Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 24

The Ultimate Computer

Aired Unknown Mar 08, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
157 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Starfleet uses the Enterprise to test a new super-sophisticated computer, but it soon develops a mind of its own.

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  • Dr. Daystrom programs a Milton Bradley game into the Enterprise computer just so he can relive a boyhood dream by yelling out “Oh no, you sunk my battlship!”

    Surprise, surprise... another story about computers replacing man and then realizing you need compassion to make everything flow smoothly. Although my childhood friend and I used to take turns poking fun at Daystrom's breakdown (Look at your four mighty starships! Four toys that I've grasped...) it was done quite well. My biggest gripe other than that this script has been done a million times in a million different books, movies and other TV shows, is that at the end of the episode, Kirk seems to be a little too jubilant in celebration of M5's demise considering the Excaliber was completely destroyed and that many other lives were lost on the other starships.moreless
  • Do they have have Myers-Briggs tests in the 23rd Century?

    There's good news and bad news with this episode.

    The bad news is that the plot is awfully familiar. Can there be a single person in the world who doesn't figure out in the first five minutes where this segment is going? We can trace this story back to Chaplin's MODERN TIMES and probably earlier if we include prose fiction as well. So zero points for story originality.

    The good news is that Shakespearean actor William Marshall, as computer whiz Daystrom, brings some dignity to the rather wobbly proceedings and is, despite some iffy lines, a commanding presence as the disintegrating software designer.

    But you have to wonder why someone like Daystrom wouldn't have undergone careful psychological screening before being (effectively) given control of a Starship. And why Commodore Wesley would immediately think his old friend Jim Kirk was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic (bearing in mind Kirk isn't in charge of the Enterprise - M-5 is!), rather than entertaining the notion that Daystrom could be the balmy one ...

    Otherwise, this is a fairly routine filler segment and well below the standard of other episodes in the second season.moreless
  • Kirk is replaced by a computer.

    It's human nature to ask the question, "how is a computer superior to a person and how is a person superior to a computer?" In science fiction, it's natural to follow up with the questions, "how much can we depend upon computers? What's the limit of their abilities in the future?" Star Trek tackles all these questions with this episode, but the end result is not very good. The problem is that the script focuses too much on the computer and too little upon the characters. Star Trek works best when it's not about gadgets and technology, but when it's about the people dealing with them – people just like you and me who happen to be living in a different time. To give credit where it's due, there's a bit of exploration of Kirk's feelings with regard to his computer replacement, but it's not enough to make this episode a good one.moreless
  • The Enterprise is selected to test the M-5, a new super-computer that supposedly doesn't need human intervention and could potentially replace Kirk as Captain. But the M-5 soon becomes a threat. An average, slightly filler affair, but with some good ideasmoreless

    (Note that, as with all of my Original Series reviews, I am reviewing the original version; I have not seen the remastered versions at time of writing)

    This ship-bound episode is very much an average instalment, and has touches of being a filler episode at times, but none-the-less has some interesting ideas which raise the episode up a few notches.

    William Marshall gives a good performance as Dr. Richard Daystrom, the creator of the M-5. It is good to see a black actor get such a role in an era where it wasn't so common. The only thing I would say is that Daystrom needed a better, more distinguished costume – the one he wears makes him look like a lowly engineer or something.

    As the M-5 starts to run amok, Daystrom continually defends and protects it, like an out of control child being protected by a parent refusing to see the truth.

    Like many Original Series episodes, this story taps into the social status and fears of the time of which it was produced. The particular tale taps into the fears that computers and machines may one day replace humans in their jobs. It would be some 15+ years after this episode before computers really started developing and became powerful and complex enough that they could indeed be considered to replace a man's job, and in that respect the script is quite ahead of it's time.

    The episode also seems to be a rather budget-saving outing, in keeping with it's slightly filler feel – the ore freighter that the M-5 destroys, for example, is recycled material of the S.S. Botany Bay from the first season episode "Space Seed". The resulting explosion is recycled from "The Changeling" earlier this season.

    There are some dodgy effects as the M-5 computer takes aim at the other Starships – the other ships are all quite clearly models of the Enterprise, with four different shots awkwardly patched together. I understand that this has been rectified in the remastered version.

    It is true that the 'outwitting a super-computer' plot has already been used in more than a couple of other episodes, and the story was verging on being overused. However here I did feel that it offered a different spin, with the Enterprise itself being controlled by the super-computer; it didn't feel overly like a recycled plot compared to some other examples.

