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The Ultimate Computer

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Title : The Ultimate Computer Rating : 4
First Aired : 8 Mar 1968 Stardate : 4729.4
Director : John Meredyth Lucas Year : 2268
Writers : Laurence N. Wolfe Season : 2
Rating : 4.5000 for 2 reviewsAdd your own review
Reviewer : NCC - Kansas Rating : 5
Review : I have to add an extra badge to this one's rating - it is one of the most watched episodes in my collection. The man vs. machine debate was not exactly new, but it was certainly novel for 1960s Trek writers to believably depict a computer that could manage all of the systems on the Enterprise, give crews actual orders, navigate, and balance everything necessary for combat. AND Starfleet seriously considered putting this thing in command. The failure of the M5 is also interesting. Usually machines-gone-bad in TOS did so BECAUSE they were machines; this one failed because it was too human. Another interesting dynamic is the deeply-unsettled Kirk trying to balance the human sympathies of McCoy with Spock's initially cool and calculating analysis of the computer's efficiency. Finally, the entertainment value of seeing a real battle between Starfleet ships and the moral anguish of Dr. Daystrom makes this a superb episode.
Reviewer : Indefatigable Rating : 4
Review : A very good episode. It's of its time, but very good. There was a lot of worry in the 1960s about people being replaced by machines - some of it justified - and it obviously rubbed off here. Also for its time, it placed a black man at the heart of the story as not only a genius, but a very respected man in his field. Not by all, but that had nothing to do with his ethnicity. He made for a curious character, an engineer caught up with his own inventions, gradually losing contact with reality - roughly what the M-5 did. I've never been quite sure why the machine became so paranoid and almost psychotic, but it was clearly necessary for the plot. Kirk's indignation in being replaced, and the contrasting attitudes of Spock and McCoy made an effective balance, I see the Fontana touch there (she re-wrote the script). The actors managed very well with it. The new VFX were excellent, the space station, a nice planet, a very sensible replacement of the ore freighter, modified starships and much more dynamic battle scenes. It's probably impossible to show what a dogfight between FTL vessels would really look like, but this conveyed the impression very well. We saw an ancestor of the M-5 in the ore freighter's automation system, although all that really needed to do was avoid navigation hazards and plod along in a straight line. Overall, a very good episode.
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