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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Episode complete credited cast:
Sean Morgan ...


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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Release Date:

8 March 1968 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


A similar question (computer control versus human control) arises for Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Booby Trap (1989), in which the Enterprise is caught in an ancient Booby Trap. The Booby Trap presents a situation where, as a ship caught n the trap tries to fly out, the trap absorbs and powers itself from the ship, while reacting to, and counterbalancing, the ship's engines. This counterbalancing prevents the ship caught in the trap from moving. One method of escape from the Booby Trap proposed by the Chief Engineer is to turn complete navigation and engine control over to the computer, and allow it to make the calculations and adjustments faster than the Booby Trap can react to the Enterprise, thereby allowing it to power out of the Booby Trap. In that situation, Picard makes the decision to take the helm himself, instead of allowing the computer to take total control. See more »


As the Enterprise approaches the space station, Kirk orders "standard orbit". It is impossible to orbit a space station since it wouldn't have enough mass unless it was the size of a large moon or small planet. And there is no nearby planet shown for the ship to orbit. See more »


Captain James T. Kirk: There were many men aboard those ships. They were murdered. Must you survive by murder?
M-5: This unit cannot murder.
Captain James T. Kirk: Why?
M-5: Murder is contrary to the laws of man and God.
Captain James T. Kirk: But you HAVE murdered. Scan the starship Excalibur, which you destroyed. Is there life aboard?
M-5: No life.
Captain James T. Kirk: Because you MURDERED it. What is the penalty for murder?
M-5: Death.
Captain James T. Kirk: And how will you pay for your acts of murder?
M-5: This - unit - must - die.
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Featured in William Shatner's Star Trek Memories (1995) 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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