    At the end of the episode (as another reviewer has also commented), Kirk and co. see a bit over-cheery, and don't seem too upset that many lives have been lost, and one Starship, the Excalibur, has seemingly been totally destroyed. I would have preferred to see the episode finish on a more sombre, reflective note.

    All-in-all, as I said at the beginning, a slightly average and filler episode, but with a fair story and some good ideas.

    This episode does have special note to me, though. I have been a lifelong 'Star Trek' fan since birth, my father being a casual viewer which got me interested in the series at a very young age. But in the later 1990s and early 2000s, I did drift away from the series, not being so keen on some of the later spin-offs.

    Then in around 2002/3, I was searching through some old VHS tapes I had recorded, and stumbled across an old recording of this episode that I had made. It was late at night and I sat and watched the whole thing; Even though it's not one of the best episodes, it pulled me in and reminded me why I liked the series so much. Since then, I have really got back into the series again (and even given some of the later spin-offs a second chance).moreless
  • Aboard the U.S.S Enterprise the ship is chosen to test the new M-5 multitronic computer but they did not know that the computer had a mind of it's own!

    The U.S.S. Enterprise is chosen to be the test ship for the new M-5 multitronic computer system, a computer meant to be able to run a starship without human intervention. Also aboard for the test is Dr. Richard Daystrom, the inventor of the M-5 and an obsessive and unstable individual. Initially the M-5 performs well, but when it decides to destroy a robot freighter, Kirk orders the test canceled. The M-5, however, protects itself and makes it impossible for it to be disconnected. The computer becomes increasingly erratic, a result of Dr. Daystrom's decision to impress his engram onto the computer as part of its programming. Starting a scheduled war games drill, M-5 uses the full arsenal of the U.S.S. Enterprise to attack four other Federation starships. In a last-ditch appeal to the M-5, Kirk makes the computer realize that it has committed the sin of murder. Since Dr. Daystrom would be ethically abhorred at such an act, the M-5 is equally penitent and tries to commit suicide by leaving the U.S.S. Enterprise defenseless against a counter-attack by the remaining other starships. At the last moment, Spock and Scott are able to finish disconnecting the M-5 unit. Kirk keeps the shields down, gambling successfully that the attacking ships would not fire on an undefended vessel. Restoring communications next, the fleet is called off. I thought that this was a very good TOS episode especialy for it's genertaion of technologymoreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

William Marshall

William Marshall

Dr. Richard Daystrom

Guest Star

Barry Russo

Barry Russo

Commodore Robert Wesley

Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott/voice of Commodore Enwright / M-5 Computer (uncredited)

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • Trivia: The Daystrom Institute and Dr Richard Daystrom himself would be referred to many times during the course of the follow-up Star Trek series Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager.

    • Bones says "Jim he's on the edge of a nervous breakdown, if not insanity!". Given that statement by the ship's doctor, one would think it's probably not a good idea to upset Dr. Daystrom any more than he already is. But what does Kirk do? He immediately charges up to Dr. Daystom and says the worst thing you could possibly say to him at that point--"The M-5 must be destroyed!".

    • When the M-5 computer goes crazy and starts shooting at the other starships, Commodore Wesley instantly concludes that Capt. Kirk has lost his mind and is trying to kill everyone. Not even for one second does the Commodore think that the M-5, which is going through its trial test and which has complete control of the ship, is the cause of the problem. It also doesn't reflect well on their friendship that his first and immediate conclusion is that Kirk is nuts.

    • When McCoy, Kirk and Spock come out of the turbolift, McCoy's lips don't move saying "Very funny."

    • McCoy disappears then reappears throughout the scene when Spock and Scotty are trying to disable the M-5.

    • After McCoy sedates Daystrom, the three of them walk out through the sickbay doors and down the hall while the camera stands still in sickbay. Yet the doors don't close.

    • In one scene on the bridge of the U.S.S. Lexington, the space sensor array wasn't moving.

  • QUOTES (19)

    • McCoy: Why don't I get the man who is responsible in the first place? Where's Daystrom?
      Kirk: He's with the M-5 unit... watching it. I think it surprised even him.
      Spock: Most illogical. Of all people, he should have known how the computer would perform. Of course, the M-5 itself has not behaved... logically.
      McCoy: Please, Spock, do me a favor and don't say it's fascinating.
      Spock: No. But it is.... interesting.

    • McCoy: Did you see the love light in Spock's eyes? The right computer finally came along.

