Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 24

Turnabout Intruder

Aired Unknown Jun 03, 1969 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

    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".
  • The end of the beginning

    Airing in June of 1969, "Turnabout Intruder" was aired as an afterthought (as TV shows typically bowed out during March and April back then), and in some ways was produced as an afterthought: the climax of this episode seems excessively rushed, robbing an interesting premise of the time and care it deserved.

    Instead, the series' only episode focused primarily on gender issues comes across as an impediment to the wrap party. Add this to the fact that Dr. Lester, disturbed as she might be, might actually be *right* about the Starfleet of the Original Series, and you have a less-than- fitting end to a landmark television program.

    This isn't to say that the entire episode is bad: Sandra Smith turns in an excellent performance as Dr. Lester, and more importantly, Kirk-in-Lester's body, better than Shatner's rushed take as Lester-in-Kirk's body. Also, there are numerous references (primarily by Smith as Kirk) to previous episodes, a nice touch in this, the final episode of the series.

    What probably disturbs me the most about this episode is how poorly it has aged since I first saw it in the mid '80s. While Janice Lester is clearly off her rocker, the direction seems uncharacteristically harsh towards her. After all, we've seen a number of captains (and a few commodores, as well as a collection of admirals and high-ranking civilians) on Star Trek, and other than Chris Pike, Matt Decker, Garth, and Bob Wesley, they're generally a fairly pathetic bunch (and even Decker and Garth were all too human), validating Lester's claim that she could also do the job just as well, if not better. It's almost like the rare episodes of The Twilight Zone where the good characters are punished-while there might be a "good" ending, the viewer is ultimately cheated, as justice has clearly not been served.

    But, then again, maybe that's the point-viewers in 1969 were clearly not content with the end of Trek, and they turned a failed TV show into a cultural icon.