Star Trek: The Original Series

"The Doomsday Machine"


Air date: 10/20/1967
Written by Norman Spinrad
Directed by Marc Daniels

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise's sister ship, the USS Constellation, is found severely damaged and adrift in space. The ship's captain, Commodore Matthew Decker (William Windom) is the only person left of his crew, the remainder of which had been beamed down to a nearby planet for safety. Unfortunately, nothing is safe from the unstoppable device roaming the region, which destroys entire planets, consumes the debris, and then moves on to the next planet. The death of Decker's crew has sent him into an insane obsession to destroy the device, even if it means suicide.

"The Doomsday Machine" sets the standard for all-out TOS tactical space action, with flawless pacing, a terrific score by Sol Kaplan, and lots of boldness. With Kirk and Scotty trying to make repairs to the Constellation, we have a great conflict aboard the Enterprise, where Decker takes command of the ship while Spock and McCoy are initially powerless to stop him from launching a suicide mission. Spock's calm but firm action in the face of this adversity is an absolute joy to watch unfold.

Keeping in tune with the series' social commentary is the low-key allegory on nuclear weapons—which is implicitly present, but never threatens to eclipse the story.

Previous episode: The Apple
Next episode: Catspaw

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11 comments on this review

Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
Man what a great episode. I grew up in the 90s watching Voyager and always heard uninformed people say how the TOS was full of camp and 1960s era goofiness. They were so wrong.
Thu, May 2, 2013, 6:30am (UTC -5)
If you can, view the remastered version of this episode. The updated graphics adds amazing visual punch.

This is by far Trek at its "man show" best. Guest star William Windom, who has said he knew nothing about Star Trek, turns in a master class performance as the obsessed Ahab-like Commodore Decker out destroy the doomsday device that killed his crew. Windom RULES this episode. He constantly reminds us "I'm in COMMAND here" and he certainly is. The crew's quiet contempt for him reflects exactly how the viewer is urge to see him.

The tension is palpable on both ships with malfunctions and pissing contests and a nicely done Decker-vs-redshirt fight scene that just spills testosterone all over floor. The pacing is perfection without a second of filler.

A lot of Trekkers have to defend Star Trek to their friends and family. This is one those episodes a non-fan could follow and appreciate.
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
My personal all time favorite. I cant think anyone from that time playing playing decker like w. Windom. 5 stars.
Tue, Sep 9, 2014, 12:03am (UTC -5)
Absolutely one of TOS' best outings.
Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Awesome. Never heard of Mr Windom before but a quick google revealed that i had seen him before in other things, as well as 'murder she wrote'. He totally 'out Shatners' Shatner to great effect.
Ben Masters
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 1:43pm (UTC -5)
"If you can, view the remastered version of this episode. The updated graphics adds amazing visual punch."

I've taken that recommendation and then some. I have seen through the remastered "Doomsday Machine" quite a few times, first from the standalone second-season remastered release, and then from the 2015 remastered full-series release, and it never ceases to amaze.
Sun, Jun 12, 2016, 4:54pm (UTC -5)
For me, the highlight of this episode is Decker's reply to Kirk's question "Where's your crew?" Decker answers with an anguished "The third planet." Now that's acting.
Sun, Aug 21, 2016, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
I was saddened to hear of the death of William Windom. Like so many other people from my past, gone now, but not forgotten by taking the role and owning it. So many others are gone now, but it is this episode and the serious respect given to the character that I will remember Mr. Windom for.
Thu, Sep 1, 2016, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
One last thought. I agree with the observations on the re-mastered version of the episode. It fixes flaws in the exterior scenes, perspective and proportion and emphasizes the feeling that these are really small ships in the vastness of space and all the weight of the fates millions of people rests on their shoulders.
Thu, Oct 13, 2016, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
An absolute favorite ep, and Windom (whom I understand had little use for Shatner) owned not only the role, but the episode as well, a brilliant performance. Some may not know the role was initially written for Robert Ryan, who would have essayed a very different Dekkard. The revised edition DOES do much to improve the effects and correct scale problems, so doing they also eliminate, unnecessarily, some very key dialogue between Spock and Dekkard, unfortunate and avoidable, simply cutting out about 10-12 seconds of total special effects (which were somewhat repetitive anyway) would have allowed their exchange to remain.
Mon, Feb 27, 2017, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
Absolutely my favorite Star Trek episode. As others have mentioned (not a single negative comment above), this episode gets everything right. Not a single wasted scene, a terrific plot with the 2 ships, Windom's acting, the dialog with Spock/Decker/McCoy, etc. -- it's perfect.
The episode does benefit greatly from the character of Decker that Windom brought to life beautifully -- from showing the anguish of his lost crew, to the shock of trying to remember the planet-killer when on the Constellation, to the resignation of his suicide mission on the shuttlecraft.
The enhanced graphics make a big difference, the detail of the asteroids (this is subtle - but I liked one asteroid crashing against the Constellation early in the episode).
Spock is terrific in this episode with his logic that doesn't become overbearing or condescending. Scotty also pulls off a minor miracle in getting the transporter working.
The other thing to not forget is the outstanding soundtrack. Highly recommend purchasing it (comes with Amok Time). The track "Kirk Does It Again" as the Constellation gets set to destroy the robot is a classic -- and one used in a handful of Trek episodes including a derivation of it for 1975's "Jaws".
No question 4/4 stars (maybe 4.5/4 stars as I think it is the best Trek episode objectively speaking aside from being my personal favorite).

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