On my five* fortnight mission to boldly fill the space until Star Trek Discovery comes back, I’ve been looking at old Star Trek episodes that connect via topic, themes or plot with the updated version. This week it is time to head into parallel universes! But, I didn’t want to head straight to Mirror, Mirror. Instead, I went for the first episode I could find that mentioned parallel universes and that took me to The Alternative Factor.
I assume I must have seen this before but I had zero memory of it.
The Enterprise approaches a dead planet. Suddenly something really wacky happens. Spock can’t work out what it was. Star Fleet contacts Kirk and tells him the wacky thing happened everywhere but was centered near the Enterprise’s current location.
Spock discovers life signs on the planet below – which is surprising because they had previously surveyed the planet and found nothing.
They beam down and find a small space craft and then find a very agitated man called Lazarus. They take Lazarus on board the Enterprise for treatment. Lazarus warns them that he is being chased/is pursuing an evil monster who destroyed his home world.
The reality distortions continue and Lazarus is repeatedly forced to fight a foe during wacky special effects. However, Lazarus’s behavior and appearance is oddly inconsistent. Sometimes he is agitated and has a head injury and at other times he is calm and doesn’t. And no, it is not just bad continuity.
Eventually Lazarus reveals that he is a time travel. The planet below him is his former home world. His time travel invention led to a connection to a universe of anti-matter.
One version of Lazarus steals some (di)lithium crystals and then the other version does also to fix their respective time-spaceship-saucer craft.
Eventually Kirk travels to the anti-matter universe argle-bargle etc and meets the calm Lazarus. Calm Lazarus is the anti-matter version and is the good guy. Agitated Lazarus had a breakdown when he discovered the existence of anti-Lazarus to the extent that he wants to confront him in the anti-universe. Calm Lazarus explains to Kirk that the wormhole between the two universes will result in both universes being annihilated if agitated Lazarus kills calm Lazarus in the antimatter universe (the explanations are getting a bit confused at this point. But if Kirk can trap both Lazaruses (Lazarii?) within the wormhole by blowing up the time-spaceship-saucer craft on the positive Universe side then that will stop the universes exploding. Lazarus though, will end up trapped forever fighting himself within the wormhole.
So Kirk tricks Agitated Lazarus into the wormhole then blows up the time-spaceship-saucer craft. The end.
It’s not a terrible episode it just doesn’t have enough to carry the full fifty minutes. The reveal is unsurprising but still relies on a lot of exposition none of which makes much sense either within the confines of the story or scientifically.
Notably and with no fuss or bother at all, the episode also heavily features a black woman as the engineer for the Enterprise (for this episode only). According to the Vaka Rangi blog ( http://vakarangi.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/darkseid-is-my-will-alternative-factor.html ) there was intended to be a love story sub plot between Lazarus and Chief Engineer Masters as well but some TV Networks objected. The episode certainly feels like a hefty chunk of something is missing.
Still, we get our first Trek foray into the ever fertile field of parallel universes and machines that can travel between them. It isn’t an auspicious start – more of a sketch of an idea of an episode that might have been good.
*[I haven’t checked how many fortnights it actually is]