Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, April 7, 2014

Season 2, Episode 35 "The Doomsday Machine"

"The Doomsday Machine "
Production Number: 35
Air Order: 35
Stardate: Unknown
Original Air Date: October 20, 1967

So there's a company that makes Klingon beer now. Warnog is a lager "with notes of clove, banana, and caramel". It sounds like a better tea than a beer, but I hate beer, so I guess it's moot. Roomie is a beer snob, so I may get her to try it and tell us how it is. BTW, the same company also makes a red Vulcan ale. Which I also will not be drinking. Can's cool, though.


The music that overlays the opening shot of the Enterprise (instrumental theme music) includes two extra ominous-sounding notes at the end. I guess we should get ready for some shit to go down right away. We start out on the bridge, and it's clearly Casual Friday, as Kirk is wearing his green wrap-around blouse. There seems to be some kind of crisis brewing, and - 

Let's be nice and say that the Ship Goddess has the day off. If they replace her, I'm gonna start popping some caps.
So the blonde chick (Lt Palmer) says that she's getting a distress call from the Constellation, a sister ship to the E, but that the message is garbled. Sulu can't get a good fix on the ship. And then Spock announces that the whole fucking solar system is gone. They charted 7 planets here last year, and now there's only debris.
The E travels to the next solar system over, and finds it mostly empty as well, just two planets left. But there's a ship there, floating dead in the water.
"It's the Constellation!" says Kirk. "She was attacked! Red Alert!"
Dramatic music!

After the credits jump, everyone reports in. Sulu says that there are no other ships in the area. Palmer says that the Constellation is not responding to hails. And Spock says that the other ship has no power and very little life support. Kirk leaves Spock in charge and beams over to the Constellation.

Scotty takes the expendables to the engine room to check it out while Bones and Kirk have a look around. Kirk remarks that the breakroom seems too orderly for an emergency, and calls Spock to report the lack of a crew. Spock replies that they cannot be on either of the remaining planets, as neither supports human life. Scotty returns by himself to say that pretty much everything but the computer and life support are shot. He wisely suggests that they listen to the final captain's log, and they head off to do so. But they stumble upon Commodore Matt Decker, who is sitting at a console in shock. He barely recognizes Kirk, who seems to be a friend of his. Not getting any answers from Decker, Scotty turns on the log.

Decker's Log 4202.1: Similar to the E, the Constellation was trying to figure out where the hell the solar systems had gone.
"Where's your crew?" Kirk asks Decker.
Decker sobs that they were exploring the situation when they came upon a ship or something, which disabled them. Decker beamed his crew down to the third planet before the transporter quit working. He intended to go down with his ship, so to speak, but the ship thing destroyed the fourth planet, then the third.
"They were begging me to beam them back up!" he cries.
"Fuck, dude," says Kirk. Fuck, indeed.
Decker says he isn't sure what the thing is, just that it's miles long with a gaping maw that uses an antiproton beam to slice hunks out of planets.

Spock calls, his scans corroborating Decker's story. The thing is a robot, which destroys planets, then consumes the rubble as fuel. No one has been able to raise Starfleet because the thing gives off crazy subspace interference. And Sulu, who is hella smart, has used the robot's destructive path to figure out that it came from an outside galaxy, and is headed for the most populated parts of our galaxy.
"I have a conspiracy theory," Kirk says to Bones. "I think it's a doomsday machine." And because Bones is a doctor and not a mechanic, he explains that a doomsday device is a weapon made in times of war, which is so powerful that it can take out both sides. It's usually used as a bluff, but Kirk thinks that this one was set in motion, and probably destroyed its maker, their enemies, and everything in its path. He compares it to the H-bomb of the twentieth century. (The big difference here is that an H-bomb, once set off, does not sprout legs and wander the universe, destroying everything else.)
Decker is a wreck, and Kirk convinces him to beam back to the E with Bones. Kirk will stay behind to ready the Constellation for towing. He will, of course, get himself trapped there at a critical time, and ride to the rescue at the last minute, but Decker doesn't watch this show, so he nods in agreement.
Bones and Scotty - you guys know better than that.
Decker and Bones beam over just as Spock calls Red Alert. They rush to the bridge as the planet killer comes onto the viewscreen.
Dramatic music! And laughter from me. This is the super-scary planet killer, you guys.

