Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 27

The Alternative Factor

Aired Unknown Mar 30, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (10)

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out of 10
187 votes
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Falling off mountains 101 (Instructor: Lazarus A/B)

    I haven't the slightest idea why I like this episode so much. The confusion between the Lazurus' are irritating and poorly explained. And I never understood why they just couldn't kill "Lazurus A" before he went into the time corridor and have poor "Lazurus B" trapped with that madman at his throat until time itself stopped. Kirk does not press "Lazurus A" nearly enough to get the facts he needed about the crystals, yet I still love watching this one over and over again. I agree, it is one of the poorest and hardest plot lines to follow, but those scenes in the time corridor fascinated me for some strange reason.
  • always found Lazarus' goatee distracting

    Why couldn't they give Lazarus a new 'do and a couple sedatives? I really think that that is all the poor guy needed. Did anyone in this episode ever ask him how he got his name, or mention the irony involved with his Biblical predecessor, who came back from the dead? I can't remember and will probably not bother to find out for myself. This is an episode so drawn-out that when it is re-broadcast, I usually am willing to flip over to HGTV instead.

    No one in the crew ever asked how he was able to style that goatee, either. It's perfect.
  • The Enterprise crew, investigating strange energy pulses, encounter a mysterious man named Lazarus who, unbeknown to them, is locked in a duel with his twin from a parallel universe. A potentially very intriguing tale is let down by clunky handling...

    I have to say, bucking the trend with most reviews of this episode, I didn't dislike this story. Then again, I'm not surprised that so many don't like it, as it is far from perfect.

    The story, on paper, is very intriguing, and I want to like it. I wouldn't agree with some reviews that it is the weakest of the first season (I've already covered those in separate reviews), but it is certainly let down by some clunky story telling.
    It isn't fleshed out and doesn't have the depth that it needs and deserves; and some dodgy special effects don't help matters any.

    While I find the scenes of Lazarus (good and bad versions) down on the planet surface to be reasonable, most of the in-between scenes on the Enterprise serve only to take the story from point A to point B, and are one of the things that let the episode down.

    Like other reviewers, I did wonder how Lazarus was allowed to freely wander the ship – if the Enterprise allows every life form it encounters to do this, no wonder they encounter so much trouble!

    Likewise, I thought it was overly easy for Lazarus to sabotage the engineering circuitry, simply by opening a convenient panel (right in the middle of a corridor!) and swapping a couple of components around.

    Lazarus himself is played so-so by Robert Brown. Not an outstanding performance, but not a terrible one either. But was it me or did his goatee change between just about every scene (even allowing for the good / bad swaps)?

    It's hard to sum this one up. I WANT to like it, and it has some good ingredients. But it also has lack of depth and explanation needed, as well as some plot holes; and the whole thing just doesn't seem as polished as most episodes of the season.

    I give it the reasonable score that I have due to the intriguing, good elements. What a shame some of the story let it down.
  • Anti-matter? Doesn’t matter, more like …

    Far and away the weakest episode in season one. This makes all the mistakes that other lesser sf shows of the period made, then trowels on a pretentious layer of philosophical balderdash for good measure.

    The trouble is there’s no backstory, no context for Lazarus’ battle with his anti-matter self. Why doesn’t one Lazurus or the other simply destroy their ship to prevent their counterpart entering their universe? Why is Lazarus allowed to roam around the Enterprise, despise the obvious fact that he’s a nutjob? No, it’s all a bit muddled and pointless.

    Still, the NEXT episode in the series is a different matter …
  • This might only be interesting to hard core fans of the series.

    While orbiting a planet that is suppose to be dead, the Enterprise experiences a moment of "nonexistance" while finishing a mapping assignment. "Starfleet Command" issues an alert, fearing an invasion and orders the Enterprise to discover what caused the disturbance, which is expirienced through the entire Federation territory.

    On the planet below, "Kirk" (William Shatner) runs into "Lazarus" (Robert Brown), who was not picked up by ship sensors prior to the disturbance, who claims it was caused by his enemy. He has been chasing his enemy in a time/space craft which is in need of "dilithium crystals".

    Back on board the "Starship", "Lazarus" begins to have incredible mood swings. He also has a head wound that appears and disappears seemingly at will.

    "Lazarus" steals the crystals he needs and goes back to the planet. It is discovered that "Lazarus" is in fact two people -- one sane, the other a madman who comes from a anti-matter mirror universe. It is in that anti-matter universe where "Kirk" meets the sane "Lazarus," who tells the captain how to trap his counterpart.

    There is little, but enough, character development of "Lazarus", and Brown does an interesting performance as his character has two personalities. But, the character is pretty one-dimensional, and the audience might find the story of his fight with his double the same way.

    The regular cast do a pretty good job at making the story believable, but they can't help it that much. They do, however, make you forget there is no humor in the episode due to the seriousness of it.

    The visuals are really hampered by the low budget here. For example, the disturbance is represented by a picture of a nebula that is placed over the scene. And the only way to tell the difference between the "Lazaruses" is by a bandage on the anti-matter "Lazarus'" head.

    Fans should only get this one on DVD/VHS only to complete the collection.
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