This is it. The final episode of the original series and one of the earliest if not the first instance of inter-gender body-swapping in science fiction. Yet there’s no room for the comedy of a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body.
This episode is too tragic for that.
Kirk’s ex is dying and violently resentful of him because he’s a man. The episode is centered on the fact women’s roles haven’t changed all that much from the time of the show’s creation and when we are expected to believe it takes place. It is voiced time and again on the show that men and women are equal, but this episode makes it clear that still isn’t really the case.
What’s worse is that if the episode were written today there’d be a stronger tone of a gender identity issue. At one point this woman — while in Kirk’s body — cries out “It is better to die than to live alone in the body of a woman.”
She is as an individual — for all intents and purposes — devoid of any gender save that which was assigned to her due to biology, and she has felt every bar on the cage society built for her as a result of that gender assignment.
Also, Shatner playing a woman driven to madness by being denied her identity and then trying to usurp another’s in order to attain some sense of agency brings me to a new level of respect for his acting. Sheesh.
Better to be dead than to live
alone and in this body so
distasteful, yet prone to misgive
as though one born devoid of woe.
What weakness do you yet ascrive
to give rise to this diatribe
but the meekness your kind demands
when as equals we would take hands?
Do you not see I am denied
my rightful time to seek the seat
where I’m yet bound to kiss your feet?
Do you not see beyond strange pride
that I am bound to cheating steal
that I my rightful place may feel?