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There are many detractors of this episode, for reasons we'll get into
in a bit, but one also cannot overlook several scenes of nearly
rapturous, quasi-Shakespearean melodrama affixed to a science fiction
plot line. Some of these scenes are unforgettable: Kirk physically
attacking Janice Lester (now actually Kirk) as McCoy and Spock look on,
shocked, fearing the worst; that tense, somber moment when Spock must
decide to believe that Kirk is trapped in Lester's body; the entire
hearing sequence, where Kirk (actually Janice Lester) steadily implodes
into rampaging hysteria; the scene in the hallway directly afterwards,
where Scott & McCoy plot their mutiny; Sulu & Chekov, nervously
realizing how wrong things really are. These are incredible to watch,
whether for the 1st or 10th time. But, the episode's strengths are not
just these standouts; this isn't some half-baked attempt at role
reversal. After Kirk's body is appropriated by Lester, the subtleties
kick in: note how Shatner now says 'Captain Kirk to Enterprise' instead
of his usual shorthand 'Kirk to Enterprise.' And, it's these subtle
changes in his behavior that prove to be Lester's undoing, not the
later screaming fits, when Lester knows she is losing her bid to retain
control of the ship indefinitely. When Lester, in Kirk's body, first
walks onto the bridge and starts issuing orders, we learn that the job
of a starship captain is made up of many little details and any even
minor deviation will start causing problems...and raised eyebrows (by,
guess who?). It's pretty well thought out.
Note also how, in logical order, Kirk's senior officers go over to his side, despite surface appearances of the usual routine: first Spock, of course, followed by Scotty & McCoy, then Sulu & Chekov; too bad Uhura is missing. In discussing Shatner's memorable interpretation of a female mind, we often forget Smith's performance as Kirk; the actress must have studied some of Shatner's past performances and it shows. Shatner, known for overacting in a few episodes - especially in the final season - gets to indulge himself here and it suits this particular episode very well. The viewer should remember that the female character, Lester, is an unbalanced woman, probably even deranged. She is not representative of the typical female of the 23rd century. This episode is not telling us that females, as a rule, are not suited to command positions. It's PC to buy into that, but I believe it's simply telling us that Lester is unsuited for command. Very few people are suited for command, in reality. When Lester, in the beginning, makes her comment about how Starfleet doesn't allow female starship captains, it seems to me as more of an attack, by Roddenberry, on the social mores of the sixties, a commentary on inequality (between males & females, in this case) similar to other statements by many 3rd season episodes on the status quo of that decade. We really don't know what Starfleet's approach is here, even though Kirk seems to agree with Lester on this point - perhaps he was humoring her - it's, again, more of a message to policymakers of the sixties. One could argue, tongue in cheek, that after this incident, Starfleet began an aggressive promotion program geared towards females, to avoid further such protests. We see the results on the TNG and Voyager shows. But, the next new Trek episode would be in animated form, in 1973. We had 3 good years. Well, 2 really good years and one pretty good year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The final aired episode of the still critically attacked third season of the only Star Trek Series ends up being one of the finest displays of William Shatner's acting range, and an episode that meets the definition of what a Star Trek universe set story can be. Trek was meant to be a backdrop to good speculative story telling, but what a bonus for the viewers of the series- we got characters we loved, portrayed by actors with something oh-so-rare in filmed productions, be it television or the silver screen: perfect chemistry. Admittedly I can no recall ever seeing another story portraying male and female characters that swap their internal, natural genders our Captain, er, our Mister Shatner pulls it off with a verisimilitude equal to or surpassing his finest Trek moments (and to be fair and lauding, Sandra Smith as Dr. Janice Lester does a bang up job as Captain Kirk in, er, female clothing....). This final episode is clearly science fiction and reminds one of the initial season of ST- with moments here and there of pure involving meaningful sci-fi, the type that makes the hair on the neck stand up and the mind and heart wrap around the ideas coming from boffo writers of the ilk. As a student of the first school of Star Trek, in other words a person who saw it all first run (and in color!) I recall not so much being impacted that the episode could make one forget some of the "ugh" episodes of the third season ("Spock's Brain" and "And the Children Shall Lead") but that something super extraordinary was ending. But the story stuck with me and over time additional viewings have shown that it (and so many more episodes of that season) maintained the Star Trek patented ability to conjure, entertain and, if I may be so droll as to pay a minor homage- fascinate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many Star Trek fans have criticized Wiliam Shatner's 'overacting' in
this episode but I must disagree. If Star Trek had a more cerebral or
passive captain like Jeffrey Hunter, the first captain in Star Trek's
pilot, the series might not have survived into a second season--let
alone a third. Kirk's acting abilities was what made this episode, and
the entire Star Trek series, believable. I rate his performance here as
outstanding at a generous 9 out of 10 but the movie's premise--is
unfortunately more problematic.