    • Kirk: ...I stood on the bridge of my ship and I felt useless! (He raises his glass in a toast.) To Captain Dunsel.
      McCoy: To James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise.

    • McCoy: Compassion. That's the one thing no machine ever had. Maybe it's the one thing that keeps men ahead of them. Care to debate that, Spock?
      Spock: No, Doctor. I simply maintain that computers are more efficient than human beings, not better.
      McCoy: But tell me, which do you prefer to have around?
      Spock: I presume your question is meant to offer me a choice between machines and human beings. And I believe I have already answered that question.
      McCoy: I was just trying to make conversation, Spock.
      Spock: It would be most interesting to impress your memory engrams on a computer, Doctor. The resulting torrential flood of illogic would be most entertaining.

    • McCoy: I don't like it, Jim. A vessel this size cannot be run by one computer.
      Spock: We are attempting to prove that it can run this ship more efficiently than man.
      McCoy: Maybe you're trying to prove that Spock, but don't count me in on it.
      Spock: The most unfortunate lack in current computer programming is that there is nothing available to immediately replace the starship surgeon.
      McCoy: Very funny.

    • Kirk: There are certain things men must do to remain men.

    • Kirk: Only a fool would stand in the way of progress.

    • Spock: Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them. Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty to one man. And nothing can replace it or him.

    • Kirk: Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. You can't simply say, "Today I will be brilliant."

    • McCoy: If a man had a child who'd gone anti-social, killed perhaps, he'd still tend to protect that child.

    • Kirk: What happened to the crewman?
      Richard Daystrom: The M-5 computer needed a new power source; the crewman merely got in the way.
      Kirk: And how long will it be before we all "just get in the way?"

    • Richard Daystrom: When a child is taught ... it's programmed with simple instructions -- and at some point, if its mind develops properly, it exceeds the sum of what it was taught, thinks independently.

    • Richard Daystrom: To kill is a breaking of civil and moral laws we've lived by for thousands of years.

    • M-5: Murder is contrary to the laws of man and God.

    • McCoy: We're all sorry for the other guy when he loses his job to a machine. But when it comes to your job -- that's different. And it always will be different.

    • Kirk: Do you know the one -- "All I ask is a tall ship...and a star to steer her by..." You could feel the wind at your back, about you... the sounds of the sea beneath you. And even if you take away the wind and the water, it's still the same. The ship is can feel her...and the stars are still there.

    • Commodore Robert Wesley: Our complements to the M-5 unit ... and regards to Captain Dunsel. Wesley out.
      (Chekov winces; he and Sulu exchange a look)
      Dr. McCoy: Dunsel? Who the blazes is Captain Dunsel? What does it mean, Jim? ... Spock? ... What does it mean?
      Spock: Dunsel, doctor, is a term used by midshipmen at Starfleet Academy. It refers to a part which serves no useful purpose.

    • Richard Daystrom: Destroy it, Kirk? No! We're invincible! Look what we've done! Your mighty starships ... four toys to be crushed as we choose!

    • Richard Daystrom: (growing increasingly agitated) Twenty years of groping to prove the things I'd done before were not accidents. Seminars and lectures to rows of fools who couldn't begin to understand my systems. Colleagues ... colleagues laughing behind my back at the boy wonder... then becoming famous building on my work... building on my work!

  • NOTES (8)

    • The ore freighter model shown in this episode is recycled from Khan's deep-sleep ship from "Space Seed." The explosion shown is also recycled, shown earlier in "The Changeling." In the remastered 2008 version, both are redone from scratch.

    • The picture of the four ships attacking the Enterprise is actually one picture of the Enterprise quadrupled. In the 2008 remastered edition this was changed so that each ship was the same style, but had different names and numbering. The visuals for the approach of the ships and the attacks in the 2008 remaster were similar to the visuals done for the XBox/Playstation 2 game Star Trek Shattered Universe during the M-5 mission.

    • The badly damaged model of the Excalibur was the same model used for the Constellation in "The Doomsday Machine".

    • The Lexington bridge is in fact a slightly altered version of the Enterprise bridge. An extra seat back was added which was originally used in "Mirror, Mirror."

    • Deep Space Station K-7 is seen in this episode. As seen here, it is recycled footage from "The Trouble with Tribbles." In the remastered version, a new CGI model is used, complete with the Lexington docked with it.

    • The name Robert Wesley is Gene Roddenberry's alias.

    • The U.S.S. Potemkin (NCC-1657) will be given mention in the series finale, "Turnabout Intruder."

    • Desilu No: 5149-53.


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