of a great final episode ("All Good Things") and a final movie ("Nemesis") that much like "Intruder" didn't fully admit its own end.

Anyway, at the end of my first-ever chronological marathon of remastered TOS on DVD, I feel I've rediscovered what makes this show great and grown in my appreciation of it. And watching all of those dull TNG and Voyager reruns on BBC USA, plus ho-hum Enterprise and DS9 (which is excellent but somewhat overrated, as there are long stretches of weak shows in seven seasons) on Netflix, I've felt energized by the reality that TOS remains the most original and striking of all Trek shows. There was something really special about this show back in the 1960s, before Paramount reduced everything to a cynical moneymaking formula and brought in soap opera actors to keep rehashing the same story concepts, and I say that as someone who came of age when TNG/DS9 was airing first-run. Part of it, for me, is simply that that TOS cast (even Shatner in his mellower older years) are genuinely lovely and humble people who feel vibrantly real every time they are interviewed or appear in public -- there's something about the light and unselfconscious way they wear their status as cultural icons that just makes me want to hang out with them (the few who are still alive) more than the cast of any other Star Trek series. For whatever reason, I've always felt that the other casts were just cashing their checks, including the current "Discovery" that I actually like very much so far.
Rahul
Mon, Dec 18, 2017, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
Definitely one of Gene Roddenberry's better episodes, pretty compelling with the crew's mutinous reactions to Lester-as-Kirk and how the senior crew have to conspire against the imposter. A good episode for Shatner who gets to "let it all hang out" -- he does a good job playing a psychotically jealous power-hungry woman! Enjoyed his "scenery chewing" during the court room scene.

As for the life-entity transfer, some handwaving here as far as how the un-transfer occurs, but it makes for a good plot and the idea of a typical character being hijacked by another entity is a common theme for Trek.

The order to execute Spock, McCoy, Scotty was rather extreme on Lester-as-Kirk's part -- guess it shows how absolutely nuts Lester really was. GR wrote her character (along with Dr. Coleman) to get all the members of the research team on the planet killed to lure in the Enterprise. And given how nuts Lester is (including hating the fact that she was born a woman etc.) should show that this episode can't be taken seriously as sexist or some valid commentary on gender roles. One has to take the Lester character's motives with a seriously large grain of salt.

Find it hard to believe in the end that it seemed like Coleman/Lester would simply get let off the hook for murder etc. The episode just swept that stuff under the rug, which I wasn't a fan of.

3 stars for "Turnabout Intruder" -- the final TOS episode. Doesn't really serve as a series finale, but it's a good episode on its own for Shatner's acting and Spock's persistence (liked the part where his first neck pinch on the security guard was blocked, but then the Vulcan got him with the other hand!). Also included a couple of references to prior episodes ("The Tholian Web" and "The Empath") which is extremely rare for TOS.
Peter Swinkels
Sat, Feb 17, 2018, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
No female captainsin Star Fleet? That's very hard to believe.
Derek D
Tue, Mar 6, 2018, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
It has its good moments, but overall a very disappointing way to end a beloved series.
Rahul
Sun, Apr 15, 2018, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
Objective (as best as I can be) ranking of all 78 TOS episodes (“The Menagerie” counted as 1 episode) — scored them all on Jammer’s 4-star scale and then fine-tuned on a scale of 0 to 100.

Some quick stats: Overall average score on 100 = 66.7, average 4-star score = 2.7; 28.2% are 3.5-star or 4-star, 5.1% below 1.5 stars. By season avg. score: S1 71.4 (2.86 stars), S2 68.9 (2.81 stars), S3 59.0 (2.38 stars). [There might be a tad of false precision in this exercise!]

