The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Doomsday Machine

When the Enterprise discovers a destroyed star system and the burnt out wreck of the starship Constellation, it is clear that some terrible new threat has emerged. Commodore Decker, commander and only survivor of the Constellation’s crew, explains that it is the work of a planet killer, a powerful machine that has carved a swathe of destruction across several galaxies. But Decker’s obsession with stopping the machine might just lead to the destruction of the Enterprise.

Yes, Star Trek does Moby Dick in this episode, which introduces Commodore Matt Decker as the episode’s Ahab, hunting a heartless ‘white whale’ that killed all of his crew – the crew he tried to save by having them beam down to a planet. Even though he’s understandably dislikeable for his constant defiance of our heroes Kirk and Spock, it’s a strong performance – a portrayal of a tortured man, a captain who tried to do his best but ultimately lost his ship and his crew.

One thing I’ve yet to mention about this rewatch is that the DVD versions of the episode feature some redone effects – exterior shots of the Enterprise, space shots of planets, phaser effects (pretty much all standardised to blue) and the like. Whilst this might sound like a treat, I actually miss seeing the series as it was when it was broadcast – indeed, as I saw it when it aired on BBC2 in the mid 1990s. I don’t want to see this CG Doomsday Machine – I want to see it in its full, papier-maché, turdlike glory.

Rules I would put in place if I were in command of Starfleet

  • Decker was able to pull rank on both Kirk and Spock, and because McCoy has not done a full medical exam, he is not able to certify the commodore unfit for command. If I were in charge, anyone who had just lost their crew and command would not be allowed back on duty until they had had a full psychological exam.
  • Similarly, Decker’s authorisations to move freely about the Enterprise, and to launch a shuttlecraft would be fully revoked.

Tiny observations

  • No Uhura this episode – the communications station is womanned by Lieutenant Palmer.
  • Note how there were security red shirts hanging around on the bridge just for the moment when they would have to escort Decker away.

Summary – The Doomsday Machine: “Captain Ahab’s gotta go hunt his whale.”

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