Star Trek: The Original Series – The Doomsday Machine
“Bones…have you ever heard of the Doomsday Machine?”
“No, I’m a Doctor, not a mechanic.”
As corny as some of the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes were, there were always episodes that were done right. “The Doomsday Machine” was one such episode and possibly my favorite of the entire series, aside from the Hugo award-winning episode, “City on the Edge of Forever.” Other episodes like “Catspaw” I try to forget and bury neatly under my cat’s litter box.
Yes, friends, she just turned the Enterprise into a salt shaker.
The Doomsday Machine was about a large, seemingly unstoppable weapon that traversed space, eating entire planets for the consumption of fuel. When Starfleet lost contact with an entire solar system patrolled by the USS Constellation, Kirk and his band of merry men (and women) were sent to investigate. They found the Constellation damaged and adrift with only Commodore Decker on board, an old friend of Kirk’s. He told the story of how his ship was coming apart and he gave the order to abandon ship, sending his entire crew to the surface of a nearby planet, only to be later consumed in a fiery death by the very weapon they were trying to escape from. In an ironic twist, only the ship and its Commodore survived. It was later dubbed, “The Planet Killer”.
Even before the remastered version, the Doomsday Machine was a beast.
I enjoyed the episode for the many levels it took the viewer to. Here we’re introduced to something that was immune to weapons fire and fired its own proton beam that could slice through shields and planets like I do to lasagna when it’s put in front of me. It was the Borg of its day, before there was Borg. In fact it was epic enough to be brought back in a novel written by Peter David called “Vendetta” taking place in the ”The Next Gen” era where a larger version was found and used by a torn, homicidal woman whose sole purpose had become to destroy the Borg after they had decimated her world and family.
If you like to read, it’s a must have for any Star Trek fan.
Unfavorable odds aside, Kirk and Scotty become trapped on the Constellation after an attack by the Planet Killer cripples the transporter on the Enterprise, and a man who is still getting over the loss of his crew wrongly assumes command of the Enterprise in his own quest for revenge.
The episode also touches on the use of weapons of mass destruction, something that was a real threat in the 1960′s, having been aired during the Cold War and five years after the Cuban Missle Crisis. To quote Kirk in his answer to McCoy at the beginning of this article: “It’s a weapon built primarily as a bluff. It’s never meant to be used. So strong that it could be used to destroy both sides of the war. Something like the old H Bomb was supposed to be. That’s what I think this is. A doomsday machine that somebody used in a war uncounted years ago. They don’t exist anymore, but the machine is still destroying.”
Without spoiling the ending, it becomes a battle of wits and self-sacrifice to put an end to the Planet Killer’s reign.
Hell of a way to get a tan.
If you are new to the series or considering giving Star Trek a chance, start with this episode.