Recap / Star Trek S2 E6 "The Doomsday Machine"
A vengeful, PTSD-ridden Commodore Decker takes over the Enterprise.
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! Decker: Don't you think I know that?!?
There was! But not anymore!
They called me, they begged
me for help! Four hundred
of them! I couldn't!! I... I couldn't... [breaks into sobs]
is investigating the destruction of several planetary systems when they come across a 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 endangers 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.
- Absentee Actor: Uhura doesn't appear in this episode, her duties were being assyned by Lt. Palmer, played by Elizabeth Rogers. Chekov is also absent.
- 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.
- Blatant Lies: An accidental case created by the remastered version. It is stated that other than the bridge, the Constellation is habitable. One look at the huge portions of the primary hull in particular which have been reduced to their structural framework makes that laughably wrong.
- Captain Obvious: Quite a literal example this time, when Kirk observes that the Constellation was attacked. Really, Jim? You don't think that kind of damage could be accidental?
- 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).
- Doomsday Device: Obviously, although any theories about the planet-killer's actual origin and purpose remain just that.
- 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 was showing the episodes in order) reran this episode shortly after the death of William Windom.
- Explosive Instrumentation: Nothing says "transporter malfunction" like a couple of smoke-plumed explosions.
- Face Death with Dignity: Decker tries, but he clearly loses it seconds before the end. Kirk does a much better job of it.
- Feed It a Bomb: And 97 megatons of fusion energy make for one hell of a bomb.
- 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."
- Forced to Watch: A big part of why Commodore Decker is so traumatized; not only did he beam his crew onto a planet in the machine's path, but he had to listen to them die from his crippled ship.
Decker: They called me, they begged me for help, four hundred of them! I couldn't! I-I couldn't! (breaks down in tears)
- General Ripper: Commodore Decker. His goal is fine, but his methods are suicidal... literally, as it turned out.
- 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.
- Go Look at the Distraction: Kirk uses the Constellation to divert the planet-killer from moving in on the Enterprise.
- 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 is 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:
- No one considers firing into the obvious weak point of the planet killer until Decker completely loses it and flies a shuttle into it, revealing the weakness. Of course, this is equivalent to firing down the barrel of a gun and hoping not to be shot, but it's not like they had many options, especially when it had them in a tractor beam. Star Trek Online actually went with this route, but the player can only cause damage with special, high-powered weapons, not their standard loadout.
- 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:
- 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.
- Large Ham: William Windom thought the story was ridiculous and purposely overacted, not realizing he was supposed to be channeling Captain Ahab. Ironically, he wound up giving what is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most memorable performances of his career. He came to appreciate the irony of this in his later life, and he even reprised the role of Decker for Star Trek: New Voyages.
- 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.