Star Trek: The Original Series

“The Doomsday Machine”

4 stars.

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

Review Text

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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85 comments on this post

    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.

    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.

    My personal all time favorite. I cant think anyone from that time playing playing decker like w. Windom. 5 stars.

    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.

    "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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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).

    Hello Everyone!

    After doing a bit of research a few years ago, I found out William Windom was known as "The Crier". It seems if you needed an actor to have a scene with crying, or breaking down, you went and hired him (mostly for Westerns).

    This heralded one of the most perfect castings we've had in the wide world of Trek. When he says "On the third planet.", it's pitch perfect. And when he later says "Don't you think I know that? There was, but not anymore. They called me. They begged me for help, four hundred of them. I couldn't. I couldn't..." I cannot think of an actor who could have conveyed the anguish he felt at the loss of his crew any more effectively then he did.

    I really believe he was a great actor. When on the Enterprise, he truly looked like he was someone who was just barely holding it together, using only his will and training to keep from going mad on the bridge. And I believe that takes some talent, especially when you figure he was going from Westerns to imagining himself on the bridge of a Starship.

    His acting set the stage for the whole episode...

    Just some random thoughts... RT

    I don't know whether this is because I'm watching the remaster, but I found it strange that the transporter beams were yellow in every episode up to this one*, in The Doomsday Machine, the beams turn blue. I wonder what the reason for the change was.

    *Except Mirror Mirror, which had purple beams in the mirror universe, I assume to differentiate the universes

    I think this is one of the two best episodes of Star Trek TOS. (The other one being "The Immunity Syndrome".)

    A lot of drama, and superb acting. William Windom, in my opinion, gives the best performance of any guest actor on Star Trek TOS.

    A nice touch was Windom's playing with the tapes(which Windom has said was inspired by how Humphrey Bogart fiddled with ball bearings when he played Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny).

    What a masterpiece of hour-long drama and action. With the updated effects, it stands up with anything being produced today. Echo the comments previous on Windom's performance... a man barely holding it together, crushed in defeat, loss and shame. Doohan's performance was memorable here too, especially his obvious and constant irritation with the finicky transporter tech. I also love Spock's quiet, grave condolence to Kirk on Deckard's death. Tense, exciting, perfectly paced... it's just great.

    Perfection. As a Trek action show, this episode has it all -- thrills, heroism, conflict, amazing guest star, and an allegory about weapons of mass destruction. So very many episodes from various incarnations of Trek have tried and failed to equal this type of story. Despite all of the enhanced special effects of TNG, DS9, VOY, and ENT that allowed them to feature multi-ship battles, this one still beats them all in exemplifying a strength of TOS ship battle episodes: Tactics. We see this in the TOS feature films (i.e. the cat and mouse battle with Reliant in TWOK) as well: Battles tend to unfold through a logical series of strategies that the audience can more or less follow, with great pacing and tension elicited from the filmmaking and acting rather than from the FX shots. Later Treks lost this virtue of strategy: Their battles are just a series of people pushing buttons and talking nonsense as dozens of ships shoot at each other in Star Wars fashion, causing sparks to fly and people to fall out of their chairs. And after age 12, many of us get bored of this schtick, as even the battle with the Borg cube at start of FC is just (now-dated) FX spectacle. And then we get Riker's joystick in Insurrection. Go back to TOS: They were really doing something original and special here so many decades before Trek became more slickly commercialized, to its detriment.

    This episode still sticks out in my mind from when I watched it many years ago as a youngster. Have just watched again the remastered edition and have to say that it still ranks as my favourite Star Trek episode. The simple concept of a giant, self sufficient, seemingly invincible, machine capable of consuming planets, created by a race in another galaxy that nobody knows anything about shook me the very first time that I saw the episode and makes us realise just how vulnerable we are in this vast universe.

    The only time there is only one security guard assigned to escort someone someplace is when the plot needs the escortee to get away. It's a little too convenient.

    One of the great classic episodes of TOS. Love almost everything about this episode. For me there are just a couple blemishes: when Spock endangers the ship by not refusing Decker command even though in his gut he knows what he should do (Kirk would have NEVER allowed it) and when the Doomsday Machine hits the Enterprise a number of times with the same power beam that rips apart entire huge planets and it just weakens the shields (really?). Arena and Balance of Terror are my very favorites but this is right up there with my next group of favorites.

