Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 6

Spectre of the Gun

Aired Unknown Oct 25, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
149 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

When coming to an exaphobic isolationist planet, Captain Kirk and his landing party are punished for trespassing. They are sentenced to death in a surreal recreation of the Gunfight at the OK Corral with the landing on the losing side.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
  • You had to be there...

    I don't think we should expect everyone to GET this one. I mean, if you're a kid or just ignorant you probably just thought you saw a western

    If you can't see the 60's subtext then I can't help you.

    Love this episode at the very end where only the fence is getting all shot up, Kirk withholds, and the aliens allow the federation to approach and make friends!

    Bottom line: for something to harm us we must first ALLOW it to do so.moreless
  • Once you get past the fact it's a Western...

    This is another of those third season episodes that belies the generally held opinion that the third season is garbage. Yes, it's what they call "high concept": "What if Kirk went to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral?"

    You get another alien/alien race in the third season, though. The Melkots sharing some mild similarities with the Medusans, Excalbians, and Vians. This is another race that is unfamiliar with humanity and are really "alien." You can't really say the idea of executing someone with their memories is dumb because... well, that's human thinking. The Melkot have their own alien ideas about how to dispose of intruders and that's what they do. They're not interested in experimenting on humans or getting along: they just want to get rid of them and move along with their lives.

    There's the usual clever Gene L. Coon dialogue along the way, and the episode is filled with all kinds of cute little quotes and asides like McCoy and Holiday as fellow doctors, and Chekov flirting with a local even in the middle of an execution. The sets add an appropriate surreal touch to the whole thing and neatly goes from a general sense of the unureal, to the cold hard fact of Chekov's death, to Spock figuring out the whole thing. Spock saving the day third-season style is a bit irritating, as this is another of those "Spock can do anything" third season plot resolutions. Still, the guest cast has fun with this mini-Western, and Kelley no doubt had fun comparing it to his own appearances in a Earp/Clanton movie years earlier.

    So overall a good episode to watch, and it stands up well in any season. It's just regrettably one of those that gets buried in with some of the third season muck.moreless
  • The Enterprise landing party is sentenced to death for refusing to wear cowboy hats

    I thought the Melkot's test was quite poor. (That was Doohan's voice by the way) It reminded me a bit of "The Savage Curtain" which actually came later. I thought an "Arena" like test would be better. You see the "You did not kill?" is an interesting topic. It did not come out that well here. It's almost like the whole OK corral thing lead the script instead of the idea and lesson of the episode leading the story as it should have.moreless
  • Kirk and other members of the Enterprise crew find themselves on a world surrealistically mirroring the old west, where they are meant to be killed in the famous gunfight at the O.K Corral.moreless

    This a "western" episode that was the victim of a severe budget cut, but the script was cleverly rewritten and directed to turn the lack of sets into cool, little surreal episode. (It's also nice that the episode was given original score – one of the best – instead of relying on tracked music from previous episodes.) Because of the sparse, fragmented sets, Spectre of the Gun comes across almost like a stage play – which augments the talents of Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, and Doohan. I also like how the ending, which could have easily been dues ex machina, is not mindless or predictable but thoughtful and interesting.moreless
  • Punishing the Enterprise for trespassing, an alien being puts Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov in a re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which they are on the losing side. Not as much fun as it should be...moreless

    Although shown a few episodes in, 'Spectre of the Gun' was the first episode to be produced for the third, final season of the Original Series.

    By now, the series had seen many stories that played with various stages from Earth (particularly America)'s past. Some use the infamously over-used "parallel Earth" plot device, and others are to do with alien beings creating the surroundings. This is an example of the latter.

    As such, the episode does somewhat feel like a retread of some earlier stories, adding to the 'tired' feel that generally goes with the third season anyway.

    It is maybe an obvious setting for an episode, as in many ways the series can be described as a "Western space opera". But the story comes off with mixed results.

