The Enterprise rushes to answer a distress call from the planet Camus II, the site of an archaeological expedition that is exploring ancient ruins of a long vanished culture. Upon arrival, the landing party finds three survivors; among them are Dr. Janice Lester and Dr. Arthur Coleman. It is revealed that during their academy days, Dr. Lester and Captain Kirk were intimately involved; however, Lester's inability to achieve command of a starship, which she believes had to do with her gender, caused the two to drift apart.
Medical scans reveal that the survivors are suffering from radiation exposure which threatens their lives. Dr. Coleman, Science Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy go off to tend to the other survivor, leaving Lester and Kirk alone for a moment to talk. Kirk finds Lester has been driven to the point of madness by her personality complex and complains about the agony of being a woman in a male-dominated existence. She traps Kirk in an alien device which can swap the personalities between two individuals. Joining Kirk in the machine, Lester's essence is transferred into Kirk's body while Kirk's mind enters hers. Now as Kirk, Lester-in-Kirk tries to strangle her former body, inside which Kirk is trapped.
Spock and McCoy return before Lester-in-Kirk can finish him off, and she (as Kirk) orders the landing party and the remaining survivors back to the Enterprise. Once there, Lester-in-Kirk releases McCoy from Lester's case and gives Dr. Coleman, Lester's partner in crime, full authority for treatment. McCoy protests the decision (later telling Lester-in-Kirk that Coleman is known to have been ruled as incompetent to serve aboard a starship by the Starfleet surgeon general; the "captain" asserts that promotions and demotions can be politically motivated), but McCoy stands his ground with an ornery tone of voice.
Alone, Coleman and Lester-in-Kirk privately converse about their plans. It is revealed that the two are in love with each other and had planned to have their personnel killed in order to lure the Enterprise to Camus II. Lester-in-Kirk has now achieved her lifelong goal of commanding a starship. Likewise, Coleman has now been given a chance to become a starship's chief medical officer. Lester-in-Kirk charges Coleman to make sure that Kirk-in-Lester, who is still trapped inside Lester's female body, stay out of the way by sedating him. No one recognizes Kirk in a woman's body.
Spock becomes suspicious when Lester-in-Kirk orders a course change to the Benecia Colony to drop off Dr. Lester for medical attention, ignoring their previous mission; to rendezvous with the USS Potemkin at Beta Aurigae. Spock vainly points out that Benecia's medical facilities are comparatively primitive, and they are on course to adequate facilities, which they can reach at maximum warp in a time comparable to reaching Benecia. McCoy invokes his authority to override his "captain"'s orders and perform a full medical examination, including "the Robbiani dermal-optic" test, the latter test Lester-in-Kirk being leery of but seems to pass.
Kirk-in-Lester manages to escape and goes to sickbay for help, but finds Lester-in-Kirk still there being given a bill of health by McCoy. Lester-in-Kirk uses a series of violent slaps to render her "former" body unconscious, which McCoy demands he stops. Lester-in-Kirk orders the "hysterical woman" to be taken into custody and put into isolation: "no one is to speak to her without my permission".
Kirk-in-Lester is taken away, and Spock persuades the guard that the captain's orders have never been meant to apply to his senior officers and, in this case, keep Spock from speaking with "Lester". Spock speaks with "Lester", is somewhat skeptical, then Kirk-in-Lester persuades Spock to touch him with the Vulcan mind meld, whereupon he discovers the truth that Captain Kirk's mind is indeed present in the woman's body.
Spock tries to free Kirk-in-Lester but is stopped by a security team led by the impostor captain. Lester-in-Kirk accuses Spock of mutiny and immediately (and flamboyantly, via ship-wide announcement) orders a court-martial. Once on trial, Spock tries to make a convincing case that Captain Kirk is really in the body of Dr. Lester, and that the physical Kirk is an impostor. However, his evidence was obtained by telepathy, still considered a form of hearsay in the 23rd century, and is inadmissible.
Shocked by the incredible story, McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott converse secretly in the corridor about their Captain's true identity and having witnessed Kirk's irrational behavior, and hostility toward Dr. Lester, they decide as members of the court martial panel to agree with Spock. Scott says that the "captain" won't let the decision stand, and suggests that he and McCoy "move against him" to relieve the "captain" of command. McCoy is reluctant to the mutiny, but agrees it's the only way. Lester-in-Kirk suspects they spoke in the corridor for a reason, and orders the court recorder to call up the conversation from recordings of corridor activity. Lester-in-Kirk then orders McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Kirk-in-Lester (still in her former body) arrested for treason. Their punishment will be death, and interment of the bodies will be at Benecia. Ensign Chekov and Lt. Sulu are outraged and point out that Starfleet bans the death penalty except for "General Order 4", which isn't the case here. Lester-in-Kirk refuses to listen and demands that everyone return to their posts.
