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The Enterprise responds to a distress call in the L370 system and discovers that something has destroyed almost every planet in the system. They also find its sister ship the U.S.S. Constellation, which has been badly damaged. The captain of the Constellation, Commodore Matt Decker, says that his crew evacuated to one of the pulverized planets and was lost, and the attacker was a giant robot "doomsday machine." Kirk is stranded on the Constellation when the doomsday machine attacks again, and the shell-shocked Decker tries to take command of the Enterprise to lead a futile attack.
Friday October 20th, 1967
Starring RolesGuest StarsCo-Guest StarsUncredited
responds to a distress call from its sister ship, the Constellation
. They arrive in a solar system only to find that ever planet has been destroyed. Following the path of destruction to another system, they find more missing planets and finally, the badly damaged Constellation
...Read the full recap
This episode was nominated for a Hugo in 1968 for Best Dramatic Presentation.
James Doohan (Scotty) considered this to be the best written episode of the series. He particularly enjoyed working with William Windom (Commodore Decker).
The three crewmen who beam over, Washburn, Russ, and Elliot, are named after assistant directors Charles Washburn, Rusty Meek, and Elliot Schick.
The redesigned engineering set makes its first appearance in this episode. A ladder and upper level are incorporated into the set and a dilithium crystal unit is in the center of the floor (using recycled Horta egg props).
(Washburn) would later go on to direct the 1st season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Sulu: Sir? We're now within the limits of system L370. But I can't seem to locate...
Spock: Captain. Sensors show this entire solar system has been destroyed. Nothing left but rubble and asteroids.
Kirk: That's incredible... The star in this system is still intact. Only a nova could destroy like that...
Spock: Nonetheless, Captain, sensors show nothing but debris, where we charted seven planets last year.
Matt Decker: (via recording) Captain’s Log, Stardate 4202.1. Exceptionally heavy subspace interference still prevents our contacting Starfleet to inform them of the destroyed solar systems we have encountered. We are now entering System L374. Science Officer Masada reports the fourth planet seems to be breaking up. We are going to investigate.
Kirk: Fourth planet... Only two left now...
Kirk: Matt...where's your crew?
Decker: O...on the third planet...
Kirk: There IS no third planet!!
Decker: Don't you think I know that?!? There was! But not any more!! They called me... they begged me for help... four hundred of them...
Spock: Random chance seems to have operated in our favor.
McCoy: In plain non-Vulcan English -- we've been lucky.
Spock: I believe I said that, Doctor.
Spock: Commodore. I do not wish to place you under arrest.
Commodore Decker: You wouldn't dare. You're bluffing.
Spock: Vulcans never bluff.
Commodore Decker: No, I don't suppose they do.
In several scenes, it is possible to see the background stars through the darker parts of the Doomsday Machine. Doubtless this is a consequence of the way many special effects were created then: paintings on clear cels, superimposed over the normal background. The darker parts of such a painting, lacking much pigment, would be more or less transparent.
Scotty is wearing a tricorder throughout the episode, but it disappears during a shot of him in Engineering being shaken about. The goof results form the fact the footage is recycled from “Tomorrow is Yesterday.”
During the fight between Decker and Montgomery, you can see the scuff marks on the floor indicating previous shots that were attempted.
Despite the fact that Kirk orders a "damage control party" over to the Constellation, Scotty is the only one wearing a red services uniform, which is the uniform for Engineering personnel. Washburn, who does the repair work in Auxiliary Control, is wearing blue.
The Caine Mutiny
There are several subtle references to Humphrey Bogart's performance as Lt. Cmdr. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. As well as portraying an unstable but ultimately sympathetic figure in a crisis situation, William Windom also rubs data cartridges together in his hand when challenged, much as Bogart does with metal ball bearings while obsessively discussing the theft of the strawberries.
The Constellation is the first of four Constellation-class starships that are destroyed during the course of the original series.
What Changed in the Remastered Version
This episode represents some of the best work done for new effects to the point at which it first aired (the week of 2/10/2007 - 2/11/2007). The CGI versions of the Enterprise
, and the Doomsday Machine represent significant improvements, especially the Doomsday Machine. The shots of the shuttlecraft departing the hangar bay are completely reshot. The CGI models permitted new "camera angles" not possible with the physical models available during the original shoots. The new effects also solve the problem of the Doomsday Machine's transparency. Phaser effects, the machine's antiproton cannon and conversion reaction all improved, and drifting space debris from the destroyed planets is added, with a piece bouncing off of the Enterprise
in one shot. The shuddery impulse effects of the Constellation
also improved. Finally, the destruction of the machine featured a far superior explosion and a more realistic extinguishing of the machine's inner total conversion reaction. Designers corrected scaling errors between the machine and the starships, giving the machine a more formidable appearance. One weak spot in the new attack sequences was in some of the very low angle phaser shots, which the CGI effects didn't quite render realistically.
Spock: The object's hull is solid neutronium. A single ship cannot combat it.
Neutronium is a colloquialism used to describe a theoretical form of degenerate matter that contains only neutrons. Instead of being supported by the forces related to these particles, it is supported by neutron degeneracy pressure. It may not exist in a stable form anywhere except inside neutron stars and science fiction stories. It may not exist at all; the material inside a neutron star may be more like a soup of unbound quarks. Since no one has worked with it in a laboratory, its properties are unknown, but one in particular is relevant: extremely high density, so high that a teaspoonful or so would have a mass of around 100 million metric tons.
The concept of a doomsday machine was not new even back in the 1960s when Spinrad wrote this tale. One might say that the entire Cold War balance between the Soviet Union and the United States was based on each one's realization that the other could, and likely would, destroy it if circumstances demanded it. A tense balance indeed. The overarching concept of brinksmanship between powers possessing doomsday technology is often called Mutually Assured Destruction, or M.A.D.
The syndication edits for this episode were quite deftly performed, representing some of the best work so far. The edits were nearly seemless; only someone very familiar with the episode would be able to identify removed material.
Was the doomsday machine damaged when the Enterprise encountered it? Kirk theorizes that the Doomsday Machine may be the last remnant of a war fought uncounted years earlier, a weapon too powerful to be easily destroyed. And yet, a 97+ megaton nuclear explosion destroys it. Around 1957, the Soviet Union detonated a weapon with a yield around 50 megatons - two such weapons would destroy the Doomsday Machine. Yet clearly its builders possessed technology more advanced that what the Federation possessed. Why, then, could a simple and (relatively) low yield fusion explosion destroy the device? One possible answer is that the device was the last survivor of the last battle between its builders and their enemies. Badly damaged, it limped away more or less randomly. The systems normally responsible for keeping dangerous materials out no longer functioned. That the machine still functioned at all may be a testament to the heavy use of redundancy and shielding likely employed in the design - keeping its engines and primary weapon operational under extreme circumstances.
In the Next Generation non-canon novel Vendetta, author Peter David speculates that the Doomsday Weapon seen here is but an early prototype of a much more powerful weapon created by an ancient race to fight the Borg. When that race saw they were threatened, they launched the Doomsday Weapon on a straight course past Earth... and into Borg space. The race then put their mental essence into the final weapon, which was later discovered by a woman who merged her essence with the ship and went after the Borg. The final weapon in Vendetta is much more powerful then the Doomsday Weapon seen here, but has several similarities including a neutronium hull, a tendency to scramble sub-space radio, and an anti-proton beam. That weapon can accelerate to much faster speeds in excess of Warp 9 and is capable of destroying a single Borg cube ship. The weapon is never defeated, and eventually the woman accelerates the weapon to Warp 10 to immediately get to Borg space, which puts it into an infinite time recursion.