"The Alternative Factor" - Why is it so universally hated?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Caligula, May 12, 2013.

  1. feek61

    feek61 Captain Captain

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    I think JD's contract was for a minimum of 9 out of 13 episodes.
     
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    In the first season, he had a minimum 5 out of 13 deal. In the second season and thereafter, Doohan had contract for a minimum of 9 out of 13 episodes, making him a regular (SAG minimum for regulars was 7 out of 13).
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...The problem lies in justifying the absence in-universe. Unlike TNG, the plot logic of TOS doesn't provide Scotty with any sort of an "escape pod" by which he could leave the ship for the duration of one episode.

    Having Scotty not appear in an episode where the ship isn't facing an engineering crisis and isn't in need of a third-in-command when Kirk and Spock are otherwise engaged would be justifiable. But out of the 78 hours of TOS, it's not easy to find one that meets the criteria!

    Certainly "The Alternative Factor" fails in this respect: mere consulting of the ship's dilithium specialist is insufficient for saving the vessel, and Scotty should have been brought in to consider alternatives in case Masters' efforts fail or the crystals can't be recovered from the larcenous Lazari.

    ...What other Scotty absences were particularly notable? The likes of "Miri" or "Dagger of the Mind", with all the important action taking place off ship, can easily be excused. The likes of "Court Martial", perhaps not so easily. But "The Alternative Factor" still seems to stand out as an engineering-heavy episode without a chief engineer.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

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  5. T'Bonz

    T'Bonz Romulan Curmudgeon Administrator

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    I actually like this episode, except for the fact that I can never get the two Lazarus characters straight.
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    The ship is in jeopardy because things are wrong with her engines/power systems - it's right down Scotty's alley. If not for the engineering jeopardy, Kirk would probably ignore the silly Lazari (and the universe might cease to exist, but Kirk wouldn't know that).

    The fate of the ship hangs on the skills of just one main character officer, and it's not Spock (who can't make heads or tails of the anomaly of the week) or Kirk (whose only command decisions after telling Spock to conduct fruitless research of the planet are predicated on him being forced to hunt for his missing dilithium) or McCoy (whose best efforts wouldn't make the insane Lazari any better). It's Scotty, who can extract the ship from the danger and thereby alter the basic parameters of the adventure. Except of course he isn't available to find solutions to the dilithium drain or the dilithium thefts, so the unimaginative grease monkeys just do their work and Kirk has to come up with something else...

    ...Which is beaming down to capture one Lazarus, which leads him into talking with another, and then to classic fisticuffs. And the universe is saved, but only because Kirk didn't get his ship out of the mess by some other means.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Captain Clark Terrell

    Captain Clark Terrell Commodore Commodore

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    The beard is the only reason I bother to watch this episode.

    --Sran
     
  8. SignGuyHPW

    SignGuyHPW Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Just joined the boards. I caught this episode the other night on ME TV and I understand it as little as I did when I first watched it when I was 8 or 9 years old. I think it's my least favorite of the original series episodes. My problems with it are:
    ~Spock's certainty that this life form on the planet was highly probable to be a threat to the universe. They hadn't investigated the situation or figured out why there was a life form there yet Spock was sure this guy could cause the annihaltion of the entire universe?
    ~The shifting on how impactful the shifts of Lazurus. The entire universe would get affected one time, then it would go unnoticed completely, then it would affect The Enterprise and seemingly nothing else. It was confusing and made it hard to figure out which Lazurus they were dealing with in a given instant.
    ~The second cliff fall made no sense to me. I couldn't tell if Lazurus was trying to kill Kirk, a shift happened, if he wanted to kill Kirk and then changed his mind, or if it was all an accident.
    ~There's someone other than the chief engineer that is in charge of the dilithium crystals. If the crystals are what powers the ship wouldn't Mr. Scott's primary focus be on making sure they were in place and working properly? I understand the points about how this officer was under him, but I'd think this situation would make this his duty.
    ~The fact that Kirk goes to the anti matter world without blowing up the universe pretty much signaled that there wasn't really a threat.
    ~The time travelling ship looks like it'd fly apart in a good wind storm, let alone going through time and space.
    ~I still have no idea if they were going to fight forever or if it was possible for one to kill the other after a few minutes, or what that deal was.

    The episode was just way too confusing for me.
     
  9. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think Spock was using the same beard in Mirror Mirror.
     
  10. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I actually liked that myself--I was hoping for an invasion, and not just some dude who fell a lot. We got that with the INVASION novels at least.

    I suppose that when Kirk phased over, his baryon spin matched that of the anti-matter universe--same with Lazarus. If "both" of them came through, it would be bad, but it would not destroy both universes--just a big anti-matter blast.