Essentially, Kirk's body gets kidnapped by his former lover Janice Lester (played by Sandra Smith) who has gone jealously insane over the fact that Starfleet apparently doesn't allow women captains. While the script may have been intended as a social commentary on the 1960's, it doesn't quite work for a Star Trek series that was supposedly set in the 23rd century. Surely by then, women would have risen up the ranks to become captains of starships! While it seems implausible that Kirk would allow his body to be kidnapped on Camus II by an alien device, this cannot be dismissed outright. As Spock rightly notes, the Enterprise has been to many new places and witnessed many strange events. Moreover, Kirk was once cloned in 'What are Little Girls Made of?' and even split into two in 'The Enemy Within.'
Both Lester's and Kirk's acting are excellent: I liked the part where Lester (as Kirk) bites his nails like a woman or the trap that Lester (Kirk again) sets for McCoy and Scotty when the latter two men privately voice their concern over the Captain's recent odd and capricious behaviour towards the crew and raise the idea of mutiny. You could really cut the tension between the increasingly belligerent and unstable Kirk (Lester here) and the Enterprise crew with a knife. Turnabout Intruder is generally underrated because 1. it was the last Classic Trek show and 2. it touched on the inexplicable premise that women could not be starship captains--a very radioactive topic in our more mature 21st century society. If the script writers had said Starfleet disqualified Janice Lester from being a ship's captain since she was mentally incapable of handling the heavy responsibilities involved with the job or suffered from a disease which curtailed her decision making faculties, this may have been a better received episode. However, the show turned out out quite well overall. Lester really goes berserk when she realises she is losing her grip on the captaincy and panics. What really trips her up are the little minor subtleties such as when she repeatedly says "Captain Kirk" rather than "Kirk" and when Angela asks Lester (as Kirk) if the captain would like to notify Starfleet of their course change and Lester (as Kirk) responds by questioning the crew's loyalty until Spock reminds the captain that he/she usually deals with these issues alone. So, its little surprise that the crew notices their captain is not behaving like the person they know.
When Spock sees Janice Lester (ie. Kirk here), the latter actually recounts their adventures together in previous episodes--something which never happened in any other prior TOS show. Given the fact that Star Trek was about to be cancelled by the time of the making of "Turnabout Intruder," its amazing that Kirk and Lester pulled off their acting parts so well. A rating of 7 or 8 stars for the last Star Trek episode is reasonable due to its intriguing premise. While Turnabout Intruder was not a classic, it was one of the more appealing and entertaining Star Trek episodes of the generally poor third season and rates high in my view. Kirk's haunting last words: "If only If only.." left me wondering if Star Trek could have carried on into a fourth season and witnessed man's landing on the Moon had it not been neglected by NBC? Sadly, we'll never know.
I have recently been watching the repeat of the 3rd season on the
British version of the Sci Fi Channel. I remember as a kid back in 1973
being so disappointed with a lot of the third season after the highs of
the previous two.
However I have come to enjoy them more now as there were early signs of the series trying to evolve into something for the 1970's (Being cancelled in 1969 it never quite made it). I think if they could have had a little more money to up the production values the third season could have been very good.
Although not one of my favourites - 'The Lights of Zetar' did appear to feature the first computer graphics (see the main view screen shot when the alien is approaching the library planet). Perhaps the special effects guys had been to watch 2001.
So onto the final episode - well it's not bad - if not a little camp - but I agree with the previous comments that Shatner did pull it off well. With a better script it could have rivalled 'What are Little Girls Made of?'
I would love to hear from fellow Trek fans about their favourite 3rd season episodes
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While 'Turnabout Intruder' strikes many as an odd choice to conclude the original Star Trek's run on network TV, I think it's important to consider that in all likelihood, nobody involved at the time of shooting knew it would be such. Hell, NBC probably didn't even know until they realized they had one unaired episode left in the can and figured they might as well broadcast it, which they did in June '69. The episode is certainly one of the better third season shows, with an intriguing premise and the almost irresistible notion of Shatner portraying a woman stuck inside Kirk's body. He has a lot of fun with the performance, in ways both flamboyant and subtle, believe it or not. For instance, in the first scene where Lester inhabits the captain's body, and Kirk uses his communicator, he jerks back just slightly, almost imperceptibly, upon hearing a voice come from the device for the first time. It's one of many nice little touches Shatner employs to create a convincing impression of an unbalanced woman occupying his physical form. While the episode is far from perfect, there are some nice scenes, and one in particular is wonderful-the court martial sequence, which ends with Lester/Kirk exploding in rage at Mr. Spock. It's a classic moment in the episode, and in the series. There was certainly no inkling in 'Turnabout Intruder' that it was the last Star Trek; it ended with Kirk, Spock, and Scotty walking off down a corridor while the captain lamented Dr. Lester's self-inflicted misery. As a side note, I agree that it is an odd comment Dr. Lester makes at the beginning of the show about women not being permitted to command starships. Despite someone's well-intentioned remark here, there's no question what her statement meant, and Kirk even confirms it in his response. It stands as an example of how things were at the time... no more, no less.
