Star Trek: Turnabout Intruder

"Believe me, it's better to be dead than to be alone in the body of a woman."

Oh, how I wish this unfortunate piece of misogyny wasn't the final episode of a series that I love as much as I love Star Trek.

While they mostly skirt around the issue (pun intended), it's implied several times during this episode and stated outright during the court martial scene that a woman could never be a starship captain. That even in the 23rd century, women are considered to be inferior to men. But at its core, Star Trek was about an idealistic future where all beings were created equal. Even the Romulan empire allowed women to be starship captains. But not the Federation?

And there have been many wonderful, strong female characters on this show, so many that I'd have difficulty compiling a list. Plus, Star Trek will forever get credit with me for making a woman second in command in "The Cage," and putting Uhura on the bridge in 1966.

So what were they thinking?

Okay, deep breath. Inhale, exhale. I'll talk about what I liked. And there was stuff I liked.

If anyone ever doubted that William Shatner can act, you could just sit them down in front of this episode. He did an exceptional job of making us see Lester-possessed Kirk as a completely different, emotionally unstable person by using body language and vocal inflection. Lester-possessed Kirk stood differently and self-consciously, she smoothed back her hair, touched herself as if she were indeed trying to adjust to having a different body, and practically caressed the captain's chair when she first arrived on the bridge. I was less comfortable with her pursed mouth tantrum as she pounded her fist on the conference table, and the seductive way she manipulated Dr. Coleman, whose motivations for going along with this masquerade were difficult to understand. (If it were me, would I help the man I loved steal the body of a high profile woman? Hard to believe love would push you that far.)

I also thought Sandra Smith did a great job as Kirk. His almost immediate acceptance of the situation, and his cleverness in pretending to be a perfectly sane Lester so that he could stay out of a straitjacket until he got help was very much what Kirk would do. I also enjoyed the Kirk/Spock conversation and mind meld in the brig, too, under the disbelieving eyes of the redshirt lieutenant.

For me, the best part of the episode was Spock's intense loyalty toward and belief in Kirk. While McCoy was holding out for actual, legal proof (clearly, the "dermal optic" test for emotional stability and psychological changes needs work), Spock was unwavering in his aggressive support for Kirk. It made me feel certain that if Kirk hadn't gotten his own body back, Spock would have served a female Kirk in exactly the same way he served the male Kirk, and the heck with those Starfleet rules that she wouldn't have gotten command.

And I liked Spock deliberately inciting Lester into a rage. I also liked Sulu and Chekov dropping their hands to their laps, wordlessly refusing to carry out Lester's orders.

How could this episode have been better? A body swapping plot could have been cool, and it could even have been fun if Kirk had been hijacked by a woman if female self-hatred wasn't the key plot point. The court martial scene could have been better, too. If Kirk's identity was focus of the court martial, why would Kirk be in charge? Shouldn't they have gone immediately to Starbase Two for some Starfleet commodore we've never seen before to run the court martial? That could have been interesting.

Ben P. Duck says...

What to say?

Do I rant the feminist rant that you have read before?

Do I repeat the joke about this being the only episode that is also the name of a sex toy (which incidentally remains illegal in four southern States)?

Do I write a comedic bit about how Billie and I switched bodies and how the switch is becoming increasingly obvious because no man can run this website competently?

Or do I just go for the Simpsons ending and say: Worst Episode Ever?

Yeah, let's go with that last one (although the body switching might have been fun, this episode just made me sad).

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

-- Stardate 5928.5. The Enterprise picked up Doctors Lester and Coleman from Camus 2.

-- The story was something of a takeoff of the Thorne Smith novel Turnabout, which was about a husband and wife switching bodies.

-- At one point, it's stated that this sort of life entity transfer has never happened before. What about "Return to Tomorrow"?

-- There was also mention of General Order 4. Wasn't that General Order 7?

-- The scene where Lester was in Kirk's quarters filing her fingernails just made me cringe.

-- It wasn't too smart of Scott to bring up mutiny in the hallway outside of the conference room, was it?

