5/29/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Ultimate Computer"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: S02E24
Air Date: Mar 8, 1968
Written by: D.C. Fontana and Laurence N. Wolfe
Directed by: John Meredyth Lucas

Premise
Dr. Daystrom puts the Enterprise on cruise control. Kirk battles an inferiority complex.

Review
So the Enterprise is called in to a station to talk to Commodore Wesley. Once they get there, Wesley says they're going to be taking on Dr. Daystrom who will hook up his newfangled M-5 computer to the Enterprise to test it as a crew replacement. The M-5 should be able to handle all the functions of a starship without the help of any human officer. As the one who created all the computers currently used on Federation vessels, Daystrom is singularly qualified to make such a claim. So, while there is a bit of resistance, Kirk finally agrees to testing his new device in some war games.

While they're on their way out to the test site, Daystrom explains all the new workings of the computer. How the M-5 uses his own memory engrams for a whole new approach to logic systems. The M-5 computer, he claims, can think rather than merely run a few commands. It really is the Ultimate computer, eh? Well, Kirk isn't so keen on the idea. He thinks he's being replaced. Meanwhile Bones muses on the idea that Daystrom is treating the M-5 computer like a son.
As Spock does his best to ignore everyone.
The M-5's first test is to choose a landing party for a randomly selected planet to explore. Not surprisingly, it recommends totally different crew members than Kirk suggested. Also not surprisingly, these suggestions are perfectly logical and do not include the command officer, who should stay on board for his safety anyway. It doesn't take long, however, before they come across a new problem: power is shutting down all over the ship. They figure out that the M-5 computer is shutting down systems that aren't being used to save power. And are thoroughly embarrassed. Although, it is suspicious that the M-5 is using more power while saving other power.

Well, ok! Time for war games. A couple of Federation ships come up to the Enterprise and initiate the games. Everyone turns down their phasers and the game is afoot! The games go along swimmingly, the M-5 passes with flying colors, and Kirk huffs. When the games are over, however, the M-5 finds a random cargo freighter and, not knowing the games are over, destroys it. And while it was destroying a defenseless vessel, no one was able to shut the M-5 down.
Welp...
Time to take the M-5 offline. Except when they try, the computer kills a redshirt. Turns out Daystrom inadvertently programmed into the M-5 the instinct to survive at all costs. In addition, the M-5 takes control of the matter/antimatter reactors giving it virtually unlimited power over the Enterprise. And here come the other ships for the war games. Only the M-5 still doesn't know it's just a game. It attacks with full weapons and destroys one of the ships. The rest escape, but ready themselves to come back and attack the seemingly out-of-control Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Kirk and the crew attempt to "reason" with the M-5. Kirk says that his primary function is to protect humans, but, at the same time, he has destroyed hundreds of lives. Recognizing this and feeling regret, the M-5 shuts itself down. The Enterprise is now completely vulnerable to the coming attack. But the Commodore in command of the fleet recognizes that the shields are down and holds back.
The Thinker's got nothin on the Commodore.
Well, turns out this whole ordeal has made Dr. Daystrom go crazy. So he's in sick bay under sedation and waiting for proper care while the Enterprise disconnects the M-5 and goes back to the space station. And they all lived happily ever after and learned a valuable lesson about computers.

Overall Thoughts
On one hand you have this episode that says that computers will never amount to the same capacity of a man, and then you have Data. Mixed messages much, Star Trek?? Yes, yes, I understand that technology evolves. It's just a joke! GOSH! CALM DOWN. I like this episode. Might not be all that logical, but there was actual peril.