    The only way I might explain it is that, like the Tholian border, spacetime is very "weak" here, allowing a small one man craft to wreak havok--and create huge ripple effects beyond its normal ability. BTW at the fan art section, someone did his little saucer with the door still on...

    I wonder if it was the mirror universe, or maybe the term should have been (Forwards) negative matter, as opposed to standard anti-matter in the ship or something.

    As far as the instant communication, we will say they had to drain a whole starbase worth of power to get that one out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Or, the writer was a doofus who didn't understand physics and thought that only the matter and antimatter counterparts of the same person would annihilate each other. Or, I guess, the same objects. So if Kirk met the antimatter Kirk, or the Galileo ran into the antimatter Galileo, or if a specific rock at the base of the cliff were tapped against the identical antimatter rock, then both universes would be kaput -- but as long as it's a different person or shuttlecraft or rock, you're fine, because the stupid, it burns!!


    I used to think that maybe the threat to the universes was because if the explosion happened at the rift, it would tear open the rift and let the universes intermingle and annihilate. Now I just go with "the writer was a doofus" and dump the episode into the same apocryphal category as VGR: "Threshold." After all, it's never been referenced in any other episode ever, and almost never been referenced in any tie-in novel, story, or comic, and it's directly contradicted by countless later and even earlier episodes.
     
  12. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sorry to bring this back up--but there is a type of universe ending disaster that might fit the bill--collapse of the vacuum:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_vacuum

    There is your answer to the Fermi paradox. Whatever the first technological life form that finds a way to pop a texture or start a reaction at the wrong place wipes everything out.

    Lazarus might have initiated a collapse of the vacuum in some way with an ordinary anti-matter explosion right where two branes were about to touch at that location.
     
  13. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This was the episode which, as a kid, made me feel stupid because I just couldn't follow it. It's reassuring to learn after all these years that were were all equally dumb! :lol:

    Also, why did they need to destroy Lazarus' ship? With the crystals removed, it would be no more functioning than a radio with the batteries removed. :confused:
     
  14. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    If the ship hadn't been destroyed, all someone would have to do is put dilithium crystals in it again, and mad Lazarus could escape again.
     
  15. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Melakon, you've done a service to all of Trek: you just made something in The Alternative Factor make sense! :beer:
     
  16. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ooh, you just gave me a deep thought...

    Suppose the Enterprise had wandered by the planet when Lazarus hadn't been busy chasing himself (did either one ever stop to eat or sleep?), they would have found a mysterious ship on the planet. Stands to reason they'd investigate...so when they determined the ship was dilithium-powered, just think what could have happened if they put crystals in to find out what it was! :wtf:

    And they never knew what hit them!
     
  17. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    One of them-- I could never keep straight which was the crazy one-- is in the break room and overhears Masters talking with some guy about the crystals, and he gets the idea to steal them.
     
  18. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That would've been an interesting touch, if while in the break room, he grabbed himself a couple of those colored cubes to eat. But I suppose an actor can only do so much, especially with a script handed to him at the last possible moment with dialogue such as, "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!" to have to work with! :wtf:

    Think how different the episode would feel if Lazarus had been played by...oh I don't know, John Feidler, or Jeff Corey or someone. (actually, I can picture Jeff Corey pulling it off)

    If Lazarus had been some sort of colorful alien, something like an Ambassador Petri-type character, we'd have a Lost In Space episode on our hands!

    For all this episode's problems, Robert Brown doesn't seem to be it...
     
  19. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Naturally, with this ongoing discussion, I just had to go and re-watch the episode... :crazy:

    I'd forgotten about Lazarus' claims that the 'monster' destroyed his whole civilization, "down to the last man, woman and child". I guess that ties into his ability to "compute formulas to destroy races", though how he achieved this is a mystery (one of many). Also, with his claims of being a time traveler, one could assume this civilization existed either in the distant past or the distant future. But wait...he originally lied about his planet's location. ..

    Oh, forget it. Every plot point is like trying to jam a square peg in a round hole. :brickwall:

    Does any other episode of any other series have it's equivalent of The Alternative Factor?
     
  20. Danger Ace

    Danger Ace Commander Red Shirt

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    I never disliked it. Can't say it was one of my favorites but there were many others that I felt were far, far worse ("Spock's Brain" being the obvious example). As for the "nitpicking" done by others I would contend it was no more or less implausible/nonsensical than say "Mirror. Mirror" (an episode I also liked). I guess it just boils down to where individuals "choose" to draw their own lines - which is fine so long as everyone remembers it is all subjective.
     

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