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Enterprise is used to test the new M-5 computer.



USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) approaches Starbase 6, remastered

Enterprise approaches Starbase 6

The USS Enterprise is summoned to a space station by Commodore Enwright without explanation. Commodore Bob Wesley, commanding the USS Lexington, explains in the Enterprise's transporter room that the Enterprise will be a test vessel for a revolutionary tactical computer called the M-5 multitronic unit, designed by the brilliant Dr. Richard Daystrom. The M-5 will handle all ship functions, including responding to a simulated attack led by Wesley, during the test with a crew of only twenty, much to Captain Kirk's chagrin.

Act One[]

"Captain's log, stardate 4729.4. The M-5 computer has been installed on board ship, and we have left the space station for test maneuvers."

Dr. Richard Daystrom, who designed the duotronic computers used on the Enterprise, arrives on board to install his new M-5 multitronic unit, which is capable of running a starship with only minimal personnel. Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy meet him in engineering, where he is finishing up the installation. Daystrom explains the first four units weren't entirely successful, but this one has the capability to control the ship. Responding to Kirk's skepticism, he challenges Kirk on enjoying the prestige of the captaincy.

Spock stays with Daystrom, while Kirk and McCoy leave. Kirk wrestles with his own unease about the advance in technology and his own possible obsolescence.

Alpha Carinae II

The Federation starship Enterprise enters orbit of the planet Alpha Carinae II

The Enterprise, under M-5 control, approaches the planet Alpha Carinae II, achieves standard orbit, and makes its recommendations for the landing party. As the first example of the difference between the M-5's decisions and those of a Human, Kirk's recommendation is at odds with the M-5's call, which includes the same astrobiologist, Phillips, a different geologist (Chief Rawlins instead of Ensign Carstairs), and doesn't include Kirk or McCoy in the landing party, calling them "non-essential personnel."

While this is going on, Montgomery Scott is observing that power on decks 4 and 5 has been cut, along with environmental controls for each deck. He traces the source of the power shutdowns to be the M-5 itself.

Act Two[]

In engineering, Dr. Daystrom examines the situation, but explains that the M-5 simply turned off the power to those decks since they were unoccupied crew quarters and there was no one there who needed it. Spock also observes that the M-5 is drawing more power than before, to which Daystrom simply responds that the M-5 requires more power. Kirk again challenges Daystrom that the M-5 can only process information given to it; it cannot make value judgements. Daystrom dismisses this and describes the M-5 as "a whole new approach" to logic systems.

The arrival of an unidentified vessel cuts off the conversation and brings Kirk and Spock to the bridge. Dr. McCoy is already there, since sickbay was also shut down by the M-5. The Enterprise is approached by two ships, the Lexington and USS Excalibur. They engage in an unscheduled wargames drill, and the M-5 responds swiftly to simulated attacks, hitting back the "enemy" ships and maneuvering more quickly than it would have were a Human in command. Kirk tries to be gracious towards the computer's ability, telling Spock that such applications might be practical, but Spock tells Kirk that although true, such a thing as a computer running a starship would be undesirable. He goes on to explain that a key attribute of Human command is loyalty, loyalty to one man, and that this should never change. Captain Kirk, whose ego has been somewhat beaten up by all that has been going on recently, appreciates the comment. Meanwhile, the M-5 is seen to be drawing increasing amounts of power. Wesley communicates back, awarding the test to the M-5 and jokingly calling Kirk a "Dunsel."

Dismayed by this, Kirk goes to his quarters to contemplate the increasingly successful M-5. McCoy arrives with a Finagle's Folly. McCoy tells Kirk that Daystrom may be attempting to recapture the “past glory” of winning the Nobel Prize and Zee-Magnees Prize at an early age. Kirk states that Albert Einstein, Kazanga, and Sitar did not produce “assembly line” genius innovations and that Daystrom is seeking to contribute another technological advancement to society. McCoy responds that Daystrom’s obession with Multitronics can be seen with his rejection of the M-1 through M-4 multitronic units. The M-5 represents Daystrom’s need to prove his superiority to himself. Their conversation is cut off, as the Enterprise's sensors detect a slow-moving ship. It is the automated ore freighter Woden, and not a drill this time. M-5 abruptly changes the Enterprise's course to intercept the ship, speeding up to warp 3. It then engages the ship with photon torpedoes, destroying it, even though it presented absolutely no threat to the Enterprise, and then resumes its prior course. Captain Kirk tries to disengage the M-5 in the process, but neither he, Sulu, nor Scott are able to regain manual control of the ship. Dr. Daystrom still tries to make excuses and explanations for this, but there is clearly something very wrong. Kirk, Spock, and Scott go to engineering and Kirk tries to approach the M-5 to shut it off, only to be knocked back by a force field, learning that the M-5 unit will protect itself as well.