    Okay, having complained about TOS a while back I have to admit that a Tomorrow is Yesterday, The City on the Edge of Forever and this episode were pretty good.

    I don't understand the positive comments. This episode was pretty bad. The plot went virtually nowhere. Some scenes were painfully drawn out. I was just bored for most of it.

    I'm glad to see this episode get four stars. It's a rare treat to see another starship, in this case, the USS Constellation which is found adrift and abandoned except for Commodore Decker (a memorable performance by William Windom) after encountering planet-killer machine of unknown origin. The episode manages to touch on some Cold War themes (in this case nuclear weapons) in a subtle manner that doesn't alienate viewers or get in the way of telling a good story.

    William Windom was amazing in this episode. When they first find him, he is in shock, then anguish. Then on the ship he was essentially a bad guy. Then, in the final scene where he is dying, it was an amazing portrayal of fear and suffering by radiation exposure. Windom portrayed these varied aspects incredibly. Everything else in the show is powerfully done. The story is superb and filled with Star Trek technology (all the engineering tools were shown). The ending with the transporter failing repeatedly was maybe the most dramatic in the entire series.

    I'm not a fan of the new special effects. The ones I've seen on Netflix are not as good as in the original series. Also, when the Constellation explodes inside the planet killer, the new special effects are lame. The original version was much better for that final scene. I wish I could watch Star Trek with the original effects.

    @Lennie K

    The Blu-Ray box set lets you choose between the original effects and the new effects. I personally always watch with the original version effects, they have a certain charm that the CGI stuff lacks.

    This is one of the few TOS episodes that remains competitive with the best of modern Trek. There is such a gulf between TOS and every other live action sequel, in terms of how they are presented, written and acted, that TOS really does exist in its own (warp) bubble. Men were far more masculine in the 60s than the whipped, complaining snowflakes of today. It's refreshing to take a trip out with the space cowboys... but only on specific occasions.

    This is also one of the few TOS episodes that makes me wish modern Trek HAD been like its parent show. I miss the dynamism, the strong characters, who act and talk like contemporary people being the absolute best they can be. The "perfect" 24th century humans are boring by comparison. I would rather aspire to be Kirk than Picard!

    The Doomsday Machine (what a title!) is intense and exciting throughout, with a gripping sense of dread from the moment Dekker speaks about hell; that speech would never be allowed in today's ultra-PC Trek shows, by the way. Spock handled himself superbly. I wish the idea of the device coming from outside our galaxy had been expanded on as I believe that is unique in all of Trek? I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said about how wonderful the episode is. It's one of Trek's finest hours and remains compelling to this day. No remodulating the tertiary bollock machine, no re-routing a high-bandwidth tachyon pulse through the deflectors. Instead we have Scotty working his arse off to fix a broken ship and coming through at the last moment.

    One question: did they have some sort of fuel crisis in their day? This is not the first time I've heard Spock talk about someone's ship running out of fuel. How can they only run for seven hours at maximum impulse? Space is quite big. We don't fly planes from New York to Manchester with 70 litres of fuel in the tank - Starfleet needs to work on its logistics!

    Now for the VFX rant.

    The special effects were better than usual for the TOS Remaster. I am not sold on the Remastered effects at all; they fail hard in comparison to ENT for example which I believe was being made at the same time. TOS:R retains all the inconsistencies of the original episodes (phaser colours for one thing), looks just as amateurish when phaser blasts are striking the Doomsday Machine, and the Constitution class starships still travel at that weird diagonal angle as if they are strafing in Doom.

    TOS:R is just an expensive warmover of dated effects and can only be viewed as "good" in comparison to the originals. In the TOS:R trailer one of the VFX blokes actually slips up and says "The Enterprise won't be doing barrel rolls or anything, it's just going to make people's mouths water a little more. A lot more." His self-correction was a warning that the Remaster wasn't going to be special.

    The main improvement IMO is how much they cleared up the live action scenes. Now they ARE impressive: every episode of TOS looks like it was filmed yesterday. TNG, DS9 and to some extent VOY have that weird, glossy, glowy visual quality inherent to American television shows in the 80s and 90s. A kind of softness, making the special effects seem a blurry and low-res. Funny how the 1960s original show looks sharper and clearer.

    One of my favorite and one of the best, Its a shame windom hated his character.

    Hello Everyone!


