(written from a Production point of view)
A mad scientist tries to take control of the Enterprise by switching bodies with Captain Kirk. (Series finale)
The Enterprise answers a distress call from an archaeological expedition on Camus II and a landing party beams down. Captain Kirk finds that Janice Lester, whom he knows, is gravely ill, and Doctor Arthur Coleman is tending to her.
Kirk and Lester reminisce about their time together at Starfleet Academy, Lester still resenting her inability to rise to a captaincy. When Kirk examines an apparatus in the room, Lester activates it. It traps Kirk into position on one side of it. Lester takes a place alongside Kirk on the apparatus and effects a life-energy transfer, each from one body into the other.
Lester (in Kirk's body) discloses to Kirk (in Lester's body) her plan to command the Enterprise, as well as her willingness to kill. She starts to strangle Kirk but is interrupted as the others return. McCoy reports that the rest of the staff on the planet are dead of exposure to celebium, though Coleman says that this is unclear, a disagreement that will affect the choice of treatment. The survivors beam back to the Enterprise. Lester, in Kirk's body, orders that a medical team stand by in the transporter room for Kirk in Lester's body.
In sickbay, Lester and Dr. Coleman discuss Kirk, whom they want to keep from reawakening. Coleman knows Lester's plans, and in fact knows both that celebium was the lethal agent and that Lester had caused the deaths by sending the personnel to where the celebium shielding was weak. On the surface of Camus II, Coleman had kept the rest of the landing party apart to give Lester time enough to kill Kirk, but he refuses to induce Kirk's death.
McCoy arrives and is surprised to see the captain in sickbay. Lester, in Kirk's body, transfers responsibility for the patient's care to Dr. Coleman, despite McCoy's strenuous protests. The patient regains consciousness, but Coleman orders Chapel to administer a sedative.
The impostor Kirk orders Sulu to execute a course change for a hospital on Benecia Colony, even though Spock points out that a course for Starbase 2 would provide a better radiation treatment without delaying the rendezvous with the USS Potemkin at Beta Aurigae. The new Kirk reacts sternly to being informed of the consequences of his orders.
The captain next meets with McCoy in Kirk's quarters, who defends his qualifications to treat Lester and has discovered that Coleman was relieved of duty as a chief medical officer on a starship due to severe incompetence. The captain says his decisions stand but McCoy uses his authority to order the captain to a medical examination based on "emotional instability and erratic mental attitudes since returning from that planet." The captain calls this revenge, but the confrontation is interrupted as he is recalled to the bridge.
In sickbay, Kirk as Lester again regains consciousness and calls for McCoy. Dr. Coleman says he is in charge and tells Nurse Chapel that Kirk's claims are symptoms of a paranoia that has been developing for six months. He tells Kirk, "You are insane, Dr. Lester." He orders the nurse to keep Dr. Lester under constant sedation.
Kirk, in Lester's body and working not to seem paranoid to Nurse Chapel, asks to meet with McCoy or Spock, but is alarmed to hear in passing of the course change ordered for the Enterprise. After Chapel leaves, Kirk escapes from his restraints by breaking a glass and using it to cut them.
Nearby, McCoy discusses with Spock his plans to run tests on "Kirk". News of the captain's aberrant behavior is spreading around the ship, and both of them are convinced that a rapid-onset mental illness began during Kirk's brief time alone with Lester on Camus II. The patient approaches the two – but the captain had arrived a moment earlier. Lester orders Kirk to be placed in isolation with a twenty-four-hour watch.
Soon, however, Spock arrives at the cell to question the prisoner. Lieutenant Galloway concedes Spock's point that isolation orders have never applied to the Enterprise's senior staff. Kirk calmly explains to Spock the technology of life-entity transfer, "accomplished and forgotten long ago on Camus II." When Spock protests that Starfleet requires objective evidence, Kirk describes events from their common past, such as their encounter with the Tholians and also the Vians, then finally, he invites the Vulcan mind meld. Performing, then breaking, the meld, Spock is convinced and asks Kirk to come with him. Galloway tries to block this. Spock disables him with a Vulcan neck pinch, but not before Galloway can call for help.
