Archive for July, 2011

Star Trek 3.6: Spectre of the Gun

Saturday, 2 July, 2011

Spectre of the GunSpectre of the Gun” is a memorable episode for placing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov into a recreation of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in the roles of the Clanton gang (the losers of the gunfight). They end up there because Kirk blatantly defies a request by the alien Melkotians to stay away from their planet. Kirk reasons that his orders are to make contact with the Melkotians, whether they like it or not. This pre-credits sequence takes place with the Enterprise encountering a remote space buoy, which delivers the message. Sulu isn’t on the bridge, and apparently in this case Chekov handles the ship’s helm from his usual station on Kirk’s right, rather than Sulu’s helm position on the left – despite the helm being manned by the perennial no-dialogue extra Hadley.

Beaming down to Melkot, they land in a creepy fog, in which their tricorders and communicators fail to work. A Melkotian approaches, tells them off for violating their request to be left alone, and sentences them to death. The fog vanishes and the landing party find themselves in an obviously incomplete set reproduction of Tombstone, Arizona on the day of the famous gunfight, armed with six shooters instead of phasers (though still in their Starfleet uniforms). The buildings are very obviously only facades, and the sky is an eerie red colour. They lampshade this by pointing out that the town is only a set. Exploring, they find the set inhabited by locals who fully believe they are in a real town, and that Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov are members of the Clanton gang. The lovely Sylvia even kisses Chekov, calling him “Billy” (Claiborne), and starts planning a wedding with him.

Kirk and Spock realise that they are destined to play out the gunfight and end up dead. Spock declares authoritatively that “history cannot be changed” – in direct contradiction to their concern about time travel in such episodes as “Tomorrow is Yesterday“, “The City on the Edge of Forever“, and “Assignment Earth“. They try to leave the town, but find themselves hemmed in by a force field. Soon after, Chekov gets into an argument with Morgan Earp, who shoots him dead. Kirk then realises history can be changed, because Billy Claiborne actually survived the real gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Spock gets to work making tranquiliser grenades, using drugs McCoy acquires from Doc Holliday’s dental surgery. They realise they can’t win with six-guns (presumably having no training whatsoever in their use – although remember this for the next episode I will review…), so the plan is to knock the Earps unconscious. Except when they test the knockout gas on Scotty, it doesn’t work! They decide to avoid the gunfight by staying in the saloon, but they are suddenly teleported into the O.K. Corral, where the Earps are waiting, casting their shadows with the shadows of nearby trees – on the sky – and accompanied by dramatic thunder. Spock realises this is all an illusion and the bullets can’t really kill unless you believe in them. But Kirk points out that humans can’t be as certain as Spock’s Vulcan logic, so he mind melds with them to convince them all that the bullets can’t hurt them. The Earps open fire and the bullets have no effect, triggering a fistfight in which naturally the Enterprise crew win. Kirk gets Wyatt Earp’s gun and is about to shoot him, but shows mercy at the last minute. Suddenly the crew find themselves back on the Enterprise bridge, where Chekov is alive. The Melkotians contact them and say they are impressed with the Federation’s peaceful attitude, and they are now happy to open diplomatic relations.

A bit cheesy and with an obvious non-violence moral, but it’s a suspenseful episode. If you ignore the hokey Tombstone town set, it’s actually not such a bad episode. I’d call it middling to average, overall.

Tropes: Space Western, The Voiceless, Ominous Fog, Newspaper Dating, Alien Sky, Lampshade Hanging, Lie To The Beholder, Some Kind Of Force Field, Chekov’s Gun, Russian Guy Suffers Most, Gilligan Cut, Dramatic Thunder, I’m Not Afraid Of You, Your Mind Makes It Real, Good Old Fisticuffs.
Body count: None!