Star Trek (1966–1969)
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The Ultimate Computer 

Kirk and a sub-skeleton crew are ordered to test out an advanced artificially intelligent control system - the M-5 Multitronic system, which could potentially render them all redundant. Star fleet is very optimistic, but, Kirk fears - even in a testing situation - removing humans from the equation is a very dangerous position to be left in. A position of life or death.

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Storyline

Captain Kirk replies to an urgent (yet brief) message from Commodore Enright, which only tells him to report to the nearest space station. Once there, most of the crew is removed - held in a security area, leaving only a minimal skeleton crew on-board. Commodore Bob Wesley arrives, and informs the captain he's the unwitting 'fox in the hunt;' of simulated war games to be played. The purpose? To put the so far only-rumoured-to-exist M-5 Multitronic unit - through its paces. The M-5 computer is the latest invention of the brilliant Dr. Richard Daystrom, creator of the Duotronic computer systems, which power Enterprise, and many other high-end systems. Daystrom is confidant his unit can not only take control of the starship, but do a better job than humans can. At first, the Enterprise under M-5's control easily defeats two other starships, but, quickly begins to act independently of its human masters, Daystrom has little interest in disconnecting the M-5 and treats it more like an ... Written by garykmcd

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8 March 1968 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Kirk speaks the line "All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by." This is a line from the John Masefield poem Sea Fever. Kirk would recite the same line again in Star Trek V:The Final Frontier. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Captain James T. Kirk: You know, I have... I have never felt this way before - at odds with... the ship. I sat there and watched my ship perform for a mass of circuits and relays, and felt... useless. Unneeded. To Captain Dunsel.
Dr. McCoy: To James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise.
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Connections

Referenced in Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Blacula sics HAL 9000 on Captain Dunsel
13 August 2006 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The episode that Stanley Kubrick stole his most important ideas from for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, that's not exactly true. The idea of an artificially intelligent computer becoming a problem popped up in science-fiction at least shortly after Alan Turing re-popularized the idea of artificial intelligence in the 1950s via what's become known as the "Turing Test" for just that property. Also, Kubrick's 2001, written in conjunction with sci-fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke, began production in 1965, and there are more ideas there than just AI gone haywire, as there are in The Ultimate Computer. But this episode underscores that Star Trek deserves consideration as "serious artwork", consideration that it doesn't often receive outside of the Trekkie community. Even though Star Trek didn't likely influence 2001, the reverse isn't the case, either; rather, both works arrived at similar ideas due to mindfulness towards relatively cutting edge ideas in science and science fiction.

By this point, in case you're looking for a plot summary, you surely know that The Ultimate Computer has something to do with an artificially intelligent computer. It arrives on board the Enterprise courtesy of Dr. Richard Daystrom (William Marshall, soon after The Ultimate Computer to forever be best known as Blacula), a computer genius who long ago designed the basics of the system currently employed on the Enterprise. To test his new system, which is supposed to be able to run the ship more or less by itself, Starfleet orders all but 20 crew members off of the Enterprise and organizes a fairly elaborate war game scenario. Of course, we know as soon as we find out the premise that it's probably a recipe for some kind of disaster.

Aside from the usual AI kinda themes, writers Gene Roddenberry, Laurence N. Wolfe and D.C. Fontana use the episode for a nice exploration of ill-conceived idealism, more general technological skepticism and unease, overly fervent parental apologetics, and difficult utilitarian ethical decisions. The performances are excellent as always (and I always wished that Marshall would have had a more prolific career), and we get a bonus treat of a very Kirk-like head of another Starfleet ship, Commodore Robert Wesley (Barry Russo).


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