S2 The Doomsday Machine
A distress call from the USS Constellation leads to an investigation into a wake of devastation and what remains of a solar system, their crippled sister starship is found with only Commodore Matt Decker on board. He is emotionally unbalanced and raves about a "devil" and the loss of his crew beamed down to a planet which subsequently was obliterated by this "planet killer". Kirk and a few men stay onboard and Decker is returned to the Enterprise but when an object is detected, a huge machine with a gaping maw and an energy beam that can slice apart worlds the chase is on. A transporter failure caused by weapons fire limits the ability to beam the landing party back and the Doomsday machine then departs towards Rigel. Decker is a little upset believing a stand has to be made now rather then get word to Starfleet and the Federation and he seizes command of the Enterprise. The attack on the Doomsday machine is not going well and Kirk finally having some power restored to the Constellation attempts to distract the machine, it works and draws the attention away from the Enterprise. Communications are restored between the two ships and Kirk orders Spock to remove Decker from command, he does so and Decker is escorted off the bridge but escapes in a shuttlecraft and launches himself into the machine, the explosion causes a response and it's believed that a bigger explosion inside the machine may destroy it and that means the sacrifice of the Constellation. Kirk is the last man on the ship and steers it towards the Doomsday Machine and at the last second he is beamed off and the huge antimatter explosion within the machine succeeds in disabling it.
The Doomsday Machine is regarded as one of the jewels in the Star Trek crown and I totally agree, it has some excellent performances and the story is both compelling, exciting and intense. We get all the drama and action you would expect from a feature but packed into a television episode so while the pacing is very high you don't come away with the feeling that it was rushed.
So it's always good to see one of the Enterprise sister ships although they never seem to fare very well on their five year missions, Decker (William Windom who does an excellent job) seems like a competent commander but we meet him battle scarred and emotionally broken which at least explains some of his actions but there are some questions about this aspect of the episode. I don't really understand why a Commodore is in command of the Constellation, granted it gives him the leverage to grasp command of the Enterprise but there is no question McCoy had the regulations and opportunity to prevent that, Decker had no right to be on the bridge of any ship in his condition as witnessed by the landing party that found him. It was a little disappointing that Lt Palmer (Elizabeth Rogers) at communications got quite a few lines which begs the question where was Uhura for this episode but Scotty and Sulu got some solid screen time. I had to smile when Scotty pointed out how shall we say finicky the transporter was considering how much use it gets but when the plot requires everything can be a death trap and again a shuttle launch only indicated after the fact, Starfleet security and procedures need serious updating. We've had nice touches that retconned that this could have been created to take on the Borg by a long lost race is interesting and Matt being the father to Will Decker who we meet in The Motion Picture just makes so much sense.
Finally it's also worth pointing out that this episode got a very impressive update via the restoration project, the CGI really adds a whole new level to the existing core story and takes nothing away, credit to everyone involved in polishing this episode into a masterpiece of Star Trek and one of my favourite episodes of the franchise.