Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 6

Spectre of the Gun

Aired Unknown Oct 25, 1968 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

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out of 10
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  • Kirk and company find themselves set up to die in a gunfight.

    Featuring a guest cast of Western actors, this take on the "gunfight at the O,K. Corral" is sort of like first season's "Arena" in different clothing. A rare example of budget cuts working for a show rather than against it, the producers take a Gene Coon script meant for a Western backlot and improve upon it by using a sparse studio set instead to create a more surreal, Twilight Zone-like quality. (It's probably the greatest use of the planet stage set in the series). The result? A Star Trek Western that feels simultaneously Star Trekish and Western at a time when Westerns were still riding high.

    Helmed by veteran Star Trek director Vincent McEveety, the episode employs tight shots, rapid zooms, and Dutch tilts in lieu of the standard photography as the story runs in circles, making the episode more about the style than the substance. (Heck, the script doesn't even make sense. After something the crew thinks should work doesn't work, Spock deduces that things only work if they think they should work, which, as a certain robot would say, seems like a non sequitur). For Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelly, as well as Koenig and Doohan in their supporting roles, it must feel like an experimental theatre where inspiration and imagination take the place of structure and form. Yet each scene is a joy nonetheless, with the minimalist sets shifting the emphasis onto the actors (including guest stars Rex Holman and Sam Gilman who give chilling performances as Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday) and a literal ticking clock counting down to the episode's climax.

    Jerry Fielding, who composed the music for "The Trouble With Tribbles", gives Star Trek another unique score, most notably including a demented, barroom piano rendition of "Buffalo Gals", an old minstrel song from the 19th Century.

    In the end, it all adds up to one of Star Trek's weirdest episodes, and that's saying a lot!

    TNG does its own Western in its sixth season called "A Fistful of Datas", but the series actually comes closer to the atmosphere of "Spectre" in its second season episode "The Royale".

    Remastered Version: The changes here are as vanilla as they come with redone shots of the Enterprise and the planet of the week (originally just a reuse of material from "Amok Time"). There's also a space buoy that's redone, though CBS Digital uses the same design as the original.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

    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.
  • A really good episode...if you can suspend belief, but hey its science fiction!

    As I say you need to leave your scientific analytical brain eldewhere to really enjoy this. Yes, you can pick lots of holes in it but I don\'t think that was ever the point here. Star Trek is basically a western set in space, remember the western genre was very popular back in the sixties when this was made. In fact this is a parody on the whole series. I liked the crew interaction especially the scene where Scotty unsuccessfully tries the knock out gas and experiments with the whiskey. Spock as usual is the hero and it was interesting not to see the scene where the mind meld is broken. A very good 'switch off and enjoy' episode.
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