Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 27

The Alternative Factor

Aired Unknown Mar 30, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
185 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk and Spock encounter a mysterious alien named Lazarus who claims to be hunting a ruthless maniacal creature.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • The crew of the Enterprise meets a confused man in a confusing episode.

    An example of a good idea gone bad, this candidate for "worst Star Trek episode ever" has some interesting ideas that are buried beneath layers of confusing monotony.

    The basic premise, that a man is really two individuals switching between mirror universes is an interesting idea and only half a step away from second season's classic "Mirror Mirror" episode. In this case, however, the writers never develop much of a plot around it. (They tried to, with a relationship between Lazrus and Lieutenant Charlene Masters, the African American engineer, in an early draft. The same storyline, however, had already been put into motion for "Space Seed" by the time this one was being written, and the subplot was dropped).

    To make matters worse, on the first day of the shoot, guest star John Drew Barrymore (cast as Lazarus) never showed up, forcing the cast to shoot without a guest star for a day before another actor, Robert Brown, was brought in, rushed through wardrobe and make-up, and then dragged onto set as well as out to the Vasquez Rocks, used again as an outdoor location.

    The end result is an episode that consists of basically the same eight minutes over and over again: Lazarus, with poor clothes and inconsistent make-up, wonders around, goes mad, the universe begins winking out as two stuntmen fight, and then Kirk asks Spock what's going on, to which Spock has no answer. Throw in the first mention of dilithium crystals (replacing the "lithium crystals" mentioned in earlier episodes) and what appears to be George Jetson's car, and you get the worst episode of Star Trek's first season.

    What's sad is that the plot itself, as well as the climax, have some thoughtful issues that could make for a solid foundation to a good science fiction tale; but the elements don't come together here the way the show originally hoped they would.

    Remastered: Knowing there's no reason to go out of their way this one, CBS keeps it's basic here, replacing another appearance of old Big Red with an upgraded planet, and giving us some basic Enterprise beauty passes. Lazarus's eternal struggle with his enemy gets a slight upgrade as well.

  • irregular tv

    Lazarus steals the show ... with bizarre lines like `all black and white' ... `terrible emptiness' ... `he can pilot a spaceship, compute formulas to destroy races' ... you have to admit, it's unique ... and let's not forget the mini-dress on that girl in the break room !
  • unwatchable

    After rows of great episodes of Star Trek's first season, this is the first time the show really trips - and lands on it's face. I'm told that there was a b-plot to this episode, but it was removed at the last minute, leaving an empty void behind. The 'void' was apparently filled with repeated, pointless shots of the two Lazaruses fighting that drag on through the whole episode, or the shots of Lazarus falling off of cliffs. Sadly, because of this, the episode is pretty much unwatchable. A shame. Without all this, "The Alternative Factor" would have probably made a decent episode.moreless
  • The effects they used KILLED this episode

    I considered this one unwatchable as a kid but forced myself to watch the HD version last night

    While I concede that this episode is one of the worst in season 1; I think we can all agree that it had the right concept. A great Sci Fi concept and I think a very good choice of bad guy (if Lazarus' are bad guys) that fell hard because of a few bad choices:

    1. The effects they used KILLED this episode. Especially the daily planet newspaper/batman rotating newspaper whatever thing. The nebula they keep showing for no reason. And then WHY did they feel the need to do it sooooooooooo dam much?! They could have used that poor effects kit 2 times and we would have forgiven them but 7 times?! Inexcusable.

    2. Direction on this one was bad. Spock is lost. Kirk is too. And most of the other standbys are off somewhere else with generic folks filling in.

    3. Why did Lazarus have to fall off the cliff 2 times? Inexcusable.

    There were a few positives. The concept was great but they just needed to EXPLAIN it to us!!! It should have been more obvious when Lazarus switched just short of the crew noticing. I Love the Lazarus costume and think it probably the best one in the series. That's not saying that much but..give credit where due. I liked the actor who played him too not his fault he didn't have anything to say.


  • This episode was stretching to fill its allotted time and was a real stretch to keep it going as long as it did.

    Sadly, even though I had never seen this episode I immediately knew the predictable "twist" of the episode about a third of the way through. Then of course they allow the man they find on the planet to have free reign and wander everywhere on the ship, even though they really know nothing about him and he seems a bit nutty.

    The effects aren't great or horrible and are essentially just film negatives superimposed with other pieces of film. It may have been neat in the 60s, but I suspect even then it wasn't exciting enough spend so much episode time on it when they could have been doing something more interesting like filling plot holes or developing characters.

    This is one of the weakest episodes in the first season.moreless
Al Wyatt

Al Wyatt

Anti-Matter Lazarus Being #1 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Bill Catching

Bill Catching

Anti-Matter Lazarus Being #2 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Tom Lupo

Tom Lupo

Security Guard #2 (uncredited)

Guest Star

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Eddie Paskey

Eddie Paskey

Lt. Leslie

Recurring Role

William Blackburn

William Blackburn

Security Guard #4 (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • Lt. Charlene Masters does not wear her Lt. stripe.

    • In a shot of the viewscreen near the end of the episode you can see the planet but there's no stars in the background.

    • When Kirk escorts Lazarus to the bridge, there's a shot of McCoy as they leave and two Red Alert panels - one is flashing while the other one is burnt out.

    • The commodore says the distortion was felt in every quadrant of the galaxy and beyond. How does he know this? It takes weeks for messages to get back and forth (see "Balance of Terror") and how would he know what's going on outside the galaxy?

    • Despite the fact there's a warning of an alien invasion and Lazarus is at the center of things, not to mention kind of wacko, he wanders freely around the Enterprise.

    • Starfleet sends out a code factor 1 command - everyone is to go on alert status because of a possible alien invasion. Then the commodore asks Kirk's opinion on what's going on and Kirk says it's an alien invasion - duh!

    • The Lazarus beards keep getting thicker and thinner.

  • QUOTES (4)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Originally John Drew Barrymore was supposed to play Lazarus but he quit abruptly so Robert Brown was chosen to replace him.

    • The astronomical background shown when Lazarus is jumping between the parallel universes is the Trifid Nebula (also known as M20 and NGC 6514). From Earth, it is found in the region of the constellation Sagittarius.