Spectre of the Gun

Spectre of the Gun
"Spectre of the Gun"
Star Trek: The Original Series episode
Spock, Kirk, McCoy & Scotty at the O.K. Corral
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 6
Directed by Vincent McEveety
Written by Gene L. Coon as Lee Cronin
Original air date October 25, 1968 (1968-10-25)
Guest stars

Ron Soble
Bonnie Beecher
Charles Maxwell
Rex Holman (actor)
Sam Gilman
Charles Seel
Bill Zuckert
Abraham Sofaer
Ed McCready

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List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"Spectre of the Gun" (originally 'The Last Gunfight') is an episode from the third season of Star Trek: The Original Series that was first broadcast on October 25, 1968. It was repeated on April 4, 1969. This show was the last episode to air on NBC at 10 P.M. on Fridays. It is episode #61, production #56, and was written by former producer Gene Coon (under the pen name of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.

Overview: For having trespassed into Melkotian space, Captain Kirk and his companions are forced to re-enact the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


On stardate 4385.3, the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is instructed to make peaceful contact with the Melkotians, the mysterious alien inhabitants of Theta Kiokis II, but is warned away by a strange space buoy that orders it not to proceed to the Melkotians' planet.

Ignoring the warning, Kirk takes the Enterprise to the planet anyway. Captain Kirk assembles a landing party consisting of himself, his first officer Mr. Spock, chief engineer Montgomery Scott, chief medical officer Dr. Leonard McCoy, and navigator Pavel Chekov and beams down to the surface of the planet to make contact. The Melkotians are angered by this and imprison the team in a psychic illusion that takes the form of the town of Tombstone, Arizona on Earth upon the historic date October 26, 1881.

The setting for the town is actually downloaded from Kirk's mind, but the Melkotians only had fragments of memories to work with; therefore the illusion has a surreal incompleteness to it – buildings are obvious facades, windows and pictures appear to float in mid air, doors open to nowhere, etc. The landing party also sees their equipment is changed; phasers turned into six-shooters, communicators and tricorders are missing, and there is no longer a way to make contact with the Enterprise.

Kirk and his companions quickly realize they are now impromptu characters in a bizarre reenactment of the legendary "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". Kirk and his team were playing the role of the infamous Cowboys: Kirk as Ike Clanton, Scotty as Billy Clanton, Bones as Tom McLaury, Spock as Frank McLaury, and Chekov as Billy Claiborne. They are forced into a confrontation against lawmen Virgil, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, along with Doc Holliday. This was the team's punishment for trespassing and violating the Melkotian's strict privacy, a duel to the death, played out as one of the most famous historical events in the Wild West with the crew on the losing side.

They encounter the various inhabitants who treat them as their roles and cannot be persuaded otherwise. That is especially true for the Earps who are belligerently determined to kill them at the appointed hour, or sooner if they have an excuse. The crew try every means to prevent the fight, but nothing works. They are physically prevented from leaving the town, the Earps cannot be pacified and the Sheriff refuses to interfere apart from suggesting the unacceptable tactic of ambushing the Earps. The stakes rise further when Chekov is romanced by a local girl. She is harassed by Morgan Earp who kills Chekov when he interferes. Yet for their loss, Spock realizes that the real Billy Claiborne survived the gunfight, suggesting that the events can be changed.

The Earps and Holliday.

That glimmer of hope is dashed when an improvised gas grenade they plan to use on their enemy totally fails on testing, thereby erasing their one possible advantage. Spock remarks that it should have worked, but the hour of the fight comes before he can explain his reasoning. When the crew refuses to go to the corral, they find themselves immediately teleported there and cannot escape.

The team fears for their lives, but Mr. Spock explains his realization. He notes that the gas bomb should have worked according to physical laws. Thus when it failed, the physical laws were disregarded and when that happens, reality does not exist. In short, Spock surmises that this whole scenario is not real, but actually an elaborate illusion occurring in the minds of the crew that is only as real as their minds accept it to be.

While Spock's will is so strong with this logical conclusion that nothing in this situation can harm him, he has to convince the others of the same, but any lingering doubt will prove deadly since the mind will make it real. Kirk orders Spock to mind meld with each member of the team, in an attempt to wipe away any and all doubt from their minds that the bullets from the Earps' guns are mere phantasms, and will pass through their bodies without injury.

The shootout replays as history dictates, but when the Earps fire their revolvers, their bullets have no effect as Spock predicted. Kirk tackles Wyatt Earp but does not kill him and tosses his gun to the ground. After the fight is over, the Melkotians return Kirk and the rest of the landing party to the Enterprise - including Chekov, whose attraction to the girl clouded his perception of the false reality enough for him to survive.

A Melkot appears again on the bridge viewscreen and claims he is impressed that even though Kirk had the opportunity to kill the Earps, he chose instead to spare their lives. This act of mercy changes the Melkots' distrustful opinions of the Federation, and opens their doors to relations with them from then on.

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired July 19, 2008 as part of the remastered Original Series. It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered "The Cloud Minders" and followed a week later by the remastered "The Empath". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include:

  • The Melkotian buoy has the enhanced appearance of some sort of crystal; the stars move more consistently with the ship's attempts to fly around the buoy, and its' explosion was enhanced to appear more realistic.
  • The planet of the Melkot has been given a more realistic appearance.
  • The Melkotian's appearance has been enhanced both on the planet and on the viewscreen.


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]

External links


  1. ^ Inside Star Trek The Real Story. June: Simon & Schuster. 1997. p. 403. ISBN 0-671-00974-5. 

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