|Yes, this is Kirk and Spock. Yes, they’re holding hands. Fanfic writers, start your pencils.|
There’s a sense of poetic justice in having Star Trek go out on an episode that names “the Enterprise family” just as it threatens to destroy it because it doesn’t respect women.
This was an episode I always consciously avoided: Partially because I have sort of an instinctual reticence towards big emotional finales, and while “Turnabout Intruder” certainly isn’t that, it’s still very much the end of an era and I can sometimes have a hard time dealing with that: I guess its because I don’t like the idea of my stories having to end, or being forced to say goodbye to characters I’ve grown so accustomed to over the course of several years. I always needed to know there were more adventures, or at least the potential for more adventures.
That said, the biggest reason I avoided “Turnabout Intruder” was because it looked like utter crap. This episode is famously bad, and there are certainly no more ominous signs and portents on the last bow of the Original Series than the credit “Teleplay By Arthur Singer. Story By Gene Roddenberry”. So, I went into this episode absolutely dreading having to watch it. Happily, it turned out to not be nearly as bad as I expected-It’s certainly not the worst effort from either of its two co-writers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s actually any good either.
Answering a distress signal from an archaeological excavation on Camus II, Kirk, Spock and McCoy encounter Kirk’s old lover, Doctor Janice Lester, now the head of the expedition, who is suffering from severe radiation poisoning. As Spock and McCoy go to investigate a cry for help further down the dig site, Lester and expresses resentment towards Kirk over the fact their relationship never worked out and her inability to fulfill her dream of becoming a starship captain as Starfleet prohibits women from holding command positions. Suddenly, Lester reveals her illness is a ruse and traps Kirk in an ancient consciousness transference device and transplants her life energy into his body, intending to command the Enterprise in his name…and then to kill him and her old body. This all happens in the teaser, mind you, and the entire remaining forty-eight minutes or so is dedicated towards watching Lester attempt to keep cover on the ship as her increasingly erratic behaviour starts alienating her from the rest of the crew, culminating in her attempting to execute the entire senior staff on mutiny charges.
“Turnabout Intruder” has, clearly, quite a number of rather significant issues. Let’s tackle the really obvious one straight off: This episode has serious gender problems. Getting cited as the premier example of reactionary sexism in Star Trek by the Star Trek fans themselves probably counts for something. This episode is typically seen as a slap in the face to feminists, and it’s absolutely easy to see why it has that reputation: Lester is a megalomaniacal, murderous woman who wants to usurp a man in a position of power and, once she gets there, she slowly starts to become unhinged and cracks under the pressure, eventually culminating in a massive meltdown (that Scotty even literally describes as “hysterical”), indicating she’s incapable of handling the duties and responsibilities such positions of leadership require.…