    He did? I hadn't read that, but there are many things I haven't read. :)

    He did do a reprise of his role in a fan-fic story/filmed episode. It was quite a few years ago, so I don't recall the name of the not-for-profit production, but the Enterprise goes back in time (shocked! :) ), and they find him in some way by accident, I think.

    It seems the Doomsday Machine had a singularity at it's core, or something, and when he went in to commit suicide, it instead sent Decker through space and time. And there he was, on a viewscreen only (as I recall), talking to their version of Captain Kirk. He'd ended up living out his days on "old" Earth.

    Perhaps, in the end, he didn't feel as bad about it as he had before. Hopefully, anyway. At least, he was nice enough to help them with their ST project. :)

    Regards... RT

    A good one. Windom makes the episode. His exchanges with Nimoy are especially good. The plot is nothing too special, but the presentation and acting (and lack of flirty sexy lady! Yay!) sell it.

    A winner.

    Saw this as an 9 year old when it came out and it had me on the edge of the bed the whole time. The “machine” was scary as heck! This episode simply outclasses everything else in the original show - this deserved a movie treatment. No surprise it was written by Spinrad. Darn this was scary to a nine year old and I still think it is as I said just better than the others episodes - far better.

    By the way, I'm watching TOS for the first time (yeah I know in 2020, sic!) and unfortunately the batch I have only feature the re-mastered versions with CGI. So far I've preferred the original version for every episode (I'm comparing with clips on YT), but "The Doomsday Machine" might very well be the first one which actually looks better with the new graphics. For one, the scale of the ships has been greatly improved.

    "The Doomsday Machine" might very well be the first one which actually looks better with the new graphics"

    Normally I don't get much out of these attempts to retroactively upgrade the effects for old TV and movies like with the Star Wars re-releases.

    But something about this particular episode seems to really come alive with the remastering, especially for the doomsday machine itself. I just love the color and scale of it. The episode was always a classic but the remastered version is like they took that greatness and perfected it.

    This for me is the best episode of the original series and maybe even of Star Trek in general. It kept replaying in my mind for several days after and still when I think about it it gives me goosebumps. I compared the original and the remastered version and this is one of the few where I prefer the remastered. They did an amazing job. Also the music fits perfectly. 5 stars!


    Couldn't agree with you more. For me, the best episode of the entire Star Trek franchise. Absolute perfection.

    A classic, one of the best of the series.

    As for the remasters—- seasons 2 and 3 titles with the opera lady singing. Holy crap, I hate how they’ve ramped up the volume of that, especially the last wail. I literally always mute it.

    It’s comical to me they did that. A new recording I guess? I don’t know, but I think exactly zero percent of Trek’s longevity was due to its title theme song.

    Haha, I just realized, I personally occasionally use Windom’s “don’t you think I know that!!!” when I want to be melodramatic. I picked that up 30+ years ago and long since forgot where it came from.

    Great episode. but @hifijohn, I don't know why you say Windom hated his character. He reprised it in 2004 for New Voyages, his last credit, according to Wiki the Almighty. Considering how prolific he was, and what a strong performance he put on here, I have trouble with the idea that he hated the character.

    Sol Kaplan's dramatic and spectacularly cinematic score is one the elements that makes this episode one of the high-water marks not only of the series, but in the history of television. Has there ever been a more intimate, close-up presentation of the death of a character than what we have in the last minutes of Commodore Decker? City on the Edge of Forever and The Doomsday Machine are as good as 1960s Star Trek ever got, and are as good as as anything that has been done since, right up there with Walter White's I am the one who knocks! Classic.

    How did I only now just realize that Captain Decker from The Motion Picture was meant to be Commodore Decker's son?

    Slap me twice and call me Ishmael.

    When was the last time Star Trek was brave enough to take a captain off his bridge and replace him with a formidable actor? Chain of Command, maybe?

    Even when they paired Bakula with the superior Katsulas in the ENT episode "Cogenitor," it wasn't on the bridge of the Enterprise. And Bakula was there in every scene.

    But to leave Decker there on the bridge, no Kirk in sight - now that took balls.

    Then again, TPTB must have been very confident in Shatner and Nimoy, in that they risked outshining them on multiple occasions: Montalban (Khan), Ihnat (Garth), Lovsky (T'Pau), Colicos (Kor). Sheer charisma oozing out of every pore.

    I think only Jean Simmons (Admiral Satie on TNG) ever came close to that level of screen presence.

    Meanwhile, Voyager had The Rock and George Costanza.

