The Star Trek spin-offs always ended in grand fashion, beginning with The Next Generation’s “All Good Things”. The original series’ final episode almost didn’t air! It was pre-empted because former president Eisenhower died, and didn’t air until June 3, two months later in a new time slot. Sure, now you fix the death slot, when you had one episode left and it didn’t matter! Given what we got, they should’ve just left it unaired.
In this episode, we meet Janice Lester, a feminist Starfleet officer who blames Starfleet’s “glass ceiling” for preventing her from having a Starship of her own. That’s my first problem with this episode–how are we to believe that Roddenberry’s future is so great when this form of discrimination still exists? Then again, considering how unstable Lester is, maybe I’m falsely sympathizing. The Enterprise is answering a distress call from Camus II, where she is participating in an archaeological expedition. There are only three survivors, including herself and Dr. Arthur Coleman. All of them are suffering from radiation poisoning, which may explain Lester’s instability.
While McCoy and Spock tend to the other survivor, Lester hatches her plan for revenge. She traps herself and Kirk inside a device and swaps her persona with Kirks: Kirk is now in Lester’s body, and Lester is in Kirk’s. (Note: In reviews I’ve seen of the episode, Kirk is referred to from this point on as Kirk-in-Lester, and Lester as Lester-in-Kirk. This is too awkward for me, so I won’t be doing that for simplicity’s sake.) Lester tries to strangle Kirk, but Spock and Bones stop her. She orders the landing party to return to the Enterprise. Once in sick bay, Lester places Kirk in Coleman’s care, despite Bones’s protests. Bones’s protests are justified because Coleman was ruled incompetent to serve on a starship by the surgeon general. Lester threatens him with demotion, but McCoy is unmoved.
Once they’re alone, Lester and Coleman do the villain-reveling-in-victory-too-early cliché. Lester is finally captain of a starship, while Coleman can finally serve as a medical officer. To further her plans, Lester has Coleman sedate Kirk. Spock is the only one who suspects anything because Lester ignores their current mission in order to drop off Kirk at the Benecia Colony. He objects because the Colony’s facilities are too primitive to care for Kirk. McCoy uses this opportunity to usurp her authority and insists on a medical exam, which Lester passes. Kirk escapes, but Lester slaps him until he’s unconscious, despite McCoy’s objections. Lester then orders Kirk to be put into isolation.
Spock persuades the guard to let him see Kirk, and he performs a mind meld, allowing him to discover the truth. Lester accuses Spock of mutiny and orders a court martial by trial. This only leads to more “mutinies” and some bad acting, even by William Shatner standards. (he tends to ham up “evil Kirk”.) Lester realizes the only way for her plan to work is to kill Kirk, and she has Coleman inject Kirk with a neurotoxin, but it instead reverses the swap.
This isn’t just my opinion, but the opinion of many Trekkers, in fact the episode is hated almost as much as the infamous “Spock’s Brain”. (Yes, we’re going to cover that one. You’ve been warned) Shatner puts on his worst “Evil Kirk” performance (although in his book Star Trek Memories, he admits that he was suffering from fever during the performance, so maybe it’s not all his fault). The episode has no redeeming qualities and should’ve just remained buried. The episode that aired before it, “All Our Yesterdays”, would’ve been a far better finale.