Rank. Episode 100 Score, 4-Star Score

78. Spock's Brain 10, 0.5
77. And the Children Shall Lead 14, 0.5
76. The Way to Eden 21, 1
75. Shore Leave 29, 1
74. The Alternative Factor 33, 1.5
73. The Omega Glory 34, 1.5
72. I, Mudd 35, 1.5
71. The Lights of Zetar 36, 1.5
70. The Mark of Gideon 37, 1.5
69. Mudd's Women 42, 1.5
68. The Squire of Gothos 43, 1.5
67. The Savage Curtain 44, 2
66. The Apple 45, 2
65. The Gamesters of Triskelion 46, 2
64. Catspaw 48, 2
63. Assignment: Earth 50, 2
62. That Which Survives 51, 2
61. For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky 52, 2
60. The Changeling 52, 2
59. Who Mourns for Adonais? 53, 2
58. The Corbomite Maneuver 54, 2
57. Charlie X 56, 2
56. Friday's Child 57, 2.5
55. Court Martial 58, 2.5
54. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield 59, 2.5
53. Spectre of the Gun 59, 2.5
52. Miri 59, 2.5
51. Whom Gods Destroy 60, 2.5
50. This Side of Paradise 60, 2.5
49. Plato's Stepchildren 61, 2.5
48. The Return of the Archons 61, 2.5
47. Day of the Dove 62, 2.5
46. By Any Other Name 62, 2.5
45. Bread and Circuses 63, 2.5
44. What Are Little Girls Made Of? 63, 2.5
43. Patterns of Force 64, 2.5
42. Requiem for Methuselah 66, 2.5
41. The Paradise Syndrome 66, 2.5
40. The Ultimate Computer 67, 2.5
39. The Enemy Within 67, 2.5
38. Wink of an Eye 69, 3
37. The Deadly Years 70, 3
36. The Man Trap 71, 3
35. Turnabout Intruder 72, 3
34. Return to Tomorrow 72, 3
33. Wolf in the Fold 72, 3
32. Is There In Truth No Beauty? 73, 3
31. Elaan of Troyius 76, 3
30. A Piece of the Action 77, 3
29. Tomorrow Is Yesterday 77, 3
28. The Cloud Minders 78, 3
27. A Private Little War 78, 3
26. Operation -- Annihilate! 78, 3
25. The Menagerie 78, 3
24. Where No Man Has Gone Before 79, 3
23. The Tholian Web 80, 3
22. The Naked Time 82, 3.5
21. The Immunity Syndrome 84, 3.5
20. The Galileo Seven 85, 3.5
19. Errand of Mercy 86, 3.5
18. The Conscience of the King 87, 3.5
17. Obsession 88, 3.5
16. Arena 88, 3.5
15. The Enterprise Incident 89, 3.5
14. Dagger of the Mind 89, 3.5
13. The Empath 90, 3.5
12. All Our Yesterdays 91, 3.5
11. Space Seed 92, 3.5
10 .The Trouble With Tribbles 93, 3.5
9. A Taste of Armageddon 94, 4
8. Journey to Babel 94, 4
7. Mirror, Mirror 94, 4
6. The Devil in the Dark 95, 4
5. Metamorphosis 95, 4
4. The City on the Edge of Forever 96, 4
3. Amok Time 97, 4
2. Balance of Terror 98, 4
1. The Doomsday Machine 100, 4
Cinnamon
Thu, Sep 20, 2018, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
This ep is awful. It proves how little men thought of women.
They believed women were only good for one thing. Hence, the revealing outfits, only the big busted girls were hired, and they had to show what they had.

As a rule, females did not run around with everything hanging out, the boys wanted to look up skirts and such filth, not like today. We had to be clean and protect ourselves or be branded. There was free sex as it was called, but it was not advertised.

You people don't understand the past. Women were treated as inferior dumb clucks. The male animal believed that a woman should be IN THE KITCHEN, BAREFOOT, AND PREGNANT their entire lives. I was there. However, I was not one of the gooses that laid around and obeyed sexist males!!!!!!! Screw them all!!

I still think that way and I am 76 years old. I don't need men.

Roddenberry was a womanizer with that old-fashioned kick a female around but when he got Majel in his hooks, she did not unhook and slip into the darkness of a liquor bottle. She stayed because in those days, you F..K me, you marry me. It was not like today. In those days the girl did not suck off the boys cause "it ain't sex, you slut".

Shatner's first wife divorced him due his not keeping it in his pants and he was zokcd;xx@((( a young dancer at the studio. In his first book he stated that he did not want the divorce. I can't remember the Scotty actor's name off hand, but on one of discs in the TOS eps he discusses Shatner, and he says......."he is not a nice man...". The entire main cast felt that way because I listened to many interviews with them while Shatner was discussed during the Star Trek cast interviews.
ZITA CARNO
Sat, Oct 20, 2018, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
I watched that episode, and I have one comment about Janice Lester: "Homicidal maniac". And that seed was probably there from the beginning. Regardless of her motivations(?), she was ready to kill anyone and everyone who knew her deadly secret, and she would have destroyed the Enterprise to boot because she had no idea of how to pilot a starship. I would have preferred "All Our Yesterdays" as a final episode.
Trish
Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
To see one comment after another from commenters with male-sounding names (all we have to go on in cyberspace) insisting that this episode isn't sexist, while comment after comment with female-sounding names says it is, reminds me a lot of a bunch of white people declaring with authority what is and is not racist.