    @Mal (or Ishmael)

    Being the Trek geek I am, I once compiled a list of who I thought were the best guest actors performances to appear (as one-offs) and William Windom's Commodore Matt Decker was right up at the top of the list (with Harris Yulin from "Duet" right behind him). You're right in that this episode took balls. I think a fair bit has been written about Windom and this episode.

    @Rahul, who else was on your list of greatest guest characters?

    I agree, Marritza was amazing, and "Duet" is epic. I think that episode - and two similarly powerful episodes: "Progress" and "Ties of Blood and Water" - work so well because Kira (Nana Visitor) is perfect across from these larger-than-life men.

    Spock and Kira seemed to have had that in common, no doubt a key advantage in a first officer. They both brought out the best in their superiors.

    Too bad Nichelle Nichols was busy performing at a concert to appear in this episode since the communications officer actually has a lot of dialog.

    I think Lt. Palmer comes off as professional and no-nonsense right out of the gate when compared to some of Lt. Uhura's more subdued exchanges with Captain Kirk or her exaggerated fear when reacting to strange aliens or dangerous situations. Makes me wonder how Nichelle Nichols would have played it for this installment.

    Here's an animated gif of Commodore Decker doing his best Captain Queeg impersonation, if anyone is interested:

    I think this episode is a LITTLE overrated - I'd give it 3 stars, perhaps a bit more.

    There are so many good elements - Decker's neurotic need for revenge after losing his entire crew; Spock's level-headedness (as usual!); the anti-nuclear weapons message; and of course the tense but action-packed development of the story.

    I thought the machine was too variable in scale (the relative size of shuttle craft and starship entering its maw was horribly inconsistent), and its belching of fire was nonsensical - there should have been something to suggest the 'doomsday' aspect. I do realise though that the contemporary special effects abilities weren't exactly brilliant, and the budget was limited.

    There were also silly aspects like puffs of smoke as the transporter malfunctioned - what??

    On the whole though, while not as good as Mirror, Mirror or The Balance Of Terror, this was a good action episode.


    I think your criticisms of this episode are pretty weak -- don't mean to be so blunt about it but not sure how else to express it. Yes, occasionally the ship/shuttle in scale don't jive with how big the doomsday machine should be, but when it counts the monstrous size and power of the machine is clearly conveyed. It's not a "belching of fire" either -- that I believe is an effect of the enhanced version (I don't think the original was that way).

    "there should have been something to suggest the 'doomsday' aspect."

    I think there's plenty here to suggest the 'doomsday' aspect -- Kirk's theorizing about how it continues to destroy solar systems long after the war between the 2 sides (where one side built it) was long over, and the fact that it has destroyed numerous solar systems just to get to where the Constellation was. Leaves just the right amount for the imagination, which is what good sci-fi should do. I really feel "The Doomsday Machine" is as close to perfection as a Trek episode could be.


    You’re entitled to your opinion just as I’m entitled to mine!

    I think it’s a very good episode but there have been at least 3 before it that are even better. However I can see why so many rate it so highly.

    WTF is with all other captains and Starfleet officials being complete mentally-unhinged douchebags in every episode they're in? It gets tiresome quickly. And like the mirror universe, you have to wonder how Starfleet actually managed to progress.

    An episode I never get tired of watching. Top five in the the series.

    No doubt one of the best. And it had the only fight scene between decker and security that looked good. Asian fight pose. Good exchange of punches. Far different from most trek fights

    Always remember that great quote"vulcans never bluff"

    I still think the Doomsday Machine and Nomad should have had their own series, with a competition to see which could destroy the most planets.

    Apparently Will Decker in TMP was supposed to be Commodore Decker's son. It didn’t make it into the script so it’s not canon.

    Really good episode, I think it deserves the 4/4 stars.

    My only complaint is the lack of a more tactical approach when the Enterprise tries, under Commodore's command, to destroy the machine. I mean, they just come in front of it getting shot and they end up firing on it's hull instead of inside? I know the machine wouldn't be destroyed by that, but I would like to see a high rank starfleet officer pulling off something more intelligent and that at least sounded like it could work...


    Interesting point but I think the Enterprise under Decker's command is meant to show how compromised the Commodore has become after the loss of his crew and damage to the Constellation. Thus his tactics are puerile. He is heading toward suicide and McCoy hasn't had a chance to do a mental evaluation of him. The dynamic between Decker and Spock (and McCoy) is brilliant -- Spock suspects Decker is compromised but is adhering to regulations. Spock was not able to get any of his tactics through to Decker.