    Setting-wise it is one of the more interesting of the third (and weakest) of the show's three seasons.

    But the episode's main flaw is that it looks so darn cheap. I can go along with the incomplete buildings (apparently a creative decision due to budget limitations), but everything just looks so cheap and flimsy, and not all that nice to look at.

    The plot is also mixed. It feels like it should be an awful lot of fun, but winds up as a so-so offering. The concept of Kirk and co. being put into a re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – in fact, the whole Western setting in general – should be great fun, but things come off as average at best.

    It is one of the more interesting and memorable settings of the third season, but that's not really saying much.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

James Doohan

James Doohan

voice of Melkot Buoy (uncredited)

Guest Star

Ron Soble

Ron Soble

Wyatt Earp

Guest Star

Bonnie Beecher

Bonnie Beecher


Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (10)

    • Although the Earps and Doc Holliday walk four abreast, and even in a march (synchronized steps), the positions of the men in the line shift from scene to scene. Doc Holliday, for example, starts at the left end (as you look at them), moves one position right, and is on the right end as the four gunmen arrive at the Corral.

    • Maybe the whole thing is some weird test, but if the Melkotians' whole illusion thing can be dispelled by disbelief of the setting's realism... why is the whole thing so... unrealistic? Buildings have no wall, physical laws don't apply, etc. You'd think the Melkotians would want to make the setting as realistic as possible so the Enterprise people wouldn't disbelieve it and prevent their execution.

    • The gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place behind the O.K. Corral, not in it.

    • Maybe it's just a Melkotian/alien thing, but they don't seem to be in any big hurry to wipe out what they consider a "disease." They just let Kirk & Co. wander through their Tombstone movie set for a number of hours doing nothing. Even if they want to kill Kirk with something from his own memories, why don't they just plant him and the others down seconds before the Shootout begins? Instead they create a whole cast of irrelevant characters (Behan, Ed, Sylvia, the dental patient) for the landing party to interact with but who have nothing to do with killing them.

    • The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place at 2:47 p.m. in the afternoon, not 5:00 p.m. as indicated here.

    • The O.K. Corral we see here bears little resemblence to the real-life historical site - the actual Corral was more of an alley then a fenced-in circle. You'd think that Kirk, being a history buff, would have better "memories" of the location for the Melkotians to draw on. (In all fairness, most other TV and movie shows before and since that show the Corral don't get it right either.)

    • Is Scotty really planning on drinking half a gallon of Scotch in the middle of a dangerous life-and-death situation?

    • Why is Starfleet so big on contacting the Melkotians? In other episode like "Friday's Child," Kirk's said that they'll leave unaffiliated planets alone if requested (and the Capellans had a rare mineral Starfleet needed). They don't initially know the Melkotians are telepathic. Here he's supposed to "establish contact with the Melkotians at all costs" - if he's not speaking metaphorically, that means even at the cost of any number of crew lives.

    • For the first and only time in the series, Kirk refers to the ship's phasers (when he orders an attack on the Melkotian buoy) as "phaser guns."

    • Spock tells Kirk not to move his hands near his guns when Morgan Earp confronts him - Kirk does so anyway.

  • QUOTES (16)

    • Spock: True telepaths can be most formidable.

    • Spock: Captain. This afternoon you wanted to kill.
      McCoy: But he didn't kill, Mr. Spock.
      Spock: But he wanted to, Doctor.
      Kirk: Mr. Spock, you're exactly right.
      Spock: Mankind... ready to kill.
      Kirk: That's the way it was back in 1881.
      Spock: I wonder how humanity managed to survive.
      Kirk: We overcame our instinct for violence.

    • Spock: Physical reality is consistent with universal laws. Where the laws do not operate, there is no reality -- we judge reality by the responses of our senses. Once we are convinced of the reality of a given situation, we abide by its rules.

    • Spock: Physical laws simply cannot be ignored. Existence cannot be without them.