It's a lot easier to declare that a character that fits an unfavorable stereotype just HAPPENS to be a member of the group that has traditionally been denigrated with that stereotype if you yourself were lucky enough not to be a member of that group and therefore have not had to spend your life living the stereotype down. It's not that such a character may not occasionally (very occasionally) really just "happen" to be a member of the denigrated group. It's just that if it's had no bad effect on your own life, it's a lot easier to give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

I'll bet you Roddenberry knew very well the origin of the word "hysteria," even if it's a dog whistle some of you can't hear.
martyr
Sun, Nov 4, 2018, 10:01pm (UTC -6)
I guess whether or not you view this show as sexist really depends on where you come down on the whole "death of the author" question. Star Trek was a show that was deeply progressive for the 1960s, and in many ways remains that way, but it's also a product of its time. It's funny to rewatch in that I think the show is far less sexist than people often think of in a lot of respects (the popular notion of Kirk as a complete slut is basically a collective fabrication of pop culture), and more sexist in other ways.

The meaning of a work can change over time; witness feminists burning their bras as symbols of oppression when modern bras were invented and popularized by a woman decades before. In that vein, I think the "Turnabout Intruder" is a show that was trying to be progressive, comes off sexist, but has looped around enough that a modern viewer can take a different but still progressive message from it.

Lester is a tragic character, and the episode hammers that point home. While fans still quibble over exactly how to take the "women can't be starship captains bit" (and it's the hardest part of the episode to explain away, and factors into the series' general issue of being progressive on women in a lot of ways but very quiet on them in leadership roles) I think it's kind of irrelevant insofar as it's just part of Lester's tragic story. Maybe she actually did get passed over unfairly. Maybe Kirk did behave like a jerk, as many young people in relationships did. But it's festered into an all-consuming passion for revenge, like many a classic Trek villain.

I guess the ultimate question is whether you think Lester is supposed to be emblematic of women as a whole, or should be judged as a character. And I think the intention was definitely the latter. Women aren't all crazy people, Lester just was, and it's understandable why.
hifijohn
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 6:52pm (UTC -6)
Im going against the grain and say this is a far better episode than most believe it is.The idea that someone can transfer their mind into another person is very interesting and shatner does a good job of being lester.
Chess
Thu, May 16, 2019, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
“Nobody talk about nothing no how while I’m gone! Especially not about how hysterical I’m acting!” /stomps from room, does nails/

Hehehe.

Many heartfelt thanks to Trent for typing up the Asimov/Roddenberry letter.
Springy
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 7:19am (UTC -6)
Shatner is hard to watch in this stinker. Really hammed it up.

What a surprise and disappointment to learn that, on TOS, Starship captaincy was forbidden to women in the 23rd century. Roddenberry certainly had his limitations of vision.

The way it ends, how Kirk says Janice could have been happy "if only," was especially galling and awful.

Well, @William B, you weren't wrong that this was an awful way to go out. Yesterdays would have made a much better closer.

I think I need a dose of Captain Janeway.
William B
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 9:29am (UTC -6)
@Springy, yyyyyyeah.

I do like the "mutiny" scenes, from Spock talking to the real Kirk onward to Sulu and Chekov stopping work. I thought it was nice to have some ensemble scenes to go out on. Of course, Uhura is absent, which is pretty glaring in this one.

Glad you liked Yesterdays though!
Peter G.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
@ Springy,

"What a surprise and disappointment to learn that, on TOS, Starship captaincy was forbidden to women in the 23rd century. Roddenberry certainly had his limitations of vision."

Unlike TNG and the later series, you shouldn't always take TOS to be what we would call "science fiction", meaning it's showing you a prediction of what the future will be like. Very often TOS uses a sci-fi backdrop to show something contemporary in a different light. In this instance I strongly believe that Turnabout Intruder was *not* saying that in the future women won't be able to be captains. I think what it was saying was that *right now* (i.e. in 1969) networks won't allow female leads on shows. This hearkens back to the series pilot where Roddenberry was told to change Number One to a man because they didn't want the XO to be a woman. I think this 'series closer' is a middle finger to the networks about how backwards they were in treating women like second-class citizens. At least, that's my theory.
William B
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, I agree that often TOS is focused on the "current" as of 1969 situation, and the idea that the ep is referencing the banning of female leads at the time is intriguing. That said, the episode seems to be about how Lester deals with this rule in a crazy way rather than that the rule is unjust. I'm not sure how this episode would really work as a middle finger rather than a confirmation of their worst fears about female stars. The most sympathetic read of Lester is that she was driven mad by the injustice of the rule limiting her, I suppose.

