Recap / Star Trek S2 E6 "The Doomsday Machine"
A vengeful, PTSD-ridden Commodore Decker takes over the Enterprise.
Decker: They say there's no devil, Jim. But there is a..... Right out of hell, I saw it!!!
Kirk: Matt. Where's your crew?
Decker: On the third planet.
Kirk: There is no third planet!
is investigating the destruction of several planetary systems when they come across the crippled starship, the U.S.S Constellation
. The only person on board is Commodore Matthew Decker, the ship's captain. Through the disturbed captain's rantings and the pre-recorded Captain's Log
, Kirk and co. deduce that after the ship was severely damaged, the entire crew was beamed down to a local planet, the captain taking the duty of going down with the ship after seeing to his crew's safety. However, a planet-destroying weapon constructed long ago by a long-dead race destroyed the very planet where the captain thought his crew would be safe, leaving him alive and grieving. While Kirk, Scotty and a small repair crew stay on board the Constellation
, Decker is beamed back with McCoy.
Decker isn't taking Survivor Guilt
very well and takes command of the Enterprise
upon learning that Spock would rather take logical steps than press forward and destroy the planet killer at all costs. Decker recklessly endagers the crew in his attempts to destroy the thing that killed his own crew. When Kirk finds out about this, he is not amused to say the least. He orders Spock to relieve Decker, but the commodore is only finally removed when Spock threatens to arrest him. Spock sends him to sick bay, but instead of going there he attacks his guard and steals a shuttlecraft, intending to shove it down the machine's gullet - with himself inside.
No one is able to save Decker. He doesn't want to be saved.
However, Kirk believes he had the right idea to destroy the device. They just need to use something bigger than a shuttlecraft. Hmmm...this junked up starship that no one's using just might do....
Tropes for this episode include:
- Abandon Ship: The crew of the Constellation (save for Decker) does this prior to the episode. Turns out to be a bad move, as they evacuate to a planet that the planet killer then destroys.
- Beard of Sorrow: It's probably been a few days since the destruction of the crew of the Constellation, as Decker has grown some hefty stubble. His unkempt appearance makes him stand out among the clean and neat members of the Enterprise crew.
- Casual Danger Dialog: Kirk is still cool, despite being seconds from being blown apart.
Kirk: Gentlemen, I suggest you beam me aboard.
- Catastrophic Countdown: Kirk has 30 seconds to get off the Constellation.
- Damage Control: Despite the damage to the Constellation, Scotty the Miracle Worker manages to get the ship moving on impulse, raise the Deflector Shields, and recharge a phaser bank.
- Death Seeker: Decker
- Doctor's Orders: Discussed. When McCoy protests Decker taking command of the Enterprise, Spock reminds him that he has the authority as Chief Medical Officer to certify the Commodore unfit for duty. McCoy eagerly states he'll certify that right now, only for Spock to point out for it to be valid he will also need to provide medical proof (which McCoy does not have as he has not examined Decker).
- Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: The very first thing we notice about Decker is the "Lord, kill me now!" look in his eyes.
- Due to the Dead: Me TV (who has been showing the episodes in order) reran this episode shortly after the death of William Windom.
- Face Death with Dignity: Decker tries, but he clearly loses it seconds before the end. Kirk does a much better job of it.
- First Name Basis:
- As an old friend, Kirk calls Decker "Matt" when the damage control party first finds him. After he realizes the risk Decker is causing to the Enterprise, he switches to "Commodore" when telling him to give command back to Spock. Later, starting with "Matt, you'll be killed," he goes back to his friend's first name, begging him not to kamikaze the planet killer.
- Decker also does this. When he's first found, he calls Kirk "Jim". Later, though, after taking command of the Enterprise, he calls him "Kirk" or "Captain".
- Ghost Extras: One of the most decisive aversions of this trope in franchise history. Throughout the episode, as the power struggle between Spock and Decker escalates, the camera routinely cuts to the reactions of the crew members in the "background". None of them have any dialogue, but their facial expressions speak volumes.
- When Spock accepts Kirk's order to relieve Decker of duty and assume command of the Enterprise, Decker (knowing that neither Kirk nor Spock have the authority to relieve him) resists. But then Spock silently gestures to the security redshirts stationed by the turbolift, and they advance forward - ready to subdue Decker by force if necessary, proving that the crew of the ship is behind Spock and will back his play. Spock could have very easily nerve-pinched Decker if he hadn't cooperated, so Spock is going out of his way to demonstrate how important their support (or lack thereof) is in the power struggle.
- Going Down with the Ship: Decker intended to do this. Ironically, however, the planet he sent his crew to for their safety was destroyed, leaving him alive. Decker had to settle for going down with a shuttlecraft.
- Hand Signals: One of the reasons Decker realizes he is fighting a losing battle asserting his authority on the ship when Spock just has to make a hand gesture and the bridge's security officers eagerly step forward for the word to drag the Commodore out.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Decker is in the midst of one when he's found on board the Constellation. He has another, major one when he makes his suicide run at the planet killer.
- Idiot Ball: It's interesting that nobody thought of firing into the maw of the machine while the ship is being pursued.
- How about that would have put the Enterprise in the direct firing arc of the machine's powerful main gun?
- The Enterprise was already directly in the path of the gun, since it was hit with it several times, and especially so when the tractor beam was pulling it inside. Yet they didn't try to fire inside the machine even when directly in front of it.
