Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 6

The Doomsday Machine

Aired Unknown Oct 20, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (11)

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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dad-blast you Moby Dick!

    I like “The Doomsday Machine” a lot. It’s not wildly original (lord knows it owes something to Herman Melville – like maybe an apology) but the episode is so tightly plotted, with almost every scene a nail-biter, that I can forgive the whaling allusions …

    The basic plot is that starship commander Matt Decker becomes a little unhinged when his ship is disabled by a huge planet-eating machine that is on a direct course for the most heavily populated sector of the galaxy. He’s rescued by Kirk but somehow manages to assume command of the Enterprise and continue his insane campaign against the invincible Planet-Eater. Just when it all looks completely hopeless, Spock, Kirk and Scotty pull a rabbit out of the hat and manage to save the day ...

    It’s all great fun and tautly written by noted science fiction author Norman Spinrad, well worth seeking out …
  • The Enterprise battles against a seemingly invincible planet killer.

    This is Star Trek at its best. Even after many viewings, of this episode I am still on the edge of my seat during the climax of this excellent story. All the actors give a sterling performance and guest star William Windom is excellent as the traumatised Commodore Decker. The only thing that I find disappointing in this episode, is the model of the Constellation as it approaches the planet killer. The model was obviously sculptured from clay and it really shows. The fact that the model is a little shaky on its final also shows that the series was often made on a very limited budget. This is, however, a minor flaw in an excellent episode.
  • Mutually-Assured Destruction in deep space .

    This is the episode which got me hooked on the Star Trek television series. A gripping story, wonderful incidental music by Sol Kaplan sets the mood of dread before the neutronium monster appears. Excellent performance by guest star William Windom, who projects monomania (and pays tribute to Bogart's Capt. Queeg) by fidgeting with those removable data devices. Very good use of lighting. Riveting right through the final scene.

    This is my favorite episode but it has a few flaws:

    1) Kirk: (hysterical) What was it! What happened, Matt!
    One fully expects Kirk to slap Decker, as Gen. George S. Patton did to a soldier with hysterical paralysis while visiting a field hospital.

    2) Who could believe that a twenty-something security guard with martial arts training, could be beaten senseless by flabby, middle-aged Commodore Decker?

    3)The Doomsday Machine suffered from miserable special photographic effects as this production overreached what could be achieved with the tiny budget and primitive optical technology of that era.


    Remastered update: The new digital ship exteriors are a vast improvement. The hull of that machine projects density and its movements ponderous but unrelenting. The strafing runs by USS Enterprise are in better scale and with movement in three dimensions. The USS Constellation battle-damage is well modeled, particularly the engine nacelles. Only criticisms of the new digital effects are small ones. The new anti-proton beam has turned the machine into a fire-breathing dragon and the shuttlecraft liftoff is a little too lively. Also the damage to Constellation's primary hull seems to be everywhere but the Bridge. On audio, the Sol Kaplan score comes through in several channels, though the glitch of no filter on Mr. Kyle's voice on the intercom when he reports 'the transporter's out' during the first attack is retained.The edition of the broadcast version is choppy and important dialog has been left out. Who can forget: 'Mr. Spock, I order you to assume command on my personal authority as captain of the Enterprise!' yet this has been omitted to make room for an impotence drug commercial. Also lost: in Decker's stealthy journey to the Hangar Deck (now omitted) he crouches so as not to be seen by a young man and woman crew members, who seem to be chatting amiably as they enter a turbo-lift. Perhaps one says 'You know, I go off duty at 1830...' blissfully unaware that they may be incinerated at any moment. They are symbolic of the millions who lived way back in the 20th century in the shadow of the H-bomb and managed to enjoy life though there was the possibility it might end in a blinding flash at any time.

    Let us hope that the Blue Ray or HD DVD has every last frame.

  • A rival star ship captain takes his own life because he'd rather die than follow the strict "clean shaven" rule laid down by starfleet

    Oh yeah! Top ten episode here! Great story and William Windom (Commodore Decker)was nothing short of brilliant in the role. Riveting from start to finish. Brilliant editing and pacing during the last scene trying to beam Kirk on board with all the transporter malfunctions. I could watch this one over and over again and not get tired. My only complaint is that my girl, Uhura, was not at her communication station. I'm delighted the rest of the reviewers agree with me on rating this episode so high.
  • The Enterprise encounters an almost destroyed starship (Constellation),and the device which almost destroyed it.

    As tense and exciting as any science fiction ever! 'Doomsday' is a classic! From the Enterprise encountering the destroyed solar systems straight through to the tense transporter ending, a thriller all the way! Only semi-cheesy effects (the AMT Enterprise model as the Constellation for instance),put any kind of damper on this one. William Windom as the distraught Decker is excellent-his description of leaving his crew behind on the doomed planet is harrowing,as is his reactions facing his doom as the shuttlecraft flies into the doomsday machine.

    The direction by Marc Daniels is tight,tense, and full of subtle points- Kirk slowering his face into the shadow upon learning of his fellow captain's death, for instance. Sol Kaplan's classic score fits the episode PERFECTLY- an overboard score for an overboard episode! One subject for further study has to be to compare this score with John Willam's JAWS theme..composed 5 years later!

    All in all, a great,exciting episode worthy of its place in the Trek pantheon.
  • A huge machine is rampaging through the galaxy destroying ever planet in its path.

    This is one of the most dramatic episodes of
    Star Trek,holding one on edge wondering if the
    Enterprise will be successful in beaming
    Captain Kirk back to the Enterprise.
    The Enterprise is investigating destroyed
    solar sytems and responding to a distress call
    from the Constellation.They find Commodore
    Matt Decker the lone survivor.When a hugh robotic
    machine comes upon the enterprise,Decker and
    Dr.McCoy are beamed aboard,but the machine
    attacks when Captain Kirk is attempted to be
    beamed aboard,blowing the transporter and the
    communication radio system.Eventually,they are fixed,but not before Commodore Decker seizes
    command of the Enterprise in his mad quest to
    destroy the machine.He is appropriately relieved,
    but commits suicide with a shuttlecraft driven
    down the machine's throat.However,this cause a
    drop in the machine's power and Captain Kirk
    decides to take the Constellation down the
    machine's throat and succeeds in destroying it,
    and barely pulls through on beam-up.
    A very breathtaking episode.