The captain passes McCoy's physical, but McCoy insists on performing the Robbiani dermal-optic test to compare to a previous test. This, too, reveals nothing. Then they hear on the intercom that the prisoner has escaped. The captain goes to the cell, Spock surrenders, and the captain broadcasts throughout the ship a call for an immediate court martial of Spock on the charge of mutiny.
The court martial convenes in a briefing room. Scott interrogates Spock, who describes his telepathic evidence that Kirk and Lester have exchanged bodies. Scott tells Spock that Starfleet Command will need more concrete proof than that. Later, McCoy testifies that the captain's physical and mental state are as they were when he assumed command of the Enterprise. Spock's logic compels Lester to call Kirk out of isolation to testify. Kirk describes the life-entity transfer, but Lester interrogates him in such a way so as to ridicule him.
Lester accuses Spock of inventing the life-entity transfer controversy to assume the captaincy. Spock asserts his intent to reveal the truth and oppose the captain. Lester regards this as an overt confession of mutiny, but as she makes this clear, she sounds increasingly irrational. She declares a recess, followed immediately by the vote.
In the corridor, McCoy and Scott agree that the captain's state of mind is unprecedented, Scott admitting to never having seen the captain "red-faced with hysteria." Scott asks McCoy what the captain will do on losing the vote, concluding that "we'll have to take over the ship" and conceding that that too will be mutiny. But Lester is recording the conversation and extends the mutiny charge, and orders the death penalty to them. Chekov and Sulu protest that the death penalty is expressly forbidden, except for General Order 4, which has not been violated by any Enterprise crewmember. The enraged Lester angrily orders that the other senior officers return to their posts and has Spock, Scott, McCoy, and Kirk detained in a holding cell by Lemli to await execution.
Lester schedules a group execution on the hangar deck, with interment to take place on Benecia, but Sulu and Chekov take their hands away from their helm and navigation consoles in defiance. But just then, the life-entity transfer temporarily reverses, as Kirk senses it briefly in the holding cell. Lester runs to meet Dr. Coleman in the archaeology lab to tell him the transference is weakening. Coleman says the only solution is to kill Lester's body but again refuses to do so personally. However, Lester says Coleman is complicit in many murders and now has no choice. He gives Lester a phaser and prepares a doubly lethal hypospray and the two proceed to the detention cell.
Lester disables the cell's force field and orders Kirk to come out, to be the first to be executed, lying that the prisoners would be moved to different cells, supposedly to prevent further conspiracy. But before she can kill Kirk with the hypospray, the life-entity transfer breaks and reverses for good, and Lester weeps over her defeat. Kirk lets Coleman accompany Lester back to sickbay to care for her and laments her sadness.
- "Captain's log, stardate 5928.5. The Enterprise has received a distress call from a group of scientists on Camus II who were exploring the ruins of a dead civilization. The situation is desperate. Two of the survivors of the expedition are the surgeon, Dr. Coleman, and the leader of the expedition, Dr. Janice Lester."
- (Log entry made by Janice Lester, acting as Captain James T. Kirk) "James Kirk is returning to consciousness in the body of Janice Lester. The Enterprise is proceeding to its next mission, on the course set for it before I took over command. Now the years I spent studying every single detail of the ship's operation will be tested. With a little experience, I will be invulnerable to suspicion. At last I attained what is my just due – command of a starship. All the months of preparation now come to fruition."
- (Log entry made by Captain James T. Kirk, acting as Janice Lester) "Captain's log, stardate unknown. I have lost track of time. I am still held captive in a strange body and separated from all my crew."
- (Log entry made by Janice Lester, acting as Captain James T. Kirk) "Captain's log, Stardate 5930.3. The results of Dr. McCoy's examination have given me complete confidence in myself. My fears are past. I shall function freely as the captain. I am the captain of the Enterprise, in fact."
"Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women."
- - Lester to Kirk, on Camus II
"I loved you. We could've roamed among the stars."
"We'd have killed each other."
"It might have been better."
- - Lester and Kirk, before their life-energy transfer
"Believe me, it's better to be dead than to live alone in the body of a woman."
- - Lester, inside Kirk's body
"Youth doesn't excuse everything, Doctor McCoy."
- - Lester as Kirk, in the transporter room
"Love? Him?!? I loved the life he led. The power of a starship commander. It's my life now!"
- - Lester as Kirk, to Coleman
"You are closer to the captain than anyone in the universe."
- - Kirk as Lester, to Spock
"You are not Captain Kirk. You have ruthlessly appropriated his body, but the life entity within you is not that of Captain Kirk. You do not belong in command of the Enterprise, and I will do everything in my power against you."
- - Spock at his hearing, to Lester as Kirk
"You have heard the statements you put into the record. Do you understand the nature of it?"
"I do, sir. And I stand by it."
"It is mutiny!"
- - Lester as Kirk and Spock
"On the basis of these statements, I call for an immediate vote, by the powers granted to me as Captain of the Enterprise. A recess is declared, to be followed by a vote."
"Yes, sir. An immediate vote before our chief witness can be left to die on some obscure planet with the truth locked away inside of her."
"Silence! You will be silent!! A recess has been declared. There will be no cross-discussion. When I return, we will vote on the charge of mutiny. The evidence presented here is the only basis of your decision."
- - Lester, as Kirk, and Spock
"Doctor, 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."
- - Scott to McCoy, outside the hearing room
"Headquarters has its problems, and we have ours. And right now, the captain of the Enterprise is our problem."
- - Scott, to McCoy
"We're talking about a mutiny, Scotty."
"Aye. Are you ready for the vote?"
"Yes, I'm... I'm ready for the vote."
- - McCoy and Scott, before returning to the hearing room
"The death penalty is forbidden. There is only one exception."
"General Order 4! It has not been violated by any officer on the Enterprise!"
- - Sulu and Chekov, on the death penalty
"The bridge is where you belong."
- - Scott to Kirk as Lester, in the brig
"Oh, I'm never going to be the Captain, never... kill him..."
"You are... you are as I loved you."
- - Janice Lester and Dr. Coleman
"I didn't want to destroy her."
"I'm sure we all understand that, Captain."
"Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... if only..."
- - Kirk and Spock, speaking the last lines of the Original Series
- Story outline by Gene Roddenberry: 22 April 1968
- Revised story outline: 25 April 1968
- Second revised story outline: 30 April 1968
- Third revised story outline: 8 May 1968
- First draft teleplay by Arthur Singer: 1 December 1968
- Second draft teleplay: early-December 1968
- Final draft teleplay: 20 December 1968
- Revised final draft teleplay by Fred Freiberger: 20 December 1968
- Additional page revisions by Freiberger: 30 December 1968, 2 January 1969, 3 January 1969
- Filmed: 31 December 1968 – 9 January 1969
- Original airdate: 3 June 1969, postponed from 28 March 1969
- First UK airdate: 15 December 1971
Title, story, and script
- Because I AM ERROR was canceled instead of coming to a natural end, and the idea of a series finale was not as popular in the 1960s, "Turnabout Intruder", despite being the series finale of TOS, is closer to a normal episode and does not have the "finale" touches.
- This episode was inspired by Thorne Smith's 1931 comedic novel Turnabout, in which a husband and wife switch bodies. A film version, directed by Hal Roach, appeared in 1940. The novel also inspired a short-lived 1979 TV series that starred Sharon Gless and John Schuck. (citation needed • edit)
- In James Blish's novelization of "Turnabout Intruder" in Star Trek 5, Dr. Arthur Coleman's first name is "Howard" – probably from an early draft of the script. At the end of the episode, Kirk muses about Janice Lester, "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's, if only... if only...." In Blish's rendition, Spock finishes the sentence, adding: "If only she had been able to take pride in being a woman."
