A thought about Turnabout Intruder

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Mr_Homn, May 17, 2012.

  1. Mr_Homn

    Mr_Homn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Turnabout Intruder is known today as one of the more embarrassing episodes due to what many would call its very sexist subject matter.

    I'm not making this thread to argue whether Turnabout Intruder was sexist or not, or even if it was a good or bad episode.

    I just want to take a second to try and look at Turnabout Intruder, and it's context in the series as a whole, in a different mindset.

    Disclaimer: It is obvious that the following was not the thought process behind the episode in question, but it's a somewhat creative way of retconning it to be a little less offensive to women. THIS THREAD IS FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES. IF YOU HATE RETCONNING FOR LAUGHS, STOP READING NOW.

    I do not view Kirk as a sexist, given the time period the show was created. If the same show was created today, with the exact same writing, I would call kirk a sexist, much like Don Draper from MadMen (sometimes I like to think of Star Trek TOS as "Madmen in space") However, Knowing that this was a 60s television show, I would not label Kirk as a sexist, because honestly, men didn't know any better back then.

    Ok. Disclaimer out of the way.



    Let's try to look upon the series from the mindset of a modern person, perhaps a young woman, seeing it for the first time.

    So, we have Captain James T Kirk. Hero of the Galaxy, Champion of Humanity, Bravest Soul to ever soar through the stars. His main flaw: He's a sexist pig! There's more than enough evidence to at least HINT that Kirk has some slightly demeaning thoughts toward women, in the eyes of a first time viewer. Fair enough, Right? If we were to compile a list of Captain Kirk's flaws, that would be near the top. (from a soley 21st century perspective)

    What if we look at Turnabout Intruder as Kirk's comeuppance? He's going to learn his final lesson: What it's like to be treated when you are a women.... How much harder it is to be treated equally as a woman. Maybe now that he's been a woman, he can understand the error of his way in treating them the way he *sometimes* has in the past. Is this the final lesson he has to learn to complete his arc?

    I dunno, it's just a fun idea. I know it's silly but i'm bored. If anyone wants to run with it and elaborate, or tear down my stupid little idea, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think it works to read the episode that way, because it goes out of its way to treat Janice as incompetent at being a starship captain, prone to irrational, "hysterical" behavior and losing the loyalty of the crew, while Kirk in Janice's body remains strong and capable and wins the respect of the crew. True, it's nominally because Janice is insane, but there's a strong undercurrent that Janice is insane because she wants to fill a traditionally male role rather than being happy with a traditionally female one.

    I don't think TI overtly portrays Kirk as sexist. Janice is the one who claims that the "world of starship captains doesn't admit women," and Kirk agrees that's unfair. The problem is that the mentality behind the overall writing is sexist. Kirk in this episode is as fair and respectful toward women as he could possibly be in a script written with sexist assumptions underlying it. Nor do I think he was sexist in the series as a whole, given the same qualifier.

    And he doesn't learn any lessons in TI, except that his hopes of redeeming Janice were futile. At the end, he laments that she never learned her lesson: "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's, if only..." (I.e. if only she had accepted her place as a woman.)
     
  3. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Actually she says to Kirk "YOUR world of starship captains doesn't admit women." Not "THE world."

    Given how coocoo she is, I took that as a direct insult against Kirk himself, i.e. how he is so obsessed with his ship that he can't have a normal romantic life.
     
  4. Mr_Homn

    Mr_Homn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ]
    great catch, replacing "THE" with"YOUR" changes the meaning of the line entirely.


    I think it's more like

    "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's, if only... (If only she wasn't batshit insane)


    For what it's worth, Christopher, other than that, I think you are right, but I'm just trying to generate some discussion to view this episode in a slightly different light, so maybe some people can find it slightly more enjoyable. If I inspire one person to rewatch the episode and try and look at it in a different light, then this thread is a success!

    For the record, I think it's a shit episode and not one I frequently revisit, but that's not really the point of this thread.
     
  5. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    I've seen that episode dozens of times and I never got that idea at all though I've heard vast numbers of people talk about how "sexist" it is.

    Come on. Lester is a person (not just a woman) who we learn in the dialogue apparently sent an entire research team (we're not told how many people) to slow lingering death by radiation poisoning just to cover her body switch with Kirk.

    And she was fully prepared to execute a big part of the Enterprise command staff to advance her agenda as well.

    Why are we supposed to take the ravings of a mass murderer about Starfleet sexual discrimination seriously.? As for Kirk agreeing with "her". Probably just humoring a bat crazy person.
     
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  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Yes, that's the text, but as I said, there's a subtextual implication that Lester is crazy because she aspires to rise beyond traditional gender roles. Her behavior while she possesses Kirk is textbook "hysteria," a longstanding stereotype of female behavior. It's fortunate for modern viewers that it is possible to read the text in a way that dismisses Lester's behavior and beliefs as simple insanity, but evaluating the story critically and with an eye toward its cultural context suggests that the author's intent was not so gender-neutral, that there's an underlying message of "women should know their place."
     
  7. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    I never got that idea. Though I personally do not like women serving in the military that would be a TNZ thread no doubt.
     
  8. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The simple fact is, Lester is obviously insane. Not just because of 'hysteria', but flat out insanity. A kind of insanity that a man OR a woman could have. Thus, we cannot take anything she says seriously. She's not insane because she wants to rise above gender roles, she's insane...simply because she's NUTS! Not everything has to have a reason.

    I mean, come on. In this utopia that Gene was trying to create, does anyone really think he'd let something like this slide?

