Second Union

Second Union

STAR TREK REWIND: “The Alternative Factor”

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

I don’t know where to begin with “The Alternative Factor.” There are so many pieces of the story that are incredible, but those pieces are edited in such a haphazard way (as with the Enterprise episode, “Cogenitor”) that none of the madness makes sense. During a routine survey of a planet, all hell breaks loose, and for a brief moment, Spock records a period of “non-existence.” A lifeform suddenly appears on the previously barren planet. They beam down to find a lunatic with a weird beard who insists he is hunting another lunatic somewhere on the planet.

Take a drink every time he falls off a cliff! Seriously. They bring him up to the ship just as Starfleet orders Kirk to investigate the phenomena because the effect was experienced throughout the galaxy and possibly beyond. Starfleet assumes it’s a prelude to invasion. The lunatic, a man named Lazarus (wild-eyed Robert Brown replacing the unreliable John Barrymore), tells Kirk he is pursuing “the Devil’s own spawn,” a man who destroyed an entire civilization and eluded capture. He swears this man is on the planet. They beam down, and Spock tells Kirk there is no such man.

Either Lazarus is lying, or he is telling the truth. Another strange event occurs that sends Lazarus into a place where he does battle with another man, presumably the “murdering monster” he has chased throughout the galaxy. Lazarus reappears all bloodied up, tells Kirk and Spock he was attacked. We fade out on his maniacal face as he screams, “KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!” “Country Doctor,” McCoy tells Kirk something’s up with Lazarus because his bandages and wounds keep vanishing and then reappearing. Kirk doesn’t take McCoy seriously until he and Spock come to the conclusion later on that there are two separate men named Lazarus, and each needs dilithium crystals to power their respective ships.

These two men are extremely dangerous. Why is it that Lazarus is never confined, or sent to the brig? He is actually permitted to walk the corridors of the ship and cavort with the crew! He makes his way to a room called “engineering” and steals dilithium crystals on two separate occasions! We get a new character: the lovely Lieutenant Masters. She gets considerable screen time where Scotty or Sulu could’ve easily filled the bill. From what I’ve read, she was meant to have a love affair with Lazarus, but the sub-plot was hastily written out of the script.

Lazarus’ beard irritates the hell out of me. With each scene change, the beard changes as well, altering in shape and mass. This could’ve been deliberate to indicate two different men at play, but it’s so jarring a change that it confuses me. The repetition of Lazarus screaming, falling off cliffs, and receiving bloody head wounds is unintentionally funny. The unfortunate aspect to all of this is that the story (if shot and edited correctly) is fantastic. You have two men, identical but from parallel universes who hunt each other down through time (I forgot to mention Lazarus is also a time traveler!) and should they ever come into contact with each other in our universe, it would mean the total annihilation of everything!

Parallel universe theories were getting hot around the time the episode was conceived. Erwin Schrödinger (of the famous “cat” quantum mechanics scenario) in 1952 speculated about the existence of parallel universes, or “multiverses.” Parallel universes have popped up in science fiction almost as much as body-snatcher and time travel stories. The much more successful parallel universe episode, “Mirror, Mirror” would premiere six months later.

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Janeway, Kirk to Picard, and Georgiou to Sisko — boldly read what no one has read before!

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