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The Alternative Factor (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"The Alternative Factor"
TOS, Episode 1x20
Production number: 6149-20
First aired: 30 March 1967
Remastered version aired: 1 December 2007
21st of 80 produced in TOS
27th of 80 released in TOS
49th of 80 released in TOS Remastered
27th of 728 released in all
Alternative warp
Written By
Don Ingalls

Directed By
Gerd Oswald
3087.6 (2267)
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Investigating the cause of a massive, galaxy-wide disruption in space, the Enterprise finds a mad scientist who claims that he is being pursued by a hideous being.



In standard orbit around an iron-silica-type uncharted planet, the USS Enterprise prepares to complete its survey, when the starship is rocked twice and everything within sensor range suddenly "blinks", almost as if the universe is on the verge of ceasing to exist. And, in the wake of this, a man appears on the surface of the planet, where moments earlier there was no life.

Act OneEdit

Beaming down, Captain Kirk, Spock, and the landing party encounter a man. Dirty, and disheveled, he falls from a rock. The landing party returns to the Enterprise with him, where Kirk learns more news – the strange phenomenon drained the dilithium crystals almost completely. Still worse, Starfleet issues a Code Factor 1 message – invasion status. The effect experienced by the Enterprise was also experienced everywhere in the galaxy, and far beyond. Starfleet withdraws all nearby ships – Kirk and Enterprise are the bait.

Kirk talks to his "guest" – a man named Lazarus, who is pursuing a "thing," a monster who destroyed his entire civilization. Beaming down, Kirk learns from Spock that there is no other creature here. Accusing Lazarus of lying, Kirk demands the truth – and the universe turns inside out. The same "winking" phenomenon occurs again. And Lazarus... first he has a bandaged forehead, and then he doesn't, and then he does again.

Act TwoEdit

Iron-silica planet onscreen, remastered

Strange energy visible on the planet on the viewscreen

Meanwhile, Spock has discovered a source of radiation that is not there – a "rip" in the universe, where regular physical laws do not apply. The key to locating this source seems to be the dilithium crystals – a revelation which excites Lazarus, who demands the impossible: that Kirk give him the crystals.

The captain refuses, but Lazarus overpowers two engineering officers and steals two crystals, nevertheless.

Act ThreeEdit

Kirk confronts him, but he denies it, blaming his monster. And the evidence suggests he isn't the thief, for the crystals are not aboard his ship. Back aboard the Enterprise, Kirk confronts Lazarus with his lies, and learns that Lazarus distorted a fact: he is a time traveler. The dead world Enterprise orbits is the distant future of his destroyed homeworld; the place and time he has traveled to in pursuit of the monster.

Speculating, Kirk and Spock conclude that the strange energy must come from a source outside the universe. A source in another universe. There are two copies of Lazarus, and they are periodically exchanging places through a kind of door – and if they ever exist in the same universe at the same time, everything, everywhere, will be annihilated in a cataclysmic matter/antimatter explosion.

Meanwhile, the alternative Lazarus creates a diversion by starting a fire in main engineering, steals the ship's energy crystals, then beams down. Kirk pursues. As he attempts to enter Lazarus' spaceship, he vanishes, hurled through the corridor into the other universe.

Act FourEdit

Once there, he meets the other but sane Anti-Lazarus, and learns the truth. Anti-Lazarus' people discovered how to pass through the negative magnetic corridor that both connects and protects the two universes. When this happened, Lazarus couldn't bear the knowledge that he had a duplicate, and resolved to destroy his other. He is mad and doesn't care if this causes the death of two universes. Anti-Lazarus and Kirk realize he must be stopped: if Kirk can force Lazarus into the corridor, Anti-Lazarus can hold him there, and Kirk can destroy his spaceship – which will also destroy Anti-Lazarus' spaceship. Access to the corridor will be sealed forever and both universes will be safe, but the men named Lazarus will be at each others' throats for the remainder of eternity. Kirk goes back through the corridor and in a hand-to-hand combat throws Lazarus into the corridor. Back on board, Kirk orders the Enterprise to fire phasers at the time ship, which then disappears in both universes; both Lazarus and Anti-Lazarus are trapped forever in the corridor and both universes are saved.

Log EntriesEdit

  • "Captain's log, stardate 3087.6. While investigating an uncharted planet, the Enterprise, and at least this entire quadrant of space, has been subjected to violent, unexplained stress and force. Sensors have reported the presence of a human being on the planet below who might be connected with the phenomenon. With my first officer and a security team, I have set out in search of him."
  • "Captain's log, stardate 3088.3. We continue to orbit the dead planet, which seems to be the source of the phenomenon which has struck the Enterprise, and all sections of the galaxy, once again. As for Lazarus, the story he tells me about the humanoid continues to trouble me."
  • "Captain's log, stardate 3088.7. We are no closer to finding an answer to the strange phenomenon than we were at the beginning. Not only have two of my crewmen been attacked, two of our dilithium crystals are missing, and without them, the Enterprise cannot operate at full power. They must be found."