It looks like a stretched-out version of the cornucopia from The Hunger Games. Or a New Years noisemaker carved from rock. Or a petrified Dune spice worm. I'm having a similar reaction as the audience in the preview screening of Maeby Funke's first horror film. They were going for "scary" but got "hilarious". (In fairness, though, Maeby's monster looked like ALF. This is not quite that bad.)

Good Guy Budget: this episode features scenes filmed on the USS Constellation, another Constitution-class ship, which means that the crew could just use the same sets and models that they had made for the Enterprise.
Bad Guy Budget: pretty sure there was only five bucks allotted to the effects  people to make the planet killer. The guy who wrote the original story imagined lasers and tentacles on his scary machine. Instead, he got a windsock dipped in wet cement. No, I'm not shitting you. They dipped a windsock in cement. A windsock does not strike fear into my heart. It's like being held up by a gun designed by Lisa Frank.

Anyway, everyone is terrified because the windsock has noticed the E and turned to swallow it whole.

Pretty sure the inside is coated in melted crayon.

Spock has kept the comm open to talk to Kirk on the Constellation. Kirk asks if they can shut the robot down.
"Nope," says Spock.
The landing party is about to beam back to the E when the windsock attacks the ship and damages both the transporter and communications. They're stuck.
Kirk asks Scotty to repair the engines to get some kind of propulsion.
Back on the E's bridge, Spock has surmised that the planet killer will ignore them if they stay out of range. The windsock is headed for the colonies on Rigel. Spock thinks they should pick up Kirk and head back into a part of space where they can get a warning to Starfleet. Decker argues that they should follow the planet killer and try to kill it before it kills Rigel. When Spock points out that Decker killed his crew trying to do that, Decker gets butthurt and pulls rank, ousting Spock from the captain's throne. The bridge crew is all watching, wearing their best "oh no, he di'in't" faces.

"Fuck that shit!" yells Bones. "I'll declare you unfit to command!"
"You have to examine him first," Spock points out. His hands are tied by fucking regulation, and everybody knows it. Frankly, I'm with Bones. Decker's gone round the twist and is unfit to lead. (I should like to point out here that technically, Bones can order Decker to sick bay for evaluation. It's one of the few times that dude can "outrank" someone who actually ranks higher than himself.) Bones storms off the bridge. He ought to have a bit more faith, though. It's Spock. Sure, he follows regulation. But he's always got something up his well-tailored sleeve.
Decker orders Sulu to go after the scary cornucopia.

Back on the Constellation, Kirk is working behind a tech panel to try to get the ship's viewscreen to work. I fucking love this. He's not staring over Scotty's shoulder, "supervising", he's not pacing while Hamleting, he's down on the floor working like some Red grunt. This is awesome. This is how one becomes a ship captain, by knowing how everything on the ship functions, and by being able to jerry-rig the thing back together with hand-tools and duct tape. Scotty calls to let him know that the engines suck, but he can get Kirk a bit of power.

The E has caught up with the planet killer, which has turned back toward them. Spock warns that their ship is no match for the robot, and Decker barks at him to STFU.
Kirk and the random Blue (Washburn) manage to get the viewscreen to work again, just in time to see the E fire useless phasers at the planet killer. 
"The fuck?" asks Kirk.

Decker wastes a bunch of time and energy firing more phasers while Spock reiterates the stupidity of that action. Kirk tries to hail them, to no avail.
When giving casualty reports about damage to the E, Palmer chooses to look at Spock instead of Decker. Maybe I was wrong about her...
Spock announces that they are being held in a tractor beam, pulled into the maw of the planet killer. He threatens to have Decker relived of command if the commodore doesn't order Sulu to veer off. Decker acquiesces, but it's too late. 

Scotty manages to get power to the Constellation engines. It handles like a Ford Galaxie that's out of power steering fluid, but it moves nonetheless. Kirk fires phasers at the planet killer, which draws it off of the Enterprise.
"Hooray!" says Decker. "We can kill it together!"
No, now it's going after the C, you moron.
Palmer says she can get Kirk on the line, so they open the comms. Decker answers Kirk's call.
"Dude, where's Spock?" asks Kirk.
"He refused to run a suicide mission, so I took over the ship," replies Decker.
Kirk is hella pissed now. "Are you shitting me? You're gonna fuck up my ship, too!"

"Fucker, you touched my woman?"

