Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 6

The Doomsday Machine

Aired Unknown Oct 20, 1967 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
203 votes

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Episode Summary

The Enterprise must stop an ancient doomsday weapon that is capable of destroying entire worlds...and has already totaled one Constellation-class cruiser.

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  • The Enterprise confronts a planet killer that has left a path of destruction.

    The gold standard for special effects for TOS, this Moby Dick inspired episode combines spectacular sights, a memorable guest performance, and a full length original musical score to give fans arguably the most memorable episode of the original series.

    Originally written for 58 year old movie star Robert Ryan, the episode's version of Captain Ahab dominates much of the action, playing opposite of what looks like a windsock dipped in cement, with two starships and a shuttlecraft thrown into the mix. One problem: Ryan, the renowned tough-guy, had a scheduling conflict that precluded his involvement. That opens the door for the softer William Windom, 14 years younger, to play the character, Commodore Decker, ridiculously over the top before dialing it back to give the character more dimensions. (Considering the fan response over the years, you can't argue with his approach).

    Interestingly, Decker spends much of the episode on the Enterprise while Kirk is stuck on Decker's old ship, the Constellation... or at least what's left of it. Having the two swap boats is a brilliant move, because it not only sets up the tried but true "clueless authority figure recklessly endangering the Enterprise" plot, but places Kirk in the unusual position of helpless spectator. Meanwhile, with an abused collectable model (from AMT) serving as the exterior of the damaged ship and the Enterprise's sets (somewhat redressed) serving as the interior, the show is able to stretch the budget in much the same way Wrath of Khan does fifteen years later.

    As the tight script takes the ships in and out of danger, Sol Kaplan's score adds a cinematic quality, sounding much like the Jaws theme John Williams would compose some years later for the same plot. With all the elements working in concert, the result is classic Trek's definitive thriller and a favorite for many fans. It was nominated for the 1968 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

    Remastered Version: With "Doomsday" being the holy grail for this sort of project and professional artist Darren Dochterman having already shared his own spectacular version, CBS Digital knew the bar for this one was set high. Dochterman, of course, had as much time as he wanted to putter away and fine tune his version of the episode, whereas CBS was a business having to redo all the original series episodes within time and money constraints dictated by schedules and budgets. And with "Doomsday" requiring 105 effects shots instead of the normal 20 to 30, it was always going to be CBS's Mount Everest. Accepting the limitations imposed on them, the team doesn't attempt to outdazzle the efforts of Dochterman or other fans who have shared their own visions through illustrations or computer software, instead focusing on a remastered version that's consistent with their prior work. Just this is quite an upgrade. While the original "Doomsday" episode boasts impressive model work for its time, its flaws have become more noticeable as effects work has moved forward. The title character itself is somewhat translucent, being two pieces of footage combined together, and the size of the ships, the shuttle, and the Doomsday Machine are out of proportion due to compositing issues. Perhaps most embarrassing, with today's HDTVs it's even possible to see the adhesive tape holding the thing together. The new version keeps the same iconic designs but fixes all these issues and adds some nice touches, such as having the shuttle lift off from the hangar deck before the doors of the shuttle bay are fully open, helping to explain why the shuttle is able to exit before Sulu finishes telling Spock what's happening. There's also some nice rotoscoping work for a rare shot of a character (Kirk) walking in front of the viewscreen. While it's likely this episode will likely be remastered by pros and amateurs for centuries to come (perhaps someday with life-size remote controlled models in space), the work CBS does here lives up to the promise of the project and is arguably their finest work.

  • The crew of the Starship Enterprise must find a way to stop an ancient planet-killing 'doomsday machine', which has already destroyed the USS Constellation. An exciting episode...

    "The Doomsday Machine" is an exciting, well directed second season episode of the classic series.

    As the Constellation is the same design of the Enterprise, it is quite eerie to see it drifting through space, practically destroyed.

