Star Trek (1966–1969)
24 user 5 critic

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.


Gene Roddenberry (created by), D.C. Fontana (teleplay by) | 1 more credit »

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Episode complete credited cast:
William Shatner ... Capt. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy ... Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley ... Dr. McCoy
William Marshall ... Dr. Richard Daystrom
James Doohan ... Scott
George Takei ... Sulu
Nichelle Nichols ... Uhura
Walter Koenig ... Chekov
Sean Morgan Sean Morgan ... Harper
Barry Russo ... Commodore Bob Wesley


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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »


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Release Date:

8 March 1968 (USA) See more »

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Did You Know?


Spock describes M-5's diversionary tactics as "pursuing a wild goose". In Star Trek: The Gamesters of Triskelion (1968), after McCoy calls Spock's search for Kirk, Uhura, & Chekov a wild goose chase, Spock retorts that he was not chasing "some wild aquatic fowl". See more »


When the crew has regained control of the ship and Federation forces are about to attack the Enterprise, Captain Kirk asks for "inter-ship communication" (verified with closed captioning). But what he is expecting, and gets, is intra-ship communication, as communication with the other ships is impossible, as required by the story line--they can't explain to the attacking ships what has happened. 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.
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Alternate Versions

Special Enhanced version Digitally Remastered with new exterior shots and remade opening theme song See more »


Referenced in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

When Both Men and their Machines Go Mad
16 December 2006 | by BogmeisterSee 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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