The remaining crew quickly turn against their "captain" when they realize that he isn't himself and refuse to obey his orders. Losing self-control and throwing a fit because Chekov and Sulu blatantly ignore her orders and in unison take their hands off their consoles, Lester-in-Kirk falls into the center seat and she and Kirk-in-Lester have a temporary reversion of minds. Kirk-in-Lester determines to fight for his own body if it happens again. Lester-in-Kirk hurries to Coleman and tells him of the incident; Coleman tells Lester-in-Kirk that to make the transfer permanent, she must kill her former self while Kirk still occupies the body. Lester-in-Kirk shames and blackmails Coleman into prepare an injection of a toxic substance.
The two head to Lester's holding cell, but Lester-in-Kirk again loses self-control when she sees Kirk-in-Lester struggling with Coleman as he vainly tries to inject the toxin, and the reversion starts again. This time Lester is too late, and the reversion completes. Captain Kirk is finally himself again. The hysterical Lester makes one last attempt to kill Kirk but fails, and Lester and Coleman are taken into custody. Coleman then pleads with Kirk to allow him to care for his mentally deranged love, and Kirk decides that they will be dropped off at Starbase 2 to face charges. In the meantime the Enterprise resumes its current mission with the Potemkin. Kirk muses, "Her life could have been as rich as any woman's. If only... if only..."
Errors and ExplanationsEdit
The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic TrekkersEdit
- How is Lester-in-Kirk supposed to open the safe in Kirk's quarters? There's no indication that the transference allowed Lester to access any of the real kirk's memories. Just because there is no indication, doesn't mean it didn't happen!
- During Spock's court martial, McCoy states that the psychological test he performed on Lester-in-Kirk showed an emotional state comparable to that of Kirk's when he first took command of the Enterprise. Either Kirk was having a really bad day when he assumed command, or the test isn't worth much. It could be that Lester could be good at controlling her true emotional state, combined with the fact that assuming command of a starship is bound to be an emotional event.
- Spock claims that complete entity transfer has never been accomplished with complete success anywhere in the galaxy. Don't the transfers in Return to Tomorrow qualify? Spock said with complete success. The transfers in Return to Tomorrow ultimately failed because Henoch altered the stabilisation formula.
- Kirk-in-Lester misses the obvious method for proving to Spock who she is, by citing instances that are part of public record, instead of mentioning 'Pon Farr' Kirk assured Spock of his silence on the subject in Amok Time.
- The security guards failing to turn on Lester-in-Kirk when he illegally orders the execution of the senior staff. Either they assume Kirk knows something they don't, or are afraid to go against the captain in case they are charged with aiding a mutiny.
Continuity and Production ProblemsEdit
- Nurse Chapel being a brunette instead of a blond. Women do change their hair colour!.
- D.K. Henderson on Saturday, December 26, 1998 - 5:34 am: I know that they're not canon, but in Alan Dean Foster's novelization of Slaver Weapon, he points out how awkward it would be for someone to suddenly be in another person's body, ESPECIALLY one of a different gender. The musculature would be different, the center of gravity would be different, and the hormones would be different. In the novel, they were all stumbling around for some time before adjusting. Janice and Kirk seem to have no trouble at all. Kirk, especially, should have fallen flat on his face when he leaped out of bed, being totally unaware of the change. The operating program for the transfer device would obviously be designed to make the necessary adjustments during the transfer.
- Why would they have breakable glasses in Sickbay? Seems like plastic would be more practical. What about medicinal combinations that require heating as part of the preperation?
Internet Movie DatabaseEdit
- After Dr. Lester, in Kirk's body, first arrives on the bridge and starts issuing orders, a wide shot of the bridge clearly shows a crewman other than Chekov at the navigator station. At the tail end of this shot, Lester-in-Kirk specifically addresses his order to Chekov. In the very next shot Chekov is suddenly at the navigator station to hear the rest of Lester-in-Kirk's order. Perhaps Chekov managed to replace the other crewman without anyone noticing?