Director: Vincent McEveety
Writer: Lee Cronin
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ron Soble, Bonnie Beecher, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Charles Maxwell, Rex Holman, Sam Gilman, Charles Seel, Bill Zuckert, Ed McCready, and Abraham Sofaer
Composer: Jerry Fielding
Air Date: 10/25/1968
Production #: 60043-56
As punishment for trespassing in Melkotian space, Captain Kirk along with Spock, McCoy, Chekov, and Scotty are forced to assume the losing side in a reenactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Though doubtful of their chances at first, the above crew members gain a sudden boost in confidence upon realizing that things are not necessarily as they appear.
Operating on a simple but effective premise, “Spectre of the Gun” incorporates a Western theme into its narrative while avoiding the logical problems that would normally stem from a parallel Earth setting. Also worth mentioning is a remarkable twist ending, which earns its place among Star Trek’s most iconic moments.
In the Melkotians’ reconstruction of a 19th century ghost town, a surreal atmosphere works to accentuate the unease felt by Kirk and his (human) officers when confronted with the inevitability of their imminent demise. Quite unlike their gallant representations in mainstream historical records, Wyatt Earp (Ron Soble) and his band of gunslingers are portrayed as cold, ruthless men who kill without hesitation at even the slightest offense, thus further heightening the nightmarish level of tension facing the captain and his crew. By combining a dreamlike assortment of stage props with an unsettling depiction of Old West heroes, “Spectre of the Gun” establishes a most challenging scenario for the protagonists to overcome.
Upon arriving in Tombstone, the landing party members immediately surmise that their surroundings must be illusory; therefore, viewers may question why Kirk would even attempt to reason with the Earp brothers, especially considering that he must endanger his own life in order to do so.
Similar to “The Cage,” “Spectre of the Gun” presents its characters with an imaginary conflict that can only be resolved by relying on logic and reason over blind intuition. Gene L. Coon’s narrative pushes this concept into new territory, however, with the Enterprise crew being forced to conquer fear itself for the purpose of defeating an ostensibly invincible foe. Such an inspiring message is particularly relevant given that it ties directly into Spock’s commentary on violence as a barrier to human progress, which likewise makes for an interesting thesis in light of the fact that Kirk and his crew put forth a conscious effort to avoid committing murder when tempted with the opportunity and as a result, are rewarded by returning unscathed to the Enterprise.
An underrated classic, “Spectre of the Gun” succeeds as a compelling science fiction piece despite having been produced on a seemingly low budget. Additionally, a clever plot twist in the climactic sequence will appeal to those who admire Spock for his Vulcan ingenuity.
Overall Quality: 10/10
If you enjoyed this post, please click the follow button or enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.