Decker tries to pull rank on Kirk, but Kirk is having none of it.
"Bitch, put Spock on the phone!"
Spock outlines for Kirk how Decker has fucked up all of the shit, but it is not awesome. Kirk commands Spock to relieve Decker. When Decker protests, Spock threatens to have him arrested. Two security Reds step forward. Decker finally realizes that Vulcans don't bluff, and he moves out of the chair.
"Oh, beeteedubs," says Spock, as he resumes the command throne. "Your certifiable ass is going to sick bay with security Red Montgomery."
Spock steers the E back toward the C as Decker leaves the bridge.
Decker and Montgomery get off the lift to go to sick bay, and Decker attacks the Red. Montgomery holds his own for a bit, but underestimates the adrenaline rush that comes from being nucking futs, and Decker wins. He makes his way down to the shuttlecraft hangar.

Sulu reports that the shuttlebay doors are opening, but he cannot close them. The shuttle launches.

Check out this awesome shuttle bay model, you guys. I'm
kind of in awe of it's awesomeness. But then I think maybe
they put the planet killer money into this model instead
of that one...

Kirk notices the shuttle leaving the E, and radios Spock to ask why. The logical answer is that they're coming to get you, Kirk. To be honest, I can't understand why they don't use the shuttle for transport every time the damn beam machine goes down. I guess it makes the drama less interesting.
Spock replies that the shuttle operator didn't get clearance. They hail the craft. Now, I'm not going to say that it's the Zombie Galileo, but...

Decker answers. He says that Spock was right in not being able to destroy it with phasers from the outside, so he's going to fly the shuttle into the machine.
"You'll die, you dumbshit!" yells Kirk.
"I killed my crew," says Decker. "I'm totally down with dying."
Kirk tries to talk him out of it, but Decker is sold on the idea, and he very slowly flies the Zombie Galileo into the planet killer. The funny thing is, for all the dramatic music and outrageous faces that Decker is making, the actual shot of the shuttle going into the machine was really anti-climactic. In the meantime, please enjoy this shot of Decker completely losing it.

Spock calls Kirk a few minutes later to offer his condolences, which is pretty classy of him. Also, astute. Dude has lived with humans long enough to know that Kirk would be upset. Good Guy Vulcan.
"Hey," says Sulu. "There's a really tiny drop in the windsock's power."
"Let's play What If," says Kirk. "What if the shuttle's explosion wasn't big enough to take down the planet killer... but what if the Constellation is?"
"Dunno," says Spock. "I can check."
Kirk asks Scotty if he can set the engines to overload.
"Yep," says Scotty.
Spock comes back on the line to say that he doesn't know if the Constellation can blow up the planet killer for good. They're just going to have to gamble. Kirk says he had Scotty rig the engines on a 30 second explosion delay. He'll flip the switch and beam out. Scotty shows him how to set it off.

Scotty's technical term for explosion is "poof!"

Scotty beams back to the E, but the transporter is wonky and sluggish, and takes a long time to beam him back. He hops off the transporter pad and into a Jeffries tube to screw with the wiring. It's fixed, but barely. Kirk flips the delay detonation switch on the C, and the transporter on the E shorts out. This week's Disable the Ship is The Ship is Blowing Up in 30 seconds. Then - 
Scotty swears in Gaelic!

I don't know why I'm so tickled when people swear in another language, but it makes me giggle like a goofy fangirl. It didn't show up in the subtitles, so there's no way for me to look up a translation, but I hope he said "Nothing in this fucking tin can works right" or "Fix it your own damn self" or "God, Kirk. Again?"
At any rate, you know what happens. Scotty fixes the transporter as the Constellation explodes, and the Mary Sue beams him aboard, just in time.

On the bridge, Sulu confirms that the planet killer is just another piece of space junk. Kirk rushes in from the transporter room to get a thumbs up from everyone.
"Sucks that Matt died," he tells Spock. "Gonna write that he died in the line of duty, trying to keep others from being killed."
Spock agrees, and they briefly discuss the H-bomb being a doomsday device, but that the same tech is now being used to power space ships.
"We used one doomsday machine to blow up another," he smiles. "How constructive."


