The Doomsday Machine
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
20 Oct 1967
Season Ep :
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
Is neutronium transparent? Stars are clearly visible through the Doomsday machine's neutronium hull on several occasions.
Since Decker is so determined to destroy the doomsday machine, why does he never once fire photon torpedoes at it?
We are told that the antimatter aboard the Constellation has been "deactivated". This really should be impossible. I suppose that one might imagine that the doomsday machine's dampening field changed the antimatter into normal matter somehow...?
Great Moment :
The fight between Decker and the security guard deserves a mention. It's very well staged and the 'red shirt' does remarkably well given that he's taking on a main character.
But the best moment has to be Kirk waiting to be beamed out. He is facing certain death at any second, in a super high tension moment... and he's just so completely calm and collected. Fantastic moment, very well played by William Shatner.
Body Count :
Over four hundred crew of the USS Constelation, including Commodore Decker.
This is our first sighting of another Constitution class vessel.
Actor William Windom, who played Commodore Decker, is on record as saying that he thought the episode "seemed kind of silly", and acted as though he were in a cartoon. Only much later did he realise that the episode had parallels to the Moby Dick story, with Decker obsessed with gaining revenge on an enemy that did not actually bear him any conscious ill will.
This episode marks the first use of an improved main engineering set, which incorporated big dilithium crystal units in the middle of the room and a ladder leading to a visible upper deck.
Director Marc Daniels won a $500 bet by finishing the episode in five days rather than the usual six.
The model used for the Constellation was an AMT toy model kit bought from a toy store - this is why the ship looks of rather poor quality in the original episode, and why the registry number of 1071 is just a rearrangement of the Enterprise's 1701.
This episode was nominated for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award in 1968.
James Doohan occasionally cited this as one of his favourite episodes of Star Trek. However, story editor Dorothy Fontana regards it as her least favourite.
The novelisation of Star Trek : The Motion Picture states that Will Decker is Matt Decker's son.
Peter David's Next Generation novel "Vendetta" establishes that the doomsday device did not in fact come from another galaxy, explaining that it could not have crossed intergalactic distances and penetrated the energy barrier at the edge of our galaxy without planets to feed on. Rather it was built by a species within our galaxy, with the intent of fighting the Borg. According to the book the machine encountered by Kirk was a prototype, and a far larger and more powerful second vessel was also built.
The Enterprise has discovered a series of solar systems in which every planet is gone, apparently destroyed by some unknown force. Whilst investigating they pick up a distress call and find the USS Constellation, a Constitution class starship like themselves, adrift and wrecked. Kirk beams over to the ship with a landing party, and they set about investigating the damage and trying to determine what happened. The Captain, Commodore Matt Decker, is found catatonic in the auxiliary control room, apparently the only member of the crew on board. He mutters about something attacking the ship, something he refers to as "the devil".
The Constellation's logs reveal that Decker had investigated the break up of a planet only to be attacked by some sort of alien device, a massive roughly conical spacecraft of immense power. The ship attacked but was crippled and Decker beamed his crew down to a habitable planet to save them, remaining behind as the last man aboard. Unfortunately the alien machine disabled the transporters and then attacked the planet, destroying it and the crew completely. Spock theorizes the device smashes planets into rubble which it then consumes to fuel itself, leaving a trail of utter destruction behind it as it moves through the galaxy. Back projection of its course shows that it probably originated from beyond our own galaxy, whilst it is shortly to arrive in one of the most densely populated regions where it will cause an unimaginable holocaust.
Kirk theorizes that the device is a weapon, a "doomsday machine" which was deliberately built to be so powerful that if it was ever used in a war it would destroy both sides completely - something like the old hydrogen bomb on Earth was intended to be. Probably intended to ensure that a war would not happen, in reality the doomsday machine was unleashed, annihilating both it's creators and their enemies and then continuing on its way to destroy everything else in it's path. The hull of the device is composed of neutronium, making it invulnerable to Federation weapons, whilst its own weapon is a pure antiproton beam which can penetrate Federation shielding systems with ease.
Kirk sends McCoy back to the Enterprise with Decker whilst he and Scotty remain on the Constellation with an engineering party to try and get the ship in condition to move. However the doomsday machine arrives, blocking communications via an interference effect. Decker comes to the Enterprise bridge and, as the ranking officer present, forces Spock to relinquish command of the ship to him. He proceeds to attack the doomsday device, determined to destroy it despite the fact that their weapons are completely ineffective.
The Enterprise is quickly damaged and caught in a tractor beam, dragged towards the machine's massive mouth. On the Constellation Kirk and Scotty manage to get a degree of maneuvering power and a phaser bank working, and attack the device to draw it away from the Enterprise. The two ships between them manage to beat a retreat, each luring it away from the other in turn.
Clear of the interference, Kirk calls the Enterprise and orders Spock to relieve Decker of command regardless of regulations. Spock complies, sending Decker to sickbay for a medical examination so that McCoy can determine whether he is officially fit for command or not. However on the way down Decker overpowers his escort and steals a shuttlecraft, escaping the ship. Desolate with guilt over his failures, he commits suicide by piloting the shuttle directly down the throat of the doomsday machine.
Sulu's sensors detect a tiny drop in power in the machine afterwards, and Kirk wonders if perhaps the explosion of the shuttle had caused some minor damage since it had bypassed the invulnerable hull by being swallowed up. He suggests repeating the trick with the Constellation itself, sending it directly into the machine and detonating the impulse engines within the device. Scotty rigs up a simple self-destruct and beams back to the Enterprise as they fly the ship towards the machine - unfortunately the transporter malfunctions due to battle damage, leaving Kirk stranded. With the machine approaching Kirk calmly awaits his fate, and at the very last moment Scotty manages to beam him off the ship. The Constellation explodes inside the doomsday device, leaving it as an inert hulk.
Back on the ship, Kirk notes the irony that Earth nations once used the same kind of doomsday philosophy in an attempt to stave off war, using hydrogen bombs to threaten mass destruction - ironic because here they used a similar hydrogen explosion within the impulse engines to disable the doomsday machine. Kirk wonders if this may be the first time such a weapon has been used for constructive purpose.
One of the most exciting Trek episodes, the Doomsday machine gives us a lot of action within a nice tight storyline. The titular machine is a cool idea, and whilst the people who created the show were apparently disappointed with how it turned out on screen, I think the very simplicity of it makes it look kind of eerie and alien. It's behaviour also works very well - the story plays off of Moby Dick, showing Decker as obsessed with getting even with the machine even though it is not a thinking enemy, not something capable of bearing him malice. Being angry at the doomsday machine is like being angry at a brick you stub your toe on. And yet... if not intent, it does at least behave with purpose
, and that's enough to make it genuinely threatening. If Moby Dick were left to his own devices he would simply go about his business and not trouble man, but the doomsday machine is a real danger to us, something that we have no choice but to confront and defeat. It's a nice combination of characteristics that makes the episode interesting to watch.
As an effects-heavy episode this benefits greatly from the remastering. The most marked improvement is the Constellation, which goes from a rather horrid looking plastic toy ship to a CGI version with cool damage showing the inner structure. The machine itself also isn't semi-transparent any more!