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.