    One thing that did niggle me was that Uhura for some reason wasn't on the Enterprise bridge, replaced by some other Lieutenant. Part of the appeal of the series for me is the familiarity of the crew, and to suddenly have someone else in her place didn't feel right. But that was only a little thing.

    William Windom gives a great performance as Commander Matt Decker, commander of the Constellation who is shell-shocked after the death of his crew and the near destruction of his ship. When he took command of the Enterprise from Mr. Spock, I wished Spock would just break out the Vulcan pinch and get rid of him; I don't think Decker was necessarily a bad commander, just very distraught at the death of his crew.

    The climax of the story, with Kirk waiting to be beamed across from the Constellation, which is heading directly into the Doomsday Machine, is real edge-of-the-seat stuff, and one of the most exciting climaxes seen in Original 'Trek'.

    Some have commented that the special effects let the episode down slightly (I'm reviewing the original version; I haven't seen the enhanced, re-mastered versions at time of writing); true they might not be the best in places, but at the same time they didn't spoil the episode for me either.

    This episode ranks in many fans' Top 10 episode list. It might scrape the upper echelons of mine - although my Top 10 list often changes as I come to appreciate different episodes for different things. But it's certainly a good one, and one of the second season's best.moreless
  • Playing chess on the bridge of the Enterprise while an automated planet-killer threatens the most densely populated section of the galaxy.

    I, for one, actually think the allusion to whaling is pretty cool, and to Melville's Moby Dick in particular (I'm embarrassed to admit, however, that I hadn't quite put it together on my own before, even though I must have seen this episode a couple dozen times). I mean, that's what great science fiction-or great fiction, in general-does: makes connections to and draws from archetypal characters and conflicts in order to show the timelessness and immutability of the human "drama". And the Ahab-Moby Dick story is certainly archetypal. As Ricardo Montalban's Khan observes in "Space Seed": "I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed." Since we're on the subject, tell me if this sounds familiar: "I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition's flames before I give him up!" This, paraphrased from the original: "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up."

    No idea? Then try another: "To the last, I grapple with thee; from hell's heart, I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."

    Still no? Google it.

    As far as the similarity between the incidental music in "The Doomsday Machine" and the "Jaws" theme by John Williams goes, well-the connection between Jaws and Moby Dick, I believe, has already been firmly established. Quint, of course, is pretty much a modern day Ahab, and the great white is what it is.

    I guess, then, it's not a great leap of the imagination to ponder that, perhaps, Williams had seen the Star Trek episode some years before being commissioned to write the Jaws score, and either consciously, or subconsciously, was influenced by Sol Kaplan's thematic music. That's the beauty of the artistic process-borrowing, incorporating, reshaping to fit a similar theme under difference settings and circumstances.

    Of course, this is all incidental to what makes "The Doomsday Machine" such a great story and episode. For me, it's the political-who's the biggest monkey-bantering between Decker, Spock and McCoy-and Kirk, to a lesser degree; the delicate chess play over Starfleet rules and regulations, about who's in charge, who's in command of the Enterprise, while there's this automated planet-killer breathing down their necks, threatening the most densely populated section of the galaxy.

    In the new Remastered and Enhanced version, the ship exteriors are very good, but Decker now seems a little drunk piloting the shuttlecraft out of the Enterprise's hanger bay; either that, or the guy operating the wires is drunk. Also, the perspective of the take off in the original is better. Rule of thumb: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.moreless
  • Shades of Moby Dick...

    This particular episode of Star Trek stands out as the reason that i became a fan of the series ever since i first saw it back in the 80's.

    Capt. Kirk must reason with Commodore Decker(William Windom)who was the lone survivor of an attack by an ancient space weapon capable of destroying entire planets and is now on an obsessive vendetta to seek out & destroy the weapon, even though it is virtually invunerable to any attack.