Act Three[]

"Captain's log, stardate 4731.3. The M-5 multitronic unit has taken over total control of the Enterprise."

Kirk is infuriated now. He demands Daystrom shut off the unit, but Daystrom insists that he be allowed to first correct. Kirk has Scott attempt again to cut its power, but when Ensign Harper, working with a trident scanner, moves in to cut the power, the M-5 makes a direct connection to the warp engines using a power beam of its own devising. As it does so, Harper is caught in the beam and vaporized. Shocked and enraged, Kirk berates Daystrom for being unable and unwilling to deactivate the M-5. Daystrom continues to excuse the M-5's behavior, insisting that Harper "…simply got in the way", and that his death was not a deliberate act. Kirk snaps back at Daystrom: "How long will it be before all of us simply 'get in the way'?".

In the briefing room, the senior staff collaborate on a plan to gain back control by focusing on a certain relay unit between the M-5 and the bridge. McCoy goes to Daystrom to convince him to shut off the M-5. Daystrom, on the other hand, defends the M-5, saying it's learning, and further, that the advance the M-5 represents would liberate man from hazardous duties, saving life. McCoy notes later to Kirk that Daystrom reacts toward the computer as a father would to his child. Even if the child went anti-social and killed a person, a father would protect the child.

Kirk and Daystrom observe Spock and Scott attempt to gain control, but Sulu and Chekov report it is unsuccessful. They realize that M-5 had rerouted the controls while leaving the relay they were working on live as a decoy. Spock notes the illogical behavior of the M-5 unit. Daystrom explains that he impressed Human "engrams" onto the circuits. "The relays are not unlike the synapses in the brain," Daystrom explains to Captain Kirk. "M-5 thinks, captain."

Uhura reports the four Federation ships as part of the scheduled war exercise, but now Kirk fears the M-5 will not treat it as a drill.

Act Four[]

USS Enterprise fires on USS Exeter

The Excalibur attacked

As the war games exercise begins, M-5 has prevented all communication. The Lexington, Excalibur, USS Hood and USS Potemkin are approaching. Daystrom assures that the M-5 will treat it as a drill, but then the M-5 attacks the Lexington and Excalibur with all weapons at full power, crippling the Excalibur and killing its entire crew in the process. Despite knowing that M-5 would have full tactical and functional control of the Enterprise, Commodore Wesley blames Kirk for the attack. When Wesley cannot raise the Enterprise by radio, he requests approval from Starfleet Command to destroy her.

Now that the M-5 has committed murder, Kirk confronts Daystrom, convincing him that the M-5 is doing more than originally designed. He demands that Daystrom attempt to reason with the M-5, and Daystrom admits it was his own engrams that he imprinted on the machine. However, he goes mad in the effort, realizing his reputation is at stake. In his delirium, Daystrom violently lashes out at Kirk, but is subdued by a Vulcan nerve pinch from Spock.

Richard Daystrom

Daystrom attempts to stop the M-5

McCoy hauls Daystrom off to sickbay, and Spock notes the self-preservation that the M-5 is displaying is probably a consequence of Daystrom's engram imprinting.

Hearing that Starfleet has agreed that Wesley can destroy the Enterprise, Kirk himself speaks to the computer, trying to make it recognize its responsibility in the deaths of hundreds of people as there are no more life readings on the Excalibur, and reminding it of the penalty for murder. Feeling Daystrom's regret over the deaths, the M-5's computerized voice is tinged with sadness as it announces "This unit must die." It then shuts down, dropping the deflector shields and leaving itself open to attack to atone for its crime. Spock and Scott then disconnect the computer from ship's control. With communications not quite restored, Kirk orders that the shields be kept down, gambling that Wesley will be both compassionate and cautious, and break off the battle. Sure enough, Wesley does so, much to the crew's relief.

