Star Trek: Season 2, Episode 24

The Ultimate Computer (8 Mar. 1968)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 737 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 2 critic

Kirk and a sub-skeleton crew are ordered to test out an advanced artificially intelligent control system that could potentially render them all redundant.


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Episode complete credited cast:
Scott / M-5 / Starbase Officer
Sean Morgan ...
Barry Russo ...


Kirk is none too impressed when he's told that the Enterprise is to compete in simulated war games but under the control of a new computer. The M-5 computer is the latest invention of the brilliant Dr. Richard Daystrom, who is confidant that his unit can not only take control of the starship but do a better job than humans can. In its first simulated encounter, the Enterprise under M-5's control easily defeats two other starships. Soon, however, it begins to act independently of its human masters, tapping directly into the warp engines for its power and erecting a force field to protect itself. Daystrom has little interest in disconnecting the M-5 and treats it more like an errant child than a machine. For Kirk and the few crew members still aboard, it becomes a matter of life and death when Starfleet Command orders the Enterprise destroyed. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

8 March 1968 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In addition to playing his regular role of Chief Engineer "Scotty" Scott, in this episode James Doohan also provides the voice of the computer M-5, as well as that of the briefly heard and unnamed starbase officer who gives Commodore Wesley and the other starship commanders permission to destroy the Enterprise. See more »


As M-5 is evaluating a planet for exploration, Scott remarks that M-5 is cutting off power on decks 4 and 5. In the following scene, Dr. Daystrom explains why power was cut off on decks 4 and 6. Captain Kirk's quarters are on deck 5, which should still be available as he remains on the ship. See more »


Wesley: Dr. Daystrom will see to the installation himself and he'll supervise the tests. When he's ready, you'll receive your orders and proceed on the mission with a crew of twenty.
Captain James T. Kirk: Twenty? I can't run a starship with twenty crew.
Wesley: The M-5 can.
Captain James T. Kirk: And what am I supposed to do?
Wesley: You've got a great job, Jim. All you have to do is sit back and let the machine do the work.
See more »

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User Reviews

When Both Men and their Machines Go Mad
16 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

An ultimate computer? That point will probably never be reached. The computer here, M-5, was intended as the next step up from the 23rd century starship machines which were also designed by the genius Daystrom. Under the test guidelines in this episode, the Enterprise is emptied of all but 20 personnel and the new M-5 is plugged in, running standard ship's operations, such as navigation and entering into orbit around a planet. Later, the plan is to indulge in war games with a quartet of other starships, testing M-5's calculations during a battle. It's man vs.machine; it's human workers vs. the automated line; it's all about...becoming obsolete. Some of this reminded me of an episode on the TNG show, the one where Dr.Crusher found herself on an Enterprise increasingly devoid of people, until only she and Capt. Picard remain in charge, the rest of the ship run automatically. Automation seems to make sense for a few seconds, but then you realize there's the absurdity of all those empty cabins; what's the point of a huge ship, manned by only a few people, the rest of it always empty except maybe when you have a bunch of guests on board? This is what Daystrom seems to be proposing; he speaks of other glorious pursuits men can aspire to rather than running about in space. But, exploration of space is the ultimate glory for mankind. Daystrom can't win this one

  • it's absurd.

The story revolves around the goals and aspirations of two men - Kirk and Daystrom. Kirk's career appears to be in danger of winding down very quickly in the first act - replaced by machinery, while Daystrom's might be gaining a second wind after 25 years of stagnation. It all revolves around the personal needs of these two men - what they need in life to feel functional, to be useful. The situation reverses in the 2nd half of the episode: I mentioned why Daystrom had to lose and, besides, this is Kirk's show. But Kirk has some doubtful moments before the M-5 proves to be unreliable; the reference to 'Capt.Dunsel' is particularly awkward and McCoy steps in for the viewer as we start to feel actual pity for this beleaguered captain, reduced to rambling about old sailing ships in his cabin. I sensed a calculated lack of tact on Kirk's part later, when the tables are turned and his job appears safe again; McCoy tells him that Daystrom is on the verge of a nervous breakdown - so what does Kirk do? He picks that moment to tell the tottering genius that his child must die. Of course, this sends Daystrom over the edge, into total madness. Daystrom's story continues a pattern of what happens to other famous personages in the 23rd century when they run across Kirk - they either go crazy or are killed. The actor, Marshall, was suitably imposing as the 'wrapped too tightly' computer genius - especially in that memorable scene of him towering over Kirk, ranting away. Kirk's quick solution to the whole mess is the weakest part, since we've seen it before ("Return of the Archons" and "The Changeling") but this episode may also explain why the computer systems in the 24th century, on the TNG show, were essentially the same
  • no chance of having to talk a computer out of killing hundreds of
Starfleet personnel.

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