Star Trek 2.24 (The Ultimate Computer)
Writer: D.C. Fontana
On paper, this sounds like another rubbish episode. Doctor Richard Daystrom is the person who invented the computer systems that starships are based on now. His latest invention is the M5 computer – a machine that is capable if running a Starship with a minimum crew. It eventually goes slightly insane and attacks an ore freighter and ultimately other ships.
Why do I like this? Well, there is quite a nice and intelligent conversation at the start. Kirks initial reaction is that he thinks it’s a bad idea and doesn’t trust it, but after that he has a chat with McCoy about why he doesn’t like it, and asks his friend if it could simply be that a machine that leaves a Starship Captain redundant gives him a lack of prestige. It is a nice moment, and makes the whole set up seem less hokey.
The computer thinks like a person because it has been programmed to mimick the human mind – sadly, Daystrom has used his own mind and this is the fatal flaw. He made a breakthough that changed the face of computing in his mid twenties (ah, got it, he’s a nerd!) and had nowhere to go after that. Now in his mid forties he wants something that is a revolutionary, and this is supposed to be it.
There is just enough of a glimpse into Daystrom’s background (he felt like he was laughed at behind his back when he was a young genius, he also believes in God, which is a rare admission in Trek) to make his breakdown and fall from grace realistic. The M5 kills lots of people aboard the four ships sent to take him out, eventually Daystrom gets through to the machine and convinces it that it is guilty of murder, a sin. So it shuts down, and everyone survives.
The action is tense, and this one is a lot of fun.
Crew Deaths: 1
Total Crew Deaths So Far: 43