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Star Trek – Turnabout Intruder (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

This is the end.

And what an ignominious ending it is. Turnabout Intruder is the last episode of the original Star Trek run, bringing down the curtain on three years of boldly going and bidding farewell to this cast… at least for the moment. It is also an infamously terrible episode of television, in which Captain Kirk finds himself swapping bodies with the psychotic scientist Janice Lester. Lester is repeatedly categorised as insane, but her primary motivation seems to be rebellion against Starfleet’s institutional sexism.

It's full of stars.

It’s full of stars.

Seen as this is a Gene Roddenberry story, Turnabout Intruder sides entirely with Starfleet on the matter. This was the same writer and producer who would later balk at The Measure of a Man because he thought that Data should willingly surrender himself to Starfleet experimentation. So, instead of becoming an exploration of sexism and discrimination, Turnabout Intruder instead becomes a vigorous defense of institutionalised misogyny. Of course Starfleet doesn’t allow women captains, the episode suggests, they could never handle the strain!

It is an episode that really puts paid to the show’s claims of liberal progressivism, credited to a writer who would in later years cultivate a mythology of himself as the architect of that liberal progressivism. Turnabout Intruder is just about the most damning argument against the franchise’s utopian idealism imaginable, which makes it particularly insulting as a series finale.

William Shatner did not react well to news of cancelation.

William Shatner did not react well to news of cancellation.

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Star Trek (Gold Key) #56 – No Time Like the Past (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

It’s remarkable to think that Star Trek was kept alive in the decade between the airing of The Turnabout Intruder and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The most popular television show to air in the 1968 and 1969 season was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a show that was apparently lucky to receive two “best of” DVD collections in the early part of the last decade, collecting a grand total of eight of the 140 episodes. Given that Star Trek didn’t even rank among the twenty highest rated shows of that broadcast season, it’s incredible that the show endured for so long.

To be fair, there is a lot of material which fills the gap between the last episode of the live action television show and the first feature film. There was Star Trek: The Animated Series, perhaps the most high-profile release. There were a few novels, even if the tie-in line wouldn’t necessarily take off until the eighties. And there were the comic books, produced by Gold Key, notable as perhaps the largest publisher of non-superhero comics in the seventies.

These comics weren’t classics. It’s hard to argue that they are essential additions to the mythos, or that anybody would miss anything be ignoring them entirely. However, there’s a weird pulpy sci-fi charm to these stories that makes them interesting, even when you would wonder whether the artist or writer had actually watched any episodes of the show they were apparently adapting.



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