Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 3, Episode 24
Original Air Date: June 3, 1969
|via Memory Alpha
On the night "Turnabout Intruder" was originally scheduled to air, March 28th, the network preempted with a report on the death of Dwight Eisenhower earlier in the day. In June, NBC moved the show to a new time slot: 7:30 on Tuesdays. "Turnabout Intruder" was the first and last new episode to air in the new slot. No one could have known it at the time but the franchise was about to take on a whole new life through the magic of syndication.
"Turnabout Intruder" is a popular choice for Trek fans' worst-ever lists. I didn't think it was quite so horrible though I do understand the feminist objections. In response to a fake distress call [They fall for it every time...], our friends arrive at the planet Camus II, site of an archaeological expedition. Among the only three survivors is Dr. Janice Lester, an ex-girlfriend of Captain Kirk's from his clearly eventful Academy days. [Considering the number of women ol' Jim was nearly married to at that point in his life, it's a miracle he graduated!] Through mysterious technological trickery, Lester switches bodies with Kirk, fulfilling her unrealized ambitions to become a starship captain.
The objections to the episode tend toward two elements: William Shatner's campy portrayal of a woman in a man's body and the sexism implied in Lester's character. The latter I understand completely. I'd like to believe that sexual politics have progressed a great deal since 1969 but popular culture still has difficulty generating female characters who are simultaneously ambitious and likeable. Shatner's overacting, on the other hand, should hardly come as a surprise at this point. And to his credit, I don't think he comes off as effeminate so much as a man unaccustomed to his own body - true to the part. [I sense some wardrobe help, too - pretty sure he's wearing a girdle to aid in his overemphasized manly posture.] I realize this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but it could have been a lot worse.
The story provides an interesting send off for the series. While possessed by Lester, the captain adopts uncharacteristic mannerisms - for instance, referring to himself as "Captain Kirk" as opposed to simply "Kirk" in communications - that arouse the suspicion of his fellow officers and serve as a wink to knowledgeable fans. Also, Lester (inhabited by Kirk) makes several references to previous episodes in an effort to convince Spock of his true identity. Overall, it would have been nice for the series to end with a stronger story but again, it could have been worse.
Watching the original Star Trek has been an enlightening experience. Having invested two years in the project, I feel a reflection on the series as a whole is worthy of its own post which I shall compose for next Wednesday. In the meantime, I shall give the third and final season its due...
Thoughts on Season 3
The third season is much maligned by the devoted and not without cause. Formula, once so elegantly avoided, was now the rule. Eye roll inducement was ever on the increase. Some stories were just plain dull, an unforgivable sin for science fiction. Even cast members were raising objections to the garbage that was being thrown their way. I don't know if a single episode from the season will make it onto my must-watch list (to be included in next week's post).
And yet, there are moments. Kirk's kiss with Uhura was a genuinely revolutionary event in American television. Dr. McCoy gets much needed development in the third season, especially in terms of his relationship with Spock. Characters other than Kirk are allowed romantic adventures. None of this was enough to save the show from cancellation but it did broaden the canvas to be filled by future series and films.
Favorite Episode: "The Enterprise Incident"
Romulans only appear in two episodes of Star Trek's original series. The first was "Balance of Terror," easily one of my overall favorites. In "The Enterprise Incident," Kirk and Spock infiltrate a Romulan ship in order to steal its cloaking device. Along the way, Spock has a brief, disingenuous romance with the Romulan commander, a far more interesting female character than Dr. Lester, to be sure. The story adds a great deal to our understanding and appreciation of the nature of one of Star Trek's long-standing antagonist races.
Least Favorite Episode: "The Way to Eden"
I will concede that other stories may be weaker overall but the horrendous songs performed in "The Way to Eden" are more than enough to warrant such distinction. Several who commented on my post suggested that the tunes may have been intentionally bad. Somehow, that only makes matters worse to my mind!
Favorite Guest Star: Joanne Linville
Once again, my favorite guest star coincides with my favorite episode. Linville played the Romulan commander in "The Enterprise Incident." Her on-screen chemistry with Leonard Nimoy is exceptional. The two invented intimate gestures to take the place of human kissing.
Someday, I may continue with Trek. Next up would be the animated series which ran in the early '70s. But it's a good time for a break. I'll post my overall reflection next week, after which my Wednesday posts will head in more gastronomical directions.
In June 1969, one of humanity's greatest moments was right around the corner. On July 21st, American astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. Perhaps Roddenberry's vision wasn't so fantastical after all. Let's get cracking on that Warp Drive, folks!
|via Comic Vine
Also in June of 1969, Gold Key Comics released the fourth issue in its Star Trek series: "The Peril of Planet Quick Change"... terrible title.
An interesting coincidence: the comic book story also involves possession by a hostile entity, though Spock is the target this time. Our heroes, casually cruising through another galaxy (never happens on TV), come upon the strange planet Metamorpha. As its name suggests, the planet is flying through epochal changes over a matter of Earth minutes. While on the surface, Spock's brain is invaded by bright, shiny, disembodied entities who guide him to the solution to the planet's ills. Once he has done their bidding, the beings leave his brain, revert to their own physical forms and reward the Enterprise crew handsomely for the trouble. All leave his brain, that is, except for one who's keen to tag along for interstellar adventures.