"The Ultimate Computer"
Kirk reluctantly agrees to play along with a Federation test of a new supercomputer, designed by the brilliant Dr. Daystrom (William Marshall, the booming baritone stage actor most famous for Blacula
) to run a starship almost single-handedly. It does its job too well, locking the human crew out of ship operations and using deadly force during the Federation war games. Spock and McCoy continue their now-legendary banter about man versus machine while Kirk muses over the obsolescence of his own command. Marshall is excellent as a former-boy-wonder genius banking his reputation on this breakthrough, treating his creation like a son. That's not too far from the truth: designed after his brain pattern, this thinking, reasoning, learning machine carries with it the insecurities and desperation of its creator. The fears of the emerging digital revolution explored in The Ultimate Computer in 1968 remain today: what is the fate of man in the face of technological efficiency? Films from 2001: A Space Odyssey
and Colossus: The Forbin Project
to Demon Seed
and The Matrix
have echoed these themes, and this Trek
episode--primitive special effects, zero-budget sets, and all--stands up to them quite nicely. --Sean Axmaker
"The Omega Glory"
What is it with Starfleet captains? So many of them become wildly grandiose. Witness "The Omega Glory," in which another starship commander, Ronald Tracey (Morgan Woodward), tramples the Prime Directive by interfering in a long-running conflict between primitive societies, in this case the Yangs and Kohms of planet Omega IV. Siding with the Kohms, Tracey creates an imbalance of power that Kirk works to adjust by arming the Yangs proportionately. The script by series creator Gene Roddenberry is one of his not-so-subtle allegories for the state of the world in the 1960s, specifically our own cold war between nuclear superpowers. So bluntly drawn is Roddenberry's parallel between Omega IV and 20th-century Earth that this is one of the few Star Trek episodes that risks becoming completely absurd after a point. William Shatner (Captain Kirk) takes the biggest risk of all with a passionate, lengthy speech of the sort pranksters like comic actor Kevin Dunn are wont to imitate today. But the fact is that Shatner pulls off such chancy material very well, and certainly does so here. --Tom Keogh
"The Ultimate Computer," Ep. 53 - Kirk stands by helplessly as his ship is used to test an advanced computer that turns out to be as flawed as its inventor. "The Omega Glory," Ep. 54 - Kirk and crew encounter a ghost ship, a madman captain, a deadly virus and 1,000-year-old natives on planet Omega IV.