Sometimes I feel like the episodes that are everyone's favorites are the ones that I have the most issues with. "Be careful what you say about Arena," warned Roomie. "That one's iconic, pretty well-loved amongst the fans." In the end, I didn't have too many problems with that one, but I feel like most episodes will have some issues. This one has issues that are kind of weird. 
I have a tendency to haunt IMDB these days, looking for background info that explains weird plot holes, or looking up actors that I swear I've seen before. This time, I took a look at the reviews left for this episode. It got 10 stars from nearly everyone. "It wasn't that great," I thought. The one I agreed with most was the last one in the line. The reviewer liked the episode overall, but found the horrible cheesy planet killer to be distracting. I CANNOT AGREE MORE. Everything else was great with this episode. It had good tension and interesting music. The story, with it's attached Hmmm Moment was thought-provoking. But the planet killer itself detracted from the episode. I'm really supposed to be afraid of that thing? Seriously?
The other thing that really killed me was William Windom, the guy who played Decker. Commodore Matt Decker is tortured. He had a good career in Starfleet, an impressive ship with a full complement, and he lost it all in one fell swoop. He became obsessed with killing the planet killer in an effort to exact revenge for his fallen crew members, and in order to put his life right. It wasn't until years later that Windom realized that Decker was meant to represent Ahab, and the planet killer, the white whale. The IMDB reviews were also full of praise for Windom's performance. While I agree with them for the most part, Windom admitted that he didn't like working on Star Trek, that Nimoy and The Shat were fighting at the time, and the set was uncomfortable. So he was taciturn and purposefully overacted his part. He says he did a bad job on purpose, then receives praise from the fans. Crimony, Star Trek. What am I gonna do with you, huh?

RIP Roll Call

This crazy mofo

and this windsock.

Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 1
Gold deaths this episode: 1
Gold deaths this season: 2
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this season: 3
Total crew deaths thus far: 19

Way to go, Blue Team! Science, bitches!

Last weekend I had dinner with my mother and brother at a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant. Since my brother announced that he was purchasing dinner, I decided to spring for the Thai iced tea, which I had never had (fortunately, they both had this as well, so I didn't feel as bad ordering something more expensive that a Coke). I feel like it was worth the try. When it arrived at the table, it was separated into gradations of orange, as milk is poured over the top of the tea, and it settles slightly. Mother and brother ordered regular milk, while I went for coconut. Apparently, the milk can vary from place to place, where they might also use half and half or sweetened condensed milk. The milk makes the tea a bit thicker than your normal tea. I had a hard time figuring out which base is used, so I looked it up. Traditionally, it's made with Ceylon, but that's painfully expensive, so most just cheat and add red and yellow food coloring to black or green tea, which is what gives it that distinct orange color. They may also add different spices to it as well. I think vanilla is really common. It tasted like a sweet pastry, and it did its job well, which is to say that it kept me from looking like a cartoon character with flames spewing from my mouth as I ate my super-mild curry. (Seriously: I cannot do spicy food. Why the hell do people eat that Rooster Sauce? No, thank you.)

This is the tea that I guess most restaurants buy. It's green, and all of the reviews claim that it tastes totally authentic. Bottom line: it's kind of a dessert tea, not to be taken as a palette-cleanser, and the sugar plus the milk makes it really sweet, so if sweet teas are not your thing, it might be best to skip it or take a sip from a dining partner instead.  

In the meantime, please enjoy this tea from the folks at Funny or Die.

Lily of the West


  1. I love your commentary on The Doomsday Machine. To me, the cement windsock was really scary because I saw it when I was about six (everything's scary at that age). Also, I like how it looked completely alien. No HUMAN would build a machine like that.

    You caught the part that always bugged me - McCoy could have relieved Dekker of command simply based on the fact that Dekker was catatonic when they found him just a few minutes before.

    I also thought the fight between Dekker and the security guy was pretty darn convincing! The security guy fell for the "Oh, I'm hurt" trick (shame on him!).

    Thanks for your great blog!

  2. I always wondered why it took so long for them to relieve Decker of duty as well. In another episode Spock and McCoy team up on Kirk and it's made clear that they could put him on ice just with their combined agreement. Maybe because that happened over a longer time period. (Okay, I know it was for dramatic purposes, but I'm trying to find a good in-universe reason why they let Decker be in charge as long as they did.) The planet killer didn't look too bad to me in the remastered version. But it still looked like a giant, fossilized turd. I know a lot of people don't like the remastered version because it's not the original, but it makes the Enterprise look badass. And there's still enough bad 60s effects left in to laugh at without it being too ridiculous.