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Star Trek #53: Ultimate Comput


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2 new from CDN$ 15.00 1 used from CDN$ 80.05

Product Details

  • Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan
  • Directors: John Meredyth Lucas
  • Writers: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana, Laurence N. Wolfe
  • Producers: John Meredyth Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, Robert H. Justman
  • Format: NTSC
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Paramount
  • VHS Release Date: April 1 2004
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6300213579
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,290 in Video (See Top 100 in Video)


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4.1 out of 5 stars
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In this episode, a supercomputer called the M-5 is placed on board the Enterprise. It is so sophisticated that nearly all of the crew disembarks so that it can run the ship. However, it has been constructed using a human mind as a template. The creator of the computer, the brilliant Dr. Daystrom, used the patterns of his mind to build the circuits of the M-5. Unfortunately, Daystrom is mentally unstable, so the M-5 is also unstable.
When the M-5 is subjected to a war games exercise, it does not understand that it is a mock attack, so it treats it as a real one and destroys a star ship, killing everyone on board. The remaining ships then form an attack force, but Kirk is able to disable the computer and regain control of the Enterprise in the nick of time.
The most significant point in this episode is that a black man is portrayed as a very intelligent man who strongly defends his invention. He stands up to Kirk, interacting with the people in power as an equal, if not as a superior. Another point is that Dr. Daystrom has the most memorable reaction to the Vulcan neck pinch in the entire series.
I enjoyed the episode, it is often portrayed as anti-technology, but that is not true. I consider it an example of the reality of bleeding edge technology. Whenever a dramatic leap of technology has been attempted, there have been mishaps and deaths. Steam ships and locomotives blew up, ships sank, space shuttles exploded, planes crashed etc. Artificial intelligence (AI) remains an elusive goal with success being difficult to measure. However, one of the consequences of successfully implementing AI will be a computer behaving in a manner similar to that of the M-5, exhibiting a strong survival instinct. This is one of the episodes that is a safe prediction of a future event.
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This war games episode, in which command of the Enterprise is handed over to a computer (with predictable results) is a solid offering. The episode, in classic second season fashion, has more than it's share of action presented in a dramatic fashion with proper pacing and strong direction. The episode is simultaneously thoughtful as it touches on important issues such as human obsolescence, pratfalls (to put it mildly) of technology, introspection, fame and immortality, and the risks inherent in putting too much into your work. But the episode ultimately suffers from an ending that is too predictable (you'll never guess who outwits a computer!) and too pat (Kirk lectures M5 for only 1 minute!).
It should be noted that this is one of the most prominent roles played by an African-American on Star Trek TOS. While one is initially frustrated by the character's fate, further reflection suggests a lack of prejudice in this episode. Rather than walk on eggshells, the brain trust gave him the same fate (collapse of some sort) that (almost) always befell all Federation elite.
Despite McCoy writing him off as almost insane, Daystrom's motives are fairly complex. This creates the interesting paradox that Kirk exploits at the end of the episode. The computer is flawed whether it 'is' pure computer or part human!
Shatner performs well in one of his most symapathetic and demanding roles. The friendship between he, Spock, and McCoy is also presented in an unstilted and natural way. A good story is always the best route to character development, humor, and other supplimentals.
Wesley is one of the more sympathetic federation brass.
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The U.S.S. Enterprise is to be the new test ship for the new M-5 multitronic computer system, a computer meant to be able to run a starship without human intervention. Also aboard for the test is Dr. Richard Daystrom, the inventor of the M-5 and an obsessive and unstable man.
Initially the M-5 performs well, but when it decides to destroy a robot freighter, Kirk orders the test cancelled. The M-5, however, protects itself and makes it impossible for it to be disconnected. The computer becomes increasingly erratic, a result of Dr. Daystrom's decision to impress his engram onto the computer as part of its programming. Starting a scheduled war games drill, M-5 uses the full arsenal of the U.S.S. Enterprise to attack four other Federation starships.
In a last-ditch appeal to the M-5, Kirk makes the computer realize that it has committed the sin of murder for killing the crew of the U.S.S. Excalibur. Since Dr. Daystrom would be ethically abhorred at such an act, the M-5 is equally penitent and tries to commit suicide by leaving the U.S.S. Enterprise defenseless against a counter-attack by the remaining three Federation starships. The Federation fleet's intent is to destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise, for destroying the U.S.S. Excalibur. At the last moment, Spock and Scott are able to finish disconnecting the M-5 unit. Kirk keeps the shields down, gambling successfully that the attacking ships would not fire on an undefended vessel. Restoring communications next, the fleet is called off by Commodore Robert Wesley.
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Not only is this one of Star Trek's best episodes, it features an African-American actor in a groundbreaking role that impressed this then-thirteen-year-old upon its initial airing. Besides regular Nichelle Nichols ("Uhura"), William Marshall's "Dr.Daystrom" was a revelation that the future would be a place where a man would be measured by his intelligence and abilities, not solely on his color.
I'm sure that Dr. King felt the same way when he saw "Ultimate", too.
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