Memorable QuotesEdit

"I want facts, not poetry."

- Kirk, after Spock describes the cosmic disturbances as "winking out"

"He's death! Anti-life! He lives to destroy!"

- Lazarus, on his anti-matter counterpart

"Are you deaf as well as blind?!"

- Lazarus, to Kirk and company

"I fail to comprehend your indignation, sir. I've simply made the logical deduction that you are a liar."

- Spock, to Lazarus

"Sometimes pain can drive a man harder than pleasure."

- Kirk to McCoy, on an injured Lazarus

"Jim, madness has no purpose or reason. But it may have a goal."

- Spock

"If they meet."
"Annihilation, Jim. Total, complete, absolute annihilation."

- Kirk and Spock, on the two Lazarus counterparts existing in the same universe

"So you're the terrible thing? The murdering monster? The creature?"
"Yes, captain. Or he is. It depends on your point of view, doesn't it?"

- Kirk and the anti-matter Lazarus

"You'll be trapped inside that corridor with him forever. At each other's throats throughout time."
"Is it such a large price to pay for the safety of two universes?"

- Kirk and the anti-matter Lazarus, on sealing the magnetic corridor

"Captain, the universe is safe."
"For you and me. But what of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?"

- Spock and Kirk

Background Edit

Production TimelineEdit

Story Edit

File:Lazarus falling from cliff.jpg
  • The original script called for a romantic entanglement between Charlene Masters and Lazarus that was eventually cut for a number of reasons. Chief among them was that an African-American actress was cast as Masters and southern broadcast companies were reluctant to show a "black-white" romantic interlude on network television. (A similar problem would come up again in "Plato's Stepchildren" but the southern stations eventually gave in.) The removal of this subplot created a "void" in the script, which was filled with additional planetside action. Unfortunately, the action consisted largely of Lazarus repeatedly wandering about the desert planet, falling off cliffs and encountering his nemesis "the thing". [1]

Cast and Characters Edit

File:Leslie-nav ltcmdr-Alternative Factor-TOS.jpg
  • James Doohan (Scotty) and George Takei (Sulu) do not appear in this episode. For unknown reasons they were substituted in the roles of engineer and helmsman by Charlene Masters and Mr. Leslie, respectively.
  • This was the second episode that Leslie would been seen in the command chair, and the first episode in which Eddie Paskey is credited in the ending credits, albeit as "Lesley".
  • Richard Derr, who plays Commodore Barstow in this episode, later played Admiral Fitzgerald in the episode "The Mark of Gideon".
  • Actor John Drew Barrymore (father of actress Drew Barrymore) was originally contracted to play Lazarus, but didn't show up to work when filming began on 16 November 1966. The grievance filed against him on this account by the Star Trek production team led to him being unable to obtain acting work for six months in 1967. Robert Brown was a last-minute replacement. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)
  • After Barrymore failed to show up on the set, director Gerd Oswald decided to shoot scenes which didn't involve his character. On the second day, it was decided to either shut down production and scrap the episode overall or find a replacement. Robert Brown was literally dragged in to the set, right after he agreed to play the role. He recounted the filming to be very tight and tense.[2]
  • There is no officer played by Larry Riddle as noted in the Star Trek Concordance. Lieutenant Larry Riddle was Charlene Masters' jealous boyfriend in the first draft of the script. [3]

Sets and PropsEdit

  • Part of the dilithium energizer panel uses the same controls as the neural neutralizer from "Dagger of the Mind".
  • The dome of Lazarus' time ship is later reused to encase the Providers in "The Gamesters of Triskelion".
  • For reasons unknown, the standing engineering set is not used in this episode. When Lazarus attempts to sabotage engineering, he does so to an entirely new (albeit smaller) set.
  • Along with "Friday's Child", this is one of the only two episodes where outdoor planet scenes were filmed both on Desilu Stage 10 and on location (both times at Vasquez Rocks).
  • Although Lazarus's spacecraft resembles a flying saucer, James Blish describes it as "cone-shaped" in his novelization of the episode in Star Trek 10.

Costumes and Make-upEdit

  • Periodically throughout the episode, the two versions of Lazarus exchange places. One of them has a wound or bandage on his head which McCoy treated: this is the 'insane' Lazarus from our universe; the other is his rational counterpart from the antimatter universe.
  • Lieutenant Masters wears no braid on the sleeves of her uniform, but she is addressed as a lieutenant. A similar wardrobe error happened in "Space Seed" when Lieutenant Marla McGivers also is "braidless."
  • Although Masters works in Engineering, she wears the blue uniform of the Science/Medical branch.
  • The thickness of Lazarus' facial hair changes drastically from scene to scene, and sometimes from shot to shot.
  • Lazarus' costume was later worn by an extra playing a Babel Conference delegate, in "Journey to Babel".