    But also the machine is meant to be pretty much indestructible and we later learn (or have to deduce) that firing anything (phasers, photon torpedoes) into the machine would not have done the trick.

    I like this ep more each time I watch it

    Bill Windom doing his best Captain Ahab
    What a hoot

    One of the best of season 1

    Robert Ryan in the Decker role? That would have been interesting
    Check him out in Bad Day at Black Rock
    Holds his own in a movie with a bunch of heavyweights

    I like how the message here seems to be that in order to stop an implacable foe, you have to assume similar traits yourself; it's an old trope but a true one. Commodore Decker becomes a Doomsday Device of his own in order to destroy the machine, but a human one: he's at times irrational, inflexible and argumentative (as Kirk puts it, "a lunatic") but still completely focused and intent on achieving his mission without fail--he becomes a machine. He's even willing to destroy himself to stop the threat -- could we say the same for the Doomsday Device? It's a nice juxtaposition of humanity and technology. William Windom sells Decker's Captain Ahab traits, and his unkempt, disheveled and haggard appearance is a nice touch.

    Of course, Leonard Nimoy matches Windom and provides a nice counterpoint and character foil to the madness. Spock is at his most perturbed here, which is fun to watch, but he's also as steely and cold as ever. Spock is a machine here, too, when it comes to Starfleet regulations that prevents him from relieving the most senior officer of his command. It finally takes Kirk's impassioned, angry explicit orders to move him to finally take Decker's command away.

    The story of the device itself is wonderfully basic. Basically, it was built by some people. "Why?" "Unknown, Captain." In a way, that's enough. The dialogue and suppositions among the crew provide almost obvious commentary -- we've built such devices like the hydrogen and atom bombs ourselves, so the precedent is there. But here, all indications are that this machine has outlived its own creators' war itself. It's still completely powerful and destructive, but now technically also pointless. How's that for irony?

    Still, "Oh, forget about your theories!" is Decker's cry. I like that simplicity. It doesn't matter what's behind the construction of the device. The fact is, it's attacking us and all the nearby planets and must be destroyed.

    In the end, of course, human ingenuity and near-suicidal tactics on Kirk's part win the day against technology. We are still better at adaptation and strategic thinking then our "smart bombs" are. But this episode serves as a warning to us -- we'd best remember to keep it that way.

    Best Line:
    Kirk -- "Worry about your own miracles, Scotty. I'll worry about mine."

    My Grade: A-

    Fans of popular 70’s era sitcoms might remember William Windom’s turn on “All in the Family”, as a bigshot friend of Archie’s who is on the outs with his son. Carroll O’Connor wasn’t often outdone on his own show, but Windom did it and then some.

    Wow. I could watch this episode a hundred times and I would still be impressed. It feels like a movie and a good one at that, especially since I’m decidedly not a fan of space-battle-action movies.

    First of all, the music is outstanding. The episode wouldn’t be the same without this beautifully dark, grim, somber score. Just take the opening scene on the bridge as an example: when the wrecked Constellation appears on the viewscreen and Kirk whispers “Look at that!”, it is ear-piercing in a good sense.

    When I’m saying it felt like watching a movie, this also concerns the filming… I can’t really pinpoint it, but I think it has something to do with the lighting. I’m not very well versed in this, but the scenes on the Constellation look quite different to what we’re used to from the Enterprise: dimly lit, darkness lingering in the corners, sharp contrasts to more illuminated areas, only single sources of light, shadows on the actors’ faces. It effectively conveys the ghastly atmosphere of the wrecked, abandoned ship.