    This is one of my all-time favorite episodes of the series & for good reason since i am a big fan of classic Sci-Fi TV shows.moreless
  • One of 26 weapons not meant for this world!

    One of the best episode of the series, and I got a long way to geo before I saw all 70 epiosdes of the series. that will take a little over a year. but in "the Doomesday Machine" the Enterprise must stop a killing machine from destroying more worlds, including Earth. the commander of the Constullation seize power on the Enterprise and trying to destroy the Doomesday Machione without success. Captain Kirk is trying to get the Constellation into working order again, as the machine tries to attack. the exchange between Decker and Spock is a classic. the outcome is very good. I like "the Doomsday Machine," especailly the ship itself. It's scary.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

William Windom

William Windom

Commodore Matthew Decker

Guest Star

Jerry Catron

Jerry Catron

Crewman Montgomery

Guest Star

Tim Burns

Tim Burns

Crewman Russ

Guest Star

William Blackburn

William Blackburn

Navigator (uncredited)

Recurring Role

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Eddie Paskey

Eddie Paskey

Lt. Leslie (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (11)

    • Kirk beams over with a damage control party, but only Scotty is wearing a red Engineering uniform. Washburn is wearing blue and the other two men are wearing yellow.

    • When phasers are fired at the Doomsday Machine they are shown radiating out from their point of origin like spokes on a wheel, yet when the scene changes to show the two beams striking their target the beams are now parallel. (This is fixed in the remastered 2007 version.)

    • On the Constellation, when Captain Kirk tells Scotty to check the phasers and see if they've been fired, he inadvertently says "fireds."

    • James Doohan briefly loses his "Scotty' accent when wishing Kirk good luck before beaming off the Constellation.

    • When entering the Doomsday Machine, both the shuttle and the Constellation are almost identical in size as compared to the Machine. (This is corrected in the remastered 2007 version.)

    • The Doomsday Machine is made of solid neutronium, a material so dense that a teaspoon weighs tons. And yet, in several scenes, the background stars can be seen through the machine! Most likely, this is because the machine was a matte painting on a transparent background, superimposed over the star background in post production. Anywhere the color is dark (i.e. not much paint), the stars can be seen through. (This is fixed in the remastered 2007 version.)

    • Scotty is attempting to jury rig the Constellation. He advises Kirk that one particular set of repairs "will make the ship almost impossible for one man to operate". Inasmuch as the normal complement is over 400 men and women, one assumes the ship is "almost impossible" for one man to operate when everything is working. It's likely that a wrecked ship like the Constellation would be darn near impossible for even its full complement to operate. (Indeed, in another episode, "The Ultimate Computer," Kirk believes that a crew of 20 is too few to operate the Enterprise even with a state-of -the-art automation system installed).

    • When the Enterprise was shown from the left, the starboard (right) side running light was green instead of red and the "NCC-1701" was reversed.

    • When Kirk pressed the self-destruct for the Constellation, it was set for 30 seconds but it took 70 seconds for it to be destroyed.

    • When they beam aboard the Constellation they head off to Auxiliary Control. Then we see Kirk walk past a room, turn, and see Decker inside. The room is apparently... Auxiliary Control. so why did Kirk walk past it--didn't he know where it was?

    • It seems odd that McCoy can't immediately certify Decker as unfit for command in the middle of a crisis situation, but must conduct a "battery of tests" as Spock says. In other episodes such as "Obsession" the ship's Chief Medical Officer clearly has the authority to certify the captain as unfit without a series of tests, and Decker is certainly acting shocked and distraught.

  • QUOTES (15)

    • Kirk: Mr. Scott, it worked. Great! (the Machine comes after them) I think it's great. Scotty, get us out of here.

    • Decker: Doctor, you are out of line.
      McCoy: So are you. Sir.

    • Scotty: Captain, the impulse engine's control circuits are fused solid
      Kirk: How about the warp drive control circuits?
      Scotty: Aye, we can cross-connect the controls, but it will make the ship almost impossible for one man to handle.
      Kirk: Worry about your miracles, Scotty, I'll worry about mine.

