Star Trek: the Original Series, Episode
#35: "The Doomsday Machine"
Aristotle in his Poetics wrote that there were three basic plot
lines: man against man, man against the gods, and man against himself. "The Doomsday Machine" is about all three. The
episode was penned by science fiction veteran Norman Spinrad, and involves the USS Enterprise taking on a giant alien
machine which is reducing entire planets to interstellar rubble. The episode seems to be inspired, in part, by Moby Dick,
with Commodore Matthew Decker commandeering the Enterprise in his one man crusade to hunt down the aforementioned
leviathan which does bear a suspicious resemblance to a certain white whale.
Decker taking on the planet killer is man against the gods, the forces
of the universe where no man has gone before. But the plot goes deeper. Decker is also pitted against Kirk, who is not about
willing to hand over his ship to be sacrificed for another man's obsession. That's the man against man angle.
But the real conflict is about how two captains fight their inner demons.
Decker is driven by his compulsion for revenge, having gotten his own crew killed, then trying to drag down the Enterprise
with him into the Doomsday Machine's combined Scylla and Charybdis. He self-destructs, perhaps the fate of men who
can not control their emotions. Kirk, in contrast, keeps control and reasons out a way to destroy the planet killer.
The episode has a lot of other things going for it, including Kirk demonstrating
the skills of being a starship commander (not just sitting in a chair on the bridge and giving orders, but weighing decisions, having
the technical skills to rig up damaged systems, and being the first man on the scene of danger). Plus an intelligent discussion
of the merits of following regulations versus taking responsibility, and a couple of great Star Trek lines.
Aristotle would get it.