How do I describe my love of this episode? My all-time favorite, the one I would wait endlessly for in reruns as a kid, back in the day when you were at the mercy of the program director at your local syndicated station. I don’t know about you, but my local station rarely played Star Trek in any kind of order. If I was lucky, TV Guide would list the episode in the log line, but for the most part, I just had to watch every episode and wait. Which was not a problem, since I loved the series since I was four (or sooner, that’s just my earliest memory) and I had gotten the family to love it too. So we all watched Trek every night it was on. That was either six days a week or just weekends, depending on the era. So what is it about this episode? Well, I love action and adventure, and this one has it in buckets. I love tense drama, great performances, stellar background music and space combat. I also love me a good character study. The Doomsday Machine has all of these things, as well as a good moral lesson in the escalation of atomic weapon development. The episode has many examples of “firsts” for the season and series: The first episode not to have a captain’s log done by any regulars or a current stardate attached to the aired episode (Decker’s log happened prior the the start of the episode); the first episode of the season to show Kirk’s green wrap (and the only one without the black trim); the first episode of the season with Sol Kaplan providing the popular score; the first episode to feature another starship; the first episode of the season without Chekov or Uhura; the first use of Auxiliary Control; the first use of an AMT model kit on screen; and the first time another starship commander goes batshit crazy. Everyone is on their game here. I would assume Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig were dropped to save money in this effects heavy episode. William Windom is the only real guest star here, the rest are low cost day players. It doesn’t matter; Windom is magnetic and brilliant as the mentally scarred Matt Decker, as commanding a presence as Kirk and, under different circumstances, was probably the cream of the service. Decker was tough as nails, but unintentionally sending his entire crew to their death’s made him snap. It’s an interesting thought to consider this might be Kirk under the same conditions. Windom starts off weepy, but toughens and, honestly, you never hate him. His motivations are clear and understandable. He’s not necessarily wrong, just going about it recklessly and obsessively. In his death, he provides Kirk the clue he needs to defeat the planet killer. Shatner holds up the rest of this episode effortlessly. He also looks damned amazing in that shirt, the best shape he would be in for the run of the series. His performance runs from worry, to distress, then determination, anger, sadness, anxiety and then, finally, relief. It’s a powerful showcase for his talents. There are no laughs here; this is probably one of the most serious scripts of the season, a season where things got softer and more friendly. But there’s still fun to be had: “If I only had some phasers…” “Phasers? You’ve got ‘em! I just had one bank recharged.” “Scotty…! You’ve just earned your pay for the week.” (As a kid, I was so disappointed to discover they already used this line in Who Mourns for Adonias?) Scotty is totally sharp. This is Doohan’s favorite episode and it’s easy to see why: Scotty is doing exactly what he should be. He’s not commanding the ship, barking at ambassadors or freaking out over going to warp 6. He’s keeping shit running and without him, the damned Constellation wouldn’t budge. He was never more essential to the format as he is here. Doohan is, as usual, perfect. If anyone gets shafted, it’s Bones. He’s the “idiot of the week” who doesn’t know what a doomsday machine is so now Kirk can tell us (although it’s played well and not really out of character). After the necessary exposition and crabbing, he is shuffled off the bridge, never to be seen or heard from again. All the same, it’s an obvious solution: only Kirk would tolerate his senior medical officer’s bullshit. No other captain would take his crap and off he goes to where he should spend most of his time anyway. On the surface, it seems as if Spock isn’t used as well as usual either, but he does get the classic “Vulcan’s never bluff” line. He is a calm, logical and stabilizing presence. While we don’t necessarily hate Decker, we do dislike him primarily because of the way he treats Spock (“down here”). The music is just orgasmic. It’s proud, sad, ominous and downright operatic. It’s the perfect example of in your face scoring. While you can argue it’s a little over the top, it’s also memorable and does a great job selling the danger when the effects aren’t quite up to the ambition shown (which honestly isn’t often). The Enterprise, the Constellation, the planet killer and even the damned transporter beam get a theme! While Bob Justman preferred Fred Steiner to everyone else, Sol Kaplan was one of the top composers for the series. This is an excellent companion to The Enemy Within and both scores are amazing. I never tire of this music. The effects are spotty, but excellent for the time. However, even as a kid in the early 70’s, I spotted the model kit a mile away. The scale is off and it always looks exactly like what it is. The planet killer itself is another story: understated and deadly, it is a burned out horn of plenty; a huge Bugle snack; a cosmic lawn cigar. And totally terrifying. Fun points - Star Trek Time Bending: it takes a 30 second delay timer 1:20 to reach the end of the countdown. Mr. Montgomery, the security guard who fights Decker, is not the same guy who was standing there all episode. Jerry Catron, an actor/stuntman, was only there for this scene and the fight. The rest of the time, a rather mousy extra in a red shirt stood by the rest of the time. Clips of Tomorrow is Yesterday were inserted when the Constellation lurched forward. The engine room scenes; Scotty’s tricorder mysteriously vanishes from his shoulder. None of these things do a damned bit of harm to this outstanding episode.