    • Scotty: A cranky transporter is a mighty finicky piece of equipment to be gamblin' yer life on, sir.
      Kirk: What about the detonator?
      Scotty: I've linked it in with the impulse control system. (flips switch) It's armed now. Press this one, 30 seconds later, poof! Once it's activated, there's no way to stop it.

    • Kirk: He gave his life in an attempt to save others. Not the worst way to go.

    • Kirk: Ironic, isn't it? Way back in the 20th century, the H-bomb was their ultimate weapon, their 'doomsday machine,' and we used something like it to destroy another Doomsday Machine. Probably the first time any such weapon has been used for constructive purposes.

    • Decker: Enterprise to Kirk, Commodore Decker speaking.
      Kirk: Matt? What's going on? Give me Spock.
      Decker: I'm in command here, Jim.
      Kirk: What happened to Spock?
      Decker: Nothing. I assumed command according to regulations, since your first officer was reluctant to take aggressive action.
      Kirk: You mean you're the lunatic who's responsible for almost destroying my ship?!?
      Decker: You are speaking to a senior officer, Kirk.
      Kirk: Get me Spock.
      Decker: I told you I am in command here, according to every rule in the book, Captain. If you have anything to say at all, you will say it to me.
      Kirk: There's only one thing I want to say to you, Commodore: get my ship out of there!

    • Kirk: Matt, where's your crew?
      Decker: 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.
      Decker: You wouldn't dare. You're bluffing.
      Spock: Vulcans never bluff.

    • Kirk: If I only had some phasers...
      Scotty: Phasers. You've got 'em. I have one bank recharged.
      Kirk: Scotty. You've just earned your pay for the week.

    • Kirk: Am I correct in assuming that a fusion explosion of 97 megatons will result if a starship impulse engine is overloaded?
      Spock: No, sir. (helpfully) 97.835 megatons.

    • (as the ship prepares to self-destruct)
      Kirk: I suggest you beam me aboard...

    • Kirk: Bones... did you ever hear of a doomsday machine?
      McCoy: No. I'm a doctor, not a mechanic.

    • Kirk: What hit? What attacked you?
      Decker: They say there's no devil, Jim, but there is. Right out of Hell, I saw it.

  • NOTES (9)

    • To save time and money, the Constellation bridge is described as "uninhabitable" so they don't have to take the effort to redress the Enterprise bridge set. Only Auxiliary Control and Main Engineering are shown on the Constellation.

    • When Scotty restarts the Constellation engines, stock shots are used from "Tomorrow is Yesterday" showing Scotty hanging on the engine grating.

    • William Windom would go on to reprise his role (sorta, despite being dead here) as an older Commodore Decker in the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages.

    • Kirk was using the laser beacon from "The Squire of Gothos" as a repair tool.

    • The U.S.S. Constellation's registration number is NCC-1017. They originally built the ship from a model but only had the decals from the Enterprise model, so they scrambled the numbers 1701.

    • Desilu No: 5149-35.

    • Although Commodore Matt Decker (William Windom) dies near the end of "The Doomsday Machine," Stephen Collins later portrayed his son, Willard Decker, in the 1979 Star Trek movie. Roddenberry's novelization clarifies this point.

    • Richard Compton (Washburn) returned to direct the first-season episode Star Trek: The Next Generation "Haven." His assistant director: Charlie Washburn, for whom his character had been named 20 years earlier!

    • This is the first episode featuring a Federation starship other than the Enterprise's.


    • Episode Title: The Doomsday Machine
      The notion of the "doomsday machine" has been around for some time. One builds the device, and hopes enemies realize that an attack spells their own demise as well; as a last resort, you will trigger the doomsday device. One might reasonably say that the entire "Cold War" between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. was based on this premise.