17 September 2011

Trek Review: The Ultimate Computer

Getting down to the end of Season Two now with an episode I remember as being another of my favourites from the series - I think it was the whole space battle thing.

The Ultimate Computer

Federation starships approach for a Wargames exerciseThe Enterprise is summoned to a space station without explanation until arrival. Commodore Bob Wesley, commanding the Lexington informs Kirk that the Enterprise will be a test ship for a new computer system, the M-5 Multitronic Unit, designed by Dr Richard Daystrom. Many of the crew disembark the Enterprise as they aren't needed due to M-5 being able to automate all of the ship's systems.

After some really basic tests dealing with the navigation systems there would be a wargames exercise with other Federation ships. M-5 performs the navigation tasks well and responds to a surprise attack from two starship's including the Excalibur. The ships flee from their surprise attack, but M-5 tracks a slow moving vessel, an automated cargo ship named Woden. Though posing no threat, the M-5 pursues and destroys the Woden before resuming course. None of the bridge crew were able to disable the M-5 before the attack.

M-5 has protected itself in engineering, making disabling the computer at the source impossible. An engineering ensign is killed when M-5 makes a direct power connection to the warp engines. The crew are unable to do anything and cannot communicate with the approaching Federation starships for the wargames exercise.

Wesley hails M-5, informing it that the exercise is a drill and that weapons should be on reduced power. M-5 acknowledges but attacks first with weapons at full power, destroying the Excalibur. M-5 continues firing on the other ships with the Lexington taking casualties and the Potemkin and Hood retreating.

Kirk appeals to M-5 and eventually convinces the computer that in attempting to protect itself it has committed murder. M-5 does not believe this until it scans the destroyed starship Excalibur and finds no lifesigns. In response, the M-5 shuts itself down, effectively killing itself for the act of murder.

Kirk orders the Enterprise shields dropped and weapons disarmed as Commodore Wesley approaches in the Lexington with orders from Starfleet to destroy them. Seeing the ship is a sitting duck, Wesley calls off his attack.

This episode takes a stand against the continued influence of computers in our lives. We see Kirk on many occasions looking lost and against losing his job to a computer. Ultimately we learn that the M-5 is unable to make decisions or courses of action that a human, or any other sentient life form would be able to and arguments for this are brought up throughout the episode from McCoy and Spock.

The remastered episode introduces some new sequences for the Space Station, the cargo ship and the wargames exercise.

Still a good episode in my eye, mainly for the space action involved but the light hearted ending, common in this era of science fiction really takes away from any impact that probably should have been felt with the loss of approximately 500 officers, including all of those aboard the Excalibur and some of those aboard the Lexington.

Dr Richard Daystrom is seen as a bit of a mad man in this episode, driven by his passion to create something far greater than he's already been acknowledged for. McCoy touches on this in the episode as well and we learn in future series that a scientific branch is named in his honour, The Daystrom Institute, circa 24th Century.

Overall Rating: 8/10

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