Spinrad On The Transparent Doomsday Machine

Some have noted that CBS’s new CGI Doomsday machine doesn’t have that partially translucent look of the original. Well their reasoning is simple, it was never supposed to have it. Mike Okuda tells TrekMovie.com that he talked to the the original writer for the episode Norman Spinrad about this issue. According to Mike, here is what Spinrad had to say:

It was a glitch, not at all intentional. The FX was really primitive, simple blue screen stuff, which is why you can also see fringes around a lot of spaceships and so forth against star backgrounds.

TrekMovie.com also had a chance to speak to Spinrad and he recounted how he told Gene Roddenberry that he thought the final product looked a bit "like a windsock dipped in cement." Spinrad lamented on how the sketch he was asked to submit was pretty much ignored, but understood time and budget constraints were at play. The writer says he is looking forward to seeing the TOS-R version of Doomsday and TrekMovie.com will do a full interview with him next week to get his thoughts on it.

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Cool, am I first? That’s interesting to hear about being able to see the stars. Love to hear what he says about the CBS-D project.


So far as I know, Spinrad is currently living in Paris. Is that where you found him, or has he moved back to the States?

Much as I love Trek and “The Doomsday Machine” in particular, this little teleplay he wrote 40 years ago pales in significance compared to his better novels like Bug Jack Barron and Child of Fortune. At the time the episode originally aired he also wasn’t very happy with Gene L. Coon’s re-write of his work, which changed the character of Decker considerably from the Ahab-type that Spinrad had in mind. Still, I’ll bet he’s really enjoying all the renewed attention his contribution to SF-TV history is getting these days!

With regard to the so-called transparent Doomsday Machine: SEE!!! I TOLD YOU SO!!!! Daren D and I debated this for several days and I maintained the transparency was due to the compositing.

Heh! I was right.

Thanks Mr. Spinrad!

Can’t wait to read the full interview…and can we PLEASE see that artwork of what Spinrad intended the thing to look like? Hmpf…funny thing though…Decker comes off as Ahab-like to me. I can’t imagine what would have been different to reinforce this aspect..except to have Decker do more things to hijack the Enterprise…


And anyway, isn’t the remastering all about trying to improve the effects? Mission accomplished.

Just watched Doc’s version. Pretty much “Yechh”. Just by the photos, I’d say CBS Digital’s version will be much better. Although the comments spoke in Doc’ favor. No accounting for taste, as they say.

Um, duh. You mean people actually thought it was SUPPOSED to be translucent? Geez, I thought it was obvious that it was just cheesy 60’s FX.


^ Yeah hell even the stars show through the Enterprise in that episode.

C’mon, Doc’s version is like an amateur who sings in the shower, compared to Pavarotti. Good for what it is, but don’t expect too much!!

Just to be different… In my own opinion, whether a “transparent” look by Daren, or a “blue / grey” look by CBS Digital, I STILL would have loved to have seen the ORIGINAL model’s exact design, proportions and colours replicated in todays technology, given a choice.

10 the collective heart attacks that would cause in trek fandom would be tragic and you’d never hear the end of the moaning. I’d like to see it as a design but CBS Digital has to remain true to the original

Decker was changed from Captain Ahab to Captain Queeg. Even as a kid, I got the subtle reference of Decker playing with the memory chips.

I’d love to see Spinrad’s sketch.

I never thought the Planet Killer’s translucent nature was indicated by the stars showing through. Obviously that was poor compositing. It was the glass-like sheen, the iridescent colors and the fact that it went from blue to a dull gray after its destruction that always made me think it should have some kind of transparency.

On the topic of all the DDoc nay sayers, I don’t know the man, never talked to him, but I can respect his efforts. Were they perfect, nope, but damn near. Anyone who thinks his stuff was rubbish should sit down at their Mac or PC and take a run at an episode. Take your favorite TOS or Next Gen episode and then remove all the effect and add some new ones, then put it out there for everyone to piss and moan about your stuff.

