In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode The Doomsday Machine which aired on October 20, 1967, Star Date 4202.9.

Story Synopsis

The Enterprise responds to a distress call and finds that all seven planets in system L370 have been destroyed. They then enter L374 and discover all but the two inner planets have also been destroyed. They detect a distress beacon from the Starship U.S.S. Constellation, then find the battered remains of the ship itself. Scans show the bridge to be uninhabitable, but the rest of the ship to have reserve power and to be inhabitable. Subspace interference prevents good communication, and Kirk is unable to contact Commodore Matt Decker, Captain of the Constellation. Kirk therefore sends a boarding party to the Constellation to investigate. They find no sign of the crew, and Scotty determines the warp drive to be inoperable and the phasers to be exhausted. Kirk then locates Decker in the auxiliary control room, but Decker is in a state of shock and not very coherent. Even after an injection by McCoy, Decker is able to say that his ship was attacked by “that thing.”

Kirk and Scott play back the Constellation’s record tape in which Decker reports discovering destroyed solar systems and entering L374 to investigate the breakup of the fourth planet by Science Officer Masada. Decker reports that his ship was attacked and damaged, so he beamed his crew down to the third planet. The attacker then returned, further damaged the Constellation and then proceeded to destroy the third planet while Decker remained helpless on the Constellation. Washburn reports that the antimatter in the warp drive has been deactivated, and Kirk surmises that this is connected with subspace interference. Decker informs them that the attacker was a miles-long robot which uses a pure anti-proton beam to destroy objects in its path, then digests them as fuel. Sulu computes that the path of the robot has brought it from outside the Galaxy.

Kirk beams Decker and McCoy back to the Enterprise. They arrive just as the conical doomsday machine/planet killer makes a reappearance and pursues the Enterprise. It attacks them and damages the Enterprise’s transporter, then heads for the densely inhabited Rigel 7 system. Commodore Decker pulls his rank and assumes command of the Enterprise, using Order 104, Section B, Paragraph 1a, over Spock’s objections. Decker orders an attack on the doomsday machine despite Spock’s protest that its shell is made of neutronium and is therefore impermeable to attack from a single ship. The Enterprise is attacked by the doomsday machine, but manages to survive, and Decker then attacks the doomsday machine with phasers, which have no effect. The doomsday machine then attacks again, destroying the Enterprise’s shields and then begins pulling it into its interior with a tractor beam. From the Constellation, Kirk sees what is going on, and begins heading towards the doomsday machine using impulse power. He distracts it by firing phasers, freeing the Enterprise, and is then in turn saved when the Enterprise fires again.

After the Enterprise restores ship-to-ship communications, Kirk angrily orders Spock to re-assume command on his personal authority, which he does. After Spock assumes command, Mr. Montgomery accompanies Decker for an examination in sickbay. On the way, Decker overpowers Montgomery, then steals a shuttlecraft. Decker pilots the shuttle into the planet killer’s maw, killing himself, but producing a small power drop in the doomsday machine. Kirk reasons that the explosion of a starship might be capable of destroying the alien vessel. Scott rigs the Constellation to explode, then transports to the Enterprise, leaving Kirk behind. The transporter then malfunctions, and Scott is able to fix it only just in time to beam Kirk aboard before the Constellation is swallowed. At the last second, Kirk is beamed aboard the Enterprise. The Constellation then explodes, producing an explosion of 97.835 megatons, which turns the planet killer into a harmless pile of space junk.

 Fun Fact:

While the script was inspired by Moby Dickand Captain Ahab, William Windom has said at Star Trek conventions that he had his character compulsively fiddle with cassette cartridges as an homage to Humphrey Bogart, whose Captain Queeg did the same thing with ball-bearings in The Caine Mutiny.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. How do you terminate a third party?
  2. How do you evaluate your risk assessment?
  3. How does your organization respond to findings in an investigation?


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for The Doomsday Machine Doomsday Machine