In tribute to Leonard Nimoy in his time of passing, I wanted to say something about the series itself. The Ultimate Computer isn’t my favourite episode, but it’s the episode where I first realized the series’ deeper meanings. My Father admired the show when I was young and I had been exposed to quite a bit of the material. Star Trek seemed to have a wealth of interesting material, but being a curious child, tapping into the series’ way of thinking was easier said than done.
Spoiler Alert I’m going to go over the details of this episode. If you haven’t yet seen The Ultimate Computer, the episode can be easily found on YouTube.
The episode begins with the Enterprise approaching a remote star base. Kirk meets an old friend Commodore Bob Wesley (no, not that Wesley), commanding the USS Lexington, Bob explains to Kirk that the enterprise has been selected to test the M-5 multitronic unit on a variety of scenarios. The M-5 is an advanced computer designed to control all starship functions. With the unit operating, the ship only needs a crew of twenty. The inventor of the M-5 beams aboard to monitor the computer and assist with testing. Initially, all the tests seems to be going flawlessly, performing warp drive, orbiting, scanning planets and making away team decisions. Kirk tells McCoy that the machine makes him feel obsolete and about his apprehension towards the device. Spock, however is invested in the outcome of the tests and is naturally indifferent to the Captain’s attitude. When Daystrom asks Spock how he knew about the M-5 since it was a classified project, we learn that Spock holds an A-7 expert computer classification. The Enterprise and the Lexington stage a war game drill to test the M-5 in combat and seems to perform well.
However, the M-5 soon begins to make some slips and Richard Daystrom talks about the machine like it has a personality. The M-5 targets a cargo freighter and the manual controls become locked out, the Enterprise crew are helpless to stop it from destroying the ship, killing everyone on board. They try to remove the computer from their systems, without success.The Lexington is unaware of the malfunction and engages another round of combat drills and panic grips the bridge of the Enterprise. The M-5 fires phasers at full strength on the Lexington, causing major damage and death. Daystrom explains that the M-5 has a unique circuitry based on human brain scans, for which Daystrom scanned his own brain. When Daystrom talks to the computer, rather than give the computer specific commands, he reasons with it. Daystrom unleashes a flood of emotion as he rants about his relationship with Starfleet’s scientific community, making it known that he felt unappreciated for his work that new advancements are regularly built upon. It suggests that Daystrom’s anger with Starfleet was transferred over to the machine during the brain scans.
This episode gives me a lot to think about, was the M-5 attacking because of Daystrom’s unannounced displeasure with Starfleet? Was the attacks deliberate or was it really an unforeseen malfunction? Is Daystrom a genius or a criminal? It’s hard to say. One last thing I’d like to say is that the M-5 was featured in the shooting/flying game, Star Trek – Shattered Universe. Several Terran Empire starships were fitted with the M-5 and causing chaos in the mirror universe. Shattered Universe was a really hard game, but with lots of moments like this, it was worth the time.
In conclusion, the way episodes like this keep us thinking long after the show is over is why I enjoy this series’ material and I can’t think of a better way to better pay tribute.
Farewell Leonard Nimoy
Wherever you are now,
I hope you continue to live long and prosper