I remember this whole thing clearly, NBC pulled Trek after the
Christmas Break, ABC made an arrangement to show the final episodes.
This was the final Original Series episode, I remember it aired around
the time of Apollo 11.
As an episode, it is particularly sparse - The hallways of the USS Enterprise were void of the extras in uniform who used to always be walking around doing whatever business they were attending to. Uhura is missing, replaced by "Angela" (Barbara Baldavin) from "Balance of Terror" and "Shore Leave"
But something great does happen in this episode, a woman, Doctor Janice Lester who has developed a Khan-type obsession with Kirk performs the ultimate form of invasive personal space invasion - rape is maybe too strong of a word but in fact it describes what she has done to Kirk, humiliating him, stealing his identity, she stops short of murder- Which she was not able to do when given ample opportunity to do it.
Both Television Actress Sandra Smith and William Shatner portray the madness of Janice Lester and the forlorn and deprived James T Kirk, who proves to Spock then to Bones and Scotty he is who "she" says he is.
And we believe the progression of events, from the moment Lester takes control of Kirk's body, pretending to be him, initially acting as he would act, but rapidly giving Spock and McCoy reason to start questioning his actions and orders. Just knowing the facts about a person does not give one the ability to take over that person's life - Which Lester learns as she struggles and ultimately fails to keep up the facade. And she finally learns that just being IN command does not immediately invoke the obedience of Kirk's crew.
In fact this episode was a very strong episode to go out with, in the two and a half years this show was on the air, we were introduced to all manner of impossible things, Miles Long Robots that chopped up planets into tiny chunks of rubble and ate them for lunch, a whole philosophy and history for Mr Spock and his "Vulcanian" people, Talosians, Klingons, Romulans... And we accepted it, but a lot of people cannot accept the concept of this episode, including the people IN the episode. But if we can believe in Warp Drive, we can believe that somewhere in this universe, something like this may happen or has happened.
Even in Religion, the concept that God clothed himself in a Human Body is more widely accepted than the idea here that a machine can move the personality of one person into another's body and vice-versa. And there are people whose reputations are based on the former supposition, theologians and even Scholars, whose lives are based on believing it to be fact, even though this cannot be proved, and has to be accepted as a matter of Faith.
When it comes down to it, what are our personalities other than a collection of electrical impulses which wriggle around in a mass of protoplasm designed to store what we call memories? IN the future, computer science may allow those impulses to be stored and even be replaced later, just because it has not happened yet, does not mean it cannot ever happen.
But this episode delivers this proposal almost in a way that it is rejecting it at the same time, which is another reason why it is great. Is this the most outlandish proposal of Trek? Never mind disassembling ourselves atom by atom and moving the whole mess to a transporter pad a planet's distance or a light year away... Never mind, intelligent creatures who are based on Silicon and can eat rock as it it were candy. Nevermind a "barrier" at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy that if breached, can bestow Godlike Powers to people with High Esper ratings, or a similar barrier in the center of the Galaxy that is a prison to an entity that had been elevated to Pseudo-Godhood.
