Star Trek 53: Ultimate Computer [Import]
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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
From the Back Cover
Kirk stands by helplessly as his ship is used to test and advanced computer that turns out to be as flawed as its inventor. TREK TRIVIA
Barry Russo (Commodore Robert "Bob" Wesley) was previously seen in "The Devil in the Dark." Gene Roddenberry used Bob Wesley as a pseudonym early in his career (his middle name was Wesley and his brother's name is Bob).
William Marshall (Dr. Richard Daystrom) later gained film notoriety as Blacula.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2003 by Reginald D. Garrard
A famous inventor boards the Enterprise and brings his invention, a computer, onboard the ship with him. Read morePublished on March 28 2001 by jao
The Enterprise beams aboard Dr. Richard Daystorm, a scientist who developed the computer systems for many Federation starships, and now he's invented a new computer called the M-5,... Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2000 by D.W. Smith
A good episode and notable for Kirk's "A tall ship, and a star to steer her by" conversation with McCoy. Puts a lump in my throat every time! Pure Trek.Published on Aug. 28 2000 by Greg Vincent
In the 1960's, I suppose it was a growing concern that computers would one day take over Earth. This is demonstrated by the fact that many episodes of the Original Series involve... Read morePublished on April 29 2000
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