- The set crew's nickname for this show was "Captain Kirk, Space Queen". (citation needed • edit)
- Uhura is the only regular character absent in this episode. The actress, Nichelle Nichols, had a singing engagement at the time. (citation needed • edit)
- After two years on the series, Roger Holloway finally got to speak dialogue – all of two words: "Aye, sir." His character's name (Lemli) was the same as William Shatner's license plate at the time, a mixture of his daughters' names (i.e., Leslie, Melanie, and Lisabeth).
- Typically blonde, Christine Chapel appears with auburn hair in this episode, as well as previously, in "Operation -- Annihilate!". By the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, her hair had re-darkened to its natural dark brown color.
- Lieutenant Galloway reappears in this episode, despite having been killed by Ronald Tracey in "The Omega Glory". He was credited as "Galoway" even though actor David L. Ross had been recast as Lieutenant Johnson in "Day of the Dove" after the character of Galloway was killed off.
- Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Majel Barrett (Nurse Christine Chapel and Number One) were the only actors to appear in both this episode and first pilot "The Cage". Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the series. William Shatner appeared in every episode with the exception of "The Cage". Jeffrey Hunter, who had played Christopher Pike in the first pilot episode, died a week before "Turnabout Intruder" aired.
- The very last Enterprise crew member to be seen in the original series is Scotty. As he, Kirk, and Spock enter the turbo-elevator at the end of Act IV, a glimpse of his forearm, grasping the control handle, is visible before the doors close.
- In his The Star Trek Compendium, author Allan Asherman credited Sandra Smith as the only actor besides William Shatner to have "played" James T. Kirk. With the release of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, this was no longer true, as the film featured a "new" Kirk, played by Chris Pine, Jimmy Bennett, and an unidentified baby. Nevertheless, Smith still remains the only woman to have portrayed Kirk.
Sets and props
- For story reasons, Janice Lester convalesces in a private, never-before-seen room down the corridor from sickbay.
- There is a detailed account of the filming of this episode in the 1975 book Star Trek Lives!. Co-author Joan Winston had the opportunity to spend six days on the set while "Turnabout Intruder" was being shot. Winston wrote that Shatner was very ill with the flu at the time, and had considerable difficulty in picking up and carrying Sandra Smith, the actress who played Dr. Lester, for take after take. At one point, he said, "You know I love you, baby, but you've got to lose about six inches off that ass," which brought down the house.
- Joan Winston also recalled many amusing anecdotes that took place during the shooting. For example, William Shatner flubbed the line, "Spock, give it up. Come back to the Enterprise family. All charges will be dropped. And the madness that overcame all of us on Camus II will fade and be forgotten." Instead, he blurted out, "Spock, it's always been you, you know it's always been you. Say you love me too."
- Shatner clashed with Director Herb Wallerstein, when Wallerstein wanted Kirk to exit a scene via what was established as a wall. 
- Even as filming was wrapping up, crew members were dismantling the Enterprise sets. Filming was completed on 9 January 1969. Production went one day over schedule, resulting in seven filming days. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)
- The final scene ever filmed for the original series was of William Shatner and Sandra Smith in front of the alien transference machine. (citation needed • edit)
- This installment opens with the same music cue as the previous three episodes, taken from the opening titles of "Spock's Brain". In common with the immediately prior entry to this one, this episode ends with the closing music cue from "Elaan of Troyius".
- A scheduled airdate of 28 March 1969 was preempted by news coverage of the death of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower. This episode was not aired until 3 June 1969 for that reason. Due to being rescheduled, the episode missed the deadline for Emmy nominations. (Smithsonian magazine, May 2016 issue, p. 59) It was the last installment of the franchise to air in the 1960s.
- Although the BBC's first run airdate order during 1969-1971 was very different to NBC's, this was also the final episode screened in the UK, on 15 December 1971.
