Spectre of the Gun
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|"Spectre of the Gun"|
|Directed by||Vincent McEveety|
(Gene L. Coon)
|Featured music||Jerry Fielding|
|Cinematography by||Gerald Finnerman|
|Original air date||October 25, 1968|
"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, 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 contact with a reclusive species known as the Melkotians. As they approach the Melkotians' planet, they encounter a buoy sending a telepathic warning signal to stay away, but Captain James T. Kirk orders the ship to remain on course. Once 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. They are met by a Melkotian representative who declares that they have been summarily condemned to death for trespassing. The landing party then find themselves in an abstract landscape that resembles a wild West town, though many buildings are only facades. Further, they find their phasers have been changed into six-shooters, and they cannot contact the Enterprise.
Exploring the town, they find a newspaper dated 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 make several attempts to alter their fates, 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 the real Billy Claiborne had survived, suggesting that the day's events could be changed in other ways. To put this idea to the test, Spock creates an improvised tranquilizer gas grenade to subdue the Earps before the shootout, and is surprised when the gas fails to work.
The time of the shootout arrives and the landing party suddenly finds itself at the O.K. Corral, with the Earps approaching. Spock realizes from the failure of the gas grenade that these events are not real, and that as long as they are convinced of that they cannot be harmed. Kirk has Spock mind-meld with the rest of the team to imbue them with Spock's conviction, allowing them to survive the Earps' gunfire. Kirk chooses not to shoot Morgan Earp in revenge for the apparent death of Chekov, and discards his weapon. They then find themselves, along with a still-living Chekov, on the Enterprise bridge, apparently at a time before the appearance of the Melkotian buoy. The Melkotians make contact, inquire about Kirk's refusal to kill, and finally welcome the Enterprise to approach their planet.
Production and reception
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".
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