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


Kirk and the crew are faced with a third-party role in a local war with Universe-wide effects; the 'weapons' used cause 'time-distortions' in our normal universe everywhere to occur with devastating collateral effects. Enterprise is dispatched with Kirk, Spock and the key Team Members to save 'everything' again only to meet the cause of the war, an Intrepid traveler (Lazerus) who is fighting himself - or rather the Anti-Matter version of himself (Anti-Lazerus) in this first episode to address the concept of a MULTIVERSE - i.e. multiple universes all co-existing with each other.

The amusing part of this episode is Lazerus from our world is insane with rage that there is another of him - and has committed himself to meeting and killing his anti-self, something which if it happens in either "Positive or Negative" universe will destroy both. The only safe place for them to meet is an N-Dimensional Tunnel which exists between the world. The Tunnel itself is represented as anchored to the "ship" Lazerus uses to travel about in.

Broadcast History[edit]

"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 a parallel universe.


The Enterprise, completing a mapping assignment, is rocked by an energy pulse. Science Officer Spock informs Kirk that the gravity pull of the planet fluctuated to zero and says that the surrounding space seemed to momentarily "wink" out of existence in what he described as a TIME SPACE DISTORTION.

The Distortion is emanating from a specific spot on a planet below and when the sensors locate a human presence on the planet that wasn't there before it becomes clear that there is more than simple physics at work. Mr. Spock and Kirk beam down to the planet and find what they think is a one-man spacecraft. In reality the 'ship' is an end-point for a bridge between two parallel universes. While investigating the ship they find, a disheveled, bearded man appears 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 Enterprise, Engineering Specialist Lt. Masters informs Captain Kirk that the mysterious disturbance which caused the Time Space Distortion they experienced as waves of force breaking across them in Space has drained the energy stored in the Enterprises Dilithium crystals in the warp drive. A message confirming the effect across all space from Starfleet reports that every quadrant has been subjected to the same winking effect and electronic disruption as the Enterprise. Starfleet fears that the disruption may be a prelude to an invasion and has ordered all ships except the Enterprise to leave the area. Kirk is ordered to find the cause of the disturbance, alone.

Lazarus frequently fades in and out of the universe, encountering his nemesis (Himself from the other dimension) in a N-Dimensional Bridge, the corridor created and anchored to the endpoints by the two ships, creating an energy wink, rippling through the universe.

In confronting Lazerus over the effect back on Enterprise Lazarus insists that his enemy, trying to destroy the universe, is causing the phenomenon. Lazarus demands his own set of dilithium crystals be replenished from Enterprises store of them so he may fix his ship and continue to fight his enemy. Kirk refuses; Lazarus steals dilithium from the Enterprise and is caught. But in fact this Lazarus denies the theft and blames the theft on his yet unseen nemesis.

Kirk beams back to the planet with Lazarus and a security team to seek this "hidden" enemy where they meet Lazarus after he experienced another battle in the "dimensional corridor". They return his unconscious body to sickbay and upon waking Lazarus explains to Kirk that he is a Dimensional Traveller, and that this is NOT HIS DIMENSION, meaning he is the "Other Lazerus" so to speak. The planet below (in the other Dimension) was once his home world. This "Lazarus" claims that his nemesis (the Lazerus from our Universe) destroyed his civilization in the past to kill him, for which the Negative-Dimension Lazarus has chased him for centuries to prevent the total destruction of BOTH their and our Universes based on our Universes Lazerus' insanity and rage that he is not the only Lazerus.

In analyzing the situation Spock reasons it out and develops the correct hypothesis that Lazarus's nemesis is actually an "anti-Lazarus", from a parallel dimension; and realizes based on his own knowledge of matter and anti-matter reactions, that if Lazarus and his anti-self contact each other within either physical universe, they would destroy each other and annihilate both the matter and anti-matter universes.

Lazarus slips away from sickbay and successfully creates a diversion in engineering to acquire dilithium. With the stolen crystals, 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 trapped in the "entry portal to the Dimensional Bridge" where he encounters the anti-Lazarus.

There Anti-Lazerus discloses everything about who and what he is - and what he is trying to accomplish - that being saving reality from a madman. In this disclosure Anti-Lazarus calmly admits to stealing the Enterprise's dilithium. He informs Kirk that his people invested in developing dimensional bridge technologies and that the improper use of these caused their destruction. Anti-Lazarus tells Kirk that only one Lazarus can exist in one universe simultaneously. It is then he (Anti-Lazerus) discloses that his ship is the "dimensional corridor," which connects both universes must be severed by destroying the ship with a phaser blast with both Lazerus and Anti-Lazerus inside the protective confinement of the Tunnel between the Universes; and that this is done to 'seal' the portal between the two Universes.

The implications are that the two Lazerus will be trapped forever - with no time passing ever - inside this tunnel trying to kill each other until the end of everything if it ever happens. Kirk agrees to help Negative Lazerus after seeing the wisdom and truth behind the statements, and when he returns to our Universe from the Tunnel itself he finds and confronts Lazarus, pushing him into the "dimensional door.

Immediately Kirk orders Enterprise to fire on the ship and seconds later phaser beams vaporize the ship, sealing the two for all of eternity, caught together between universes.

Inside the Dimensional Bridge the two Lazarus's meet once more and fight as Mortal Enemies in what will now be a forever-instance of death-match between the worlds so to speak.


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, 42 years after its initial debut, 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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