“Space, The final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
The Doomsday Machine
Season 2, Episode 6
Original air date: October 20, 1967
The Enterprise picks up a distress call from the U.S.S. Constellation but no other information. They pass through a Solar System that is totally destroyed as they track the signal, the next system they enter is also destroyed except the first and second planets. They find the Constellation heavily damaged, adrift in space; they go to red alert. There is life support on the Constellation so Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and a disaster team beam over. Kirk and McCoy search the ship as Scotty and the others head to engineering. There is no crew, nor bodies. Mr. Spock says the two remaining planets can’t support human life so the crew couldn’t have fled there. Kirk and McCoy discover the Captain of the Constellation, Commander Decker, in a state of shock all by himself. Decker can barely talk, just says a thing attacked them. They listen to his logs and learn The Constellation was tracking the destroyed systems and a subspace signal when they encountered what is to be called the Doomsday Machine. Decker tells them when they lost power, shields and weapons he beamed the whole crew to the third planet in the system and then they lost transporters, stranding him on board. When Kirk points out the third planet was destroyed, Decker acknowledges his whole crew was killed by a weapon of pure anti-protons. Decker is obviously racked with shock and guilt.
Spock has analyzed the Constellations records and concluded that this is an automated weapon that destroys and then feeds on planets, refueling itself indefinitely. It came from outside the galaxy and is headed for the most populated part of the milky way. Kirk speculates it was a doomsday machine, meant to kill the other side in a war even if you are also destroyed, much like the H-Bomb on ancient earth. Decker doesn’t care about Kirk’s theories and yells at him, he’s taken to the Enterprise by McCoy for medical treatment. When they arrive on the Enterprise the ship is at red alert so they both head for the bridge. The Doomsday Machine, that looks like a cone with a fire burning inside, is attacking the Enterprise. Kirk tries to get beamed back to his ship but when they lower the shields the machine attacks and disables their transporters. The Constellation is dead in space and the Enterprise gets far enough away from the machine that it turns from them and heads toward the nearest system, the Rigel system that is populated by millions. Spock orders the Enterprise to pick up Captain Kirk and head out of range of the subspace field generated by the machine to warn Starfleet, telling Decker that should be their primary objective. Decker disagrees saying the destruction of the machine before it reaches Rigel should be their objective. Spock points out that is useless and led to his destroyed ship and dead crew, but Decker uses his rank and Starfleet regulations to relive Spock of command. McCoy protests but having not examined Decker he has no medical cause to overrule him. Decker turns the Enterprise to attack.
Back on the Constellation, Kirk and Scotty try to get at least impulse power and the viewscreen working. Meanwhile Decker is firing on the machine as it fires back, weakening shields with each shot. The viewscreens on the Constellation get working and Kirk sees his ship’s futile attempt to destroy the machine. Kirk cajoles Scotty to get impulse engines working as the Enterprise shields go down and additional shots from the machine start causing casualties on board. The machine gets the Enterprise in a tractor beam and begins to pull it in, Decker refuses to try and break free which Spock says is suicide and a suicide mission is grounds for him to retake command. Decker relents and allows Sulu to steer away, but they can’t break free of the machine. On the Constellation they get some power and minimum phasers but enough to steer toward the machine and fire. This distracts the machine and it releases the Enterprise. The Enterprise then fires on the machine to turn it’s attention away from the Constellation as communication between the two vessels is suddenly restored. Kirk calls Decker a lunatic for attacking the machine and after getting an update on the warp-less, shield-less, transporter-less Enterprise orders Spock to take command on his personal authority, even as Decker is a higher-ranking officer. Spock has Decker removed and escorted to sick-bay by a security person. On the way to sick-bay Decker fakes a cough and attacks the younger officer, using deception more than might he knocks him out and takes off through the hallways.
Sulu detects the launch of a shuttle; they open communications and find out it’s Decker. He plans to fly right down the gullet of the Doomsday Machine. Both Kirk and Spock try to talk him back but he goes forward and dies in a fireball. As Spock offers Kirk condolences, Sulu notices a power drop in the machine as the shuttle exploded. Kirk wonders if the Constellation exploding inside the machine might kill it. Spock says he doesn’t have enough data to know for certain, but Kirk is willing to risk it. He beams the away team except he and Mr. Scott back to the Enterprise and Scotty rigs up the Constellation to explode with a thirty second timer. Scotty beams back, but the transporters blow out after he materializes. He runs to fix them, and they blow out again. Kirk has activated the bomb and waits as the time ticks down and Scott tries to fix the transporters. At the last possible second, Kirk is transported back to the Enterprise and the machine is destroyed.
Back on the bridge Kirk and Spock decide to simply notate that Decker died in the line of duty. Kirk then makes a speech about the H-Bomb being stupid as credits roll.
Known to Fans As:
Floating cornucopia of death.
Notable Guest Stars:
William Windom as Commander Matthew Decker: Windom was the ultimate “that guy” in the 50’s – 80’s. He was in multiple movies and TV shows playing very meaty and authoritative roles. From Santa Claus in Amen, to the President in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. He also had a role as Mr. Gilmer in the all-time classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Windom won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy in 1969 for the short-lived My World & Welcome to It a show written by famous New Yorker cartoonist and humorist James Thurber. It featured a combination of live action and short animations by Thurber himself and was ahead of its time in that Windom often broke the fourth wall and spoke to the camera, much like The Gary Shandling Show and Fleabag. (I know George Burns used to do this as well on the George Burns and Gracie Allen show even earlier.) Despite it’s critical acclaim the show only lasted one season and Windom was back to being a well respected and sought-after character actor again. Making his last TV appearance in 2006. Windom died in 2012 of congestive heart failure at the age of 88.
Kirk wearing the wrap style uniform that seems to be some variation he’s allowed to wear, seems odd to have two uniform types. Maybe they’re trying to sell more merchandise like the color rush football unis for TNF. 🙂
Once again they can’t use the transporters with the shields up – make up your minds.
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: No
Damn it Jim: “I’m a Doctor not a mechanic!”
Kirk’s Shirt Off: No, but sweaty Kirk.
Aged the Best:
This is essentially Moby Dick in Space right along with the Commodore dying trying to kill the giant, unstoppable creature. Moby Dick is really great, reread it as an adult – it’s about regrets and aging and sorrow and humanity.
Once again, the work they do with miniatures vs. the “animated” effects are so much better. The shuttle pulling out of the Enterprise looks pretty good, the Doomsday Machine looks okay but the weapon it shoots looks bad.
Decker being a little older (and made up to be somewhat older than his actual 44) isn’t exactly beating the young security officer, but he fakes an injury and uses that to overtake him. It reminds me of an old friend of my Dad, a really good basketball player in his youth, who when we would play him and my father in the back yard, they in their 40’s and us in our teens, early 20’s, he would often pretend his leg cramped up or he was out of breath and use it to blow by us. I have duplicated this move with my daughter – it’s a great little way of showing how Decker could overpower this younger, fitter man.
Aged the Worst:
Very little to put in this category except the some of the visual effects.
Decker was a little over the top but I’m not sure it was unwarranted, he was all shock and PTSD.
I kept counting down after they cut Sulu off saying the number three; Kirk beamed over at negative five.
A, Not my personal favorite but a great episode
Tomorrow’s Episode: Journey to Babel (Spock’s Daddy issues.)