Star Trek: The Original Series (1968) – The Ultimate Computer and Breads and Circuses

Captain’s log: stardate 4729.4

The Ultimate Computer. D.C Fontana writes the script from a story by Laurence N. Wolfe, and this episode first aired on 8 March, 1968.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is stripped down a skeleton crew to test the new M5 supercomputer.  Captain Kirk (William Shatner) is a little anxious about the idea, because he feels taking humans and their ability to judge situations, play hunches, care things the computer can’t do, and may be the difference between life and death.

And that belief is about to be tested as the Enterprise is about to be the hunted in a series of war games with other ships in the fleet.

With a crew of twenty, Kirk, Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the computer’s designer Dr. Daystrom (William Marshall), soon find themselves in peril. The computer can’t tell the difference between games and the real thing, and the Enterprise may need to be destroyed to stop the computer once and for all.

Both Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Sulu (George Takei) are at their positions this week, something that didn’t always happen, depending on actor availability. It’s nice to see them together.

The M5 computer is adept and able, but is it suitable progress, or will the human factor always be needed for some decisions?

I like shipboard episodes, especially when there are moments of action. Space battles, even if they aren’t really seen, inspired countless adventures for me, whether at school, or at home.

There are also some nice moments with Kirk as he tries to figure out if he has a place in Starfleet if the M5 proves a success. What is his place in his own world, if he’s not a captain?

Fortunately, we won’t have to find out, because the M5, once it goes too far, proves, once and for all, that the best person (or thing) to command the Enterprise (in this iteration) is Captain James T. Kirk.

The episode ends as Kirk trusts to those human instincts, something M5 couldn’t do, and ends up saving his ship and his crew.

The theme of progress and its effect, and the need for, humanity to be incorporated into it, to see over it, still applies today, and this ends up being one of my favourites from the second season.

It’s a fun episode, one I’ve always enjoyed, and anytime I see the Enterprise flying around through space, I get giddy, and start imagining what it would be like to be aboard her, exploring strange new worlds…

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Captain’s log: stardate 4040.7

The Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the S.S. Beagle and its crew in Bread and Circuses, only to find a planet where the Roman Empire never fell, and some of the crew of the Beagle remain alive down there.

Bread and Circuses was written by the two Genes, Roddenberry and Coon, and had an airdate of 15 March, 1968.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down to the service to find oppressive government. state controlled broadcasts, and gladiatorial matches standing in for reality television. This episode seems a little too close to our own world at the moment.

Kirk and company meet those who are rebelling against their government, calling themselves Sun Worshippers. Introducing a religious element to the rebellion…

Unfortunately, our heroes are captured by forces of the government and Spock and McCoy are made to fight in the games while Kirk watches.

There is a lot going on in this episode that is incredibly poignant and relevant today, though the coincidences of the Roman Empire, the religious element, and the fact that they speak colloquial 20th century English does more than push credulity (I mean I get that it saves on the budget, using existing sets and some costumes).

One of the best things in the episode is the banter and humour between not only Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but also the fantastic barbs that the Doctor and science officer exchange.

In the end, Kirk has to get into the fight himself, and get out before the Romans can do them in.

This one is a fairly entertaining episode, and as mentioned, feels more relevant today than ever before.

Next week, we come to the end of season two and boldy go onto season three as The Human Adventure continues…

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