The Alternative Factor - episode #20

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The Alternative Factor - episode #20

Post  BoG on Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:43 pm


THE ALTERNATIVE FACTOR (1st season; episode #20)
Directed by Gerd Oswald / writer: Don Ingalls Like a Star @ heaven Air Date: 03/30/67

OK, here is, in my view, the worst episode of the first season. And, the strange thing is, it really begins promisingly - the threat which Kirk and the Federation face here is nothing less than the complete annihilation of our entire universe - surely the gravest cosmic problem encountered in Trek's history. It's one of those wild cosmic concepts which became more prevalent on the TNG series, a danger not restricted to a quadrant or even just our galaxy, but to everything - the universe. However, the execution of this story and the faulty pace of this episode is rather deplorable. The Trekmakers do have an excuse this time, which I relate in the Extra Trek Trivia portion below.
In the plot, Kirk, Spock and the others encounter a weird guy named Lazarus (Robert Brown) on a barren planet following a 'winking out' of all existence. Lazarus rants on about his nemesis, an enemy which looks humanoid but is a monster. By the 2nd act, we (the audience) realize that this Lazarus is insane, but Kirk and especially McCoy aren't so quick on the uptake, while Spock just calls Lazarus a liar. After a few very spacey phrases by this Lazarus, I would think the crew should realize the guy's not all there, especially  when Lazarus yells "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!" at one point. Yet, as in a few other weak episodes, an obvious nutcase like this one is given free reign within the Enterprise and this causes problems later (I think Kirk did assign security at some point, but they lost Lazarus a minute later).

However, those discrepancies above are not the most serious problem. There's way too much repetition throughout this episode: Kirk and some crew beam down to the planet's surface, they go back up to the Enterprise, then back down to the planet - over & over, it seems, with no results. Lazarus keeps falling off cliffs - this is what many recall about this episode. Lazarus falls off a cliff a 2nd time...then a 3rd.

Much of the attempted efforts to explain the dangerous cosmic effect come off as gobbledygook - is the side-effect a doorway in space? A hole between two universes? A corridor with explosions at both ends? Say what? There's also confusion as to whether Kirk is dealing with a time traveler here or hopping to parallel dimensions (far better realized in Mirror,Mirror early in the 2nd season). I finally gathered in the end that the threat revolved around matter and anti-matter of two duplicate objects coming together; but, boy, what a headache to get there.
But, that's not the worst sample of repetition in this tale; yes, it gets worse! Then we get that 'cosmic effect' and negative images in slow motion for the 4th or 5th time, meant to convey a struggle between - wait for it - two Lazarus dudes! By the stars, there are two of them! And as we all know, two into one won't go! This episode was a precursor to all those really bad, boring ones in the third season. I do give this one a bit more credit than some of those due to a genuinely chilling denouement at the conclusion. But, even here, it lapses into parody, as Kirk mutters "What of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?" - they had to overdo it. What of... my brain? - having to endure all this?  BoG's Score: 5 out of 10

ABOVE: This is the sane Lazarus (or is it?)   Arrow  This is the crazy Lazarus (with more hair in his beard?)

Extra Trek Trivia: actor John Drew Barrymore was originally cast as Lazarus, but failed to show up for shooting and had to be replaced by Robert Brown, causing the episode to go two days over schedule. Star Trek's producers subsequently filed and won a grievance with the Screen Actors Guild, which suspended Barrymore's SAG membership for 6 months. This may explain a rushed quality to the episode. Code Factor 1 is a Starfleet signal of invasion.


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ALTERNATIVE FACTOR FULL EPISODE

Post  BoG on Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:44 am

NOT-SO-CLASSIC TREK QUOTES:
Lazarus: "That was He! He's Death! Anti-Life! He lives to destroy!!"
Lazarus: "He'll kill us all if you don't kill him first!"
Lazarus: "You fool! There won't be any ship if we don't kill him. He'll destroy all of you!"
Lazarus: "Find my enemy. Find the Beast!"
Lazarus: "...are you deaf as well as blind!?"
Lazarus: "That's just it! That's the key! That's the way to trap him! That's the solution!!"


FULL REMASTERED EPISODE:




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Alternatives

Post  BoG on Sun Dec 26, 2010 5:52 pm

AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD TO THE MADNESS Laughing .
THE ALTERNATIVE FACTOR
As I wrote in my overview, the ideas in this one were interesting (maybe even mind-blowing), and it began well, but the execution was just terrible. Most of my problem with this episode has to do with the repetition. Some of this is almost torture for me to sit through as they repeat several similar scenes over and over. I have a personal theory about the final results on this one. As noted in the Trivia portion, the original actor hired for the central role of Lazarus never showed up (he had problems, such as a drinking problem). This caused a lot of problems for the production to get the episode completed and they did not finish it on time; I think they simply ran out of time in some ways. I think they ended up padding the episode with 'filler' scenes - such as duplicating a few scenes again & again, to fill out the required 50-minute time slot. Obviously, this lent a very dull, repetitive tone & style to the finished episode.
Some more Extra Trek Trivia: in an early draft of the episode's script, the above character of Lt. Masters was to have a romantic relationship with the nutty Lazarus; Lazarus used her to steal the ship's dilithium crystals in the original story; when an African-American actress (Janet MacLachlan) was cast, the network became leery due to the attitudes of Southern state populations back then, and demanded a re-write. Ah, the sixties. Rolling Eyes Nichelle Nichols would carry on the fight, however. This was probably the other reason the episode ended up as messy and full of filler (a guy falling off a cliff yet again and fighting with his double in slow motion).
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