Even if his stuff only looked half as good as it turned out to be, it’s still an amazing effort. Even if you just a philatelist, I defy you to put your collection up for the world to see and pick at. CBS-D spends thousands of dollars each week trying to update these episodes, and so far they haven’t gotten a single one perfectly correct. Why? It’s not from a lack of effort, but because we as fans, (particularly older ones) remember these episodes in the same way kids remember seeing “Star Wars” on the big screen for the first time. With a filter of awe and wonder. Our minds then start wrapping up those memories in warm fuzzy blankets and pretty soon we remember things not as they were, but as they felt and inspired our imaginations.

So when CBS-D or DDoc or anyone, tampers with those memories they get some unneeded and undeserved scorn. How many weeks of freaking nacelle cap debates were there? So look, no one is going to make everyone happy here. No one is going to make a perfect remastered or enhanced episode. But before you bitch about how terrible someone else’s stuff is, put up your passion on the internet, share the link with us and then sit back and take it while we tear your shit apart.

From blinking Gorns to the balls on the back of the Enterprise being too big we can all find something to nit pick at, something that doesn’t please us, but before you go screaming about how crappy someone else’s stuff is, let’s take peek at yours first.

Just my 2¢,

“Some have noted that CBS’s new CGI Doomsday machine doesn’t have that partially translucent look of the original. Well their reasoning is simple, it was never supposed to have it.”

Well, it was never supposed to look like “a windsock dipped in cement” either, so the creative intention obviously is not the deciding factor here.

For DD’s project, it makes sense to have a translucent DD machine, because the primodrial DD machine that is part of our shared memory of Trek is a “translucent-windsock-dipped-in-cement.” His project has its nose closer to the ground in that he is attempting to replicate the look of the original show.

Now, if DD would have gone with a non-translucent DD machine if he were convinced by the argument that it was a compositing problem, then Trekmaster has a valid point. DD could be knocked for not meeting his own creative intention. And yet, if this is the case, it somehow seems all the more appropriate. The irony would be the DD’s faithful reproduction of this flaw, which preserves the look of the original show, would also be the result of a failed intention (in the case of TOS, the intention to composite the shot right – in DD case, his intention to make the DD machine look as it would have if the technology would have been up to snuff).

At any rate, there is more than a little subjectivity that comes into play in making judgments about how much is “too much” or “too little” or “just right.”

When we reflect that part of what contrains our judgments is our respect for the artwork itself (antiquated and flawed though it is) — it is apparent that creative intention does not settle the issue so simply and that we can have a serious discussion about whether or not even an “error” should be replicated in recent “touch-ups” to the show.

Very well said, Kelvington. Instead of bitching about it think about the situation. We now have three different versions of DDM to watch over and over again. If it weren’t for guys like Daren giving CBS-D the goose we might have only the one to look at. SO be grateful for the many miracles of our time.

my JAB at Daren was cumlative of his remarks very early into tos-r. I didnt like his,I woulda done this they shoulda done that….I came up with the idea….etc. al gore invented the internet too! If he had blown me away Id be on the dd bandwagon,,,but he hasnt. close up shots look great…movement and phasers look silly,,,could I do better …no of course not…but i dont build up suspense and not back it up…however Great job on the kirk walking past the e viewscreen that was a great addition hope mike and the boys did the same. and kudos to dd on being able to take the heat as well as cbs-d has taken it from the pro DDers.

“How many weeks of freaking nacelle cap debates were there? So look, no one is going to make everyone happy here.”

Great post and I agree with just about everything you said.

The nacelle caps, however, did look terrible — and people noticed — and now they look much better. Constructive criticism is one thing — tearing another person’s work down for the fun of it is quite another.

14. Kelvington

Well said.
If nothing else, a guy can learn some tips on how *not* to act by reading some of these posts.

i dont care about all this nit picking or stuff..its silly!

im just glad the thing will no longer look like a ” horn’oplenty”..in space!!



kudos to cbs dgital!!!