    • Melkotian: Captain did not kill. Is this the way of your kind?
      Kirk: It is. We fight only when there's no choice. We prefer the ways of peaceful contact. I speak for an alliance of fellow creatures who believe in the same thing. We have sought you out to join us. Our mission is still one of peace.

    • McCoy: We're just human beings, Spock. We don't have that clockwork ticker in our head like you do. We can't turn it on and off.

    • (Scotty takes a drink)
      Scotty: It's to kill the pain.
      Spopck: But this is painless.
      Scotty: Well, you should've warned me sooner, Mr. Spock.

    • (after Chekov dies)
      Spock: Gentlemen, there is one thing which requires the immediate attention of all of us--specifically, our future.
      Kirk: But not this minute, Spock. It takes us... a little longer.
      Spock: I understand the feeling, Captain.
      McCoy: You talk about another man's feelings. What do you feel, Spock?
      Spock: My feelings are not subject for discussion, Doctor.
      McCoy: Because there are no feelings to discuss!
      Scotty: Chekov is dead! I say it now, and I can hardly believe it, but you worked closely with him. That deserves some memorial.
      McCoy: Spock will have no truck with grief, Scotty. It's human.
      Kirk: Bones... Scotty...
      Spock: Captain... it's quite all right. They forget I am half human.

    • Kirk: Ouch.
      McCoy: What's the matter?
      Kirk: What do you call that stuff -- fire?
      McCoy: "Taos Lightning --" straight bourbon. Try some. In small amounts, it was considered medicinal.
      Kirk: Label it "For External Use Only".

    • Kirk: I'm not Ike Clanton!
      Ed: It's okay with me, Ike. Anything you say. Don't make no difference who I think you are. Your problem is, who does Wyatt Earp think you are?

    • Kirk: We haven't been born yet. Feel the material in my shirt. Now feel the material in your own shirt. Do you notice any difference?
      Ed: No.
      Kirk: Do these clothes look like yours?
      Ed: Not exactly.
      Kirk: Have you seen clothes like this?
      Ed: Sure.
      Kirk: Where?
      Ed: On the Clantons.

    • Sylvia: Billy, you were wonderful. (fawns over Chekov)
      Kirk: Um, Mr. Chekov ...
      Chekov: What can I do, Captain? You know we're always supposed to maintain good relations with the natives.

    • Bartender: You boys want your usual?
      Scotty: Absolutely. Half a gallon of scotch.
      Bartender: You know we ain't got nothin' but bourbon.

    • Spock: Captain, since we have seen that death is the one reality in this situation, I seriously suggest you reseat yourself immediately...without moving a muscle of either hand. If I remember correctly, that would involve you in what was called, "the fast draw". It initiated unfortunate events.

    • Behan: That's what I like about you, Ike. You always see the funny side.
      Kirk: I'm a barrel of laughs.

    • Melkotian: You...Captain Kirk, the disobedience was on your orders. Yours is the responsibility. Yours shall be the pattern of your death.
      Kirk: We come in peace. But we'll defend ourselves if necessary.
      Melkotian: You are outside. You are disease. The disease must be destroyed. Your plea has been heard, and sentence has been pronounced. It is done.

  • NOTES (4)


    • McCoy: Taos Lightning
      There actually is such a thing - according to one recipe it was made with two quarts alcohol, a few burnt peaches, and a plug of black tobacco (rattlesnake heads added according to preference), all put together in a keg and filled with five gallons of water and left to sit. Yum. Some accounts say it was whiskey rather than bourbon though.

    • The Earps: Triplet Brothers
      In one interesting regard, this episode is actually more historically accurate then most movies revolving around the famous shootout - the Earp brothers were practically triplets, and this resemblence further bosltered their almost supernatural reputation. Deliberately or not, the three actors who play the Earps here, Rex Holman, Charles Maxwell, and Ron Soble, all bear a strong resemblence to each other.