The original series of Star Trek ended with a whimper, not a bang. Ratings were always a problem, and the series only survived as long as it did by making a good show that developed a fan base that embarked on a letter-writing campaign to keep it going. When it rolled around to the third season, the network had pretty much given up on it, slashed the budget, and moved it to a lousy timeslot. Gene Roddenberry walked out, the storylines became pathetic, and the actors simply went through the motions. The final episode, Turnabout Intruder, was one of the weakest episodes of a dismal season.
Captain Kirk gets unwillingly bodyswapped with Dr Janice Lester, a woman apparently driven insane by a failed relationship with Kirk and the failure to become a ship’s captain due to her gender. While Lester-Kirk takes over the Enterprise and starts giving insane orders, Kirk-Lester struggles to convince everyone that really he’s Kirk and the victim of a mad plan. Spock slowly starts to figure out what’s going on, and Bones agrees with him and gives Lester-Kirk some tests to prove that strange things are afoot. Lester-Kirk passes the tests, but Spock takes Kirk-Lester’s side and gets put on trial for mutiny because of it.
Spock puts up a decent defence but loses due to a technicality. Bones and Scotty discuss Lester-Kirk’s irrational behaviour and how mutiny may not be a bad thing, and promptly suffer the same fate. With Lester-Kirk getting completely out of control, Sulu and Chekov are the next to rebel, and with the strain of the bodyswap taking its toll, Kirk and Lester finally return to their own bodies. With things back to normal, Kirk comments on how Lester’s life could have been as rich as any woman’s… if only…
It’s a dismal episode and you don’t know if you should feel embarrassed for Shatner acting a bit swishier because he’s got a woman’s personality or marvelling at how it’s sexist in trying to be non-sexist. For all the talk of equality in the future, we’re supposed to believe that a woman went nuts due to a bad romance and by failing to make the grade.
It’s no wonder that the fans have hated it so much for years. There’s no big goodbye, the characters don’t get to shine, and the lack of enthusiasm of the actors and director is evident. The only positive is that at least it isn’t Spock’s Brain. So what should they have done? It’s simple: it never should have happened. Unlike other Star Trek shows, this one didn’t have a built-in fan base to start with, and if more people had latched on to it then the show could have gone on for five successful seasons. However, this really wasn’t the final episode. That was Star Trek VI.
The sixth film may not have been their final episode but it was their final adventure. Beginning with a tribute to the late Gene Roddenberry, it had a decent story, and while it may not have been the best of the films it still holds up. There are touching moments between the characters, and Spock and Kirk discussing how they’ve outgrown their usefulness to Starfleet – and the franchise – rings true. Every character gets a moment to shine and Sulu even gets his own ship.
The theme for the film is change and how some people fear it, including those were wary of the new TV series. They pave the way for the Klingons in The Next Generation and beyond. Finally as they acknowledge that the adventure is over forever, Kirk tells us that others will continue their voyages, and the actor’s signatures fill the screen as their final goodbye to the fans.
Some have argued that the original cast should have done it sooner, and that they outstayed their welcome. That’s a matter of opinion, and one I don’t share because they made some good films along the way. For my money, this is the way to bow out: with style, thanking the fans and inviting them to stick around for more Star Trek adventures.