The Alternative Factor

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"The Alternative Factor"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 27
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Written by Don Ingalls
Featured music Alexander Courage
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 020
Original air date March 30, 1967 (1967-03-30)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"Errand of Mercy"
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"The City on the Edge of Forever"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"The Alternative Factor" is a first season episode of the original science fiction television series Star Trek. It is episode #27, production #20, and was broadcast on March 30, 1967. The episode was written by Don Ingalls, and directed by Gerd Oswald.

In this episode, the crew of the USS Enterprise encounters a "reality jumping" madman. This is the first Star Trek episode to deal with parallel universes.


On stardate 3087.6, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, completes a mapping assignment of an uninhabited planet near Starbase 200. As the crew prepares to depart, the Enterprise is rocked by an unknown energy pulse. Science Officer Spock informs Kirk that the gravity pull of the planet fluctuated to zero and describes that the surrounding space seemed to momentarily "wink" out of existence.

Sensors then locate a human presence down on the planet that wasn't there before. Spock and Kirk, along with a four-man security detail, beam down to the planet to investigate and find a small, one-man spacecraft. A disheveled, bearded man appears, the apparent victim of some violent struggle. He babbles about having to stop someone before it's too late, then staggers around as if sickened and accidentally slips off a cliff. The man survives the fall, but is injured, and Kirk has him beamed to the Enterprise for examination.

Back on the ship, the engine room operator, Lt. Masters, informs Captain Kirk, that the mysterious disturbance drained the dilithium crystals in the warp core, and the Enterprise has about 10 hours of main power left before the ship drops out of orbit. A message is received from Starfleet which reports every quadrant of the Milky Way, and even beyond, has been subjected to the same winking effect and following electronic disruption as the Enterprise. Starfleet fears the disruption of all their equipment may be a prelude to an invasion of some kind and has ordered all ships within 100 parsecs—except the Enterprise—to leave the area. Kirk is ordered to find the cause of the disturbance, alone.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy notifies Kirk that the fallen man is now awake and Kirk goes to question him. Kirk learns that the man, who calls himself Lazarus, is on a fanatical crusade, chasing down the "monster" who destroyed his entire civilization. He describes his nemesis as a murdering beast, the anti-life, existing only to destroy. Periodically, Lazarus fades in and out of existence, encountering his adversary in a kind of dimensional corridor. Each time he does so, another energy wink occurs that ripples through the universe.

Dr. McCoy claims to notice that a wound on Lazarus's head had disappeared the last time he checked him out. Confronting him later, Kirk and McCoy find the wound has reappeared. Kirk however, thinks McCoy is imagining things.

Kirk takes Lazarus to the bridge when Spock reports an amazing discovery down on the planet: a "rip" in space and time has formed near where Lazarus was found. The rip appears as a bright twinkling of light on the planet's surface. Lazarus insists that his enemy is trying to destroy the universe and he is causing the phenomenon. He tries to enlist Kirk's help and demands that Kirk give him some dilithium crystals so that he may fix his ship and continue to fight his enemy. Kirk refuses, but Lazarus, undeterred, plots to steal some dilithium from the ship's engines.

When he does, Kirk takes Lazarus to the briefing room for interrogation. Lazarus denies doing it, saying his enemy must have stolen it. Tired of Lazarus's double-talk and lies, Kirk orders security to escort Lazarus back to sickbay.

Kirk beams back to the planet with Lazarus and a security team to search out this "hidden" enemy. Once again, Lazarus has another dimensional episode, and is returned to sickbay where Kirk follows to demand the truth.

Reluctantly, Lazarus explains he is a time traveler, and the planet below was once his homeworld. His "spacecraft" is in fact a dimensional time ship. He claims his enemy counterpart destroyed his civilization in the past, for which Lazarus chased him for centuries. He demands Kirk's help, but Kirk still refuses to get involved.

Spock concludes that Lazarus's enemy is an "anti-Lazarus", possibly from a parallel "antimatter" dimension. If Lazarus and his anti-self manage to contact each other within either physical universe, they would destroy each other, and annihilate both universes. Spock also explains an "anti-matter universe" is only theoretical and no one has ever found proof of it. Now, however, they seem to have such proof.

Lazarus, however, is prepared to continue his mission. Slipping from sickbay, he creates a diversion in engineering to acquire the dilithium. With stolen crystals in hand, he beams down to the planet to repair his ship. Kirk follows, but Lazarus activates his time machine just as Kirk tries to stop him. Stepping into the portal, Kirk is accidentally teleported to the other anti-dimension where he encounters the anti-Lazarus.

This Lazarus however, seems sane, not the murdering monster the other Lazarus described. The anti-Lazarus explains what is going on. He admits to stealing the dilithium the first time, because he needed it to open the dimensional link. He informs Kirk that his people believed that two universes existed, and they tried to prove it, but failed, causing their own destruction. The Lazarus to whom Kirk is currently speaking found a way, but he confirms Mr. Spock's hypothesis, that breaking the barriers between the matter and anti-matter universes may trigger doomsday.

He indicates that only one version of Lazarus can exist in a universe at a time and that the other one went mad with rage at the thought of having a double to the point of seeking the double's destruction even if that meant the end of the world as he knew it. If not stopped, their constant encounters will destroy both universes. The anti-Lazarus tells Kirk the "dimensional corridor" — Lazarus's ship — connecting them must be severed. Kirk must send the mad Lazarus back into the corridor and close off the portal for good.

Kirk returns to his universe and confronts the insane Lazarus, overpowering him and pushing him into his dimensional portal. Kirk heads back to the Enterprise, quickly ordering the phasers to target the dimension ship. The two Lazaruses meet once more and begin to fight just as phaser beams vaporize the ship. The two Lazaruses are now trapped between universes, apparently doomed to fight each other for eternity. Contemplating this existence leads Kirk to mutter, "But what of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?"


John Drew Barrymore was originally cast as Lazarus, but on the morning filming began he was nowhere to be found. The part had to be quickly recast with Robert Brown. The producers filed a grievance with the Screen Actors Guild, which suspended Barrymore's membership for six months as a result, preventing him from working as an actor during that time.[1]

The special effects for the extra-dimensional "winking" episodes were achieved by superimposing a moving photograph of the Trifid Nebula over the action.


Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a 'C-' rating, describing the plot as "baffling" and "unrewarding" and poorly paced.[2]


  1. ^ Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. pp. 201–202. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zack (April 17, 2009). ""Errand Of Mercy" / "The Alternative Factor"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 

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