“Turnabout Intruder” – TOS 3X24

“Turnabout Intruder” is the very last episode of the Original Series, but unfortunately – I felt – one of the weakest. 

On the plus side, it did give us some of the best Shatner overacting reaction .gifs in the entire series:

Gif of Kirk spinning around, against a wall
Gif of Kirk seizing up

And of course…

GIF of Kirk holding his hands up in fear

Wait, you say, with all that awesome, what can there possibly be to dislike about this episode?

Basically it’s plodding, predictable, oh, and sexist.

We start out with Kirk, Spock and McCoy going down to a planet to rescue a team of archaeologists, including one of Kirk’s former lovers, Dr. Janice Lester. While the others go and investigate what happened to the rest of the team, Kirk stays with Lester. She’s ill but also super bitter about her past with Kirk.

Janice: The year we were together at Starfleet is the only time in my life I was alive.

Kirk: I never stopped you from going on with your space work.

Janice: Your world of starship captains doesn’t admit women. It isn’t fair.

Kirk: No, it isn’t. And you punished and tortured me because of it.

This exchange is a bit confusing. Surely she’s not saying Starfleet doesn’t allow women captains. Maybe it’s just a ret-con issue but in Enterprise we see women captains, as well as in Star Trek IV. The other way to take it is that Kirk’s role as a captain prevented her from being important in his life. 

Kirk leans over Janice in bed

Kirk wanders over to a weird-looking wall and when his back is turned, Lester sits up and points a remote at the wall. The wall lights up and Kirk is pulled to it. Lester walks over and stands next to him and turns on the machine, which switches their minds into each other’s bodies in a way that is never satisfactorily explained.

Lester and Kirk swap bodies

Lester, now in Kirk’s body, keeps talking, becoming almost a straw feminist who’s angry and embittered at men because she loathes her own femininity. Also Kirk leaving a gal totally has that effect.

Lester: Now you know the indignity of being a woman. For you this agony will soon pass, as it has for me. Quiet. Quiet! Believe me, it’s better to be dead than to live alone in the body of a woman. It’s better to be dead.

The rest of the away team comes back with Doctor Coleman, the only other surviving member of the archaeological team. Coleman seems to suspect what’s taken place but Kirk, in Lester’s body is stunned and Coleman says she is near death. They all beam up to the Enterprise, where Lester, in Kirk’s body orders the patient taken to sickbay.

She follows and finds Coleman with Lester, who is starting to awaken. Coleman is angry because Lester killed the rest of the staff on the planet but didn’t kill Kirk once the body transfer was complete. 

Kirk: He hung onto life too hard. I couldn’t

Coleman: You couldn’t because you love him! You want me to be his murderer.

McCoy and Chapel come in and impostor Kirk takes McCoy off Lester’s case. Lester appears to start to awaken and Kirk orders Chapel to give Lester a sedative, over McCoy’s wishes.

Kirk, in Janice's body, wakes up in Sickbay

After that, impostor Kirk goes to the bridge and tries hard to pass as the real captain, but gets tripped up by Spock, that damned Vulcan. Also a note at this point: Lieutenant Lysa is there instead of Uhura, making Sulu the only person of colour in this episode.

Next, McCoy comes to see Kirk in his quarters, where Lester/Kirk is filing her nails.

Kirk files his nails while Spock watches

McCoy orders Kirk to take a medical exam, basing it on the “development of emotional instability and erratic mental attitudes since returning from that planet.”  Lester/Kirk, being all emotionally unstable as women are wont to be, declares she “won’t submit to this petty search for revenge!” 

Kirk, in Lester’s body, comes to in Sickbay but finds himself only with Coleman, Lester’s co-conspirator. When Chapel comes in, Coleman says Lester has a delusion that she is Kirk, and orders Chapel to administer another sedative.

The real Kirk, however, is apparently quite a bit more cunning and rational than his ex. When he wakes, strapped to a bed, he pretends to believe he knows he’s Lester.

Chapel talks to Lester in Sickbay

He asks Chapel to see Spock and Chapel says she thinks that could work. She then gives him a glass of water and when she’s gone, Kirk/Lester breaks it and uses it to cut the strap. It is a good thing they moved away from what looked like the Dixie cups they were drinking out of in Season 1.

