Spectre of the Gun

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"Spectre of the Gun"
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 6
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Written by Lee Cronin
(Gene L. Coon)
Featured music Jerry Fielding
Cinematography by Gerald Finnerman
Production code 056
Original air date October 25, 1968 (1968-10-25)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Is There in Truth No Beauty?"
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"Day of the Dove"
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Spectre of the Gun" (originally titled "The Last Gunfight") is an episode from the third season of the American science fiction television series, Star Trek, that was first broadcast on October 25, 1968, and repeated on April 4, 1969. The show was the last episode to air on NBC at 10p.m. on Fridays. It is episode #61, production #56, and was written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the pseudonym of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.

In the episode, having been found trespassing into Melkotian space, Captain Kirk and members of his crew are sent to die in a re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


The Federation starship USS Enterprise has been directed to make peaceful contact with the Melkotians on the planet Theta Kiokis II. As they near the planet, they encounter a buoy sending a warning signal to stay away, but Captain James T. Kirk orders the ship to remain on course. In orbit, Kirk joins First Officer Spock, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard McCoy, and Navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov as they transport to the surface. The Melkotians, angered by their willful failure to heed the warning, instead place the landing party in a psychic illusion pulled from Kirk's memories. The landing party find themselves in an abstract landscape that appears as the wild West town of Tombstone, Arizona, though many buildings are simply facades and numerous details are missing. Further, they find their weapons have been changed from phasers to six-shooters, and they cannot contact the Enterprise.

Exploring the town, they find that it is October 26, 1881, the date of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The townspeople believe the landing party are members of the Cowboys: Kirk as Ike Clanton, Scotty as Billy Clanton, Bones as Tom McLaury, Spock as Frank McLaury, and Chekov as Billy Claiborne. Further, the Earp brothers, lawmen Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday are preparing to fight them at the appointed time.

Knowing that in real history, the gunfight was fatal to most of the Cowboys, the Enterprise crew attempt to alter their fates through several means, but their efforts are unsuccessful. Further, when one of the townspeople, Sylvia, gets close to Chekov, Morgan Earp interferes and kills Chekov. Kirk is angered at the loss, but Spock reminds him that in the real history, Billy Claiborne had survived, meaning that there must be a way to change the result. Spock experiments with creating impromptu weapons to subdue the Earps before the shootout, but is surprised when the tranquilizer gas released from a gas grenade fails to work.

The time of the shootout arrives and the landing party is teleported to the O.K. Corral, which the Earps are approaching. Kirk and the others believe they are about to die, but Spock realizes from the failure of the gas grenade that these events are all happening in their mind instead of reality, and that they must have strong will to believe they will not be harmed. Kirk has Spock mind-meld with the rest of the team to improve their will, and as Spock foresaw, they are not harmed when the shootout begins. They are able to physically subdue the Earps, sparing their lives and discarding their weapons. The Melkotians are impressed by the landing party's solution and return them, as well as a still living Chekov, to the Enterprise bridge. Because of their strong will and efforts to find a peaceful option instead of resorting to violence, the Melkotians apologize for their actions and welcome the Enterprise to begin discussions of peaceful relationships with the Federation.

Production and reception[edit]

As money was not available for a full set, director Vincent McEveety was asked to use a stylized Western street of false building fronts and no sides.[1]

Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club gave the episode a 'B+' rating, marking it down for loose writing but praising its impressive final showdown and "weird, arrhythmic vibe working for the show for once".[2]


  1. ^ Solow, Herbert F.; Robert H. Justman (1997). Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Pocket Books. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-671-00974-8. 
  2. ^ Handlen, Zack (December 18, 2009). ""Is There In Truth No Beauty?"/"The Spectre Of The Gun"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 3, 2010. 

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