Turnabout Intruder

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"Turnabout Intruder"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 24
Directed by Herb Wallerstein
Story by Gene Roddenberry
Teleplay by Arthur H. Singer
Featured music Fred Steiner
Cinematography by Al Francis
Editing by Donald R. Rode
Production code 079
Original air date June 3, 1969 (1969-06-03)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Turnabout Intruder" is a third season, as well as the final first-run, episode of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek. It is episode #79, production #79, written by Arthur H. Singer, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry, and directed by Herb Wallerstein. This was the last original episode of Star Trek to air on NBC.

Originally scheduled to air at 10pm on Friday, March 28, 1969, the network pre-empted it at the last minute with a special report on former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had died earlier that day.[1] On June 3, 1969, after an absence of 2 months, Star Trek was brought back on a new night and time: Tuesdays at 7:30pm EDT. "Turnabout Intruder" was the only first-run episode to be shown in this new time slot.

In the episode, Captain Kirk becomes trapped in the body of a mentally unstable woman bent on killing him and taking over his command in his guise.


On stardate 5928.5, the Federation starship USS Enterprise rushes to answer a distress call from the planet Camus II, the site of an archaeological expedition that is exploring ancient ruins of a long vanished culture. Upon arrival, the landing party finds three survivors; among them are Dr. Janice Lester and Dr. Arthur Coleman. It is revealed that during their academy days, Dr. Lester and Captain Kirk were intimately involved; however, Lester's inability to achieve command of a starship, which she believes had to do with her gender, caused the two to drift apart.

Medical scans reveal that the survivors are suffering from radiation exposure which threatens their lives. Dr. Coleman, Science Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy go off to tend to the other survivor, leaving Lester and Kirk alone for a moment to talk. Kirk finds Lester has been driven to the point of madness by her self-hatred personality complex and complains about the agony of being a woman in a male-dominated existence. She traps Kirk in an alien device which can swap the personalities between two individuals. Joining Kirk in the machine, Lester's essence is transferred into Kirk's body while Kirk's mind enters hers. Now functioning as Kirk, Lester-in-Kirk tries to strangle her former body, inside which Kirk is trapped.

Spock and McCoy return before Lester-in-Kirk can finish him off, and she (as Kirk) orders the landing party and the remaining survivors back to the Enterprise. Once there, Lester-in-Kirk removes McCoy from Kirk-in-Lester's case and gives Dr. Coleman, Lester's partner in crime, full authority for treatment. McCoy protests the decision (later telling Lester-in-Kirk that Coleman is known to have been ruled as incompetent to serve aboard a starship by the Starfleet surgeon general; the "Captain" asserts that promotions and demotions can be politically motivated), but McCoy stands his ground with an ornery tone of voice.

Alone, Coleman and Lester-in-Kirk privately converse about their plans. It is revealed that the two are in love with each other and had planned to have their personnel killed in order to lure the Enterprise to Camus II. Lester-in-Kirk has now achieved her lifelong goal of commanding a starship. Likewise, Coleman has now been given a chance to become a starship's chief medical officer. Lester-in-Kirk puts Coleman in charge of making sure that Kirk-in-Lester, who is still trapped inside Lester's female body, stays out of the way by sedating him. No one recognizes Kirk's consciousness in a woman's body.

Spock becomes suspicious when Lester-in-Kirk orders a course change to the Benecia Colony to drop off "Dr. Lester" for medical attention - ignoring their previous mission - and to then rendezvous with the USS Potemkin at Beta Aurigae. Spock vainly points out that Benecia's medical facilities are comparatively primitive, and they are on course to adequate facilities, which they can reach at maximum warp in a time comparable to reaching Benecia. McCoy invokes his authority to override the Captain's orders and perform a full medical examination, including "the Robbiani dermal-optic" test,[2] the latter test Lester-in-Kirk being leery of, but seems to pass.

Kirk-in-Lester manages to escape and goes to sickbay for help, but finds Lester-in-Kirk still there being given a clean bill of health by McCoy. Lester-in-Kirk uses a series of violent slaps to render her former body unconscious, which McCoy demands he stops. Lester-in-Kirk orders the "hysterical woman" to be taken into custody and put into isolation with the express order: "No one is to speak to her without my permission."

