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The Alternative Factor
"The Alternative Factor" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #20, first broadcast on March 23 1967. The episode was written by Don Ingalls , and directed by Gerd Oswald .
Quick Overview: The crew of the Enterprise encounters a reality jumping madman.
On stardate 3087.6, the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, completes a mapping assignment of an uninhabited planet near Starbase 200. As the crew prepares to depart back to base, the Enterprise is rocked by an unknown energy pulse. Mr. Spock informs that the gravity pull of the planet fluctuated to zero and describes that the surrounding space seemed to momentarily "blink" out of existence.
Sensors then locate a human presence down on the planet that wasn't there before. Spock and Kirk, along with a three-man security detail, beam down to the planet to investigate and locate a small, one-man spacecraft. The human then appears, looking as a disheveled, bearded man; an apparent victim of some violent struggle. The man babbles on about having to stop someone before it's too late. He then staggers around as if sickened and accidently slips off a cliff. The man survives the fall, but is injured, and Kirk has him beamed to the Enterprise for examination.
Back on the ship, the engine room operator, Lt. Masters, informs Captain Kirk, that whatever the disturbance was, it drained the dilithium crystals in the warp core, and the Enterprise has about 10 hours of main power left before the ship loses orbit. A message is received from Starfleet which reports every Federation sector has been subjected to the same blinking effect and following electronic disruption as the Enterprise. Starfleet fears the disruption of all their equipment may be a prelude to an invasion of some kind and has ordered all ships (except the Enterprise), within 100 parsecs, to leave the area. Kirk is ordered to find the cause of the disturbance, alone.
Dr. McCoy notifies Kirk that the fallen man is now awake and Kirk goes to question him in his ready room. Kirk learns the man's name is Lazarus and he's on a fanatical crusade, chasing down a "monster" who destroyed his entire civilization. He describes his nemesis as a murdering beast, the anti-life, existing only to destroy. Periodically, Lazarus fades in and out of existence, encountering his adversary in a kind of dimensional corridor. Each time he does so, another energy blink occurs that ripples through the universe. It is obvious that Lazarus and the shock waves are related.
Dr. McCoy notices that a wound on Lazarus' head had healed quickly the last time he checked on him. Confronting him later they find the wound is back. Kirk thinks McCoy is imagining things, and replies that he is in no mood for games.
Kirk takes Lazarus to the bridge when Spock reports an amazing discovery down on the planet, a "rip" in space and time has formed near where Lazarus was found. The rip appears as a bright twinkling of light on the planet's surface. Lazarus insists that his enemy is trying to destroy the universe and he is causing the phenomena. He tries to enlist Kirk's help and demands Kirk to give him some dilithium crystal so that he may fix his ship and continue to fight his enemy. Kirk refuses, but Lazarus is undeterred and plots to steal some dilithium from the ship's engines himself.
When a theft of the material occurs, Kirk takes Lazarus to the meeting room for interrogation. Lazarus denies doing it, saying his enemy must have stolen it. Tired of Lazarus' double-talk and lies, he dismisses him having security escort him back to sickbay.
Kirk asks Spock for a hypothesis on Lazarus' behavior and Spock concludes that Lazarus' enemy is himself, an "anti-Lazarus", possibly from another dimension, an "anti-matter" dimension, and there may in fact be two of them running around. If Lazarus and his anti-self manage to destroy each other, it could spell doom for both universes. Spock also explains an "anti-matter universe" is only theory and no one has ever found proof of it.
Kirk beams back to the planet, with Lazarus and a security team, to search out this "hidden" enemy. Again Lazarus has another dimensional episode causing disruption of the planet, during which Lazarus slips and falls again. Lazarus is returned to sickbay, but Kirk enters and demands the truth from the injured man despite McCoy's suggestion of letting him rest.
Reluctantly, Lazarus explains himself as being a time traveler, and the planet below was once his great home world. The little spacecraft that he uses is in fact a dimensional time ship. He claims his enemy counterpart destroyed his civilization in the past and he's chased him for centuries. He presses the issue that Kirk must help him, but Kirk still refuses to get involved.
Lazarus however, is prepared to continue his mission. Slipping from sickbay, he creates a diversion in engineering to acquire the dilithium. With stolen crystals in hand, he beams down to the planet to repair his ship. Kirk follows, but Lazarus has activated his time machine just as Kirk tries to stop him. Stepping into the portal, Kirk is accidently teleported to the other anti-dimension where he encounters the anti-Lazarus.
This Lazarus however, seems sane, not the murdering monster the other Lazarus described. The anti-Lazarus steps forward and explains what is going on to Kirk. He admits to stealing the dilithium the first time, explaining he needed it to open the dimensional link. He informs Kirk that his people believed that two universes existed, and they tried to prove it but failed causing their own destruction. Lazarus however, found a way, but he confirms Mr. Spock's doomsday hypothesis of having broken the barriers between the matter and anti-matter universes.
He indicates that only one version of Lazarus can exist in one universe at a time and the two have been trying to stop one another from tearing apart their realities. If one doesn't stop the other, their constant encounters will destroy both universes. When asked what to do, the anti-Lazarus tells Kirk the "dimensional corridor" connecting them must be severed; that being Lazarus's dimensional ship. He must send the mad Lazarus back through the corridor and close off the portal for good.
Kirk returns to his universe and confronts the insane Lazarus, overpowering him and pushing him into his dimensional portal where he vanishes. Kirk heads back to the Enterprise, quickly ordering phasers to target the dimension ship. The two Lazaruses meet once more and begin to fight just as phaser beams vaporize the dimension ship. The two Lazaruses disappear back into the void, trapped between both universes to fight each other for eternity.
- In the scene where Lazarus is being interrogated in the meeting room by Kirk, you will notice Lazarus' beard is wearing quite thin and losing hair (which some is sticking to his shoulder). In the next scene when they beam down to the planet, his beard is full again.
- Lazarus' spaceship has a plastic dome on top, however In the scenes where Kirk crosses dimensions and talks to the "sane" Lazarus, (as seen in the sample picture above), the dome of Lazarus' spaceship is missing.
- Starfleet has received reports of time disruptions from "all over the galaxy and far beyond." All other episodes suggest that there is no Starfleet presence outside the galaxy
Despite some of the impressive visual effects, this episode is generally considered the worst of Star Trek's first season.
There are reasons for this. John Drew Barrymore was originally cast as Lazarus, but on the morning filming began was nowhere to be found, so the part had to be recast in a hurry with Robert Brown (The producers filed a grievance with the Screen Actors Guild, which suspended him from employment in its jurisdiction for six months as punishment). This accounts for the sometimes varying condition of Lazarus's beard.
The original script also called for Lazarus to have a relationship with an African-American woman on the Enterprise crew. NBC, however, became leery of whether its affiliates in Southern states would broadcast the episode, and demanded rewrites both during production and afterwards. Ultimately it was decided to edit that storyline out of the episode completely, with the character reduced to a walk-on in one scene, and the storyline clearly suffers.
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