Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine

A fans thoughts

It is often difficult to pick favourite episodes with the Star Trek universe, there are so many. However, I have found that certain episodes I will happily watch no matter what. The original series has a number which I enjoy, The Doomsday Machine being one.

In this is a second series episode, the Enterprise is following a series of destroyed planets when it comes into contact with her sister ship the USS Constellation. The ship has been heavily damaged by an unknown force, to the extent that it seems no-one is left aboard.

Captain Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and a damage control party beam across hoping to discover who or what is behind the attack.

They find one lone survivor, Commodore Matt Decker, deeply traumatized at the loss of his crew and it seems his ship. He tells Kirk of a planet killer, a machine that can slice planets into bits. Kirk asks about his crew, Decker emotional reveals he beamed them to the third planet of the system. That planet was destroyed.

Realising what he must do, Kirk orders McCoy to take Decker to the Enterprise, while he and the damage party ready the Constellation for tow. As they do, the planet killer reappears, and attacks the Enterprise. Damaging the ship Spock manages to stay ahead until Decker decides to take on the beasts again. Spock informs the Commodore that phasers alone will not destroy it but he insists on making the attempt. It is clear the planet killer is heading towards densely inhabited areas of the galaxy and only the Enterprise now stands in its way.

Watching the fight from the Constellation, Kirk els helpless until Scotty informs him they have power and phasers. It becomes a cat and mouse game as Kirk frees the Enterprise but himself becomes a target again. At this point, Spock manages to regain command of the Enterprise, citing Decker as being frankly mad.

Decker takes matters into his own hands by using a shuttle craft to explode inside the machine. It naturally causes little damage.  It does however cause something which Kirk gambles on, the destruction of the Constellation.

Why do I enjoy this episode?

Almost all the original series were stand-alone plots rarely did we see non Enterprise characters reappear. We did of course have the Klingon’s and the Romulus’s appear a few times, but unlike other series, there was no real story arc. The Doomsday Machine, stands out for me as a slow building dramatic ‘How can they win’ episode. It is simple in its plot, the pace is just right and the conclusion just that momentarily humorous. Watching Kirk waiting for transport as the countdown is going, while Spock is calmly stating what to do and Scotty sort of ignoring it all, is classic.

You are made to wonder about the machine itself, but not allowed time to dwell on who built it. There is no need to mention a race or why they did it. It’s just there and blindly killing planets. That was it’s function. There is speculation between Kirk and Spock but the dialogue does not slow down.

There is also the sacrifice of Decker to try to redeem himself which he fails to realise will save the day. As Kirk points out, they are stronger with him than without. A point he misses when he closes communications. Could the Enterprise have beamed Decker out? How would that have changed the story?

There are always people who will look for those little plot holes which given the nature of a television show can’t be helped. For me, in this episode, there are few to be honest. It is well written, hence I can watch it again and again.

The episode does pose some questions of the time. The Doomsday machine had clearly become rogue since it had been found to have travelled from another galaxy. The question was basically why have such devices if they could obviously go wrong. Was that something the producers were trying to say about atomic weapons of the day?

The Doomsday Machine is one of my favourite episodes, I can even quote many of the lines and love the dramatic harsh music. It is all round enjoyable to watch.