-- When she (okay, he) wasn't in a tiny blue hospital gown that tied in bows at the shoulders, Kirk wore an exceptionally unflattering pink and black one piece outfit. And was Dr. Coleman in yet another jumpsuit from "The Devil in the Dark"? They certainly got their money's worth with that set of costumes.

Quotes:

Lester: "I loved you. We could have roamed among the stars."
Kirk: "We'd have killed each other."
Lester: "It might have been better."

Spock: "He is not the captain."
Lieutenant Galloway: "You're as mad as she is."
Um, isn't Galloway supposed to be dead?

Lester: "Assuming that you are correct in your belief, do you expect Starfleet command to place this, uh... this, uh... (disdainfully) person in command of the Enterprise?"

Scott: "Doctor, I've seen the captain feverish, sick, drunk, delirious, terrified, overjoyed, boiling mad. But until now, I have never seen him red-faced with hysteria."
Hysteria is a derogatory term that was applied specifically to women. Argh.

Kirk: "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... if only..."

And that's actually the last line in the original series, which is so sad. Thank heaven for the movies.

One out of four blue hospital gowns,

Billie

(Ben and I wound up our reviews with a top ten list of our favorite episodes.)
---
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Right after I posted this review, I noticed that it was number 4,000. Can you believe there are four thousand posts on this site?

Mark Greig said...

Well done, Billie and Ben, on finishing the Original Series. Give yourselves a well deserved pat on the back.

And 4,000 post? WOOOOOO!!!!!!

Josie Kafka said...

Way to go, Billie and Ben!

Juliette said...

I love that the 4,000th post was for Star Trek :) Even if it was this abomination of an episode.

ChrisB said...

Congratulations!!!!

Jerry Modene said...

Actually, given the whole concept of the series in terms of equality, IDIC and other things, I'm not quite ready to condemn this episode. Janice Lester was clearly insane and I don't think we should be taking her word for it that Starfleet doesn't allow women to be captains.

More likely, she probably washed out of Starfleet Academy or failed some test like Captain Merrick ("Bread and Circuses") did - and in her paranoia, chose to believe she'd been denied command became of her gender rather than her incompetence.

I've also read a suggestion in one of the 1970's 'zines that Janice's line "Your world of starship captains doesn't allow women" is a reference to Kirk's not allowing women to get between him and his command.

All that said, this episode is not a very good one - but it does have its moments, including the one Billie referred to, when Chekov and Sulu refuse to carry out Janice's orders.

As for tidbits - get a copy of "Star Trek Lives" if you can - Joanie Winston had a very entertaining chapter about her week on the Star Trek set, which came during the filming of this episode. The crew nickname of the episode, for instance, was "Captain Kirk, Space Queen".

There's also a very entertaining anecdote about how Shatner objected to the director (Herb Wallerstein) having him storm out of the briefing room in the wrong direction, where there was no door. ("I know this is the last episode, Herb, but do you really want to kill off the captain by having him walk off into cold, dark space?")

Shatner had the Asian flu during this episode.

And it was during filming that they got the official word of cancellation; two more episodes were to have been produced and Shatner would have directed the final episode.

tinkapuss said...

Embarrassing episode to end on but not terrible. However, I do feel somewhat bereft.

Therefore, I have a question; now I have finished TOS, is it recommended to go through the films first or on to TNG? Or is it a combination of both? And then where? I need a chronological list if anyone has the time :)

Thanks for making this experience an even richer one for me through your reviews.

Billie Doux said...

tinkapuss, you're very welcome and thanks so much for your comments!

The movies are listed in order on our original series page, which is here:

http://www.douxreviews.com/2000/01/star-trek.html#movies

One of the members of IMDb has put together a chronological list of the movies interleaved with all of the seasons of the different series, since Next Gen, Deep Space Nine and Voyager overlapped.

http://www.imdb.com/list/ls003269814/

tinkapuss said...

Thanks for responding to my query. I am really happy to see that IMDb list as it's exactly what I wanted!

I have started watching TNG because it's available on Australian Netflix (along with TOS, The Animated Adventures, Voyager, Enterprise, and the first two of the new movies). I have seen the old movies numerous times and so am aware of the chronology.

My mission now is to source all of the list you provided and view in order of recommendation - and include your reviews for all of them on my adventure.

Happy times ahead!