Although, I do wonder sometimes if the depiction of "Lester" by Shatner as a megalomaniac the whole main cast has to rein in was a dig at Shatner's diva-esque behaviour on set (as alleged by the supporting cast).

I think it's worth noting from a behind the scenes perspective that Roddenberry basically had no involvement in the show for season 3, and so it's hard to draw conclusions (positive or negative) about Roddenberry himself from this episode. The writing team behind this episode is (for better or worse) disjoint from the writer that tried to get Majel Barrett in a command position in The Cage. Not that this means they necessarily would disagree with Roddenberry or his mission.
Peter G.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

I agree that we can't directly attribute this show's message to Roddenberry himself, but I largely think that a lot of the messages in TOS were made by pro-active writers with more of an eye on the ball of reality than Roddenberry had.

Regarding how well Lester comes off in this episode according to my theory, I've mentioned earlier in the thread that I think the episode basically fails in its attempt to portray her as wronged, *if that was their intent*, precisely because she's a lunatic. But I could see how there's a Merchant of Venice kind of situation here, where she is now damaged goods but where this damage came as a result of oppression against her. She comes off looking bad, but since it's the system that pushed her to it we see a vicious cycle of victimhood where the victims look bad precisely because of being oppressed, which then creates the "confirmation of their worst fears" that you allude to. It's a self-fulfilling system. That said, if showing this system was their intent I still think they failed, because she's not just damaged goods but a straight-up maniac that has no redeemable message to give us.

My point isn't to argue that this episode is great, but rather to argue that it's message may have been progressive rather than sexist, even thought its execution was botched. I would personally recommend lambasting it for being bad, instead of for being regressive or anti-women. As it happens I don't even quite think it's bad, although it's pretty clearly not good.
William B
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, good points. I think though that this is a case where it's hard to tell whether the episode was attempting to make a progressive point and failed, or attempting to make a regressive point. I'd say that looking at TOS as a whole, the former is the read that matches the rest of the series better, but within the episode itself I'm not so sure. The behind-the-scenes chaos in season 3 is such that I'm not sure how much individual episodes were really filtered through a common vision.

That said, I just remembered to check the episode's credits and Roddenberry wrote the story! So, oops -- I had totally forgotten that. So I was wrong that this episode doesn't represent Roddenberry, unless it went through pretty huge revisions by the time it got from story to teleplay to air (possible).
Springy
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
William B, Peter G

The conclusion, in the ep, is not that Janice was driven mad by her inability to fulfill her dream, but by her unnatural desire for power and her inability to accept her womanhood.

Peter, your middle-finger theory is very generous, but doesn't jive, for me. I certainly agree that "the oppressive system became a self fulfilling prophecy" is the right read on this . . . but I think the ep's message is "Look what happens when a woman craves power instead of accepting her natural, womanly role."

When Kirk twice says "if only" at the end, he means "if only she hadn't been so unnaturally obsessed and power hungry!" not "if only the system had allowed her a chance to live her dreams!"

There's room for interpretation, but that's mine.

It was interesting, though, that McCoy didn't find any significant difference in "Kirk's" emotional and psychological makeup from when he first became a captain. In that, there is a hint of "huh, maybe Janice COULD have become a great captain."

But that hint is overwhelmed by the explicit talk of how sad it is she can't accept her womanhood, how awful her desire for power is, and how "Kirk's" behavior makes McCoy's findings nearly unbelievable.

Roddenberry . . . he was somewhat ahead of his time, but still, a man of his time.

I accept TOS for what it is - like most granddaddies, a very mixed bag.
Springy
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 11:14pm (UTC -6)
I see Jammer doesn't have Season wrap up threads for TOS, so I'll put my final thoughts here:

I enjoyed watching TOS more than I thought I would. I wasn't at all surprised by the cheesiness, the occasional and laughably over-the-top Shatnerisms, the in-your-face sexism, or the wince-worthy preachiness of some eps. I knew to expect these things, so I took them in stride.