    Side note: Trivia...
    "You know I love you, baby, but you've got to lose about six inches off that ass." :guffaw:
     
  9. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    Actually, yes, for a couple of reasons. Roddenberry (by today's standards) was a serious womanizer, using the "casting couch" to full effect, so I doubt he would have seen anything wrong with the subtext. Also, the lecture circuits wouldn't start for another few years, so he had not yet begun to believe his own "hype" about Trek being a "philosophy of the future". Finally, Roddenberry had turned over the day to day production duties to Fred Friedberger and had little involvement with the production during the third season.

    Sincerely,

    Bill
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, being a womanizer isn't necessarily being sexist. I have the impression that Roddenberry was a charismatic man that women were eagerly attracted to, so it's not like he was victimizing anyone. Kirk was often portrayed as a character that got a lot of aggressive attention from women and just tended to go along with what they wanted. So I tend to figure that was something of a self-portrait on Roddenberry's part.

    Although, granted, what would constitute being respectful toward women in the 1960s would look rather more chauvinistic to modern eyes.


    But he did write the story outline to "Turnabout Intruder," which was mostly the same as what was scripted, and had a tag that was even worse:

    http://www.fastcopyinc.com/orionpress/articles/turnabout_intruder.htm
     
  11. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    See I'm the opposite, I don't see any reason why women shouldn't serve on the front line if they wish too. To say they can not or should not does them a diservice, equality means equal treatment.

    But back the episode at hand, Krik's line could mean any number of things. Is it not best to try and look for a positive slant on it, If only she wasn't mentally ill. Aside from a few scenes in "The Menagerie" we did see a women with the position of First Officer, it's fair to think that if they can get to First Officer they can get to Captain.
     
  12. T'Grinch

    T'Grinch Romulan Curmudgeon Administrator

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    I have to agree with Christopher. When I first watched this, around 1972-73, there was very much a "girls/women can't/shouldn't do this/that."

    It was very discouraging, because often there was no good reason for the "rules." In my case, I wanted to play Little League. "Oh you can play SOFTBALL, but girls can't play baseball!" Me: "Why the hell NOT?" (To this day, I hate softball. Wouldn't play it.)

    So watching that episode and Lester's frustration at being held back due to her sex was very familiar, and sad.

    And this:

    says it all. Even the progressive Captain Kirk thought women should keep their place.

    Unlike most, I like the TI episode. It's a shame that they made Lester murderous and seemingly crazy, but as a woman raised in the 1960s/1970s, I certainly personally understand her frustration with the "boys only" system. It sucked.

     
  13. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But that would give women an ability that male troops do not enjoy, simply because they are female. So women would be treated differently, because we are fluffy little weak things.

    :)
     
  14. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    I wrote an extended, well, defense of this episode in the comments on the OnionAV Club, when they reviewed it. Maybe "analysis" is a better word than "defense". I'll see if I can find it.

    Bottom line: I think this episode is awesome, possibly among my top-ten best TOS episodes. Criticizing it for "sexism" has always seemed short-sighted to me.

    If I find that old comment, I'll post it in the thread.
     
  15. 22 Stars

    22 Stars Commodore Commodore

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    Did someone just say... fluffy....
     
  16. A beaker full of death

    A beaker full of death Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I appreciate this caution, and will happily respect it.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Even aside from the sexism, it's still a pretty bad episode. It does have its moments; there's some good potential in the story of an impostor taking over as Kirk and the real Kirk being helpless and unbelieved, and there's effective tension as the crew's suspicions build up and they slowly turn against the impostor. The scene between Scotty and McCoy in the corridor, discussing their vote and the prospect of mutiny, is one of the best scenes Doohan and Kelley had in the entire series, with terrific performances from both.

    But it has serious storytelling flaws, degenerating into silliness in the final act. Logic is thrown out the window. At first, the military terminology is quite accurate, with Janice-as-Kirk calling for a preliminary hearing to decide whether a court-martial needed to be convened, and if so, on what charges and specifications. But right after the Scott-McCoy corridor scene, Janice-Kirk just leapfrogs over the actual trial and calls for summary execution. And while there are protests raised against that, nobody points out the gross violation of procedure. Not to mention that the corny instant replay of the corridor conversation totally undermines what had been a powerful scene up to that point. Not to mention that it's a lazy cheat when the antagonist self-destructs and makes things easy for the heroes. Not to mention that the heroes didn't even do anything to resolve the situation; the transference just reversed on its own at a convenient moment, a huge storytelling cheat.

    Come to think of it, when they were going on about evidence, why didn't Spock propose returning to Camus II to study the equipment? That would've been the most logical way to reverse the transfer -- simply by going back to the machine and repeating the process. It was sloppy that the machine just got forgotten.

    It was also a deeply disappointing entry in the genre of body-switch stories, because the fun of such stories is seeing actors mimic each other's characters, but Shatner and Smith made zero attempt to mimic each other. Shatner is just playing his idea of a generic female and Smith is playing her idea of a generic male. Which basically means he's campy and petulant while she's harsh and grating. Granted, it's hard to get that kind of mutual imitation right when it's with a guest star just coming in for a week, instead of someone you've worked alongside for some time and gotten to know. Still, one wishes director Herb Wallerstein had put a little more effort into this -- at least had the actors record each other's lines and let them review the tapes overnight or something.
     
  18. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah. Shatner had pretty much an open field, the audience wouldn't have known the difference; but if the actor who played Lester had done a bit of a campy Shatner impersonation, dramatic pauses in her line readings or something, that would have been fantastic. Anything to suggest that Shatner was in there somewhere.
     
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  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    God no, not a campy Shatner impression. Just a reasonably accurate emulation of his diction.
     
  20. Admiral James Kirk

    Admiral James Kirk Writer Admiral

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    I thought Smith gave a terrific performance, even if she didn't ape Shatner. She was strong, charismatic and authoritative. While I never for a moment thought Shatner was inside her, I could see Kirk clearly, peeking out from under all the red hair and boobs.