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"The Doomsday Machine" Turns 50

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The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine" aired on October 20, 1967... or 50 years ago today. It's a classic, of course, one that gave us Commodore Matt Decker and that bizarre horn thing known as the Planet Killer. To celebrate the occasion, StarTrek.com is pleased to share some facts, figures and anecdotes about "The Doomsday Machine"...

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It All Began

Decker's captain's log kicked off on stardate 4202.1.

Memorable Line of Dialogue #1

"They say there's no devil, Jim," Decker told Kirk, "but there is. Right out of hell, I saw it!"

Gone with the Windom

Gene Roddenberry's first choice to play Decker was not William Windom, but rather Robert Ryan.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Two series regulars did not appear in this episode. The two were Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig.

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Memorable Line of Dialogue #2

"I'm a doctor," McCoy intones, "not a mechanic."

The Spin(rad)

Norman Spinrad was just 27 years old when he wrote the "Doomsday Machine" teleplay. Unlike most writers of the day, he was on set for the episode's filming. His intial story outline was titled, "The Planet Eater."

Did you know?

Scotty goes flying around engineering, but look closely at the scene. It's stock footage from "Tomorrow Is Yesterday." And look for the disappearing tricorder.

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Memorable Line of Dialogue #3

"Vulcans don't bluff." --Spock

The Space Doobie

StarTrek.com readers have referred to the machine as a giant doobie, a giant joint, a giant piece of %&@*, a giant cannoli, a massive lit cigar and a flying eggroll. Those are quotes. And here's a quote from Spinrad, from a StarTrek.com interview with him several years back: "I think I called it a giant turnip, but as soon as I saw it I did call it a wind sock dipped in cement.

No Relation to Gabe

Sol Kaplan was a prolific composer who composed the music for two TOS episodes, "The Doomsday Machine" and also "The Enemy Within." Snippets of his music were used as stock music in other TOS episodes.

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Is Upgraded Really Better?

Spinrad saw the remastered version of the episode, with upgraded FX. What did he think? "I liked the (original) episode, except for the wind sock," he told StarTrek.com in 2012. "Then, when they were doing the upgraded version, it was obviously much better quality. I talked to the people doing that and they asked me, 'Do you want us to do the thing itself the way you had it or should we do it the way they shot it?' I said, 'Do it the way I had it,' but they did it the way they shot it. They upgraded it, but they didn’t do that change." Here's the backstory on that: "Gene said to me after I finished the script, 'Look, can you draw the thing for us, please?' I’m not much of an artist. So I really worked on it. I drew the thing. It had complicated tentacle things that had the laser or whatever on the tips. So the thing looked ambiguous; you wondered, 'Is this alive or is it a robot?' Then, when they shot it, they showed me what they’d do it with. I said to Gene, 'After I went through all the work on this, this is what you shoot? It looks like a wind sock dipped in cement.' Gene, having been a pilot, said to me, 'That’s what it is, it’s a wind sock dipped in cement. We didn’t have any money for anything else.'”

The Answer Is Yes

According to Gene Roddenberry, per his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Matt Decker was Willard Decker's son.

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Memorable Line of Dialogue #4

"The commander is responsible for the lives of his crew, and for their deaths," Decker uttered in his last words. "Well, I should have died with mine."

Remembering Windom

William Windom passed away on August 16, 2012, at the age of 88. His many, many film and television credits included The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, To Kill a Mockingbird, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Murder, She Wrote, Twelve O'Clock High, Grandview, U.S.A., The Incredible Hulk, Newhart, She's Having a Baby, Miracle on 34th Steet and True Crime. Among other notable achievements, he served in the U.S. Army and he won an Emmy Award for his starring role in the comedy, My World and Welcome to It.

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Memorable Line of Dialogue #5

"Gentleman," Kirk advised, "I suggest you beam me aboard."

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This one consistently ranks among my favorite TOS episodes.  Happy 50th to a great ep!!

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