Things that did surprise me:
--Nimoy. Wow, he's really good.
--The chemistry of the Big Three - never since repeated.
--Shatner is mostly pretty good. It's just that when he's bad, he's awful. The awfulness was what stuck in my brain from long ago, but that was unfair. Brooks was definitely worse than Shatner. I had assumed the opposite.
== How interminable much of Season 3 felt. There was boring episode after boring episode. But enough occasional sparks to keep me going.
--Though McCoy's bewildering obstinacy about Spock's stoicism was often annoying, the likeable Kelly managed to be the real charmer of the trio.
--With the exception of Scotty, really, really poor development of any characters outside the Big Three.

I liked (not in order): Tribbles, Yesterdays, City, Wink of an Eye, Charlie, Menagerie, Space Seed, Mirror, Piece of the Action, Other Side of Paradise.

I may try going through TNG again, next. not sure.
Jammer
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 11:41am (UTC -6)
@Springy,

I didn't say this on the DS9 thread when you got to the end of that series, but meant to: Thanks for bringing your rewatch of all these shows back here to share with us. It was fun and enlightening to hear your perspectives over the past several months!
William B
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 2:32pm (UTC -6)
@Springy, it was fun seeing you make your way through! I'm glad you stuck with it.

Nimoy really blows me away. He's magic in the role and did so much to create that iconic, weird character.
Peter G.
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
I also agree that Nimoy delivers a performance that in my view even exceeds what we get from Data in terms of nuance and struggle, but both are great characters.

Personally I think Shatner is the best actor in all of Trek, however this needs to be qualified with a strong proviso, which is that his task wasn't the same as any other actor in TOS nor in any of the others: he had to not only single-handedly created the dramatic tension in most scene using only his face and body, but also had to effectively create special effects using only his reactions. Imagine Marvel movies but where there's no CGI and the actors themselves would have to sell their reactions to blasts and lasers. True, TOS did have the odd on-screen special effects like a phasor, but for the most part all the various things that happen to Kirk are sold mostly on his famous 'hands out' routine that's imitated so often. This can come off as alternatively awesome or legendarily corny, but remember that it was in an era where there wasn't really any "serious" sci-fi on TV and where there was no established standard for how to show these things. What Shatner lacked in subtlety at times he made up for in spades with pure energy.

One thing I especially note about not just Shatner (although largely him) but also Spock, Bones and even Scotty and Sulu, is that bridge shots during tense moments are shot in two general ways to get the maximum tension, which are to use both wide shots as well as super-close-ups. Especially in the close-ups these actors had such a focus on the object of tension (such as an alien ship, space monster, etc) that you can see the immediate danger written all over them. The music is iconic at times and one hears the background klaxon sounding, but most of the reality of the danger is generated by their faces, and no one on any Trek show following this could match any of them. Not even close, although Stewart's focus might perhaps be put at the same general level when needed. But due to camera technique, lighting usage changes, and better effects, Stewart wasn't called on in quite the same way to personally sell the Enterprise being in danger. Very often in TNG the shots move from person to person, from interior to exterior shots, and rarely is the sole object of our attention the face of a single bridge officer as it so often was in TOS. That they could have multiple actors able to pull that off and create (IMO) high levels of tension is amazing, both directorally and in terms of their camera techniques. They also used *tons* of lighting to create light/shadow regions on the actors' faces in TOS just to accentuate how much their faces sold the moments. Kirk especially often got very special lighting for close-ups that didn't come close to having continuity with the wide shots, very deliberately. These guys were just something else.

I think maybe Rahul or someone else mentioned something similar at one point, but I think the actors on TOS were just leagues ahead of most who followed. I don't know what it is, but it seems maybe the standards back then were just higher, with much less reliance on editing technology and more on the humans. Or maybe their casting and directing was just superlatively good. It's hard to say.
Rahul
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 8:29pm (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.

Yes, we once had a discussion where I said something to the effect that the TOS cast and guest actors absolutely blew away their counterparts on subsequent Treks. Shatner is fantastic and I still shake my head at those who criticize his acting. Nimoy is outstanding as well and I'd say, that from the other Treks, only Stewart is in the same league.

But your comment about lighting/shots/direction got me thinking about something else that made the demands on the TOS cast far greater than other Treks. Obviously back in the 60s, Trek didn't have great special effects and I don't think the intention ever was to wow even the 60s audience with what special effects they had. Subsequent Treks, I believe, did try (especially DSC) to impress their viewers with VFX, CGI such that part of their audience came to depend on this aspect of entertainment and may not be able to recognize/appreciate classic, excellent acting to carry a show. Thus the demands on the cast/guest actors wasn't as high and, as a result, you got weaker actors. I'm generalizing a bit but I think this is essentially the development of a certain aspect of Trek and sci-fi overall.
Springy
Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G

Great points about what the TOS actors, particularly Shatner, were called upon to do, and how well they managed.