Dr. Daystrom, meanwhile, is cared for in sickbay under sedation and heavy restraint to await transfer to a total rehabilitation facility, under McCoy's recommendation. Kirk orders that Sulu plot a return course to Starbase 6. Sulu does so, and the Enterprise heads off through space.

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"There are certain things men must do to remain men."

- Kirk to Daystrom, after the M-5 is installed on the Enterprise

"Did you see the love light in Spock's eyes? The right computer finally came along."

- McCoy to Kirk, after they walk away from Spock and Daystrom

"Only a fool would stand in the way of progress."

- Kirk, on being replaced by the M-5

"We're all sorry for the other guy when he loses his job to a machine. When it comes to your job, that's different. And it always will be different."

- McCoy, on technological progress

"Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them. Captain, the starship also runs on loyalty to one man. And nothing can replace it, or him."

- Spock to Kirk, after the war games exercise

"Our compliments to the M-5 unit, and regards to Captain Dunsel. Wesley out."

- Wesley, comparing Kirk's role to a part which serves no useful purpose

"To Captain Dunsel."
"To James T. Kirk, captain of the Enterprise."

- Kirk and McCoy, toasting in Kirk's quarters

"All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by."

- Kirk, quoting the poem "Sea-Fever" by John Masefield

"Fantastic machine, the M-5. No 'off' switch."

- McCoy, as the Enterprise chases the Woden

"Come along, Dr. Daystrom. M-5 is out of a job."

- Kirk, to Dr. Daystrom

"You are great...I am great!"

- Dr. Daystrom speaking to the M-5 computer

"I would say, Captain, that M-5 is not only capable of taking care of this ship, it is also capable of taking care of itself."
"You mean it's not going to let any of us turn it off?"

- Spock and Kirk, expressing logic and horror respectively on M-5's self defense

"Please, Spock, do me a favor and don't say it's fascinating."
"No. But it is … interesting."

- McCoy and Spock, on the M-5's increasing control of the Enterprise

"You don't shut a child off when it makes a mistake. M-5 is growing, learning."
"Learning to kill."
"To defend itself. It's quite a different thing."

- Daystrom and McCoy, on the growing threat of the M-5

"Men no longer need die in space or on some alien world! Men can live and go on to achieve greater things than fact-finding and dying for galactic space, which is neither ours to give or to take!"

- Daystrom, defending the need for the M-5

"Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis."

- Kirk to McCoy, on Daystrom

"You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant'."

- Kirk, on Daystrom's ingenuity

"It appears, Captain, we've been doing what used to be called pursuing a wild goose."

- Spock, after M-5 outsmarts an attempted manual override

"Commodore Wesley is a dedicated commander. I should regret serving aboard the instrument of his death."

- Spock, after Wesley receives orders from Starfleet to destroy the Enterprise

"Murder is contrary to the laws of man and God."

- M-5, on why it cannot commit murder

"Compassion. That's the one thing no machine ever had. Maybe it's the one thing that keeps men ahead of them."

- McCoy, on why Wesley did not attack the Enterprise

"I simply maintain that computers are more efficient than Human beings, not better."
"But which do you prefer to have around, Mr. Spock?"
"…I believe I have already answered that question, Doctor."

- Spock and McCoy, reflecting on the M-5 computer's erratic behavior

"It would be most interesting to impress your memory engrams on a computer, Doctor. The resulting torrential flood of illogic would be most entertaining."

- Spock's last jab at McCoy, on comparing Humans and machines

Background information[]

Production timeline[]

Story and production[]

  • Mathematician Laurence N. Wolfe wrote the original story for this episode, which was based on his fascination with computers. However, it emphasized the M-5 unit and its creator, Dr. Daystrom, and barely featured the Enterprise crew. It was heavily rewritten by D.C. Fontana, who focused the storyline around Kirk's fear of being replaced by a machine. [1]
  • This episode was a social commentary on the American job losses caused by increased mechanization during the 1960s. (Star Trek Compendium, p. 99)
  • Producer John Meredyth Lucas bought Wolfe's unsolicited teleplay because it could be made fast and cheap, using only the existing Enterprise sets, and decided to direct the episode himself. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two)
  • The evocative music by George Duning, composed for "Metamorphosis", was re-used when Kirk romanticizes about sailing on a tall ship.

Cast and characters[]

Sets and props[]


Remastered information[]

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]


Uncredited co-stars[]


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