The Doomsday Machine

From Academic Kids

"The Doomsday Machine" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #35 and was first broadcast on October 20, 1967. It was written by Norman Spinrad, and directed by Marc Daniels.

Quick Overview: The Enterprise plays a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with an alien planet killing machine.

Missing image
The Constellation enters the planet killer.

On stardate 4202.9, the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, responds to a distress call and finds that seven planets in an L370 star system have been destroyed. A check of a nearby system, L374, finds that all but two of its planets have been destroyed. Energy output within the system interferes with communications, but they still manage to pick up another distress call coming from the USS Constellation. The ship is found adrift and heavily damaged, barely operating on reserve power. The ship's bridge is completely blown apart and uninhabitable.

Kirk sends over a boarding party to inspect the ship and locate survivors. They find only the Constellation's commanding officer, Commodore Matthew Decker, remaining aboard, holed up inside the auxiliary control room. Mr. Scott reports the ship's warp engines are damaged beyond repair and the ship's weapon systems are nearly exhausted. Decker is beamed aboard the Enterprise where Dr. McCoy looks him over. Decker is incoherent and in shock, unable to respond to questions and only says "that thing" attacked him.

Scotty manages to playback the Constellation's flight recorder and they find out Decker discovered the obliterated systems and went to investigate as one of the worlds was breaking up. They soon came across an enormous "machine" with a conical shell miles in length and a giant maw filled with sparkling energy. The machine then attacked the Constellation, damaging the ship so severely that Decker had to beam his remaining crew to the surface of one of the remaining planets. The machine then destroyed that world and all Decker could do is watch helplessly.

The machine soon makes an appearance while Kirk and Scotty are overseeing repairs on the Constellation. Mr. Spock believes that it is a "doomsday machine", built according to the theory of mutually assured destruction. Spock orders an evasive course to pick up the Captain and repair crew, then exits the system's interference to warn Starfleet Command. Commodore Decker however, having left sickbay, pulls rank on Spock and assumes command of the Enterprise. He then orders a full attack against the machine.

As Spock had warned, the ship's weaponry is ineffective against the machine's pure neutronium shell and the Enterprise is badly damaged in the machine's counter attack. Back on board the Constellation, Kirk manages to fire off a few shots at the planet killer, which distracts it before it can finish off the Enterprise. The machine then targets the Constellation, but the Enterprise pulls a distraction of its own. Appearing confused, the planet killer disengages and moves away.

After contacting the Enterprise and learning about Decker's take over, Kirk furiously orders Spock, on his personal authority, to relieve Commodore Decker of command. Spock has the Commodore returned to sick bay, but then Decker escapes and steals a shuttlecraft which he pilots on a suicide attack into the planet killer's maw. Decker's meager attack fails to destroy the machine, but a slight reduction in the machine's energy output, believed caused by the anti-matter explosion of the shuttle's reactor, reveals the attack still had a slight effect.

Kirk and Scott get an idea to rig the Constellation with a timed explosive and try Decker's plan on a much larger scale. While the loss of crew means that they cannot activate the destruct system and there is no antimatter left to detonate the warp core with, Kirk suggests detonating the ship's impulse engines as it enters the maw of the planet killer. An action that Spock points out will cause a nuclear explosion of nearly 100 megatons. Unfortunately, Scotty tells Kirk someone must stay behind until the last minute and guide the ship in manually. Kirk volunteers to do it and orders Scotty and the rest of the repair crew back to the Enterprise.

With everything set, Kirk steers a course into the planet killer's maw. Kirk activates the bomb and calls for a beam out, however, the earlier battle had damaged the Enterprise's transporter and the system finally shorts out at the worst possible moment. Scotty rushes to make repairs while Kirk nervously watches the energy maw of the doomsday machine drawing closer. Scott's repairs work, and at the last second, Kirk is beamed out as the ship enters the maw. The resulting explosion burns out the doomsday machine, and its indestructible body shell remains drifting dead in space.

The episode ends with speculation that if this really is a doomsday machine, there may be another of these things out there somewhere.


There is a school of thought that speculates that the energy barrier around the perimeter of the galaxy was created to keep these planet killers out. If this is true, then it is not 100% effective.

There is another school of thought that connects these planet killers with a speculative ancient race that may have fought the Borg. This was the premise behind the Peter David TNG novel Vendetta.

James Doohan briefly loses his Scottish accent when he says the words "Thirty seconds later, blammo," while explaining to Kirk how to use the Constellation's self-destruct switch.

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