Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine

     “The Doomsday Machine” is my second go at a scene from the original Star Trek series (Second season, Episode six). My first Star Trek build was of the climatic scene from the 1986 film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” where the intrepid crew protect a pair of humpback whales from some whalers. This link will take you there if you're at all interested:

     In any case, I have to admit this build wasn't my own idea. A fellow modeler said he was thinking about making one using the foam cones that are used for flower arrangements. Thinking that was a superior idea (thanks, Mike!), I went to my local craft store and purchased a 12 inch long version. Additionally, this scene cried out to be lit (considering the nature of the Doomsday Machine) so I purchased a number of 9 volt 10mm LEDs of various colors to simulate the machine's destructive ray.

     The final element to the scene was the Federation star ships themselves.  Fortunately, there are TONS of 3D print files out there of these ships so it was a simple matter of downloading a file and printing it out. I used my smaller resin printer to produce the pair of ships, making them as small as practical which is a great feature of resin printers.  As you can see from the photos, I ended up with a pair of ships a bit smaller than a penny. One of these will be used for the USS Constellation which gets destroyed by the Doomsday Machine. The other will be used as a stand by if the first breaks somehow. This is a given and basic feature of model making.

     One a side note, there has been speculation that the concept of the Doomsday Machine was based on the “Berserker” series created by Fred Saberhagen. However, the screenwriter for this Star Treke episode, Norman Spinrad, says that he had written about the Doomsday type of mechanism well before the Saberhagen's series in a novelette called “The Planet Eater”. Regardless of who came up with the concept, this episode is regarded as one of the best in the entire franchise.

The first step was make the LED cluster for the machine's ray effect.  I used a 10mm yellow LED for the central light source and surrounded it with alternating ring of red & orange LEDs. I was a little concerned about how to power the assembly but a 9 volt battery worked out fine. As an added precaution to get more “runtime”, I used a pair of 9 volt batteries wired in parallel to drive the whole thing.  I finished up by using clear resin to fuse the nine LEDs together in a circle.

     I then hollowed out the Styrofoam cone to accommodate the LED cluster and ran a ¼” brass tube through the smaller end to act as a mount for the machine and to also provide a channel to feed the wiring to the batteries. The last construction step was to wrap the machine with crumpled aluminum foil to copy its rough appearance.

     Alas, the crumpled foil just looked like, well, crumpled foil.  I decided on a different tact by wrapping the cone in cloth snipped from an old pillow case and securing it with a coat of 50/50 water and PVA solution. Once this dried, I added random layers of cloth to look like the irregular surface of the machine along with a generous slathering of Mod Podge for ridges on its surface.

A pair of extremely delicate resin star ships for the scene.

     I resin printed a roughly 3” long model of the USS Enterprise that I wanted to place in the foreground to give a forced perspective to the scene. I had toyed with the idea of lighting this ship but the effort really wasn't worth the payoff so I scrapped that idea.

     I had also purchased a 8” diameter hemisphere of green florist's foam that I intended on chopping up to represent the remnants of a planet's recent destruction. Because the green foam was so delicate, I coated it with a layer of Mod Podge to give a bit more strength and to protect any chemical reaction I might have if I used solvent based spray paint later on. I gave the pieces a medium gray base coat in acrylic paint and then a dry brushing of khaki finishing up with  a wash of black to bring out the details of the rough surfaces. I placed the planet debris randomly in the scene though the jury is still out on whether I will keep them or not. Probably not.

Here are the two scenes for a comparison shot. The image on the left is the TV version, the one on the right is mine. In this part of the episode, Captain Kirk is trying to fly the severly damaged USS Constellation into the maw of the Doomsday Machine in the hopes of exploding the ship inside to disable it. It is a very suspenseful scene because not all goes well.

Two close up shots of the Doomsday Machine about the swallow a star ship.  My build is on the right, the TV show is on the left.

      I spray painted the Doomsday Machine a dark blue and applied dark purple in an irregular pattern. I highlighted some of the ridges with medium blues and grays acrylic paint a finished the whole thing with a coating of clear gloss from a rattle can. I painted the two starships a very light gray with a reddish orange for the front end of the nacelles.

     For the background, I used the Masonite panel that came with the shadow box. I gave it a coat of flat black paint and then spattered the surface with white paint from an old brush that I flicked with my thumb to create a random star field.. Using a toothpick, I placed spots here and there for different colored suns. When everything dried, I pushed the brass tube assembly at the rear end of the machine through a pre-drilled mounting hole in the background panel.

     The electronics were a relatively simple affair. As I said earlier, I wired two 9 volt batteries in parallel to get more runtime out of the scene when lit. I installed a push button on top of the shadow box and ran those wires to the LED wire assembly and batteries, taking care to keep the polarity of the circuit in mind.

     I ended up attaching a larger base to the bottom of the shadow box for more stability and, to finish the whole thing off, I 3D printed a title card in a Star Trek font I downloaded for the display. This diorama was fun to make with its most time consuming aspect being waiting for stuff to dry but, as they say, patience is a virtue (whoever "they" are). 5/25/2023