Thursday, June 12, 2014

Star Trek 2x6 "The Doomsday Machine"

rating: ****
Memory Alpha summary

"The Doomsday Machine," among other things, is one of the most famous examples of Starfleet Doesn't Have Better Officers Than Those Serving Aboard the Enterprise there is.  The Officer Who is Not as Good as Kirk this time is Matt Decker, who happens to also (possibly unofficially) happens to be the father of Will Decker from The Motion Picture.

via Howard Andrew Jones
The picture frozen in the video, and the guy who isn't Spock in the above picture, is Matt Decker.  Like a number of other Star Trek stories, it can be seen as a version of Melville's Moby-Dick, a tale of revenge against an enemy that will never really understand what's going on (see: "Obsession" seven episodes later, or Wrath of Khan or First Contact).  The eponymous device is far less impressive visually than the effect it has on (this) Decker, so if you're looking for the reason I'm listing this as a classic, look elsewhere.

"Doomsday Machine" has long been considered a standout episode, and it deserves such a distinction.  Even if it sounds (despite) like I've been mocking it so far, it's really a pretty good one.  Yes, No Other Officers in Starfleet Are As Awesome as Our Crew, but the fact that anyone else gets acknowledged at all is still a mark in the plus column for the series, helps flesh out the Star Trek universe beyond the characters we see every week.  Things happen to other people, too, basically.

Decker usurping command of the ship evokes the later awkward Jellico era in "Chain of Command" from Next Generation, as McCoy and Spock butt heads with him.    It's a way of exploring the dynamics of command without necessarily endangering anyone's reputation.  Decker will remain a more distinguished example over someone like Jellico because this is a personal story for him.  Had Kirk been the one going after the device, chances are it would have been a very different episode, so this is again (and this time phrased more positively) a case of exploring what a character isn't by what someone else does.  By the end of the episode, Kirk ends up vindicating Decker anyway, so there's also a little of everyone admitting that maybe the guy wasn't as unhinged as he seemed.  Later, when Kirk loses Spock (and then his son and then his ship, over the course of Khan and Search for Spock) we do get to experience what it'd be like from the other side.

franchise * series * essential * character

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