Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 27 (The Alternative Factor)

Some science-fiction stories are heavy on the science.  Others are heavy on the fiction.  Either you rely on science to explain things or you use science as a backdrop to differentiate it from pure fantasy.  The Alternative Factor would seem to lean towards the latter rather than the former

The episode starts with existence winking out for a moment or two at a time.  The Enterprise traces the cause to a planet, where they find a man named Lazarus.  Mr. Lazarus is chasing a planet-killing monster.  He’s chased this monster across all of time and space.  What does this monster look like?  We soon find out that the monster looks exactly like Lazarus.

You see, both versions of Lazarus come from different versions of Earth, each in a parallel dimension.  It’s not clear if those universes are products of our own, as both men come from the future.  However, only one can exist in our universe at a time. If both meet, they annihilate each other.  One is said to be matter while the other is antimatter.  I suspect that this is meant not to be taken literally, as antimatter doesn’t need to meet its exact opposite to have a destructive reaction.

It’s the goal of one Lazarus to trap both of them in a corridor between dimensions.  If this happens, the two of them will fight each other for eternity, but both universes will be safe.  (It’s not clear why they won’t annihilate each other in the corridor or what they’ll do for food.)  However, they do end up in the corridor and all is well.

I think this may be one of those episodes where the story got lost in the message.  Both versions of Lazarus look the same.  One acts crazier than the other, but it becomes harder to tell which is which towards the end of the episode.  That may have been the point, though.  We’re always the sane one in any argument.  It’s the other guy who’s crazy.

The episode seemed a little rushed.  Take, for instance, the effect when the two Lazaruses switch places.  It looked like one of those animations where the newspaper comes up to reveal a headline, but is reversed before we get the text.  And what, exactly, is this blinking out of existence?  The episode could have been better.

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