Kirk-in-Lester is taken away, and Spock persuades the guard that the Captain's orders have never been meant to apply to his senior officers and, in this case, keep Spock from speaking with "Lester". Spock speaks with Kirk-in-Lester and is somewhat skeptical of his story, but then Kirk-in-Lester persuades Spock to contact him with the Vulcan mind meld, whereupon he discovers the truth: that Jim Kirk's mind is indeed present in Janice Lester's body.

Spock tries to free Kirk-in-Lester but is stopped by a security team led by the impostor Captain. Lester-in-Kirk accuses Spock of mutiny and immediately (and flamboyantly, via ship-wide announcement) orders a court-martial. Once on trial, Spock tries to make a convincing case that Captain Kirk is really in the body of Dr. Lester, and that the physical Kirk is an impostor. However, his evidence was obtained by telepathy, still considered a form of hearsay in the 23rd century, and is inadmissible.

Shocked by the incredible story, McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott converse secretly in the corridor about their Captain's true identity, and, having witnessed Kirk's irrational behaviour and hostility toward Dr. Lester, they decide, as members of the court martial panel, to agree with Spock. Scotty says that the "captain" won't let the decision stand, and suggests that he and McCoy "move against him" to relieve the "captain" of command. McCoy is reluctant to the mutiny, but agrees it's the only way. Lester-in-Kirk suspects they spoke in the corridor for a reason, and orders the court recorder to call up the conversation from recordings of corridor activity. Lester-in-Kirk then orders McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Kirk-in-Lester to be arrested for treason. Their punishment will be death, and internment of the bodies will be at Benecia. Ensign Chekov and Lt. Sulu are outraged, and point out that Starfleet bans the death penalty except for "General Order 4", which isn't the case here. Lester-in-Kirk refuses to listen and demands that everyone return to their posts.

The remaining crew quickly turn against their "captain" when they realize that he isn't himself, and refuse to obey his orders. Losing self-control and throwing a fit because Chekov and Sulu blatantly ignore her orders and, in unison, take their hands off their consoles, Lester-in-Kirk falls into the center seat and she and Kirk-in-Lester have a temporary reversion of minds. Kirk-in-Lester determines to fight for his own body if it happens again. Lester-in-Kirk hurries to Coleman and tells him of the incident; Coleman tells Lester-in-Kirk that to make the transfer permanent, she must kill her former body while Kirk still occupies it. Lester-in-Kirk shames and blackmails Coleman into preparing an injection of a toxic substance.

The two head to Kirk-in-Lester's holding cell, but Lester-in-Kirk again loses self-control when she sees Kirk-in-Lester struggling with Coleman as he vainly tries to inject the toxin, and the reversion starts again. This time Lester is too late, and the reversion completes. Captain Kirk is finally himself again. The hysterical Lester makes one last attempt to kill Kirk but fails, and Lester and Coleman are taken into custody. Coleman then pleads with Kirk to allow him to care for his mentally deranged love, and Kirk decides that they will be dropped off at Starbase 2 to face charges. In the meantime the Enterprise resumes its current mission with the Potemkin. Kirk muses, "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... if only..."


The episode drew Nielsen ratings of only 8.8, in contrast to rival shows Lancer on CBS and Mod Squad on ABC, which gained ratings of 14.7 and 15.2 respectively, a drop of over fifty percent since the show premiered.[3]

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.[4] 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."[5]

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.[6]


  1. ^ Greenberger, Robert (November 8, 2012). Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History. Voyageur Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0760343593. 
  2. ^ "The Star Trek Transcripts - Turnabout Intruder". 
  3. ^ Herbert Solow, Robert Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. pp. 414–415. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 
  4. ^ Amesley, Cassandra (October 1989). "How to Watch Star Trek". Cultural Studies. 3 (3): 63; 77. doi:10.1080/09502388900490221. 
  5. ^ Malin, Brenton, American Masculinity Under Clinton: Popular Media and the Nineties "crisis of Masculinity", Peter Lang, 2005, p.113.
  6. ^ David Greven, Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek: Allegories of Desire in the Television Series and Films, McFarland, 2009, pp.30-33.

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