    And, of course, the characters. Other reviewers have already said that everyone is at his or her best, and I fully agree; not only the main characters, but all crewmembers alike. I liked the quiet competence of Lt. Palmer and the repair crew, and it was great to see how Sulu embodies the whole dilemma of loyalty vs. authority, not with the few lines he speaks, but simply with his reactions to Spock’s and Decker’s contradicting orders. Of course, the focal point of the episode is Decker’s tragic loss of his ship and crew, and I think he’s indeed one of the most memorable guest characters in TOS, mostly because he is so authentic that it hurts. Just look at the scene when the boarding team finds him – what I found most striking was not his behavior, but the startling contrast between the shocked, dazed man we see and his own voice coming from the ship’s log: calm and steady and confident, it doubles the impression we get from the depths of his trauma.
    It also becomes obvious that his tragedy strongly affects Kirk: of course because he knows Decker quite well, but there is something else. I think Kirk is only too aware that this might just as well have happened to him, his ship and his crew, and that’s not something he’s keen to contemplate. Decker hasn’t really made an error… of course, sending his crew down to the planet turned out to be a fatal mistake, but he did it for the best, thinking he could save them this way. It’s probably what Kirk would have done in his place, too… and the consequences, the guilt would break him just as they destroyed Decker. It fits that Decker’s last words are: “The commander is responsible for the lives of his crew, and for their deaths. Well, I should have died with mine.” At that moment, once he’s already decided to die, he seems to be his former rational, controlled self… he again sounds like the man we heard making the log entry before the attack of the planet killer.
    When the shuttlecraft finally disappears, there is a brilliant shot of Kirk: he closes his communicator and for a short moment, we see his fist clench tightly around it. It’s just amazing what this tiny gesture manages to convey: grief, resignation, and most of all, the despair of being helpless and powerless. And it’s nice to see that Spock has apparently made some progress in dealing with the emotional turmoil of humans: he quietly offers his sympathies while it’s Kirk who points out the illogic of Decker’s death (“It’s regrettable that he died for nothing.”). It’s actually a clever inversion of their usual roles.

    The struggle between Spock, Decker and Kirk for command authority is a great climax and very well written. And there is one thing about it that I probably never might have noticed if I hadn’t recently seen a synchronized version of the episode. It’s the shift in the forms of address which occurs during the escalation of the dispute between Kirk and Decker. At the beginning, they are still on first-name terms, but when Kirk criticizes Decker’s actions, furiously calling him a lunatic, Decker doesn’t know what else to do but to assert his higher rank; he reprimands him and starts calling him “Kirk” and “Captain”, what Kirk reciprocates by calling him “Commodore”. It’s just a detail, but an excellent one.

    And last but not least, there is an important message concerning weapons of mass destruction. Kirk’s description of the planet killer is unambiguous in its reference to history: “A doomsday machine (…) is a weapon built primarily as a bluff. It's never meant to be used. So strong, it could destroy both sides in a 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.” I agree with PCP that it’s clever writing that most of the crew’s questions regarding the planet killer remain unanswered. They never find out who built it, and for what purpose. Had it really been used in a war, as Kirk suspects? Or had it initially been built for deterrence and got out of control later, maybe after centuries, when its existence was already forgotten? Both are chilling visions and a warning that no viewer could possibly miss. Here, the doomsday machine may be a face-lifted windsock, albeit an impressive one, but all we know there are more than enough doomsday machines in our world.


    I watched this episode recently. Thanks for the well written, thoughtful review.

    Superb episode. So much to like - it's interesting to see Kirk getting his hands dirty soldering inside a panel - shows he has a practical technical side presumably from his previous roles in his Star Fleet career. I know also that William Windom does a great job, but still can't help loathing the character and almost cheering when he flies into the planet killer. His gloating attitude towards Spock on the bridge makes me feel that he wasn't a very good commander - I always thought beaming the crew to the third planet when they'd just seen the DM slicing up the fourth was absolutely stupid and couldn't imagine Kirk doing such a thing. Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Scotty are all great in this, Sulu too in his reactions, and the only detraction is the absence of Uhura. Fantastic episode.

    Trivia= James Doohan loses his traademark Scottish accent when explaining the delayed explosion "thirty seconds later, boom!" is given in his natural Canadian voice.

    Best episode of the original series or tied with another perhaps.

    Here is a good litmus test: can you show this to someone with no background knowledge and reasonably expect the person to like it?

    (The equivalent in the Doctor Who series is, of course, Blink. Many a Whovian will attest that that is *the* episode for a newbie.)

    We can quibble over what we would prefer to *add*, but there is nithing wrong here that I would *remove*. Complaints about the VFX are like going back to 1985 and riding a city bus in Columbus, Ohio, and saying that the city should have inested $125,000 more into every bus and that there is no good Wi-fi. You're right, but what's the point of raising these complaints?

    Well, the one real complaint is TOS's perennial sex problem. Not one woman appears or does squat except a throwaway secretary role by a fill-in. But, that goes the territory, so to speak. What do you expect? The most feminist thing on American TV in the 1960s, no joke, was probably I Love Lucy.

