"I don't recognize your authority to relieve me": William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker in "The Doomsday Machine" (Star Trek 206).
© CBS Television Distribution
Windom's Commodore Decker appeared as a broken Federation hero in one episode of classic Star Trek, "The Doomsday Machine" by future Hugo Award-winning novelist Norman Spinrad. In an episode already chock-full of evocative imagery--the shocking reveal of the damaged Enterprise-twin Constellation; the maimed ship staring down the shimmering gullet of the implacable planet-killer--Windom gave us a rich and fascinating look at a great captain unmoored in the tradition of Ahab and others like him.
But the most powerful effects of his performance were how it reflected and reverberated in the characters around him: Kirk, looking on Decker appalled, seeing a catastrophic version of himself; Spock, grimly squaring off against a superior officer who needed to be relieved not because he was insane but because he would not, could not, make the right decision. Shatner and Nimoy are at their best here, in an episode that was not only well written and shrewdly directed, but which had at its center a guest artist who knew exactly what was needed from him.
This kind of superior guest performance was what Windom did best. He was in scores of series, and his movie roles are supporting roles approached from the same principle (his first feature role was as the prosecutor in To Kill a Mockingbird). Just his sci-fi credentials, in addition to Star Trek, include two episodes of The Twilight Zone ("Five Characters in Search of an Exit" and "Miniature"), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) with Roddy McDowall, and two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery shortly after; later he showed up in The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, The Greatest American Hero, Automan, Knight Rider, and Space Rage, alongside dozens of other one-offs in straight dramatic series, an Emmy-winning starring role in My Life and Welcome to It, and frequent recurring appearances on Murder She Wrote.
To any actor who finds himself or herself approaching a meaty guest starring role in an established series, Windom's body of work is your primer. This is how you do it.
|Tags: Star Trek, William Windom|
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