TOS planet

The iron-silica planet

  • The visual of the iron-silica planet from orbit is reused footage previously representing Alfa 177 in "The Enemy Within" and M-113 in "The Man Trap". This planet effect was reused again as Argus X in "Obsession" and Ardana in "The Cloud Minders".
  • The shot of the Enterprise destroying Lazarus's ship is unique on three counts. First, it is the only time the Enterprise is seen from behind as it fires phasers. Second, it is the only time that the ship fires a single beam (as opposed to the usual two). Finally, it is the only time that the phasers make no noise – at least when the beam is seen in space.
  • The footage of the two Lazaruses fighting was created by filming two stuntmen fighting in a smoke-filled room with orange and purple walls, then double-exposing its color negative footage over an astronomical photograph of the Trifid Nebula.
  • A still image in the closing credits of "The Squire of Gothos" shows the corridor between universes set unaltered by the effects and double exposure. Titled at a 45 degree angle, Shatner stands ankle deep in smoke in a near pose of the crucifixion, falling back into a purple corridor, where an orange line draws the horizon to a vanishing point.

Continuity Edit

  • This is the first time that live two-way communication with Starfleet Command is depicted. In previous episodes, communication with Starfleet Command was through delayed radio messages.
  • Unlike in the earlier "Mudd's Women", dilithium crystals are portrayed here as translucent amber slabs, which conveniently fit in the energy panels of Lazarus's ship.
  • Depending on which version of this episode you watch, the closing stills change. The original syndicated version and the VHS version show the still as the Enterprise leaving the Earth-like planet from "Miri", however, the Sci-fi Channel and DVD version show the still as just a blue planet, possibly Rigel 12 from "Mudd's Women" or Starbase 11 from "Court Martial".
  • Lazarus never introduces himself by name to Kirk, yet he calls him by name during the first planet search.

Reception Edit

  • The Agony Booth website included this episode among "The Worst of Trek". In their recap, they write that in the episode, "Very little actually happens, and what little that does comes about only because Kirk and Company are written to act in such a way that can only be described as severely brain damaged." The reviewer continues, "I never thought I'd say this, but this episode is making "Spock's Brain" look pretty goddamn good right about now!" He concludes, "this is one of the most poorly constructed fifty minutes I've ever seen. An almost impossibly incoherent script, a damp squib of a finale, and some horrible editing make this one of the true stinkers in the Trek universe." Also, he mentions that "[John Drew] Barrymore didn't show up for filming. Given the script, I can't say I blame the fellow. The rest of the cast should have done the same thing, to be perfectly frank." [4]

Remastered Information Edit

"The Alternative Factor" was the forty-ninth episode of the remastered version of The Original Series to air. It premiered in syndication on the weekend of 1 December 2007 and aside from the standard CGI replacement footage of the Enterprise and the planet-of-the-week, this episode also featured several new, modest effects shots of the alternative warp effect, as well as phaser and transporter effects.

The next remastered episode to air was "The Return of the Archons".

Video and DVD ReleasesEdit

Links and ReferencesEdit


Also Starring Edit

Guest StarEdit



Uncredited Co-StarsEdit

Stunt DoublesEdit


abrasion; alternative warp; antimatter; bandage; battle stations; blindness; "Bones"; bruise; bull; cartographic section; Code Factor 1; coffee; Commodore; deaf; devil; dilithium; dinosaur; Earth; energizer/energizing circuits; energy; experimentation chamber; explosives; Fahrenheit; general alert; gravimetric field; heaven; Hell; Human; hydrogen; iron; Lazarus' planet; Lazarus' spaceship; life survey; logic; magnetic communications satellite; magnetic field; matter; medic; Milky Way Galaxy; muscleman; negative magnetic corridor; ounce; oxygen; parallel universe; parsec; phaser bank; physician; poetry; powder keg; priority one; prison; pulsation phenomenon; quadrant; radiation; recuperative powers; red 2 message; safety valve; silicon; spaceship; Starbase 200; Starfleet Command; time chamber; time ship; time traveler; water; winking-out phenomenon; zero gravity

External linkEdit

Previous episode produced:
Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1
Next episode produced:
"Tomorrow is Yesterday"
Previous episode aired:
"Errand of Mercy"
Next episode aired:
"The City on the Edge of Forever"
Previous remastered episode aired:
"The Deadly Years"
TOS Remastered Next remastered episode aired:
"The Return of the Archons"

de:Auf Messers Schneide es:The Alternative Factor fr:The Alternative Factor ja:TOS:二つの宇宙 nl:The Alternative Factor

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