    Funny you should mention I Love Lucy, since Lucille Ball and her husband owned Desilu, the production company behind Star Trek.

    One of the Greatest Five Real Trek's is on...Doomsday Machine.

    Bar none THE best climax of ANY Trek...but I submit of any TV show...ever.

    Ive seen this 100 times?....I know EXACTLY how it ends...Im STILL on the edge of my seat as the jumpy transporter continues to fail as Kirk is seconds from blowing up The Planet Killer with a bomb they made out of the wreck of the Constellation.

    The other 4 Greatest Treks are, Balance Of Terror, City On The Edge Of Forever, Arena, and Spectre Of The Gun..this last one I know would probably not pass the muster of most reviewers...but I love the "Trekkyness", and surreal creepiness of it.

    Red Shirt Fatalities: 0

    Lotsa White Knights in here bemoaning the absence of women in this episode....making sure everyone is aware of their virtue signalling bona fides.

    It was the 60's. It's a lost, better time.

    Get over it.


    ))blemishes: [...] and when the Doomsday Machine hits the Enterprise a number of times with the same power beam that rips apart entire huge planets and it just weakens the shields((

    It a matter of TARGETING. Targeting a planet sedately orbiting its primary star is a lot easier than targeting a Star Ship performing constant evasive maneuvers. The Doomsday Machine obviously had a targeting system appropriate for slicing up planets - but not for hitting maneuverable Star Ships. (There's even a line of dialog in which someone speculates that it probably wasn't programmed to go after something as small as a Star Ship.) Thus, the Enterprise only got "glancing blows" - not direct hits.


    ))Yes, occasionally the ship/shuttle in scale don't jive with how big the doomsday machine should be((

    Does it JIBE better in the remastered version?

    Since most have commented on the absolute excellence of this episode (it's really a perfect ep), I'll just add some extra 2 cents:

    The Doomsday Machine is interesting in context with similar themes of two other season 2 episodes - The Changeling and Obsession. (This episode arguably handles those themes better.)

    While The Changeling has been aptly compared to TMP, I would argue The Doomsday Machine stylistically bears a lot of similarity to WOK, even though it's a machine villain rather than a man out for revenge. It's high octane, non-stop life and death action. I think it makes sense this is the style Trek perfected.

    It is also interesting that there were two episodes dealing with runaway AI bent on destroying worlds. One could make the case that Doomsday Machine is a good candidate to watch immediately following The Changeling, which would also help explain the absence of Uhura in this episode. Or does the existence of the Doomsday Machine and TMP pretty much make The Changeling a pointless episode?

    Comparing to Obsession, we have a captain in both episodes who regrets the actions of the past and lets that regret impair his judgment. I actually think Decker sells it better than Kirk does. It's hard to buy Kirk as a character who obsesses over regrets. Here in Doomsday, we have Kirk almost feeling that even thinking about regret is unprofessional and unsuitable for command. Here we find the Kirk archetype we all know so well - the one who doesn't believe in a no-win scenario.

    William Windom - and this is saying a lot - is easily the best-ever actor to grace the set of Star Trek as a guest star. Every nuance of his performance is perfect and tragic.

    ...and yes the remastered version of this and any episode of TOS are worth watching.. Meticulous stuff.

    Just a comment about the Doomsday Machine that really hurt the episode for me. It looks just like a great big Bugle, which was a popular snack at the time.

    Doomsday Machine is on a very short list of episodes I’d consider giving a perfect rating to, it’s pretty much flawless. This episode, Balance of Terror, and City on the Edge of Forever are I think the best so far in the series, and honestly I think Doomsday takes it. It’s just riveting.

    It’s almost annoyingly good as it leaves you with little to talk about other than effusive praise. But you know what? Screw it, praise it is!

    Exciting, well thought out, extremely well paced, great character work, and what a great ending! I personally love that they left the nature and origins of the machine a mystery, is it a titanic weapon? Or is it a bulldozer accidentally left running? The difference between a tool and a weapon can be a matter of perspective, so maybe it doesn’t matter, but I sort of like the idea that this thing is just a giant backhoe from some cosmic worksite that trundled out of control when some alien joe-six pack split to take a coffee break.

    4/4 gaping maws of doom

    > I personally heart that they left the nature and origins of the machine a mystery, is it a titanic weapon? Or is it a bulldozer accidentally left running?

