Star Trek (TOS): The Ultimate Computer – SF Debris

Opinionated Star Trek Episode Guide watches a frustrated Kirk deal with a know-it-all computer that’s put in charge of the ship. Spoiler warning: Bones is unhappy with something newfangled.

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  1. Sweet! One of my more favorite episodes.

  2. “Several female yeomen who would disagree that being the case.” That is, until someone invents a fully-functioning android, right? “INTRIGUING!”

    Let me guess: M-5 starts calling everyone “Dave” and sings about bicycles. That’s what they get for installing Windows 10.

  3. One thing I wish you’d addressed here is my big problem with that ending. Literally hundreds of people are dead here, one ship’s entire crew is gone and many others killed on other ships. Kirk’s vessel was used to snuff out the lives of these people, and Kirk watched helplessly as it happened. So what the hell is everyone doing after the climax has happened laughing it up at the end?! They go off smiling and jovial, despite the fact that friends and colleagues, including a member of Kirk’s crew, have just been slaughtered!! That’s horrific and ridiculous. Kirk showed way more emotion at the necessary death of his single love interest from the 1930’s from City on the Edge of Forever than hundreds of deaths Kirk stood by helplessy witnessing in slow horror? What ass holes!!

  4. Was very impressed that in the 1960’s they cast the man who created the computers for Starfleet with a black actor. That shocked me the first time I saw it.

    • For all his flaws and occasional cringe-worthy sexism (however common for the era), Roddenberry had very strong feelings about civil rights and racial equality.

      The very idea of the Federation falls apart if we can’t get along as a species, much less with various extra terrestrial races!

    • Children of the 1980’s might recognize his actor as the King of Cartoons from Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    • Uh, They also made him a sociopath – Not really a good portrayal!

      • He was depicted as somebody struggling with metal illness. Someone who did bad thing yes, but he had relatable motives.
        For that matter, why should a black actor playing a bad guy automatically be considered a bad thing for an entire race of people? If this guy was written as a crude caricature I might agree, but he isn’t. In fact I’d say he’s far better developed that most Star Trek villains of the week.
        Assigning black actors only saintly heroic roles is not what I’d consider a positive approach to diversity. Actors of all background should be able to play character of all kinds.

  5. They should have known there’d be trouble with the M-5, the first three having exploded and the M-4 mysteriously disappearing along with the entire crew. It made it Daystrom’s last, best hope for peace… of mind.

  6. This is another case of forgotten technology. As far as we’re told, M-5 only malfunctioned because Daystrom was unstable and that was passed to the computer through his engrams. Why not just do it with someone else’s?

    • Because there’s no logical reason to believe that would turn out any better then the first time? Seriously, this test resulted in three starships being destroyed with all hands and nearly required the Federation to blow up their flagship in order to stop it. It makes perfect sense for Starfleet to mothball the idea since, logically, they’d rather not have their personnel killed if they could prevent it.

      • This is why the 23rd century Federation was likely aware of how much they’d benefit from from advances in holographic models that would one day lead to the Holodeck.

  7. With the crew assignment for the landing party, it’s likely that the Ensign geologist would have informed his superior, or his superior would have know it from his file, and simply suggested the replacement to Kirk. M-5 only really sped that up. Later Star Trek has made the arguments about the Captain beaming down, so in retrospect it’s nothing new. McCoy is an interesting case. You’d think some medical personnel would be standard on nearly any landing party, but obviously the CMO is probably overkill. Of course they didn’t have a doctor who specialized in Vulcans until season 3, so choices might be limited. However, some sort of field medic probably would make more sense.

    I do think this is a great Spock/McCoy episode. While it first seems Spock is very much pro-M5, in the end McCoy can always spout the standard platitudes about being replaced with machines. Spock, as a line officer, understands that in a military hierarchy, crew loyalty is most important and he does more to help Kirk’s confidence.

    Commodore Wesley is an asshole. Note how he sits in Mirror Kirk’s chair?

    • At one point Spock even notes that “the most unfortunate lack in current computer programming is that there is nothing available to immediately replace the starship surgeon.”

      What’s funny is the future installments would revel Spock wasn’t wrong. The Emergency Medical Hologram would initially be deemed a failure and they’d test several before the finally gone something (or is that SOMEONE) they was fully functional.

      Of course Daystrom really fills the role of Star Trek other “Wesley” since he’d called a genius since he too called a child genius. Hence the reason he can’t let go of M-5 at first since it’s his first real success after multiple failure and he has such a heavy reputation to live up to.

      Apparently even getting hundreds killed and being committed for his troubles doesn’t stop him receiving some honors. Since TNG had the “Daystrom Institute.”

      • thespecialneedsgroup

        Remember, though, that it’s been established that most forms of mental illness are very treatable–if not outright curable–by the 23rd century in Star Trek. I’d like to think that Dr. Daystrom recovered and helped make numerous other advances in his field after the M-5 disaster.

        It’s also possible that the Daystrom Institute isn’t an honor conferred *on* him, but an act of contrition made *by* him–much like the Nobel Prize being created because Alfred Nobel didn’t want to be remembered solely for the countless deaths his inventions caused.

  8. Nice commentary as always.

    I really enjoyed this episode, it was blunt but it was also economical. It trimmed the fat and focused on the concept and characters.

    For it’s time this was a very fresh take on this topic.

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