20 "The Alternative Factor"

(airdate: March 30, 1967)

Writer: Don Ingalls
Director: Gerd Oswald

Lazarus: Robert Brown

Lt. Charlene Masters: Janet MacLachlan

Lesley [sic]: Eddie Paskey

Stardate: 3087.6

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is near an uninhabited planet when everything seems to cease existing for a moment. The phenomenon comes from the nearby planet, and there's now a human lifesign there. Kirk beams down and finds a man named Lazarus, who's chasing a monster who destroyed his home planet. However, Lazarus behaves erratically, alternately manic and calm, and with an injury on his forehead that also sporadically disappears. It turns out that there is another, antimatter universe, and that the Lazarus from that universe has been changing places with the Lazarus from this universe. This other Lazarus explains that, should both Lazaruses be present in the same universe at the same time, it would destroy everything. The other Lazarus is willing to keep the first Lazarus in the corridor joining the two worlds, leaving Kirk to destroy the machine that allows the Lazaruses to cross over. Kirk does so, leaving the two Lazaruses locked in combat for eternity.

Whoops!: The bridge set is awfully noisy, with lots of creaking sounds and rostrum noises present during these scenes. Lt. Masters has no rank insignia on her tunic, which technically makes her an ensign. The thickness of Lazarus's facial hair varies from scene to scene, being particularly thin in the conference room scene.
     Why is Lazarus allowed to wander anywhere he pleases, both on the planet's surface and, more importantly, on the Enterprise? There's no one guarding him at any point, even after he's shown himself to be less than trustworthy. What kind of ship is Kirk running here? And why does Lazarus keep switching back and forth with his counterpart? Why is this process different on the Enterprise, where it just seems to happen, versus on the planet's surface, where the winking-out phenomenon occurs along with lots of storms and stuff? What's the difference? Proximity to Lazarus's ship?
     So, if identical particles meet, everything in existence will be destroyed, rather than just those particles. Except the other universe is described as an antimatter universe. So why hasn't the universe been destroyed any time the Enterprise uses her antimatter engines? Perhaps the key word is "identical", i.e., the exact counterpart of a specific particle. Of course, it's not remotely clear why that would at all matter, or why it would apparently cause either such a massive explosion that it would wipe out existence, or cause a chain reaction that would do the same thing. It looks like we have to just shrug and file this under the similar phenomenon of why a person can't be in two places at the same moment of historical time, even if it's at different moments in their personal timeline ("Tomorrow Is Yesterday").

Classic Lines: "Sometimes pain can drive a man harder than pleasure."

Cringe Lines: "Bones, if I had time, I'd laugh."

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: Lazarus uses some sort of either aerosol or powerful smell to knock out both a redshirt in Engineering and Lt. Masters. He also knocks out an ensign in the transporter room.

Library Computer: On an uncharted but typical, iron-silicon planet, reddish-brown in color and largely arid, with no [intelligent] life, the Enterprise found an unexpected human: a white male named Lazarus, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a thin, wispy goatee, wearing tattered black and blue clothes with a metallic quality. His appearance coincided with a "pulsation phenomenon": for an instant, every quadrant in the galaxy blinked out of existence, disrupting magnetic and gravitational fields, causing radiation fluctuations and time warp distortions, and other effects. The phenomenon also drained the dilithium crystals that power the Enterprise. [Note the change from just lithium crystals in "Mudd's Women". They're also different in appearance; there they looked like natural crystals, but here they look like thick, glowing, translucent paddles.] This effect was unexplainable by any established physical laws.
     Lazarus claimed he was chasing a monster who had destroyed his entire planet, and that he had escaped because he was inspecting magnetic satellites at the time it happened. However, when the Enterprise attempted to verify Lazarus's story, they found no planet located at the coordinates he had given. Lazarus then claimed that he was in fact a time traveller, and that the planet they had found him on was in fact his former home, but that that had been in the distant past.
     However, the monster Lazarus was chasing in fact turned out to be another version of Lazarus, from a different universe. This Lazarus, who frankly seemed more calm and rational than the other Lazarus, claimed that he was being pursued because his people had proved the existence of another universe, and once the Lazarus from [presumably] our universe discovered that there was another Lazarus, he became obsessed with destroying him. This Lazarus was willing to stay locked in a struggle with "our" Lazarus in the corridor linking the two universes in order to avoid potentially destroying everything.
     [It's difficult to know who, if either, is telling the truth. While we can probably discount most of what "our" Lazarus says, there's still the matter of how he came to be on the planet in the first place. It doesn't look like his craft is capable of space travel (although he does refer to it as a spaceship). Did he in fact travel in time, as he claims? But if he came from the past, why is there no trace of his civilization on the planet? Perhaps he came from the future? And just because the other Lazarus seems more rational, that doesn't necessarily mean he isn't a sociopath who actually did what "our" Lazarus claims he did; his act of self-sacrifice at the end may indicate that he's "good", but it could also just be that he doesn't want to have everything destroyed.]
     Both Lazaruses have a small, white, circular craft, with a clear transparent dome on top, decorated with a red starburst. This dome is removable. There's a fin on the rear of the craft. At the front of the craft is a gap, where the person enters the craft, with a small seat in the center of the vessel. On either side of this gap is a panel containing a dilithium crystal. Passing through this gap while the crystals are activated allows passage through an "alternative warp", which is a sort of negative magnetic corridor linking our universe with a different, antimatter universe. A person [or object] passing through this warp causes the pulsation phenomenon that the Enterprise witnessed. Should identical particles from one universe enter the other while the counterpart particles are present in the other universe, the result would be universal annihilation; hence the alternate Lazarus's sacrifice. While this gap is open, radiation "leaks" through into our universe. This radiation is strong enough to manifest itself as a pulsing light which can be seen from orbit.
     Commodore Barstow is an older male, with greying hair, wearing a gold command tunic with a starburst patch [the Starfleet Command assignment patch]. He ordered the Enterprise to investigate the pulsation phenomenon, warning Kirk that it could be the prelude to an invasion.
     Lt. Masters is a young black woman with short hair, dressed in a sciences blue tunic. She appears to have some authority in Engineering [since she's in more or less the Scotty role this episode].
     The Enterprise has protective silver suits that can be worn in case of fire.
     Code Factor 1 is a Starfleet code indicating invasion status.
     There is a Starbase 200.

Final Analysis: "Yes, two men. Different, but identical. And a hole in the universe - no, not a hole. A door." Robert Brown does an outstanding job as Lazarus (even more so considering he was a last-minute replacement for John Drew Barrymore, who literally didn't show up for shooting), but the problem is that the underlying threat of the episode is too abstract and muddled to really draw in the viewer, thus making it unclear what the point is. It doesn't help that there's nothing else to engage with, meaning that it's also rather leaden in pace while they fill out the time. Not recommended.

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