If you want an episode that combines the far-out 1960s with a little science fiction storytelling, The Alternative Factor is the one for you. It’s an odd one and sticks out from the rest for some reason. It could be due to the strange effects deployed to represent cross-dimensional battles or even the bizarre facial hair some characters wore. 

This episode was filmed at the Vasquez Rocks, where so many other Trek episodes have taken place through the years.

STARDATE: 3087.6

This one begins like many others. Kirk asked Spock for details on a planet he was scanning. Spock reported that this one is not special, and Kirk ordered the scans to continue. Suddenly, a huge noise rocked the ship, and an image of the Trifid Nebula was superimposed on all cast and set of the show. 

Kirk leaped from his chair and demanded to know what just happened. Spock said that everything in their sensor range almost “winked out.” Kirk said that was impossible.

Spock then said that scanners detected a “life-object” on the planet’s surface. He said that the object appeared as soon as the disturbance hit. Spock said it was a human, and could possibly pose a threat to the ship.

Kirk, Spock, and a bunch of redshirts beamed to the surface to investigate. They found his ship, which looked like a classic 50s “rocketship” style of craft, with a bulbous globe covering the cockpit. I wonder if this was recycled from another, earlier show. 

Our Dynamic Duo is back — this time, to solve the mystery of The Goatee and the Earthquake! Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Our Dynamic Duo is back — this time, to solve the mystery of The Goatee and the Earthquake! Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Just then, a figure called out to the team, very glad that they arrived at last. His name was Lazarus (Robert Brown), and he said that it was “not too late” and that they could still “stop him.” 

Lazarus wore all a sparkly blue jacket, a dark shirt, blue pants with a pirate’s belt, and a strange goatee. As soon as he finished speaking, Lazarus fell from the rocks. 

Back on the ship, Kirk learned that the strange phenomena which occurred earlier affected their dilithium crystals. He ordered that they be “reamplified” at once.

Spock later reported that the magnetic effect was nowhere to be found, which was highly illogical. He did note that the force was most potent on the planet below. Uhura told Kirk that they were getting a message from Starfleet Command — Code Factor One

“Invasion status,” Kirk said, who then ordered everyone on the ship to battle stations. Uhura put the message on screen. This is said to be the first time that the Enterprise communicated with a Starfleet official face-to-face, and not by radio message on the show.

The Commodore told Kirk that the effect was felt through every quadrant of the galaxy, and magnetic and gravimetric fields were disrupted. Starfleet wanted to know if this disturbance was natural or mechanically created somehow. Kirk thought that it might be “prelude to invasion.”

Robert Brown as Lazarus. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Robert Brown as Lazarus. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

The official agreed and said that the Enterprise must investigate and that all other ships within 100 parsecs would be evacuated. 

“You mean, we’re the bait?” Kirk asked. The Commodore wished him luck. 

Kirk asked Spock to go to the surface to investigate. Kirk went to see their guest, who said that he’d chased this “devil’s spawn” across the universe. 

“He’s humanoid — outside,” he said. “But inside, he’s a hideous murdering monster. I’ll get him, captain. I swear it.”

Lazarus said that the enemy destroyed his entire civilization, save for him. Kirk described the disturbance the ship encountered when Lazarus first appeared.

“It’s he! He’s death — anti-life,” said Lazarus. “He lives to destroy!”

Lazarus said that it was ‘he’ who attacked. Kirk said they had no other evidence, and they’d beam down together to confirm the story. 

On the planet, Spock said there were no other humanoid life forms, and suggested that Lazarus lied to the captain. Lazarus argued with Spock and then was struck by something. He ran off, and the screen blurred… Kirk followed.

“I don’t know Jim, this is a big ship,” said Bones. “And I’m just a country doctor.”

Lightning effects crashed, and the special effects team put the nebula back on the screen, which indicated that the galaxy-wide disturbance was happening again. Lazarus ran around the area, yelling when suddenly a second figure dropped in and attacked. They wrestled as the camera filming the action tilted in all directions. They also appeared to have been reversed or shown in the negative. 

Eventually, Lazarus fell. Spock and Kirk ran to him as he yelled that the enemy would kill everyone if they did not kill him first. He then yelled, “Kill!” over and over as the show faded into a commercial break.

