Janice Lester / Turnabout Intruder

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Trek Sifter, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. Trek Sifter

    Trek Sifter Ensign Red Shirt

    May 25, 2013
    So I've just finished going through TOS for the first time (yay!). A friend had warned me that the last episode is often seen as sexist. I'm thinking (hoping) the episode itself isn't sexist but rather the situation of women not being allowed/easily welcomed into the rank of starship captain is the sexism, certainly....Hmm, but when a woman-within-a-man's-body does become captain and fails at it, is it an implied form of sexism that she fail at it? I want to say no, because Janice Lester was clearly crazy--that's why she fails.

    But maybe there is still an implied sense of the gender being a variable in her failure--what if the episode was instead of a male rival switching bodies with Kirk? It'd be quite a different episode; persuasion that the aggressor would have been able to force a switch would have been easier....

    Janice is more than just a rival to Kirk, but also the other half of a failed relationship--which, frankly, makes me not understand why she'd want to inhabit Kirk's body. I mean, isn't the idea of inhabiting an ex's body for the rest of your life a repellent idea?! But there is also a sense of Janice delighting in being a man (could transsexuality play a role in this?), and yes, I understand that she wants to captain the Enterprise, thus the body-switch with Kirk.

    The ending of the episode feels like it has an emphasis on Janice's 'failed femininity', as Kirk says she could have led a life "as rich as any woman's, if only..." How do you understand this "if only"? It feels like there are so many possibilities of implications here (if only they made the relationship work? If only she didn't aspire to be a captain? If only women were more easily welcomed into the rank of captain? etc.).

    What do you make of Janice Lester? What do you make of this episode/what's the takeaway?
  2. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 23, 2013
    Ambiguous aspects of any art may be interpreted by the audience. Only the creator of a work can "defend" a particular interpretation or intent. (So unless the writer or director of this episode is a member of the forum...)

    STAR TREK was generally very forward-looking; I would say the episode was probably a commentary on contemporary society (rather than the future world of the Federation)—that capable individuals were excluded from rising to their fullest because of tradition or bigotry.

    Today's audiences might also see an argument against "affirmative action"—the granting of responsibilities unwarranted by an individual's skills and temperament. Janice Lester still failed to cut it as a starship captain even when inhabiting the body of an athletic and vigorous man. So it was her lack of skill and/or temperament, not those of her body.

    As for "if only...", someone is always going to be unsatisfied with their lot in life. Despite a failed relationship, Kirk still respected Lester. She could have chosen another direction, perhaps something to further the lot of other women becoming starship captains, or some other role denied them (perhaps) because of their gender. Instead she "kidnapped" someone else's body and attempted to murder those who got in her way. If only... she had done something more productive. Life is never either-or. As Spock said, there are always alternatives.
  3. marksound

    marksound Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Nov 19, 2008
    Planet Carcazed
    My standard answer for all the questions about JL is "she's nuts." Pretty sure they never said a woman couldn't be captain. Janice Lester wanted to be Jim Kirk. Seriously, she was so nuts the squirrels tried to carry her off. :lol:

    The "if only ... " sentence, if completed, would be: "As rich as any woman's, if only she wasn't frickin' nuts."
  4. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Sep 17, 2011
    I'm comfortable saying:

    * The episode is sexist.

    * She's nuts is a retcon, but an acceptable one given the fact she's demonstrably so.

    * It's a funny episode once you get past those problematic issues.
  5. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Sep 10, 2012
    USS Berlin
    I agree that it was probably foremost a commentary on contemporary scociety but at the expense of Roddenberry's utopian vision of the future where male dominance seems still to rule.

    In simpler language: The vision was sacrificed for a story, but it's the last episode we are talking about. ;)

  6. sariel2005

    sariel2005 Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Jul 4, 2009
    Roddenbury apparently admitted that the story was sexist at some point
    and taken at face value the comment about Starship command is certainly so,
    That said, as someone has pointed out Lester is crazy for coco puffs so its not hard to retcon the statements.

    In fairness I get the idea that Kirk and Lester were in a relationship that was quite toxic, with Lester, though being brilliant and intellegent making a lot of demands on Kirk ( notice that Kirk invariably seems to have a history with highly intellegent women, most Scientists) and he just got sick of it and dumped her. Its actually a kind of counter balance to his relationship with Carol Marcus, who he would have stayed with but her love for her own career ( as opposed to jealousy fo his ) got in the way.

    Would have been great to see her play against number 1 from The Cage though.
  7. JJohnson

    JJohnson Captain Captain

    Sep 2, 2006
    Jacksonville, FL
    That's one way to put it! I always thought it was that she was a bit unhinged, and her portrayal in the episode is certainly evidence of that. I never thought Starfleet actively prevented women from becoming captains in any way, as we've seen in the NX-02 Columbia (it is Enterprise, so it's after TOS, but it could count for some people) and the ship from Star Trek 4. I always thought that there were plenty of other ships that we never saw due to budgetary reasons, and that plenty of them had female captains.

    Starfleet to me is well past actively putting certain people in charge of a ship to meet an artificial goal to make themselves feel good about themselves, and looks to the merit of someone to put them in charge of the lives of 430 people and put them in positions of responsibility of diplomacy and defense.

