Turnabout Intruder is not embarrassing in hindsight. It is an episode that embarrassing from the very moment that the story was developed, that continued to be embarrassing through production, and which will be embarrassing until the moment that either people stop watching Star Trek or mankind goes extinct.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.The Enterprise 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.
— Reviewer Darren, writing in the Movie Blog review of this episode
Lester: Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women. It isn't fair.
Kirk: No, it isn't.
Kirk: No, it isn't.
- 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.
- Leonard Nimoy stated flatly and unequivocally in interviews that Gene Roddenberry intended for this to mean women can't be captains.
This episode contains examples of the following tropes:
- Absentee Actor: For this, the final episode, Uhura takes the day off and is replaced by a Lieutenant Lisa.
- Ambiguous Gender Identity: Lester.
- 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.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Coleman was drummed out of Starfleet Medical for dangerous incompetence.
- Deadpan Snarker: Spock, mostly just to rile up Lester-in-Kirk.Spock: May I point out....'Captain'...
- Grand Theft Me
- Just Following Orders: All of the security guards shown don't seem to have any objections to what Lester-in-Kirk tells them to do, even if it means executing the First Officer, Chief Engineer and Chief Medical Officer.
- Kangaroo Court: Lester-in-Kirk holds a show trial to shut Spock up for good. It backfires on her spectacularly.
- Karma Houdini: The episode ends with a crying Dr. Lester being escorted to Sickbay while everyone feels sorry for her. It's possible that she (and Coleman) were later punished for their actions, which include mass murder, but it's certainly not shown or even implied.
- 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 that pronouncement. Scotty even tells McCoy while trying to convince him to side with Spock that he has seen Captain Kirk in all sorts of moods, but never "red-faced with hysteria".
- 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).
- Also, during the hearing, the crew did not think to try the age old trick of asking Kirk/Lester and Lester/Kirk questions that only the real Kirk should know the answer to. It wasn't enough for Kirk in Lester's body to know about their episode with the Tholians and the Vians (something the real Lester shouldn't have been able to look up anywhere). But it was enough to convince Spock to telepathically meld and discover the truth. What is never explained is how Lester in Kirk's body could have access to all of Kirk's personal authorization codes and passwords, things that are likely solely memorized and never kept anywhere written down. Without this sort of info, her plan couldn't have succeeded for long.
- Before taking over Kirk's body, Lester was the leader of an archaeological expedition. Was she incompetent in that leadership position as well, or is being a starship captain "different" for some reason?
- 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.
- Sarcasm Mode: Spock referring to "Kirk" as "Captain" in the most scathing sarcasm a Vulcan can muster.
- Society Marches On: It's reveale that women aren't allowed to be captains in Starfleet, in the 23rd century. A female character who tries to get around this rule by using alien technology to switch bodies with Kirk is portrayed as being a horribly misguided fanatic.
His goal was to prove, quote, 'That women, although they claim equality, cannot really do things as well, under certain circumstances, as a man' — like the command function, for example... What he set out to prove was that this lady, given command of the ship, would blow it. That's really what the script was about. Just that simple."
- You use one piece of alien technology to steal one person's body, and...
- The franchise, naturally, retconned this in Star Trek: Enterprise, introducing Erika Hernandez, a no-nonsense woman who had previously served with Archer, as the captain of the second Warp 5 starship (Columbia NX-02). Of course, in the 2000s, people were ready for that sort of thing.
- Then they retconned it even harder in Star Trek: Discovery by setting it just ten years before TOS and starting with a female captain who is clearly well-established in her career, advising her female XO that it's time to seek out her own command.
- There is the possibility (lampshaded by McCoy) that the woman in question was mentally ill to begin with, and thus may not have interpreted regulations with the right frame of mind.
- Leonard Nimoy hated this episode, and confirmed that Roddenberry really meant for Starfleet to have such a rule: females could not captain a starship.
- Notably, the original pilot of the series included a female first officer. She capably commanded the Enterprise for most of the episode while the (male) captain was held captive by aliens. In fact, she was the one who dispassionately decided that letting the aliens breed humans for slavery would be unacceptable, when Captain Pike seemed willing to let it happen as part of a bargain to save the Enterprise. Number One coldly threatened to blow everyone up — including herself — instead, and this was what finally convinced the aliens to abandon their plot and let everyone go. If only they let Roddenberry keep that character in the show, it would have been an amazing aversion of this trope... but the pilot's test audiences failed to react well, and Roddenberry pissed off the network by casting his girlfriend in the role.
- The excellent fan-created series Star Trek Continues deals with the "women can't be captains" thing head-on in "Embracing the Winds". It's revealed that this was an unwritten rule; there were female Commodores and such on bases and female captains of lesser ships, but none running Constitution-class Starships like the Big E. (Thus "your world of Starship Captains" is still a legit statement.) The policy came from the Tellarites' longstanding prejudice against females serving in that type of role. If a qualified officer with a uterus is put in the driver's seat, it may piss them off enough to leave the Federation. Turns out there is a movement on Tellar to abolish this prejudice and the Tellarite Ambassador is even one of the activists.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm
- Undying Loyalty: Sulu and Chekov accept Spock's statement that "Kirk" isn't Kirk after Lester attempts to have her detractors executed, and make up their minds that no matter what she threatens them with, they will not assist this person impersonating their captain with her plans.
- 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.