One obituary I saw today for William Windom referred to the actor, who died at age 88, as a “comedic actor,” and there’s something to that, of course.
But for me and many others in geek culture, William Windom will always and forever be Commodore Matt Decker from the classic “Star Trek” original series episode “The Doomsday Machine.”
Windom played Decker, a friend of William Shatner’s Jim Kirk and captain of the Federation starship Constellation. In this second-season episode, the Enterprise finds the wreckage of the Constellation floating in space as well as its distraught captain.
The Constellation has been targeted by a mile-long planet killing robot ship, a conical structure that fires energy blasts and absorbs matter as food. Think of it as a less chatty version of Galactus.
Windom is by turns weepy, hysterical, sneaky and imperious as the captain who will use any tool at his disposal – including the Enterprise, liberated from Kirk and Spock – to kill the Doomsday Machine.
Windom was among the strongest guest-stars the original series ever had. Sure, he had his moments that were a bit … overplayed … but most of his performance is subtle and heartbreaking.
“The Doomsday Machine” was written by science fiction author Norman Spinrad. It has one of the great “Star Trek” climaxes as Kirk tries to fly the battered Constellation down the throat of the planet killer.
Windom’s career ranged from “The Twilight Zone” to “Night Gallery” to “Murder, She Wrote,” and was one of the most dependable character actors on TV for a couple of decades.
Here’s to Windom, one of our favorites.