Or a “Windsock covered in cement”. This was a lazy “shot for shot” re-do, with cartoonish FX. Didn’t work for the “Psycho” remake, didn’t work with DDoc’s either

#14 – Kelvington

While I understand where you’re coming from, the argument of “if you can’t do it better yourself, then you should keep you mouth shut” just doesn’t apply in the real world.

If it did, then I would expect you to never ever say that you didn’t like a song that you heard unless you could write a better one. Never criticize a movie you see unless you could produce a better one.

You get the idea…

“This was a lazy “shot for shot” re-do, with cartoonish FX. Didn’t work for the “Psycho” remake, didn’t work with DDoc’s either”

This was a lazy “claim-without-argument” re-hash, with cartoonish assertions. Didn’t work in your earlier posts, didn’t work in this one either.

Being smart a$$ed is easy — actually creating something takes work. My hat’s off to DD and CBS for giving us something new. At the very least, we will have another point of comparative reference for the CBS version. If their version is so much better than DD’s, I submit that your appreciation and enjoyment for their work may well be enhanced for having watched DD’s version. This is not a bad thing for Trek fans IMHO.

As you note, there is no accounting for taste. Your displeasure is officially on the record. What more do you want?

…I’ve looked at DD’s work, and compared it to what’s been seen already from the See-BS team, and what I’ve concluded so far is this:

0) First things first: The See-BS team has had a *LOT* less time than DD to produce what they have. They made some blunders at the start, but the past few eps have shown they’ve finally gotten their s’hit together for the most part.

1) DD’s Enterprise *does* look better, although it could stand a little bit more weathering in the detail(*). But at the same time, let’s also take into consideration that See-BS is using lower-polygon models than DD is, which will produce in certain cases a somewhat less-detailed look. If I have to put things in resolution perspective, DD’s is to a 10MP image on a Canon or a Nikon what See-BS’ is to a 4MP image on an older Coolpix.

(*) If DD had any real balls, he’d release the mesh so that some of us who dabble in rendering but can’t do a good mesh to save our asses can play around with our own remixes.

2) Some of DD’s ship angles and movement are excellent, others are…well, there’s something about them that just don’t look quite right. Sometimes the ship jerks funny, other times it moves with little perspective shift, almost as if it were a still image that were being shrunk – probably due to a camera perspective setting being not set right.

The one that annoys me the most is in the opening credits, where instead of zooming in from a pinpoint of light, it appears as if the E had taken a quick left turn about 10 blocks away and then hit the gas. On the other hand, his flyby of the planet in the open is far superior to the See-BS version.

3) The scale of both the See-BS and DD versions of the shuttlecraft WRT the hangar bay also seem off. The Shuttle seems about 25% larger than it should be.

4) Both See-BS and DD failed to fully address the issue of the DM’s size. Something that can chew up planets needs to be a *lot* larger than what any of the three versions have shown. Even Max Rem over at New Voyages has been guilty of this.

5) On the issue of the wrecked bridge of the Connie, regardless of whether Anderson or whoever shot that AMT model did or did not at least melt the bridge dome, this would have been the opportunity to show it gutted and flayed open, showing the actual ruined bridge interior. See-BS no doubt skipped this as well, based on the damaged Connie promo shot we’ve seen.

6) Something else both teams have apparently skipped over: the E takes damage from the attack, so why not at least show some carbon scoring or some sort of damage to the hull? It’s not like next week’s episode takes place 20 minutes after this one, so there’s plenty of time for them to repair the damage.

7) Maybe it’s just a matter of aesthetic tastes, but See-BS does better ship phasers than DD.

…On a side note, DD, if you’re reading this, I know blue-screen and chroma key technology like the back of my hand. The transparency *was* a composite artifact, and not intentional. Admit this and confess you were wrong, because you’re only making yourself look like an egotist. To your defense, tho, the transparency effect was actually pretty cool, especially when the whole DM went transparent after the Connie blew up inside of it.

