Star Trek deals deliriously in deadly, dangerous artificial intelligence. Yeah, that’s quite a dizzying mouthful. Prefer abbreviations? Call it hostile A.I. for the trendy, discerning sci-fi guy. Whichever term you prefer, bad machines plague Starfleet crews for decades.
No matter how much you may wish to avoid it, the coming of A.I. is upon us. Got an iPhone? You probably use Siri—the helpful voice activated assistant. Love using your Amazon Echo Dot or just plain Alexa? There's another good example of our relying upon today's primitive artificial intelligence—at least helpful and more smarter tech devices.
True A.I. portrayed in sci-fi may still be years away, but we're now seeing toddler steps of the emergence of what could be a species transforming technology. Cyborg society, anyone?
The 50 year plus sci-fi franchise crafted by brilliant visionary Gene Roddenberry knows the perils of artificial intelligence run amuck. From Captain Kirk going toe to toe with a floating, super intelligent weapon of mass destruction to Captain Picard’s Enterprise crew being endangered by Data’s psychotic android brother Lore, Star Trek gives us more A.I. battles than most any other science fiction franchise around.
Kirk Work On 'Bad' Computers
Captain James T. Kirk is well known for many famous or infamous things—depending on your particular cosmic point of view.
Kirk dearly loves to break Starfleet’s essential Prime Directive—that of not interfering with a maturing society of primitive alien cultures. Kirk’s also known as a bit of a Lothario—a real ladies' man or alien’s man, depending on the biological species he’s romancing that week. However, above all his flashy personality traits, perhaps the most fun and handy is his innate ability when dealing with rampaging A.I.
It's clear to Trekkers—Kirk's work makes many an A.I. die.
Captain Kirk tangles with many a crazy computer, but these three delight as the most fun and thrilling to watch.
The Ultimate Computer - M5
Can there ever be an ultimate A.I.? An artificial intelligence which can do a job as good or even better than a human being? This Original Series episode deals with such a mind bending concept.
Richard Daystrom (William Marshall) boasts a reputation as a genius computer scientist. His contributions to Starfleet’s artificial intelligent machines are legendary. Now, he seeks to completely replace nearly all people working on a Starship. Once his M5 unit is installed and properly tested, a full Starship human crew will no longer be necessary.
Starfleet selects Kirk’s Enterprise for M5 battle simulations. What follows is a literal bloodbath of epic proportions, as M5 destroys participating starships involved in the test. Kirk, ever the charismatic, logical Lothario, convinces M5 he must go off line—essentially convincing the murderous A.I. to commit suicide.
Gee, Captain Kirk's kinda like a cross between Dr. Phil and Dr. Kevorkian.
The Changeling - Nomad
Long before fans marveled at the marvelous morphing of Constable Odo on Deep Space Nine, there was another Changeling on Star Trek.
Nomad dazzles all who encounter it as essentially a floating super weapon—a sort of irresistible artificial intelligence drone. Despite an overwhelming array of abilities and super smarts, he made one whopper of a mistake. He met up with Kirk—the smarty pants A.I. buster.
There's definitely something to be said for imaginative marketing. Taglines and slogans do matter. Nomad's catchy slogan is Sterilize! His directive: To rid the entire universe of any imperfect lifeforms. Boy, does this A.I. have his exterminating work cut out for him! Wonder how he'd get along hanging with Doctor Who's Daleks? Sterilize! Exterminate!
What’s most fun and historic about this episode’s plot is it’s echoed more than slightly in Trek’s big feature film debut, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise of The Day The Earth Stood Still fame. Watch the classic episode before you view Kirk, Spock and crew's 1979 silver screen romp.
The Return of The Archons - Landru
Are you a fan of the sci-fi thriller movie, The Purge, starring Ethan Hawke? Well, Star Trek pretty much did the same concept a half century ago.
U.S.S. Enterprise visit a seemingly primitive world in which its inhabitants have a day of complete—and legally sanctioned—societal anarchy. Beta III residents do anything which flashes into their dark minds—rape, assault, robbery. Sound familiar?
Enterprise crew are brainwashed into following similar chaotic behavior. Also, they go into a docile, tranquilized state where they mope around chanting of being of The Body, obeying the will of a mysterious figure called Landru. Finally, it's discovered Landru isn’t a person or cult, but an ancient super computer holding sway over the planet's populace.
O, rampaging, A.I., why do you task us humanoids so?
Ultimately, computer therapist extraordinaire Captain Kirk convinces the manipulative, godlike Landru A.I. it's being digitally evil and severely impacting its flock, thereby limiting Beta III’s society from natural maturation and evolution. There ya go, folks, chalk up yet another computer cyber suicide to the always clever Dr. J.T. Kirk.