@William B and Jammer, thanks for your nice words. I love having this site to share my thoughts. I never dreamed there was such an active, interesting site for these older shows.
Chrome
Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 10:44am (UTC -6)
@Springy

Just reading through your comments now as I rewatch TOS (I had forgotten a lot of it).

I agree with you that there hasn't been a trio as iconic as Kirk-Spock-McCoy since their inception and I think that's due to many factors. Acting's definitely a part of it, but also much of it comes down to the three branching off into the three areas of debate: Logos (Spock), Pathos (McCoy), and Ethos (Kirk). Many arguments in western culture are based on these three methods, and Trek is cerebral enough that it can really get mileage out of characters discussing big topics on these levels.

Still, I think the other shows excel in other ways. Since you're thinking of watching TNG next, I want to mention that the strength of that show is having a cast that really gets along well (Data and Geordi seem like they're friends on and off screen). The guest characters are really superb too, many of them going on to leading big careers after Star Trek.
Springy
Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
I watched "For the Love of Spock" on Netflix last night. I couldn't find a thread for it, so am posting here to say I recommend it to any ST fan. It's done by Leonard's son, Adam, so it's not some hard, thorough, objective look; it's not meant to be. But neither is it all sweetness and light. It's a loving, honest tribute by a son to a father.

My favorite part was the letter Leonard wrote Adam, and George T telling about how Leonard insisted he and Nichelle ne included in the animated series. Leonard was nowhere near perfect, but it was plain he did his best and worked very, very hard.

An interesting man, an interesting life, an interesting documentary.

@Chrome, thanks for your thoughts and info on TNG.
Pete
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
Lester works as an over-the-top madly jealous character, but the episode has literally nothing to say about the issues it raises about the lack of top job opportunities for women. Not one of the other female characters gets to say anything about it, and you'd think they'd have some opinions on the subject. I can only conclude that that isn't really what the episode about. It's just about a crazy, shrill and controlling woman, which is a sexist trope to begin with. The message seems to be that ambitious women are necessarily unhinged lunatics that couldn't handle the top tough jobs even if they got them.

Unfortunately the main issue raised but ignored by the story (where are the female starship captains?) is more compelling than the "crazy woman" story, and it remains a sad, sour last note for the series. A real wasted opportunity for Trek's inclusive legacy.

Random Thoughts:

Where's the concern for Lester's dead staff? Isn't anybody going to be arrested?

Lester seems to have a pretty good (and unrelated) career as it is, so her beef with Kirk seems to be entirely personal. Not just any captain would do. She wanted to be Jim Kirk. If they went deeper with that it might have been interesting.

Coleman, the washed-up doctor doormat, asks to "take care of her" at the end, but how? Aren't they both going to Federation prison/rehab or whatever happens to murderers in Star Trek?

Shatner as Lester is off the rails and gets all the attention, but Sandra Smith as Kirk is quite good.

This reminds me of the DS9 episode "Invasive Procedures" where the Dax symbiont is stolen by an unsuccessful guy that felt wronged for not being chosen as a Trill host, and he was aided by his even more insecure lover. That was a much better story.
Chrome
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 11:05am (UTC -6)
I'm sympathetic with Peter on this one; I think the intent of the episode was to show there existed injustices in how women are treated in the workforce and how such injustice can drive someone to do very desperate things. There's also the lingering issue that women cannot hold certain positions in the military and are generally treated different (though for biological reasons, if my understanding is correct) which is hinted at by this episode. But I do agree also with Springy, that much of the writing was lacking for the Women's Rights concept (ex: why was it never mentioned how Janice Lester could've been something in Starfleet if she had done x, y, and z? What's the "if only" all about?)

Nevertheless, I largely agree with Jammer's review. Shatner was really on his game this episode, and it's fun to see "someone else" inside the Captain. The scenes that worked really well were the ones that showed how blindly the crew on the Enterprise were willing to follow a leader because of the chain of command - despite that leader's increasingly questionable actions. Insert relevant modern-day political commentary here.

Sandra Smith was also wonderful to watch with her depiction of Kirk and it was fun seeing her outmatch the intruder on a cerebral level at a hearing. So I'd say the episode is largely a fun watch but with a huge ASTERIX.

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