…On another side note, seeing another round of Spinrad whining about how the DM should have been “bristling with weapons” and not looking like a “goddamn huge windsock”, DD should redo his effects so that the DM looks like the Death Star, with Decker flying the trench to the exhaust port and then flying down it to reach the Death Star core. He doesn’t blow it up, but the damage causes a service access tunnel to open up large enough for the Connie to make it through. Oh, and Darth Vader is really James T. Kirk’s father, too :-)

I like that idea about the bridge as well. The initial scene where the Enterprise approaches the Constellation is shown from the vantage point of the Constellation’s primary hull. They could have actually showed the bridge interior, and panned the camera forward across the gaping hole in the dome to see the Enterprise approaching.

If they weren’t short for time (in the original effect), they could also have used showed a little, barely recognizeable CG Decker entering the shuttlecraft. It would add a touch of reality to the empty CG environment.

Maybe in the movie.

That’s not true! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!

I’m one of those old traditional Trekers, and in my opinion if your going to go to the trouble to redo the effects then you should go the whole hog. They should have had the DM brisling with weapons. So what if a few “Traditional Trek fans” complain, don’t like it , watch the original in all its sixties crappie SFX glory.

How dare I judge what I cannot or will not create? We judge and criticize everything all the time. That’s human nature. Begrudge me that. Once, a long time ago, someone pointed out a stone wheel could be improved, much to chagrin of the stonecutters. I will never say “IMHO” or “just my two cents” or ” I’m sorry, but…”, etc.
Here’s another not so humble opinion, dictatorship is inherently destructive, as is group think.
What do I want? To be dazzled. I would gladly pay for that.


Criticism can be constructive or destructive – appropriate or inappropriate.
In some case criticism is little more than a person reporting on the state of their glands (e.g., “Yechh!”), which brings us to another category of criticism, the vacuous. That you tell us that you don’t like it without adding anything to the conversation (i.e., telling the stone cutter how to improve the wheel), where DD offers us 20 minutes of footage to look at hints at the relative value of your contribution.

That, by your own admission, you will never indicate anything less than a modality of certainty in expressing your opinion also indicates a lack of intellectual subtlety and rhetorical sensitivity on your part. Most folks hold some opinions more strongly than others and will indicate a weak belief with the preface IMO and IMHO. Most folks, even when they believe something strongly, will be gracious enough to frame their opinion in a manner that does not offend others. One can often tell the truth more effectively by framing one’s remarks in this way.

True, there are times to be direct – for example, in confronting ” a dictator” or, for another hypothetical example, the person who shows no regard for politeness norms. One has to ask, however, if the expression of one’s own subjective experience of an artwork is so important that one has to deliberately give offense to the artist and others who are enjoying that artwork.

One certainly does not, however, get a “get out of jail free card” just so long as they believe what they are saying. Please don’t play the victim here.

I feel the transluscence of the planet killer was a happy accident for me, intended or not. It reminds me of a chihully glass piece! In fact out of the whole effects reel from Daren, the translucent effect was definitely my favorite aspect!

I believe the Enterprise was initially translucent in several of those shots as well.

I need help. I need to know if my local station in San dDiego is chopping
up the enhanced versions. On “The Doomsday Machine” there were several shots and dialog cut from the aired episode tonite. The scenes
on the bridge where Spock is ordered to relieve Decker. Decker makes the statement’ You are bluffing!”, Spock says “Vulcans never bluff.”
That was all cut out in San Diego. Did anyone else see this on the
recent enhanced episode. In addition, the fight scene between the Red shirt and Decker was severely cut back as well as Decker sneeking his way down into the shuttlebay priior to launching the shuttle craft.
Thanks for your time
Wayne L

#11 paul austin

Um, I WAS referring to the original SHOW’S DM model and colour-scheme…

If the whole DDM was transparent, no one would have anything to complain about.

Spock’s legendary “Vulcans never bluff” reply seems to have been cut from our area’s airing of the enhanced “Doomsday Machine” episode last Saturday. Why any editor would cut that line, I know not. Our classic Star Trek episodes air on our FOX affiliate here in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA.