Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 24

Turnabout Intruder

Aired Unknown Jun 03, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
160 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Enterprise is in danger when Janice Lester, one of Kirk's former lovers, steals his body.

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  • Dr. Janice Lester lures Captain Kirk to a planet where she has invented a device capable of transferring herself into his body.

    Inspired by the 1931 Thorne Smith novel, Turnabout (in which a husband and wife wake up in opposite bodies), this "body snatcher" episode is infamous for its sexism and famous for being the last episode of TOS.

    Written as simply another episode (and shot before the series was cancelled), the plot itself is somewhat of an embarrassment to Star Trek fans: with Starfleet only allowing men to be starship captains, one of them irrational women-people takes over Kirk's body and tries to run his ship.

    The truth, of course, is that TOS is filled with sexist ideas, partly because of the prevailing attitudes at time it was made, and partly because of the specific producers and writers it employed. Yet some episodes, like "Wolf in the Fold", manage to cross the line while still remaining beloved, whereas others - most notably "Turnabout Intruder" - tend to be ostracized. And that's a shame, because it's actually a decent little episode with some fun highlights.

    The ship-based story is basically a vehicle for William Shatner to play another part, and he's fully believable as a woman in a man's body even if he does play it over the top. (It's hilarious to see imposter-Kirk filing his nails while idly chatting with Shatner, along with the writer and the director, could perhaps be criticized for creating a stereotypical 1960s female character, babbling on like an airhead, but you can't fault the actor's commitment to throw himself into the part, adopting completely new postures and a new way of speaking.

    And yet the real treat doesn't kick in until about halfway into the episode when Sandra Smith begins playing Captain Kirk. With the audience so much more familiar with him than the guest part, it's a greater acting challenge, but Smith nails it, capturing the essence of the captain and leaving no doubt as to her character's true identity. In fact, the real drama in the episode lies in Kirk's uphill attempt to win back his officers, his ship, and his body, and it's well presented. When we see Shatner's female character checking on Kirk only realize that Kirk has gained a powerful ally, Smith shoots the flustered intruder a Kirk glare as if to say, "Your move"

    But despite some gratifying victories for the Captain over the bully, the climax itself is poorly designed, appearing out of nowhere with little setup. TOS's last episode suddenly solves its issue and quickly ends, leaving us with its last words: "If only"

    Remastered Edition:

    If "The Doomsday Machine" represents the holy grail for this sort of project, "Turnabout Intruder" is an old shot glass. Or a thimble. That is to say that from an effects standpoint, there's not much to it. With the conflict almost completely confined to the ship's interiors, very few exterior shots of the Enterprise are shown.

    CBS Digital does, however, get to replace a planet (originally just a reuse of the "Operation: Annihilate!" sphere) and sends the Enterprise off into the M45 Pleiades star cluster for the final shot.

    Did you know? This episode was scheduled to air March 28, 1969 but was preempted by coverage of Dwight Eisenhower's death. It finally aired two months later to kick off Star Trek's summer season reruns in a new timeslot.

  • Sexist? Maybe.

    Keeping in mind that Janice Lester was deemed insane, it is her rant that women cannot become captains that has people fixating over sexism. Insane people can't become captains, but the Kirk movies readily show female captains.

    It's never overtly said that no woman can be come a captain, but keep in mind this show was given the green light by executives who demanded that #1 in the original pilot be replaced by a man, since a strong female influence might scare audiences away - that is what they thought in 1965 and TREK has a lot of episodes that show off the suits' sexism more than the progressiveness the show was attempting to do.

    Sandra Smith and William Shatner both put in stellar performances as their native characters, and playing each other when transposed. Sandra gets a little more credit, since she has to play a cool, calm, collected Kirk trapped in another body... William is clearly having great fun acting like an insane loon as Lester->Kirk starts to break down (come on, we all know most actors love the occasional villain role because there's more creative freedom involved).

    This episode could never be made in later decades. I dare say "political correctness" would be a factor, or at least people being scared by the dialogue as opposed to thinking into the scene, since thinking is a sin. Just like for 3rd party prose in music ("Money For Nothin'" by Dire Straits used 3rd person prose, singing from the point of the blue collar character and does not necessarily reflect the songwriter's personal views and if people don't understand that they'll misinterpret the whole thing).

    Productionwise, one can tell the cast knows it's the end because everything feels run-of-the-mill. But yet it's watchable.

    It's an interesting premise (body swapping), and how infiltrating a high ranking official can go awry, and how the hero is about to be put to death and it's chilling, but it all doesn't quite work. But yet it's watchable, because of the premise. Again, I can't fault the acting, but despite it all it feels flat and uninvolved...

    But is it sexist? Hung jury is my verdict - nothing overtly states women cannot be such officers, and the only person making any real claim happens to have a medical condition that would preclude ANYONE from achieving that rank.moreless
  • Final Episode

    This was one of the hammiest jobs Shatner could ever have done. Kirks and a long ago love switch bodies and we get to see The Shat act like a crazed female. It's almost surreal to watch and believe it actually happened.
  • Kirk explores his feminine side by filing his nails on the bridge

    I was reading in the trivia section that Shatner was ill during the shooting of this and had to have a cot on the set. Man, he was a trooper. And it being the last one must have meant a lot to him. Although the plot line was pretty interesting, I couldn’t stand the hearing. There is just no way in heck Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and McCoy let that thing happen. Poor writing in my eyes. I was able to appreciate Sandra Smith, the woman who played Janice Lester. She didn’t do a bad job mimicking Shatner / Kirk.moreless
  • An embittered and now insane old flame of Captain Kirk's forcefully takes over his body to gain control of the Enterprise, while Kirk is trapped in her body and no-one will believe him. A fair episode on its own, but disappointing as a finale...moreless

    So, here we are, 79 episodes later (80 if you count "The Cage"), the final episode of the legendary Original Series.

    As a 'stand alone' episode it is perfectly watchable, but in terms of rounding off the series, it is, rather disappointingly, just a standard episode, which could have just as easily have aired at any point during the show's run.

    They knew that it was the end of the series, so it's a shame they didn't come up with a story to round things off more. Sadly, such 'finales' would not generally become commonplace in television until some years later.

    Anyway, the episode itself is a fair one. I found the device that Janice Lester used to swap bodies with Captain Kirk to be questionable and not overly convincing, but it is one of those plot devices that I suppose you just have to accept for sake of the story.

    Kirk being trapped inside the insane Lester's body, with no-one believing him of what happened, is rather nightmarish. William Shatner gives a reasonable performance of Lester inhabiting Kirk's body and becoming more manic as things go on; as does Sandra Smith, playing Kirk-in-Lester's body (all keeping up here?). The pair capture much of each others character, and as a result pull it off much better than it may have been.

    I did find it slightly awkward that Kirk couldn't come up with something that only the close crew would know sooner to prove who he was, but it's all part of the nightmarish scenario. In the end, it is Lester's own insanity that very much ruins her plot.

    Incidentally, this is one of the few episodes that doesn't feature Nichelle Nichols as Uhura (the second in a row, as the previous episode, "All Our Yesterdays", didn't have any scenes onboard the Enterprise), with a different communications officer in her place. It's a minor thing, but it's a shame all the main crew weren't here for the final episode.

    (Also of note is the late Majel Barrett as the semi-regular Nurse Chapel, who here makes the character's only brunette appearance of the series).

    The story moves along well, but I did find the final stages of swapping Lester and Kirk back into their own bodies to be over-simplified and over-rushed, and not as satisfying as it might have been.

    Although the broadcast order often different quite a lot from the production order, this was the last episode to be both filmed and broadcast.

    "Turnabout Intruder" is, as I say, a perfectly reasonable episode on its own, but it's such a shame that they didn't round the series off more satisfyingly. At least we had the Animated Series, and, ten years later, the beginning of the movies.

    -Third season overview-

    As I have touched upon on many of my reviews, the third season is widely regarded amongst fans as being by far the weakest of the Original Series. Indeed, it did see a drop in a number of areas, most notably the many intelligent stories that we were treated to over the first and second season. In fairness, not all of the episodes are truly terrible, but I find most of them would have made average 'filler' stories, and the season suffers without having more episodes of real quality to bolster them up more.

    And then, there are indeed some truly hideous episodes, such as the infamous "Spock's Brain", and the terrible 'space hippies' episode "The Way to Eden".moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith

Dr. Janice Lester

Guest Star

Harry Landers

Harry Landers

Dr. Arthur Coleman

Guest Star

Barbara Baldavin

Barbara Baldavin

Communications Officer

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (15)

    • While in Kirk's body, Lester makes a Captain's Log explaining her plan.

    • This is one of the few episodes of the series where Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) does not appear at all. Barbara Baldavin, listed as a guest star, appears as the ship's Communications Officer.

    • At the climax of the episode, when Kirk-as-Lester is fighting with the Doctor and Lester-as-Kirk is screaming, "Kill him! Kill him!", Scotty, Bones and Spock just casually stroll out of the cell to watch the action, instead of rushing into the struggle. Note also the lack of any security guards on the cell of mutineers.

    • A slightly odd moment. When Spock rescues Kirk-as-Lester from the cell and knocks out the guard, notice he takes Janice/Kirk's hand to lead her away, even though he knows it's really the captain. We've never seen Kirk and Spock holding hands before, and it seems unlikely Spock would feel more emotional/compassionate just because Kirk is now a woman.

    • Why doesn't Kirk-as-Lester just slip out of the loose restraining strap that is holding him down in sickbay? Why does he waste time cutting himself out?

    • It seems that when the hearing is taking place, Spock might be able to offer some more proof that the captain is not the captain by asking him to recall specific memories that only Kirk would know. He could also ask Kirk-as-Lester to recall specific stories and memories about the Enterprise. Instead, the only proof Spock offers is his mind meld. Similarly, Kirk-as-Lester doesn't attempt to establish his identity by revealing information only he and Spock or McCoy could know. Instead he talks only about things in the "public record".

    • How could Kirk order an execution? In the episode "Mirror, Mirror", Spock said to the Kirk from the alternate reality that his authority on the ship is extremely limited when Kirk said that he would execute Spock. Besides, Sulu and Chekov claim that executions are illegal. Don't the security guards care about Starfleet regulations? Why don't they turn on Kirk when he starts to demand executions?

    • Kirk in Lester's body strolls off away from Spock toward a solid wall when he calls for a vote. He's supposed to be stepping outside - according to the book Star Trek Lives the director screwed it up despite Shatner trying to explain to him there wasn't a door there.

    • When Lester-as-Kirk sits in the captain's chair, Chekov vanishes/reappears in different shots of the bridge.

    • When they first arrive, McCoy examines the unconscious supposedly stricken Lester - she's faking but he doesn't notice a thing despite examining her with his medical wand.

    • Chekov says only General Order 4 carries a death penalty - he's presumably referring to the ban on travel to Talos (from "The Menagerie"), but that was General Order 7.

    • Spock claims complete entity transfer has never been done anywhere in the galaxy - they did it in "Return to Tomorrow" with Sargon and the others.

    • McCoy administers a psychological test to Lester-as-Kirk that reveals their basic emotional structure - in court he testifies it matches what Kirk had when he took command of the Enterprise. Lester, who is portrayed as nutty as a fruitcake, would hardly have the same emotional state as Kirk (at least, you'd hope she would not!).

    • How is Lester-as-Kirk going to get Kirk's safe open? She doesn't have his memories of the combination or anything and it uses a number sequence to open.

    • Lt. Galloway was the character killed by Captain Tracey in "The Omega Glory" and yet here he is! Maybe he had a twin brother.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Scotty: Suppose you voted with me in favor of Spock. That's two to one and Spock is free. What do you think the Captain will do?
      McCoy: I don't know.
      Scotty: You know, all right. The vote will stick in his craw. He'll never accept it.
      McCoy: We don't know that.
      Scotty: I tell you, he won't. Then, Doctor, that's the time we move against him. We'll have to take over the ship.
      McCoy: We're talking about a mutiny, Scotty.
      Scotty: Aye. Are you ready for the vote?
      McCoy: I'm ready for the vote.

    • Scotty: It may not be scientific, but if Mr. Spock thinks it happens, then it must be logical.

    • Lester: (as Kirk) It is mutiny! Deliberate, vindictive, insane at its base!

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

    • Scotty: I've seen the captain feverish, sick, drunk, delirious, terrified, overjoyed, boiling mad. But up to now, I have never seen him red-faced with hysteria.

    • Lester: We could've roamed among the stars.
      Kirk: We'd have killed each other.

  • NOTES (9)

    • Just prior to the shooting of this final episode, William Shatner had contracted the flu. Since the production had to continue as scheduled, a cot was brought onto the set for Shatner to lie on in between his scenes.

    • With the obvious exception of William Shatner, Sandra Smith (Dr. Janice Lester) was the only other actor to play Captain James T. Kirk on any Star Trek series or movie until the 2009 movie where he was played by Chris Pine.

    • DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) died exactly thirty years and eight days after this episode first aired.

    • Leonard Nimoy is the only actor to appear in every episode of the series, including "The Cage", the original pilot episode.

    • This episode was originally scheduled to air on March 28, 1969 but was postponed to June 3 due to the death of the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, on March 28.

    • Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Majel Barrett are the only actors to appear in both the first and last episodes of the series. The latter portrayed Captain Pike's Number One in the original pilot episode "The Cage" and Nurse Chapel throughout the rest of the series.

    • For the first and only time in the series, Nurse Chapel is a brunette.

    • As well as being the last episode of the series originally broadcast, it was also the final one production order-wise (the order of episodes from production to broadcast) was often quite shuffled).

    • After a three-month hiatus, the show received a new slot (Tuesdays @ 7:30 p.m. EDT) with this final first-run segment.