Meanwhile, McCoy and Spock are in Sickbay, musing about the cause of the captain’s aberrant behaviour. They agree Starfleet won’t let them do anything to Kirk without objective evidence that he’s ill or compromised. impostor Kirk then comes in for the medical exam and in a moment, the escaped Lester runs in, calling for help. It’s bad timing and the real Lester basically knocks him out with one blow. Not sure why he didn’t just wait for Spock to come to the quarters, but anywho, the assault is a pretty big red flag for the already suspicious McCoy and Spock.

Kirk knocks out Lester in the corridor

McCoy carries out the physical exam on Lester, in now-shirtless Kirk’s body. Spock, meanwhile, talks his way past the security detail the captain has posted outside Lester’s door.

Inside, Spock listens to Kirk’s story and Kirk asks him to mind meld so he’ll know he really is in Lester’s body. Spock does so and becomes convinced, but they still have no objective proof. Even though it would make more sense to work to gather that and leave Kirk/Lester there, Spock busts her out for about 5 seconds before the security people alert the captain and she comes to stop them.

Having caught them, Lester in Kirk’s body arranges to court martial Spock for mutiny.

In the courtroom, the captain, Scotty and McCoy preside. Spock successfully argues to have Lester brought in to give evidence and Kirk, in Lester’s body, is able to rile the real Lester up even more.

He says the switch was brought about by a violent attack and impostor Kirk openly scoffs at that idea:

Kirk: Violence by the lady, perpetrated on Captain Kirk? I ask the assembled personnel to look at Doctor Janice Lester and visualise that historic moment. Can you, can you tell me why Doctor Janice Lester would agree to this ludicrous exchange?

Janice: Yes. To get the power she craved, to attain a position she doesn’t merit by temperament or training. And most of all, she wanted to murder James Kirk, a man who once loved her. But her intense hatred of her own womanhood made life with her impossible.


Lester, in Kirk’s body, is increasingly emotional and over-the-top angry.

Kirk rages in the conference room

During a recess before the panel is to vote, Scotty approaches McCoy and suggests they vote against convicting Spock. 

Scotty: 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.

(‘cause he’s never been a lady before and that’s rarely a word you apply to dudes?)

But when they get back to the room, they find their conversation was recorded. Lester, in Kirk’s body, orders the two of them to be put to death. Chekov and Sulu protest the death penalty is banned in Starfleet, but Lester’s anger and bitterness and emotional instability make it impossible for her to do anything reasonable to continue to try to pass more as the real Kirk.

The bridge crew starts resisting orders as they near the planet where Lester was going to leave Kirk, in her body, to slowly die. But suddenly, the mind transfer starts to degrade and for a moment Kirk finds himself back in his own body.

Kirk's face changes as he starts to return to his body

Lester goes and panics to Coleman, who says the only way to make the transfer permanent is to kill Kirk, in Lester’s body. But he still refuses to do so and Lester still finds herself incapable of committing that violence herself. After an argument she convinces Coleman to do it and they head over to the holding cell.

In the scuffle, their minds go back to their normal bodies, again, with no real explanation. Lester is sobbing and hysterical and apparently no longer a threat.

Kirk cradles a sobbing Lester

Lester: “Oh! I’ve lost to the captain. I’ve lost to James Kirk! I want you dead! I want you dead! I want you dead! Oh, I’m never going to be the captain. Never.”

Kirk agrees to let Coleman go take care of her in Sickbay and everyone’s cool with that even though he was obviously in on the whole thing, plus he’s clearly a sub-par doctor. 

To finish the episode, and the series, Kirk concludes, wistfully:

“Her life could have been as fulfilling as any woman’s. If only. If only.”

What we learned from this episode:

  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially a woman scorned by Captain Kirk
  • Women who feel left out of the boys’ club should just try to let it go and be happy in their femininity
  • A fulfilling life for a woman is different than a fulfilling life for a man

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. It’s confusing to evaluate this one. Does Lester in Kirk’s body count as a woman or does Kirk in Lester’s body count? Either way, it’s a pass. They both talk to Nurse Chapel and Lester, in Kirk’s body, talks to Lieutenant Lysa

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