Back on the Enterprise, McCoy nursed Lazarus back to health. Spock could not explain the phenomenon but did not believe Lazarus’ story. McCoy was puzzled by Lazarus’ healing powers. Kirk asked where Lazarus was.

“I don’t know Jim, this is a big ship,” said Bones. “And I’m just a country doctor.”

Lazarus was, in fact, in the mess hall. He overheard members of the crew talking about the dilithium crystals. When he rose to leave the room, the “attack” happened again. Kirk and McCoy found him hanging onto a wall. McCoy pulled a bandage off Lazarus’ forehead to reveal a scar. Kirk was then called to the bridge, and Lazarus followed.

On the bridge, Spock detected a radiation source on the planet’s surface. Spock said they didn’t see it before because it was “not there.” He said that he was at a loss of words. 

“It may be described, though loosely and inaccurately, as a rip in our universe,” said Spock. “A kind of physical warp, Captain, in which none of our physical laws apply with any regularity.”

Janet MacLachlan as Charlene Masters. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Janet MacLachlan as Charlene Masters. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Spock said that he used the dilithium crystals to “localize it.” Lazarus yelled and said the crystals could “do it.” He said the crystals could help trap the enemy. He asked for the crystals, and Kirk refused. 

“You fool,” said Lazarus. “There won’t be any ship if we don’t kill him! He’ll destroy all of you!”

Kirk asked Lazarus how this all connected. Lazarus said that he would have the crystals, then left the bridge.

NOTE: How Spock used the crystals to “localize” something was not very well explained. I always thought that the dilithium crystals were like giant batteries, which were used to power the ship — not a tool for other purposes. I guess the producers slipped the words into the script just to give Lazarus an excuse to demand the crystals.

After he walked off the bridge, Lazarus had another bout. He got it together enough to wander down to engineering, where Lt. Charlene Masters (Janet MacLachlan) was tending to the amber dilithium crystals. Masters responded to a question from Kirk on the comlink, and Lazarus overpowered a red-shirted engineering crewman. 

When she responded to Kirk, telling him that she could prepare a test chamber for him, Lazarus walked up behind her and used a device to put her to sleep. She called out to Kirk before she fell unconscious. 

Kirk got Lazarus into a room, with Spock, Masters, and others to interrogate the stranger. Kirk also noted that some of the dilithium crystals were missing. 

NOTE: It’s hard to miss that Lazarus’ bizarre facial hair changed from the last scene. There were fewer strands, but it still looked strange.

Lazarus said that his enemy needed the crystals, and it was he who stole them. Kirk decided that they would beam to the planet’s surface along with Lazarus. Once on the surface, Spock realized that he could not identify the source of the radiation anymore. The landing party spread out in search of the crystals. 

Ah! The time machine! This explains everything. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Ah! The time machine! This explains everything. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Soon, another incident happened with Lazarus. When it passed, Lazarus fell from a high cliff wall, just after warning Kirk of falling rock.

Back on the Enterprise, McCoy resuscitated him. Kirk said that all the evidence was pointing to Lazarus being a liar. Lazarus admitted that he’d been lying, but confessed that his ship was a “time chamber.” Both he and his enemy are time travelers, and that they were orbiting the planet of his home.

Kirk asked again for the location of the crystals. Lazarus appeared to be delirious, and McCoy sent Kirk away. As soon as the captain left, Lazarus rose from the gurney and had another mini-bout.

Later, Spock said he was upset that the Enterprise’s scanners were working correctly, but still could not pinpoint the location of the radiation. He speculated that the source was from outside the known universe. He and Kirk realized that these two universes might be interacting when Lazarus has his battles, and there must be two Lazarus beings.

Spock said that Lazarus and his copy represent two universes — matter and antimatter. He said if they met, everything would be annihilated. 

Meanwhile, as Lazarus wandered through the decks, he removed some electronic components from the “energizers,” which caused them to be short. Engineering was soon filled with smoke. 

NOTE: It seems fitting that Scotty was not featured in this episode. His standard engineering section didn’t either. Masters and her assistant operated in a smaller engineering space for this episode. Perhaps it was easier to fill with smoke than the standard engineering area.

