Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Star Trek: The Alternative Factor

Episode: "The Alternative Factor"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 27
Original Air Date: March 30, 1967
via Memory Alpha
"The Alternative Factor" was the first Star Trek episode to explore the concept of parallel universes. During a routine mapping assignment of an uninhabited planet, the entire universe suddenly winks out of existence, then back in again.  You know, ordinary Thursday stuff.  Obviously, they must go to the planet's surface to investigate where they encounter a strange, clearly tormented man: Lazarus.  Turns out, he is at war with his doppleganger in another dimension.  As the story develops, the Enterprise crew finds his anti-universe double to be the rational one and helps him to mend the breach between the two astral planes.

I found this story hard to follow.  I actually had to restart the episode ten minutes in because I'd already lost my way.  The effects used to realize the alternate reality are respectable for the era: superimposed images of the Trifid Nebula to represent the winking and action in the negative universe in color-negative.  However, the effects fail to cover up the weakness of the narrative.

A few noteworthy trivia tidbits:
  • I noticed changes in Lazarus's facial hair from scene to scene.  I assumed it was part of the dual-identity but according to Memory Alpha, the inconsistencies are rampant even from one camera shot to the next.
via Wikipedia
  • No Scotty in this episode.  Instead, Lt. Charlene Masters is the head of engineering.  Originally, there was supposed to be a romance between Lazarus and Masters but when Janet MacLachlan, an African-American woman, was cast in the role, the southern NBC affiliates balked at the idea.
*****
via Wikipedia
Robert Brown (Lazarus) was born Robin Adair MacKenzie Brown on November 17, 1926 in Trenton, New Jersey.  He was a last-minute casting for the episode.  John Drew Barrymore was supposed to play the role but he failed to show on the day of shooting.  His absence would ultimately result in a six-month suspension from the Screen Actors Guild.

Brown had numerous television roles during the 1960s and 70s.  He had starring roles in both Here Come the Brides and Primus.  In addition to Trek, he made guest appearances on The Lawless Years, Perry Mason, Archie Bunker's Place and In the Heat of the Night, the last two a result of his close friendship with Carroll O'Conner.

10 comments:

  1. I remember this one only vaguely. It involved things that were more important than the alien combatants and ended with a question. Something about Lazarus. What will become of him?

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  2. I am so enjoying these postings.
    With many of these early shows I am remembering only bits and pieces.

    cheers, parsnip

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  3. I'm not remembering this one at all.

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    1. I know I'd never seen itself - another that failed to make it into the syndication rotation, perhaps.

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  4. I don't remember the episode but I'm amazed there was almost an interracial romance. This predates the Uhura\Kirk kiss in "Plato's Stepchildren." Good one!

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    1. Yup, I'm looking forward to discussing "Plato's Stepchildren."

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  5. I just wanted to thank you for the heads up on this. I did some research and wrote a post on the missing romance!

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    1. Wow, cool! I'll definitely check that out.

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