The last episode of the original Star Trek
series. It's known for being the most overtly sexist episode of the show and certainly not a worthy Series Finale
, and many fans prefer to think of the previous episode, All Our Yesterdays
, as the true finale. But hey, it's not the last we'll be hearing from these characters.
Alternatively, you may regard it as the Star Trek
version of Freaky Friday
goes to some planet to rescue the two survivors of a doomed archaeological expedition. Dr. Arthur Coleman seems to be fine, but Dr. Janice Lester is unconscious. (One wonders if the writers forgot there used to be another "Janice" on this show or if they averted One Steve Limit
on purpose.) Shock of shocks, Dr. Lester turns out to be an ex-girlfriend of Kirk. After Kirk is left alone with her, she comes to and they chat about olden times. It becomes apparent that they had some serious Belligerent Sexual Tension
going on back in the day.
And then Lester says a line. Among Trekkies, the meaning of this line is as hotly contested as the meaning of the Second Amendment
in the US.Lester:
Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women. It isn't fair.Kirk:
No, it isn't.
- Word of God from Gene Roddenberry was that the line was simply sexist, that the supposedly utopian Federation had a glass ceiling, and that he came to regret the line.
- A popular alternative reading is that it refers to Kirk being unable to carry on his relationship with her after he became captain of the Enterprise. This does make sense within the context of this scene, but makes the rest of the episode somewhat nonsensical.
- The offical Retcon from Paramount seems to be that Lester is just insane, which is very much supported by the rest of the episode.
- This does raise the question of why Kirk agreed with her. Given that she's an old flame who went crazy when she didn't become a captain, the answer might be subtextual: He's not agreeing with her, but rather saying her mental illness and delusions are "not fair"; she did not deserve this fate. He chooses to be ambiguous in order to tactfully avoid arguing with her.
In any case, the idea that women can't be starship captains is never mentioned again
, a female starship captain was seen in Star Trek IV, there was later an entire series about one
, and Enterprise
featured a female captain predating
Janice Lester plugs Kirk into an ancient machine which causes a "Freaky Friday" Flip
. Now in Kirk's body, Lester quickly reveals herself to be Ax-Crazy
, supplying us with some of Shatner's trademark evil acting
. Meanwhile, Lester's body is unconscious once more. Lester-in-Kirk prepares to kill Kirk-in-Lester, but the rest of the landing party walks in at the wrong moment. Lester, of course, pretends to be Kirk, beginning a Tyrant Takes the Helm
plot. In Sickbay, Lester-in-Kirk meets with Dr. Coleman, with whom she is in cahoots. It's revealed that Lester murdered her expedition and Coleman was a willing accomplice. Man, does Kirk know how to pick 'em or what? After McCoy and a suddenly brunette Nurse Chapel arrive, Lester-in-Kirk announces that Kirk-in-Lester is being placed under the care of Dr. Coleman. McCoy protests that this violates Starfleet protocol since he is Chief Medical Officer, but Lester-in-Kirk ignores this. By the way, Lester-in-Kirk frankly talks about her scheme in Captains Logs
. Does no one ever actually read those things? Even weirder, later we hear Kirk-in-Lester do the log, which makes even less sense.
After an escape attempt, Kirk-in-Lester is placed in solitary confinement. Spock visits and Kirk-in-Lester explains what happened. Spock performs a Vulcan mind meld, which convinces him, but he notes that it won't count for anything in the way of evidence. Really? Freakin' telepathy isn't considered evidence of a body swap? Really?
Granted, only Spock can sense it firsthand and he could lie, but... no wait, he can't lie because he's a Vulcan. What the hell? Spock tries to help Kirk-in-Lester escape, but they're caught and Lester-in-Kirk has Spock charged with mutiny. At a court martial, Spock states his case. Kirk-in-Lester is then questioned in a very condescending, chauvinistic manner by Lester-in-Kirk. Kirk-in-Lester characterizes Lester as a Straw Feminist
defined by "her intense hatred of her own womanhood". When Spock refuses to drop his charges, Lester-in-Kirk has a Villainous Breakdown
and goes into a yelling tirade. Her new favorite word is "mutiny".