Trek went out with this proposal, it was as hard for us to swallow as it was for Shatner and Smith to act it out, and nobody can say either of those fine actors failed to make us believe that it really happened. But also noteworthy, was that Kelly, Nimoy, Doohan, Koenig, the absent Nichols, and Takei all made us believe that they would follow Kirk - The REAL Kirk, to the barriers of this galaxy and back.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was dreading when this episode came up in my viewing the DVD entire seasons run for Trek, for two reasons; there aren't anymore episodes to watch after this and I always thought this episode was one of the worse. Well, that recollection was from childhood experiences and not picking up on the nuances that are present here, I basically, as a child, just thought of one person taking over Kirks body. Watching it now (without commercials is a huge difference to watch this show), I immediately picked up the sex change angle, and that is really really interesting and funny. Kirk doing his nails, and having a slight "spring" to his step, are things I had definitely not noticed before, its GREAT! Anyway, I have panned this episode in other comments I posted here, and that was really wrong, I should have re-watched first, because despite the low budget of the script , it's really an entertaining episode! OK, now to pose a question here, I'm Kirk put into the body of a pretty woman, when I go to the bathroom, do I have a slight urge to play around, just a little? LOL. Same thing for the woman inside Kirks body, LOL. I do have a dirty mind but c'mon, Kirk was driven by many things in life and sexuality was definitely one of them. Wish the show had kept going of course but in a way thats why it has lasted so long, the little bit we got just wasn't enough, we needed a bunch of spin offs and motion pictures to satisfy our desire for more Trek. There will, in my opinion, never be another show as great as this as far as sci fi is concerned. I'll always be a Trekkie, LLAP.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would consider this episode to be one of Star Trek's finest. While
many episodes are cartoonish fun without any real sense of danger, this
episode combines excellent acting, convincing dialog, and an
unpredictable plot in order to give us a suspenseful tour de force. A
power hungry woman, Dr. Lester, forcefully and secretly swaps minds
with Captain Kirk in order to take command of the Enterprise. Once
inside Kirk's body, she must act just like Kirk in order to avoid
suspicion, and she must also kill the real Kirk now stuck in the her
body. However, the crew knows the real Captain Kirk too well to be
deceived for too long. This episode explores an interesting situation:
if your mind were transferred to someone else's body to your detriment,
how would you convince others of your true identity without them
thinking you have gone mad. Kirk quickly discovers the best route: get
to someone you know best.
This episode is memorable not only for what it did show but what it didn't. A man-woman mind switch storyline could so easily degrade into sexist farce played for cheap laughs. This episode does not do that. Instead, Dr. Lester in Kirk's body is fully capable of running the star ship from the perspective of training and intelligence, despite being a woman. Dr. Lester's real problem is not that she is a woman, but that she has become mad with jealousy and hunger for power. Her other real problem is that she is not really Captain Kirk down to every last mannerism and thus cannot fool the crew. Dr. Lester's failure comes because of madness and dishonesty, not because of her gender. Also, the theme that she was denied a deserving command years ago because of gender discrimination could have become annoyingly preachy. But instead of insulting the intelligence of the viewer with sermons, the producers just subtlety drop hints that gender discrimination can have far-reaching negative effects. Also, this episode did not show an un-scifi plot that could have happened in any detective or crime show. The final thing that this episode thankfully leaves out was Kirk kissing and schmoozing yet another female. I'm sure some people enjoy this facet of Star Trek, but whenever a romance is thrown into a Star Trek storyline, I find it badly written, poorly acted, and simply distracting to the main plot. It's even worse if the victim of Kirk's affections is an alien. Do you really think a different species would be romantically attracted to aliens? (Do you dream of kissing a squid?) Fortunately, in this episode, instead of the preacy-ness, sexist humor, un-scifi plot, and womanizing of so many other episodes, we get a surprisingly mature and engaging production to close out the series.
The other facet I like about this episode is it's take on the nature of authority in a just society. While it's true that Kirk's authority to command the ship is respected primarily because Starfleet Command backs up his authority, there is something more important and subtle in establishing authority without resorting to being a tyrant: competency. Competency in a command post goes beyond basic fitness for the job according to the rule book; it also entails respecting an unwritten cultural code, working for a greater good, having a knack for insight into the details, and having a leadership persona that projects confidence, restraint, wisdom, and control. The crew of the Enterprise does not follow Kirk's orders so enthusiastically just because Starfleet Command requires it. Rather, they trust him because of his competency and leadership skills. While Dr. Lester had all the training and knowledge to command a ship according to the book, she lacked the competency to be a true leader. The crew quickly picked up on this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Notoriously considered by Classic Trek fans to be one of the show's
all-time worst episodes, I would be lying if I didn't admit (as my
rating for it proves) I loved it wholeheartedlyadmittedly, for all the
wrong reasons. Keeping a straight face must not have been easy for the
cast, and Shatner is so wonderfully over-the-top, his pure camp
performance is the gold standard of overacting. The story is a
humdinger: Kirk, McCoy, and Spock transport to a planet suffering a
radiation disaster that has taken members of an archaeological site,
including an old acquaintance of the Captain's, Janet Lester, who seems
to be ill from exposure as well. While Spock and McCoy are seeing the
casualties with the site's medical physician, Dr. Coleman (Harry
Landers), Lester (Sandra Smith), turns on a peculiar machine that
"freezes" Kirk, so he cannot move. This machine allows Lester to
"switch identities" with Kirk, the reason, besides envy and jealousy
for his exploring the stars, so she can be Captain of the Enterprise!