    Short answer - Janice Lester was a bit crazy, and Kirk was right not to pursue the relationship in hindsight. He probably saw signs that she was unstable back then and broke it off.
  8. Praetor Baldric

    Praetor Baldric Lieutenant Commander

    May 22, 2013
    Heck, the whole series is sexist by today's standards.
  9. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 23, 2013
    Zeitgeist. Roddenberry tried a command character with Number One, and test audiences wouldn't have it.
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

    Jan 7, 2013
    New York State

    That's what GR led us to believe for many years, but according to Justman and Solow, NBC rejected Majel Barrett because she lacked the talent and charisma of a lead actor. And I have no trouble believing that.

    Then it seems, because Majel was his serious extramarital girlfriend, Gene had to break it to her gently. He told her the test audience story, and that the bad old executives at NBC were against a woman having authority.

    In fact NBC was all for it, the executives were progressive liberals, and just wanted a better actress. Look at Barbara Stanwyk on THE BIG VALLEY. She played a lead character with huge authority. But having told Majel this whopper, Gene couldn't put another woman in the role.

    I think women's parts on STAR TREK suffered thereafter to maintain the fiction that Gene told Majel.

    And then the false story of heroic, feminist Gene Roddenberry vs reactionary, chauvinist NBC took on a life of its own as it got told to fans at conventions. But it was baloney and STAR TREK was anything but feminist compared to other shows of the period.
  11. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 23, 2013
    I stand corrected. This is also why I typically shy away from any behind-the-scenes stuff regarding the "pretty people" of Hollywood. I don't care who is married to whom, what the Cardassians or Kardashians are doing now, etc. I watch movies and TV for entertainment. (Broadcast news also falls into this general category, although whether or not that is "entertainment" is debatable.)

    Richard Widmark said it best, "I think a performer should do his work and then shut up."
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
  12. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Feb 21, 2013
    Sitting in Kirk's command chair
    If I remember the passage in their book correctly, Justman and Solow said the execs spotted her when they screened "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" and asked, "Who's keeping her?" (meaning who's paying her back for sleeping with him?).

    Thankfully, Majel Barrett did have a chance on TNG and DS9 to show she was a quality actress (and a great computer voice to boot!)
  13. maneth

    maneth Captain Captain

    Feb 9, 2010
    This was news to me, and welcome news at that.

    That said, it doesn't change my opinion of TI as the most bigoted and least enjoyable TOS episode. JL had issues with Kirk, but that doesn't redeem the episode in my book.
  14. SiddFinch1

    SiddFinch1 Captain Captain

    Jan 28, 2005
    State of Mind
    As others have said....at the time I think it meant women weren't allowed to be captains. It was made in the 1960s...over years Retconned over the years to say she washed out due to her own issues and that she thinks kirk dumped her for starfleet instead
  15. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jul 15, 2006
    Star Trekkin Across the universe.
    Despite the woman exec in The Cage/The Menagerie.

    I mean when you have a woman next in line to command the ship it's kind of hard to by the no women starship captain thing. Especially since the one saying it is fruit loops.
  16. Kinokima

    Kinokima Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jul 2, 2013
    Yep...of course I try not to make a big issue out of it because I think it is silly to complain about sexism of the 60's when there is still sexism today.

    It's not like I see the new Abrams movies for example as a forward example of feminism.

    And it's not like the original series did everything wrong. Just the presence of female writers (such as DC Fontana) in my opinion was a positive form of feminism. Now compare this to the New Doctor Who (which I am also a fan of) which pretty much has no female writers.
  17. Sadara

    Sadara Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Aug 17, 2010
    New Mexico
    I don't think the episode was sexist and I don't think Kirk's comment at the end of the show was meant in a sexist way. Kirk wasn't the one making Starfleet policy so he wasn't implying from a personal standpoint that women couldn't be effective starship captains.

    Janice Lester was batshit insane. Instead of being a Starfleet officer and working toward establishing the acceptance of women in command positions, she was consumed with jealousy and succeeded only in ruining her own life.

    I think it's important to understand something about the time TOS was made; women were only allowed to enlist or become officers in certain areas of the military, mostly medical probably. It wasn't until the 1970's that women could enter most areas save for combat training or duty. So at that time it wasn't farfetched for the show to portray women as not having all the opportunities the men had. The show was constrained somewhat by what the culture was like at the time it was made.
  18. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Jan 23, 2013
    Including the pretense that there aren't general differences between genders. People need to learn to relax.
  19. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Goo goo goo joob Moderator

    Feb 4, 2002
    Sitting in a nutmeg garden waiting for the sun
    I don't think it was the writers' intent, but another possible ingredient for rationalizing it is that on TOS, the term "starship" seemed reserved specifically for the Constitution-class vessels. It's possible that at the time of TOS, while female captains were allowed in Starfleet, there didn't happen to be any female captains of the dozen or so Constitution-class ships in the fleet, playing in to Lester's other issues....
  20. Kail

    Kail Commodore Commodore

    Apr 12, 2002
    I have ALWAYS taken Lester's comment "Your world of Starship Captains doesn't allow women" as Kirk's obsession with becoming a Captain left no room for her, not that female Captains are not allowed.