During a recess, McCoy and Scotty discuss the fact that Kirk is Not Himself
and agree they'll have to move against him. This becomes an Engineered Public Confession
, as the corridor was bugged (rare surveillance competence from Starfleet). Lester-in-Kirk decides she has the authority to pronounce a sentence of death for Spock, McCoy, and Scotty. Sulu and Chekov point out the death penalty is reserved for General Order 4note
, but the Red Shirts
are totes okay with this. When Lester-in-Kirk is back on the bridge, she and Kirk's essences briefly switch places again. Realizing the transfer is weakening, Lester-in-Kirk goes to Coleman and tells him to kill Kirk-in-Lester to ensure she won't go back into her own body. They set off to collect Kirk-in-Lester from the brig, but a scuffle ensues. In the midst of it, Kirk and Lester's essences slid back into their own bodies permanently.
Hey, you know how this episode has clearly portrayed Lester as an insane, power-hungry mass murderer? Well, forget about that. She's in a pretty body now and Females Are More Innocent
. The episode wraps up with an Alas, Poor Villain
ending, in which we learn Coleman was in love with Lester. (So he helped the woman he was in love with turn into a man? What does that say about him?
) Kirk delivers the last line of the series: "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's, if only... if only..." The meaning of this line is debated almost as much as the one from earlier. Does "if only" mean "if only she kept to her proper gender role" or "if only society hadn't forced her into a gender role she hated"? Make up your own mind.
This episode's title is a play on the title of Turnabout
, a body swap comedy about a husband and wife. For many years, it was a popular bit of Star Trek
trivia that Sandra Smith (Dr. Lester) was the only person other than William Shatner
to officially portray Captain Kirk. This remained true until 2009
. In the world of fanfiction, Dr. Lester wound find a niche in Slash Fic
, her story providing a canon setup for Jumping the Gender Barrier
. Slashers have also had a lot of fun imagining what Spock saw in his mind meld to convince him Kirk was in Lester's body.
This episode contains examples of the following tropes:
- Anti-Mutiny: Slowly the entire bridge staff turns against Lester-in-Kirk. First Spock believes Kirk when he mind melds with him and discovers he's telling the truth. Then during Spock's mutiny court-martial McCoy and Scotty conspire (albeit reluctantly) to take over the ship as "Kirk" has clearly gone mad and is unfit to command the ship. Then Chekov and Sulu, both horrified at "Kirk"'s actions, just stop following Lester-in-Kirk's orders and ignore her.
- Ax-Crazy: Lester.
- Deadpan Snarker: Spock, mostly just to rile up Lester-in-Kirk.
- "May I point out....'Captain'..."
- Fan Wank: In all the decades since the episode aired, there's been a subsection of the fandom trying to argue that it's not really saying that Starfleet doesn't let women captain starships. Mostly it boils down to "Lester's just nuts."
- Grand Theft Me
- Kangaroo Court: Lester-in-Kirk holds a show trial to shut Spock up for good. It backfires on her spectacularly.
- Out-of-Character Alert: For numerous things, actually. First, "Kirk" hits "Lester" hard enough to knock her down. Then he disintegrates into screaming hysterically at Spock and accusing him of mutiny. When he orders the "traitors" executed, it completely cements the suspicion in every officer's mind. Sulu and Chekov flat out refuse to follow his orders after a while.
- Plot Hole: Not counting the ones listed in the summary, there's one that became famous due to being cited in the book Star Trek Lives - at one point, Kirk leaves the bridge going the wrong way. (The door is in the opposite direction.) When the episode was filmed, Shatner joked with the director about how, even if it's the last episode, there was no need to throw Kirk into the vacuum of space, and then tried to have the blocking changed (unsuccessfully, though he did accurately predict that the fans would notice).
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: You'd think Kirk would have more of them.
- Sanity Slippage: Not that Lester was playing with a full deck to begin with, but she becomes increasingly unhinged as the episode goes on, due to Spock and McCoy foiling her attempts to get rid of Kirk.
- Contrasted by Kirk-in-Lester, who is justifiably anguished by Lester's actions, but nonetheless keeps calm and rational and discreetly tries to get Spock to realize what's going on.
- Transsexual: Lester, maybe.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm
- Villainous Breakdown: Lester gets these whenever someone contests her orders.
- We Interrupt This Program: Was a Real Life victim of this trope. Dwight D. Eisenhower died the day "Turnabout Intruder" was originally supposed to air. It didn't air until two months later and, as you can imagine, died in the ratings (of course, the show was already canceled anyway).
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Lester-as-Kirk hitting Kirk-as-Lester to keep him quiet aroused Spock and McCoy's suspicions.