Spock would later refer to this as "life entity transfer"
a doozy an idea, to see Shatner's Kirk possessed by the identity of a
treacherous, nefarious, clever woman who is brilliant in regards to
studying the Enterprise, but too emotional for her own good. Shatner
seems to be having a field day, allowed to be free of Kirk's
seriousness, fortitude, and moral compass. And, boy, do we get a wide
range of emotional outbursts, sneaky smiles, illogical reactions, and
smug indifference towards other officers, like Bones and Spock, who
know Jim Kirk, the man and Captain, having quite the dilemma in that
proving this through concrete evidence will not be easy. Sandra Smith
does a bang-up job imitating Kirk's strong personality and orderly
manner, her demeanor and way of talking pretty close to the Shatner
method we know so well. Seeing Bones and Spock grappling, as both
always do in their own ways, with the fact that Jim is trapped in the
body of a woman, while her identity is at home in the body of their
Captain, the one in charge, is compelling, I must say, even if the
performance of Shatner as the lecherous Janet had me in ribbons.
Towards the end when Kirk's body temporarily loses Janet's identity as the transference seemed to be weakening had me in stitches, the way his face conveys mortal terror (Janet is facing the horrifying thought of losing her new host body) and stunned silence, the physical jarring reaction accompanying the fish-out-of-the-aquarium suck-face, it is a sight to behold. Spock faces possible court martial for his *mutinous* ways (he attempts to help Janet (Kirk) flee her sick bay, held there by security at the orders of Kirk (Janet). We get a Vulcan mind meld (Spock reassures his suspicions by truly feeling Kirk within the mind of Janet's body) and a Vulcan neck pinch (two, in fact), so "Turnabout Intruder" has those going for it. Seeing Janet get all hysterical and confrontational during the "trial" of Spock is certainly a treat as Shatner holds nothing back, quite an acting assault. God, was this episode fun.
I will say this, Lester was truthful in that females deserved to captain starships, it was her extreme methods at acquiring the post that ruins her argument, not to mention, the deterioration of her psyche comments on how not having the same opportunities as Kirk seems to have affected her psychologically. There seems to be a message here about "being trapped in a woman's body" and gender politics, but I think it gets lost in the shuffle thanks to Shatner's delightful histrionics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the general dearth of good episodes in the final season of Star
Trek, this one finished out the series equaling some of the best. It
certainly keeps the viewer focused on keeping the main players, Captain
Kirk and Janice Lester (Sandra Smith) straight, as their identities are
switched with a 'life entity transfer' known only on the planet Camus
II. The reason for Lester's hijacking of Kirk's body involves revenge
over a fling they had back in the Academy days, along with a more
determined goal of commanding a starship. Though the subject wasn't
broached in any of the prior episodes, one today wonders why Starfleet
would have taken such a sexist view about women in command, but this
was the Sixties, and not all the panels of the glass ceiling had been
The story relies on Lester/Kirk (Lester in Kirk's body) maintaining the ruse as the rest of the crew become increasingly wary that something's not quite right. Spock of course is the first to formulate an opinion, but it's interesting to watch the others fall into line - Scotty, McCoy, Chekov and Sulu, especially when Lester/Kirk strikes Kirk/Lester in a physical confrontation. However the story planted the seed of how Dr. McCoy could have proved the identity of Lester/Kirk with the old Robbiani Dermal-opic test, but she/he passed the exam. My question is how? The procedure was designed to check the basic emotional structure of the patient, and McCoy himself stated that it should match the results of a prior test done on Captain Kirk. There's no way Lester/Kirk's results should have been a match to my thinking, so right there you had a plot hole. It would have been better if that point wasn't brought up in the first place.
Maybe it's being a bit nit-picky, but it also seems to me that it would have been easy enough to confirm the real Captain's identity by posing a question, particularly during the mutiny hearing, that only the real Captain Kirk would know. Matters of record that were referred to surely wouldn't prove anything, as was briefly mentioned. But between them, Spock, McCoy and Scotty, there would have been any number of purely personal moments that wouldn't have had anything to do with Starfleet service that might have resolved the identity issue.
It looks like my arguments here might be on the critical side, but in actuality, I found the episode overall quite compelling. Basically I think that's because the story forced you to keep focus on who was who, by keeping your attention on those minor nuances in Lester/Kirk's character. An example was when she/he used the communicator - 'Captain Kirk to the Enterprise' instead of 'Kirk to Enterprise'. Very subtle, but if you saw enough episodes you knew things were just slightly a bit off. It was clever of the writers to use these little devices, as they were peppered throughout the story with entertaining effect.
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