- Bjo and John Trimble were very impressed by this episode. "[It] was very good; it might have won an Emmy for William Shatner," they appreciatively speculated. (Smithsonian magazine, May 2016 issue, p. 59)
- Critic Scott Mantz considered the episode's final moments to be significant. "There is something somewhat apropos," he said, "about the last words of the last episode, 'Turnabout Intruder': 'Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... If only.' And then Kirk walks off." (Smithsonian magazine, May 2016 issue, p. 59)
- The episode drew Nielsen ratings of only 8.8, in contrast to rival shows Lancer (TV series) on CBS and The Mod Squad on ABC, which gained ratings of 14.7 and 15.2 respectively, a drop of over fifty percent since the show premiered.
- Cultural theorist Cassandra Amesley states that this episode is "agreed to be one of the worst Star Trek episodes ever shown" by Star Trek fans. Brenton J. Malin sees the episode as a reactionary response to the radical feminism of the late 1960s. Dr. Lester is a "caricature and condemnation of the feminism of the late '60s, evoking a fear of powerful, power-hungry women.... The message seems clear: women want to kill men and take their jobs, but ultimately they can't handle them."
- David Greven has a more positive view of the episode, even referring to it as "moving". He calls it the "infamous last episode" of the original series, in part because of the "campiness" of Shatner's performance when portraying himself as a female in a male's body, but also because of the sexist premise that "female desire for power was a clear sign of insanity". While accepting that "the sexism of the episode is indisputable", he argues that the exploration of the idea that man can inhabit a woman's body, and vice versa, gives the episode a "radical" dimension, which he claims implies the interchangeability of gender and sexual identity.
- In 2017, this episode was rated the 4th worst episode of the Star Trek franchise including later spin-off series, by ScreenRant. A ranking of every episode of the original series by Hollywood, placed this episode in last place.
- In 2017, Den of Geek ranked this episode as the 7th worst Star Trek episode of the original series.
- The name of the planet Benecia is pronounced differently in this episode than it was in "The Conscience of the King", i.e. "beh-NEE-shee-a" as opposed to "beh-neh-SEE-a".
- In this episode, Kirk mentions the events of two previous episodes ("The Empath" and "The Tholian Web") to Spock.
- Starfleet's General Orders appear to have changed by this time. Sulu and Chekov say that only violating General Order 4 warrants the death penalty. In "The Menagerie, Part I", though, it was stated that violation of General Order 7 (the ban on contact with Talos IV) was the "only death penalty left on the books."
- Although this was the last episode of the Original Series to be filmed and aired, this episode has a lower stardate than the previous episode, "All Our Yesterdays".
- Janice Lester, in the body and voice of Captain Kirk, makes a captain's log entry, discussing the status of the conspiracy.
- As a subtle hint that all is not right with Kirk, whenever Lester/Kirk refers to himself, he uses the more formal "Captain Kirk" instead of the usual "Kirk". (e.g. "Captain Kirk to the Enterprise" instead of the usual "Kirk to Enterprise," "Captain Kirk out" instead of "Kirk out," etc.)
- This episode is subtly referenced in TNG: "Legacy". In that episode, Jean-Luc Picard mentions in his captain's log that "The Enterprise has bypassed its scheduled archaeological survey of Camus II...", referencing the same planet that this episode begins on. This was mentioned because, with the airing of its eightieth episode, "Legacy", I AM ERROR officially "bypassed" the series-run of Star Trek: The Original Series. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 62))
- In this episode Janice Lester states "Your world of starship captains does not admit women." In fact, the entire basis of the episode is that Janice Lester wanted to be a starship captain so badly (but couldn't because of her gender) that she switched bodies with and tried to murder Captain Kirk. However, this contradicts the history of Starfleet. The second warp-5 ship to be launched in the NX Program ( The NX-02 Starship Columbia) was Captained by a woman (Captain Erika Hernandez).
- This was the second to last episode of TOS to be remastered, and the second to last to be aired.
