In which shai-hulud learns to fly, the utility of chain-of-command regulations is called into question, and I am a tactical genius.
The Enterprise is chasing a distress call from something, probably a ship, called Constellation, and when they arrive at the location the entire solar system including its star are simply debris, just like every other solar system in the area. As the Enterprise flies through the asteroid field, we’re left to marvel at the incredible power of the navigational deflectors, and the responsiveness of the maneuvering thrusters. The Enterprise may not be a Galaxy class ship carrying 1014 crew and passengers with room, in an emergency, for up to 10,000, but she’s not exactly a runabout. The debris field in this former solar system is pretty thick, as the ex-planets haven’t had a chance to disperse yet. And it’s simply taken as granted that due to Sulu’s deft piloting and the forward deflectors (which are powerful enough to knock aside particles while the ship is traveling at warp which would otherwise reduce the ship to perforated tissue paper) nobody’s even worried.
What they’re worried about is whatever did that to the Constellation, which appears to be another Constitution-class ship. They really shouldn’t be. If the same thing that destroyed every planet and star in a dozen light-years in every direction attacked the Constellation, there wouldn’t be a hull left to find. So if it was only one entity, it was clearly holding back. Nevertheless, this is already feeling like a much better episode than “The Apple,” because even though the title gives away the conflict, it doesn’t actually give away the entire plot.
It would seem that some parts of the ship haven’t been exposed to space yet, but there’s extensive damage to every system which will probably help Kirk and the away team figure out what happened. This is good, because whatever did this is clearly capable of just wrecking Starfleet’s shit. This means we’re going to see Kirk shining as the Man who Beat the Unbeatable Test, not as the caricature that people tend to think of. Kirk’s still chewing the scenery a bit when they find Commodore Decker aboard the ruins of the Constellation, suffering from massive shock and PTSD after watching whatever killed his ship go on to kill the planet he tried to send his crew to safety on. Killed, or perhaps eaten by some terrifying robot Galactus from beyond the galaxy. And if it’s not stopped, it will eat most of the inhabited worlds in this one.
Kirk speculates that someone built this as the ultimate military deterrent, and
then forgot the first rule of the doomsday weapon, which is not to use it. Add “Doctor Strangelove” to the list of things I’ve been inspired to watch again.
I digress. The thing starts chasing the Enterprise, which is towing the Constellation. If it were me, I’d rig a warp core breach on the Constellation and let the thing eat a poison pill, but before they have a chance to do that the thing fires its antiproton beam at the ships. Instead, there’s some power grab as a clearly traumatized and Ahab-y commodore orders the Enterprise on a suicide run at the Doomsday Machine, leaving Kirk, Scott, and some hapless ops technician aboard the Constellation to swoop in and rescue the Enterprise from the folly of letting anyone but the show regulars sit in the captain’s chair. The Mirror Universe has this going for it – if Decker was being this dumb aboard an ISS ship someone would’ve stabbed him in the neck by now.
Well at least Decker’s got his pips for a reason. After Kirk pulls his bacon out of the fire he’s smart enough to distract it long enough to save Kirk, who immediately calls Decker out for being a goddamn lunatic and orders him off the bridge. See, Kirk? This is what happens when you personally go out on away missions. Insane disgraced commodores resist arrest and steal shuttlecraft in order to, I don’t know, go try to ram a planet-killing spaceworm with a star for a tongue or something goddamn ridiculous like that. To be fair, the shuttlecraft does have warp capability and is therefore a very carefully regulated antimatter bomb, so I’m going to call that a personal tactical vict – oh well that didn’t work sucks to be Decker.
On the plus side, the shuttlecraft appears to have done some damage – basically they stubbed the thing’s toe. So with the Enterprise beaming damage control aboard the Constellation to finish repairing the warp engines so they can carry out my initial plan up there. Go me!
That said, consider how dangerous this implies the engine reactors to be. I’m not sure what it takes to turn, say, a modern nuclear submarine into a massive bomb (and I really don’t want to know either, please don’t send me to secret prison) but I have to assume it to be less volatile than extracting power from a matter/antimatter reactor. How many fail-safes must there be just to keep the antimatter from hitting the walls of its containment. And now there’s a dead neutronium-hulled planet-killing murderbot floating somewhere in the depths of space. Hopefully that will never come back to bite the Federation in the ass.