- Later video games such as Star Trek Online do go that route. In STO's case, it's justified as the player is using the more maneuverable B'Rel Bird of Prey.
- Another example: The planet killer, well, destroys planets. Decker sees it cutting up a planet when the Constellation finds it. It's pretty much the machine's only function. Yet, when he gives the order to abandon ship (even though life support is still working), he beams the crew of the Constellation down TO A PLANET.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
Bones: No, I'm a doctor, not a mechanic.
- Irrevocable Order: Once the self-destruct on the Constellation is triggered, there's no stopping it (apparently because of the ship's damaged condition, with the engines already on the edge of blowing up without any extra nudge in that direction). This causes some consternation when the Enterprise transporters pick a bad time to go offline.
- It's Personal: Decker takes the destruction of the crew of the Constellation very personally.
- Ludicrous Precision: Spock, as usual.
Kirk: Am I correct in assuming that a fusion explosion of 97 megatons will result if a starship impulse engine is overloaded?
Spock: No, sir. 97.835 megatons.
- Magic Countdown
- Made of Iron: The planet killer's hull is composed of neutronium, which is the super-compressed material that makes up white dwarf stars (to give an idea of how dense it is, a matchbox-sized amount of neutronium weighs six million tons). This allows it to easily shrug off everything both the Constellation and the Enterprise throw at it from the outside. On the other side the Constellation is able to move, maneuver, and attack after some TLC from Scotty, even with one nacelle blown in half and holes all over its structure.
- Mega-Maw Maneuver: Inverted. The Constellation deliberately flies into the planet killer's maw, rather than the other way around.
- Moby Schtick: One of the earliest examples in Trek, starting a recurring trend. Kirk, Khan and Picard all fall prey to the vengeance trend started by Decker. However, this particular incident was resolved when Kirk directly ordered Spock to to remove Decker from command before his reckless vindictiveness destroyed the USS Enterprise.
- My Greatest Failure: Decker sees the death of the Constellation's crew as a failure on his part, and very nearly puts the Enterprise in the same peril.
- Negative Space Wedgie: Giant cone of planetary destruction spinning around in space like a forgotten land mine.
- Not So Different: It is inferred that before the disaster, Decker wasn't very different from Kirk.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The show's budget wouldn't stretch to building a model of the Constellation at the same level of detail as the Enterprise (since, unlike the Enterprise, they couldn't spread the cost out by reusing it in other episodes), so the damaged Constellation was represented by a shop-bought Enterprise model with the serial number stickers applied in a different order.
- Oh Crap!: Kirk, thanks to Scotty, manages to get the wrecked USS Constellation to move and fire on the planet killer before it swallowed the Enterprise, unfortunately...
Kirk: Mister Scott, it worked. Great.
(sees the planet killer is now turning towards his ship)
Kirk:I think it's great. Scotty, get us out of here.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Scotty loses his brogue when he's telling Kirk how to detonate the Constellation.
- Playing Sick: Inverted when Decker insists he's competent to command a starship when he is clearly mentally unbalanced. Played straight when he fakes a cough just before slugging Lt. Montgomery while being escorted to sick bay.
- Precision H Strike: Contrary to popular belief, never once on the TV series did Bones say "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a X!" (In this ep, for example, he says "No, I'm a doctor, not a mechanic.") Laws about swearing on TV were strictly enforced at the time. However, Decker does manage to slip in a "Hell" when comparing the machine to a devil.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Decker v the planet killer.
- Sacrificial Planet: The titular weapon has already annihilated a solar system and all but two planets of another by the time the Enterprise gets on the scene. It's set on a course through the most densely populated section of the galaxy to sustain itself.
- Scenery Gorn: The damaged USS Constellation.
- Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: In the real world, a 97-megaton explosion would be much more powerful.
- The planet killer isn't that much larger than a starship, which means it's vastly smaller than a planet. It either consumes matter millions of times its own size, or leaves far more debris than we see.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Capt. Kirk finally has to use this trope by invoking his personal authority as ship's captain to get Mr. Spock to resume command of the Enterprise from Commodore Decker who is doing his Moby Schtick. Of course, Kirk would have liked his chances facing a Board of Inquiry about this move, considering he would be arguing against a Commodore who impetuously attacked an unstoppable Juggernaut when he should have been escaping the planet killer's jamming field to alert Starfleet Command.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Subverted, actually. Decker really shouldn't have had to sacrifice himself to the machine. But the method did end up revealing a weakness they could use to destroy the machine. (And really, there would have been no other more satisfying way of rounding up his emotional arc.)
- Stating the Simple Solution: It was cut for time, but at the end, Spock notes that all Starfleet might have to do if another planet killer appears is to get an asteroid, hollow it out to fill it with as many photon torpedoes as they can inside, and feed into the machine to detonate it.
- Suicide Mission: Decker wants that machine destroyed at any cost, even his own life.
- Survivor Guilt: Poor Decker has a horrible case of this.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: Kirk re Decker. He fails.
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: The planet killer, hence Kirk's reference to "the Doomsday Machine" - an allusion to a popular 1960s term for thermonuclear warheads (or "the H-bomb"), as he himself points out.
- You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious: Spock calls Kirk not "Captain" or "Kirk" but "Jim" when he protests his plan to destroy the machine.