Kirk and Spock arrived at engineering in time to see that the fire was contained. Spock said that it must have been set by Lazarus as a distraction so that he could steal the dilithium crystals.

Moments later, Lazarus overpowered the transporter chief and beamed himself to the surface. Kirk told Spock that he would follow and that Spock should get a security detail together and transmit to the surface as well.

NOTE: Lazarus beamed himself down! He ran the console and then ran onto the pad in time to transport down. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. 

On the planet, Lazarus plugged the dilithium crystals into his ship. Kirk arrived and reached into the ship… an electrical pulse zapped Kirk, and he disappeared. Lazarus yelled, “NO!”

Kirk then appeared in the negative universe for a bit, then spun down in the parallel universe. Lazarus, the calm one, said that he was not expecting Kirk, but the ‘other’ Lazarus. They chatted about how everything was antimatter there, and how the bad Lazarus took two more dilithium crystals. Kirk agreed to help stop the bad Lazarus.

“Yes. Or he is. It depends on your point of view,” said Lazarus.

Lazarus told Kirk that the captain passed through a negative corridor between universes. 

“It keeps eternity from blowing up,” said Lazarus.

The universal-wide event happened with the bad Lazarus entered this corridor. He also said that bad Lazarus became obsessed with the ‘other’ Lazarus. 

“So you’re the murdering monster?” asked Kirk.

“Yes. Or he is. It depends on your point of view,” said Lazarus.

Lazarus said that Kirk needed to push the bad one through the corridor so the good one could hold him. Kirk would then destroy the ship, and they’d be trapped.

Kirk passed back through and attacked bad Lazarus, forcing him through the corridor. Spock took the crystals, and Kirk destroyed the ship with the Enterprise’s phasers. 

Afterward, Kirk and Spock talked about how the universe was now safe.

“But what of Lazarus?” Kirk asked.

TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:

This was a bizarre episode. Strange all the way around. I wonder how much scientific basis there was in this negative universe stuff that was talked about by Lazarus. Probably not that much. Anyhow, the producers must have liked Robert Brown’s performance as Lazarus, as he returned to the show for Season 2’s “The Trouble With Tribbles” as a Klingon.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

CREDITS

Directed by: Gerd Oswald
Written by: Don Ingalls
Produced by: Gene L. Coon
Executive Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Associate Producer: Robert H. Justman
Script Consultant: Stephen W. Carabatsos
Music composed and conducted by: Alexander Courage
Director of Photography: Jerry Finnerman
Art Directors: Roland M. Brooks and Walter M. Jeffries

STARRING

William Shatner as Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Spock

GUEST STAR

Robert Brown … as Lazarus

FEATURING

DeForest Kelley … as Dr. McCoy
Janet MacLachlan … as Charlene Masters

WITH

Nichelle Nichols … Uhura
Richard Derr … Barstow
Arch Whiting … Assistant Engineer
Christain Patrick … Transporter Chief
Eddie Paskey … Lesley

Film Editor … James D. Ballas, A.C.E.
Assistant to the Producer … Edward K. Milkis
Assistant Director … Michael S. Glick
Set Decorator … Marvin March
Costumes created by … William Theiss

Post Production Executive … Bill Heath
Music Editor … Jim Henrikson
Sound Editor … Douglas H. Grindstaff
Sound Mixer … Carl W. Daniels
Photographic Effects … Film Effects of Hollywood
Script Supervisor … Billy Vernon
Music Consultant … Wilbur Hatch
Music Coordinator … Julian Davidson
Special Effects … Jim Rugg
Property Master … Irving A. Feinberg
Gaffer … George H. Merhoff
Head Grip … George Rader
Production Supervisor … Bernard A. Windin
Makeup Artist … Fred B. Phillips, S.M.A.
Hair Styles by … Virginia Darcy, C.H.S.
Wardrobe Mistress … Margaret Makau
Casting … Joseph D’Agosta
Sound … Glen Glenn Sound Co.

A DesiLu Production in association with the Norway Company

Executive in Charge of Production … Herbert F. Solow