Enterprise vs the giant ice cream cone of doom. Originally broadcast on October 20, 1967 this is The Doomsday Machine.
Captain’s Log Stardate 4202.1
The Enterprise receives a message indicating that the USS Constellation is under attack. Responding to the message they find the ship nearly destroyed and it’s commanding officer, Commodore Matt Decker the only survivor of the attack. Kirk and crew learn from Commodore Decker that the entire crew of the Constellation was killed by a giant space entity after being beamed to a planet. This thing is like nothing he had ever seen and he could not tell if it were a ship…or some kind of creature. After tracking it’s trajectory, the crew discover that this thing came from outside of the galaxy and is headed toward populated areas that would result in innumerable deaths.
Kirk and a team remain aboard the USS Constellation in hopes to repair the ship as much as possible and return it to Starfleet, while sending Decker back to the ship with McCoy to recover. Soon the Plant Killer attacks preventing Kirk’s return and, after the Enterprise fails to defeat it, Commodore Decker takes command determined to get revenge against this thing or die trying. Now stranded aboard the USS Constellation, Kirk and the landing party get the battered ship running again and pursue the Enterprise. Soon it is clear that Decker is in no condition to command a ship and is relived of duty by Spock, but only after the Planet Killer has already begun its second attack on Enterprise. Decker steals a shuttlecraft with the intention to fly it into the creature taking it out with him. His plan fails, killing Decker, but this give Spock and Kirk a better idea, use the damaged USS Constellation in the same way.
Kirk arrives with the damaged Constellation and, with their plan in place, Kirk flies the starship into the Doomsday Machine’s maul beaming out moments before the ship detonates, killing the creature and saving countless lives.
In the end, Kirk and Spock wonder where this thing came from and if there is a possibility that there are others like it out there.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Once again, this is an absolute classic through and through. For the first time in this particular series, the stakes are the highest they have ever been. Earth itself could be in danger this time and it is up to Kirk, his crew and a Commodore with PTSD to find a way to stop it. In many ways, this episode is the origin of the Star Trek ‘Galaxy in danger’ trope that has become so prevalent in later series, even taking up entire seasons to resolve in some cases. However, being one of the first to do it, this episode serves as a blueprint for how it should be done.
The thing that makes this episode work so well is that, while it is confirmed that this Doomsday Machine is a galactic threat, the focus of the episode is how the crew of the Enterprise/Constellation respond to this threat. We do not get hours of dissertations as to the origins or ethical implications of destroying this deadly threat, instead the ships and the crew do all they can to stop it or get away if at all possible. I really think the only reason that Kirk and his crew go face to face with it is due to Commodore Decker’s reckless pursuit of the entity forcing Kirk to use Decker’s ship as a weapon itself. Otherwise, I can imagine that Kirk would have found a way to warn Starfleet resulting in a battle that would have rivaled that of Wolf 359. Thankfully, all it took was the destruction of a single ship (and the unfortunate death of a crew) to finally take down the creature giving this epic single episode a compact and succinct story that really didn’t need much more.
Now, that being said, the origins of this creature still remain relatively unknown. There have been suggestions and explanations via apocrypha but this creature is never explored again in any significant way on screen. In a way, I would loved to have had a followup for this episode in later series as well. Heck, these things could have been from the liquid universe along with Species 8472 on Voyager. Unfortunately, we have yet to see anything outside of some subtle references on Short Treks and Lower Decks.
Overall, this is again, one of my favorite episodes that really showcases the strength of Kirk and his crew in the face of insane odds. In a way, this episode could be the origins of Kirk’s need to constantly ‘save the universe’ in later stories (specifically the feature films). I mean, defeat one planet killer, who’s gonna stop you right?
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- Uhura and Chekov are mysteriously absent in this episode. No explanation given.
- It is suggested that a future Captain that we meet in the Motion Picture is, in fact, Decker’s son. This has never been confirmed on film so it is still considered Apocrypha.
- This is the first time we see a Constitution Class starship weaponized as a bomb.
- This episode also features signature ‘miracle worker’ status as he is able to repair the transporters in time to save Kirk’s life.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Wolf in the Fold
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 2/18/2022
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”