Published Oct 20, 2019
Behind-the-Scenes of The Doomsday Machine
Looking back at one of TOS' classic episodes.
By StarTrek.com Staff
The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine" aired on October 20, 1967 and became a classic. It's the episode that gave us Commodore Matt Decker and that bizarre horn thing known as the Planet Killer. To celebrate the occasion, StarTrek.com is pleased to share some facts, figures and anecdotes about "The Doomsday Machine."
When It All Began...
Decker's captain's log kicked off on stardate 4202.1.
Gone With The "Windom"
Gene Roddenberry's first choice to play Decker was not William Windom, but rather Robert Ryan.
Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig, two series regulars, did not appear in this episode.
Writing A Classic
Norman Spinrad was just 27 years old when he wrote the "The Doomsday Machine" teleplay. Unlike most writers of the day, he was on set for the episode's filming. His initial story outline was titled, "The Planet Eater."
Did You Know?
Scotty goes flying around engineering, but look closely at the scene. It contains stock footage from "Tomorrow Is Yesterday." Also look for a disappearing tricorder.
Is Upgraded Really Better?
Norman Spinrad saw the remastered version of the episode, with upgraded FX. What did he think? "I liked the [original] episode, except for the wind sock," he told StarTrek.com in 2012. "Then, when they were doing the upgraded version, it was obviously much better quality. I talked to the people doing that and they asked me, 'Do you want us to do the thing itself the way you had it or should we do it the way they shot it?' I said, 'Do it the way I had it,' but they did it the way they shot it. They upgraded it, but they didn’t do that change." Here's the backstory on that: "Gene said to me after I finished the script, 'Look, can you draw the thing for us, please?' I’m not much of an artist. So I really worked on it. I drew the thing. It had complicated tentacle things that had the laser or whatever on the tips. So the thing looked ambiguous; you wondered, 'Is this alive or is it a robot?' Then, when they shot it, they showed me what they’d do it with. I said to Gene, 'After I went through all the work on this, this is what you shoot? It looks like a wind sock dipped in cement.' Gene, having been a pilot, said to me, 'That’s what it is, it’s a wind sock dipped in cement. We didn’t have any money for anything else.'”
The Episode Housed A Secret Relationship
According to Gene Roddenberry, per his novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Matt Decker was Willard Decker's son.
William Windom passed away on August 16, 2012, at the age of 88. His many, many film and television credits included The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, To Kill a Mockingbird, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Murder, She Wrote, Twelve O'Clock High, Grandview, U.S.A., The Incredible Hulk, Newhart, She's Having a Baby, Miracle on 34th Steet and True Crime. Among other notable achievements, he served in the U.S. Army and he won an Emmy Award for his starring role in the comedy, My World and Welcome to It.