    I never thought of it that way, I always assumed it was a weapon, thanks for your comment. May be some ultra powerful aliens are playing Sim City or Minecraft with the galaxy. May be they built the Dyson Sphere from TNG's "Relics"?


    The episode definitely implies heavily that it is a weapon, and if Spock thinks that, then I’m certainly not gonna dispute it. Perhaps it’s the only remnant of a long forgotten war. The last, sad symbol of hubris from a once great civilization. Which of course works much better from the weapons of mass destruction cautionary message that Doomsday Machine conveys so well.

    But the fact that we don’t know for sure opens up a lot of room for imagination.

    I like to think the federation will get a mysterious transmission from outside the galaxy, and after meticulous translation they’ll figure it out:

    “Do you hate all those extra planets cluttering up your solar system? Sure, we all do!
    That terraforming project not working out? Uh oh!
    Got a pesky Oort Cloud blocking those gorgeous galactic views? What a hassle!
    Better call zxeeplop’s planet removal and asteroid demolition!”

    If they could destroy it by ramming a ship inside it, why couldn't they just fire some guided torpedos into it? Much faster and no wasting a whole starship! And why didn't the machine try to destroy the Constellation as it approached directly in front of it, as it tried with any other ship that did? I thought the whole idea that they had trouble destroying it simply because they couldn't get in front of it was stupid.

    What a classic! This is peak TOS, ladies and gentlemen. Plus it’s only improved upon by the remastered effects which do a remarkable job stressing the scale of the titular Doomsday Machine.

    4 out of 4 stars

    Came across this fantastic analysis of the musical score for this episode -- truly brilliant stuff from the composer Sol Kaplan. One of the most iconic scores in all of Trek and what makes this episode one of the franchise's greatest (*the greatest* for me). The mashup in the final few minutes is well put together.

    @R.J. You're clueless. You do realize that the only reason Uhura was portrayed that way was because she was black right?

    I like DM as much as the next guy, which is to say it has been my #1 TOS for a long time. Big machines, things getting blasted, is this the prototypical guy episode, or what? It runs on testosterone. It is also the only one I can clearly recall watching on NBC, so it left an impression.

    For me, some of Windom's performance, such as "There was, but not anymore!" crosses the overacting line. I've heard reports that he went over the top because he didn't want the role in the first place, but I've decided the wild swings and instability work for a character McCoy reports is in shock.

    Great use of close-ups by Marc Daniels to capture meaningful facial expressions. Everything fits so well. Sol Kaplan's musical score might be the best in TOS. Heck, even Sol is an apropos name. Many great lines of dialogue stand ready for repurposing. Don't you think I know that? We need more power. To blazes with regulations! Vulcans never bluff. What's the matter with that thing? Thirty seconds later, poof!

    4 of 4 absolutely pure antiproton beams

    This pinacle of the series is well earned for reasons not needing to be exhaustively repeated, for the social commentary, acting strength, musicial and visual direction, and depictions of sci-fi outer space maneuvering while battling the robotic death star. And no kissing needed! The malevolence of the death star's origins is purposefully left vague, hinted to be similar to a MAD device like we had and continue to have on this planet..... since the "real" death star is a political weapon intentionally deployed by sentient beings upon their opposition's planet. The people who designed and built the H bomb are long deceased now, but we still have to deal with the ominous existential threat potential they unleashed upon us. That's why the message never gets old. Maybe if they had checked for a model and serial number on the extinguished DM's hull, they could have better determined whether there were any more of them, or where it came from. In the remake, it will say, "Made in China" near the end of its tail. There's just a couple things that bug me with repeated viewings. The communications officer gives damage reports seconds after the DM attacks, without having recieved those reports through any visible instrument or means, and obviously could not have received those damage reports within two seconds of them occurring. And the logical proximity errors. After the Enterprise is attacked and escapes consumption via the other revived ship's pestering of the DM to divert it's attention, ship to ship communication is restored, and a rendezvous point is said by Spock to be arrived at in 14 hours by maneuving in a roundabout motion to avoid alerting the DM. (Actually, 13 point 872 hours in usual Spock fashion) Yet Decker can steal the shuttlecraft and use it to attack the DM within a minute or two. It must have been pretty close by, not 14 hours away. I gather the writers didn't realize someone would be questioning this 50 years later otherwise they would have changed the script for that afternoon's shoot to have the rendezvous point in 10 minutes and 9.2 seconds. Don't laugh, seconds do count. Especially with a finicky transporter.

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