- The remastered version of "Turnabout Intruder" ends with the Enterprise flying toward a colorful nebula, to artistically signify the episode as being the last of the TOS series.
Video and DVD releases
- Original US Betamax release: 1988
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 40, catalog number VHR 2436, 18 March 1991
- This volume is a three-episode tape to close out the series.
- US VHS release: 15 April 1994
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.8, 2 March 1998
- Original US DVD release (single-disc): Volume 40, 11 December 2001
- As part of the TOS Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TOS-R Season 3 DVD collection.
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Alternate Realities collection
- View online at the CBS website (available in the US only)
Links and references
- Sandra Smith as Janice Lester
- Harry Landers as Dr. Coleman
- James Doohan as Scott
- George Takei as Sulu
- Walter Koenig as Chekov
- Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel
- Barbara Baldavin as a communications officer
- David L. Ross as Lt. Galoway [sic]
- John Boyer as a guard
- William Blackburn as Hadley (stock footage)
- James Drake as a security guard
- Roger Holloway as Lemli
- Unknown actors as
2265; 2267; administrative duties; administrative incompetence; agony; "all right"; ambition; area; archaeology; arm; arrest; "as usual"; "as yet"; attack; "at the moment"; attention; authority; bad dream; behavior; belief; Benecia; Benecia Colony; Beta Aurigae; binary system; blood count; blood pressure; body; body function; "Bones"; brig; "by any means"; Camus II; Camus II staff; case; celebium; celebium shielding; cell; chance; charge; Chief medical officer; choice; civilization; Coleman's former post; color wavelengths; confidence; consciousness; conspiracy; conversation; coordinates; cooperation; corridor; course; court; court martial; criticism; death; death penalty; debt; delirium; delusion; demotion; destination; diagnosis; disorder; distress call; dosage; drunk; efficiency; emergency; emotional instability; emotional stress; emotional structure; event; evidence; examination; execution; exercise table; expedition; expedition surgeon; experience; exposure; eye; fact; family; fever; General Order 4; glands; gravitational study; guard; hangar deck; "hard feelings"; hate; health; hearing; heart; hysteria; "if only"; imprisonment (aka internment); indignity; individual; "in fact"; insanity; instruction; interspace; "in the pink"; investigation; isolation; jealousy; judge; kidney; knowledge; landing party; leader; life-energy transfer; liver; logic; malpractice; maximum speed; mechanical device; medical blunder; medical facility; medical team; medical test; memory; mental attitude; mental state; metabolic rate; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; Minara; mind; mind meld; minute; mission; month; motive; murder; murderer; mutineer; mutiny; mutual agreement; nail file; NGC 602; objective test; "of course"; office; "on the double"; opinion; opportunity; orbit; order; "out in the open": paranoia; patient; permission; person; phaser; phenomenon; physical condition; physical strength; place; plan; plot; plot; Potemkin, USS; prisoner; problem; promotion; protection; pulse; question; radiation; radiation poisoning (aka radiation illness or radiation damage); recess; record; rendezvous; report; representative; result; revenge; risk; Robbiani dermal-optic test; room; ruins; scanning range; scientist; search; sedation; sedative; senior officer; sentence (law); sentence (linguistics); shock; smothering; "so be it"; "so far"; specialist; speed; star; Starbase 2; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Headquarters; Starfleet Regulations; Starfleet Surgeon General; starship; starship captain (aka starship commander); "state of mind"; "stick in his craw"; story; subject; suggestion; supervision; surgeon; survivor; suspicion; symptom; tape; telepathy; temperament; testimony; "thank you"; Tholian sector; thought; time; "time is of the essence"; training; treatment; tricorder; truth; unconscious; universe; Vians; violence; visit; vote; Vulcan neck pinch; warp factor; watch; wavelength; witness; year; youth
- "Turnabout Intruder" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Turnabout Intruder" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Turnabout Intruder" at Wikipedia
- "Turnabout Intruder" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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