Well, here we are. The last episode of the original series. How did Star Trek, a show remembered today for its progressive, humanist politics, a show that made distinctive statements on the evils of racism and how we’re all in this together, go out with its last episode?
With an episode that is oh so blatantly sexist.
Now, I always believe in being fair, and to be fair, the producers and actors and everyone else involved probably had no idea this would be the last episode. It may or may not have been the last one the show produced and then the network just scheduled it for last. For all I know, the network deliberately chose the last few episodes to be among a lot of forgettable or bad episodes in order to prevent another letter writing campaign from keeping Star Trek on for a fourth season. Why request the return of a crappy show?
Well, anyway, here we are. The episode that suggests women can’t be starship captains because, well, they be cray-cray or something. On a mission to check up on a dying scientist by the name of Dr. Janice Lester, an old flame of Kirk’s, there’s some tension and then the ham begins.
It occurs to me the first episode of this show to actually air featured a visit to an old flame of McCoy’s. These visits never work out.
Case in point, though told Dr. Lester is dying of some strange radiation illness, once Kirk is left alone with her, Lester knocks him into some kind of machine and switches bodies with him. But somehow, now in Kirk’s body, she can’t bring herself to kill Kirk in her own. Instead, she’s going to take over the Enterprise–as she believes it’s her due–and abandon Kirk somewhere with her accomplice/assistant.
Now, Kirk-in-Lester’s body spends a lot of time either locked up or tranquilized. But surely Lester just not having Kirk’s knowledge on what he’s supposed to be doing will be enough to unseat her, right?
Well, maybe. That’s here. But the real problem is Lester, as described by Kirk, hates her own femininity and wants something she isn’t suited for, namely what he has. So, why not kill Kirk and take his place?
Oh, that logic hurts so much.
But even if that weren’t enough, we get some really, really prime Grand H Shatner Ham as William Shatner just…loses it. Shatner never reached this level of scenery chewing in any other episode of the series. Is this, honestly, Shatner’s idea of what an angry woman looks and sounds like?
By contrast, guest star Sandra Smith actually does a decent turn as Kirk in a woman’s body. She’s reminiscent of Shatner without sounding like she’s doing an impersonation. I can’t explain it any other way.
But all that blatant hysteria (not her general lack of knowledge on Starfleet procedures) is what gets her caught. Spock first, of course, as Kirk-in-Lester’s body tries citing old adventures only for Spock to point out that stuff could come from Starfleet records, but a mindmeld convinces him. McCoy and Scotty, brought in to to see to Spock’s court martial, recognize that Kirk ain’t right though McCoy was already on his way there. And then even Sulu and Chekov decide not to follow orders when Lester-as-Kirk orders executions for Spock, McCoy, and Scotty. Granted, Sulu tried to explain why there wasn’t a death penalty anymore, but that just isn’t helping.
As for Uhura, she’s not in this one. Good for her.
Say, Kirk spends a lot of time shirtless in this episode. Was Lester checking her new body out? I mean, it was for a physical in SickBay, but that thought did cross my mind.
So, while Shatner rages out of control emotionally and loses the crew just as easily, I do have to ask: is Star Trek saying Lester is how all women would be if put in control of a starship or just this particular woman?
I think the episode attempts to frame it as the latter, but the former is how it comes out. Shatner’s acting in this episode really doesn’t help. The faces he makes when the body switch starts to wear off are priceless in their unintentional hilarity.
But as a last episode, however unintentional, I think I do have one final thought. So many episodes have Kirk romancing a new woman. Sometimes it ends tragically in all kinds of ways, but it still ends. Maybe what this is showing how Kirk’s philandering ways can come back to bite him in the ass. Yes, the episode suggests Lester’s own personality was the cause of the break-up, but can you imagine for a moment Kirk taking responsibility for one of his past relationships not working out? We’ve seen the guy lose a wife on a planet full of Native American stereotypes and somehow shrug off a chemically-induced permanent love for a spoiled princess without really getting too upset. You gotta figure sooner or later, one of those women might come back with something more than an unexpected Jim Kirk Jr. We’ll save that for Star Trek II.
But hey, if we are at the end of this segment of the Star Trek trek, am I done? Well, not quite. I think it may be time to take a look at the cheap and short-lived animated series.
But, for the original series, let’s give it an 8 out of 10 girl in every space port. Good and great episodes are abound, but the bad ones are truly terrible.