Star Trek: The Original Series

“Spectre of the Gun”

2.5 stars.

Air date: 10/25/1968
Written by Lee Cronin
Directed by Vincent McEveety

Review Text

Members of the Enterprise crew beam down to investigate a planet, contrary to the warnings of the Melkot, who subsequently place Kirk and his men into a surreal recreation of the American Old West, where they must avoid the showdown with Wyatt Earp (Ron Soble), Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman), and crew at the OK Corral.

More intriguing than it probably has any right to be, "Spectre of the Gun" benefits from its bizarre surrealism, and has a Twilight Zone-esque atmosphere and aesthetic feel. Still, the story is sometimes stiffly executed, with dialog that has a tendency to repeat itself. At times it feels like the episode simply didn't have enough scenes to fill an hour, resulting in inefficient dialog being tacked on. There's dialog where characters make statements that are nothing short of obvious.

The ending revolves around the fact that mental discipline controls the unreality, so Spock mind melds with Kirk, Bones, and Scotty so they'll believe that unreal bullets can't really hurt them. Chekov? He dies. But he comes back to life—always a nice side effect of dying in non-reality.

Previous episode: Is There In Truth No Beauty?
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Comment Section

64 comments on this post

    Star Trek, the legendary original series, so "progressive" and "important" that each week our crew of scientists and explorers on their fabulous starship journey into recreations of Earth's past where they must engage in fisticuffs to save the day - because that's progress!

    Honestly, I love Trek, but the original series writing staff seemed hell bent on doing some kind of historical drama. The message of peace and progress seems to be lost amid all the fighting; it's like Karate Kid, which I once heard described as a series of films which teach you that you don't have to fight, then put their characters in situations where fighting is the only answer.

    Quite honestly TOS is my least favourite of the Treks and in my opinion barely qualifies as sci-fi. It's all well and good having phasers and warp drives if you're constantly in Nazi Germany or ancient Greece.

    @ NoPoet, I thought the first season had a few episodes that were based on really good ideas, and even the second wasn't all that bad, but the third.....I have a really hard time making it through it. This one is next, and I'm dreading it. I love the Spock/Kirk dynamic/relationship, but as far as the shows go, I'm with you, TOS is my least favorite. I think it has not aged well. Then again I remember even from back when I was a kid in the 70s, that a lot of it seemed pretty ridiculous to me. When I decided to rewatch, I dreaded revisiting all those Earth-like plants because I had vivid memores of those. The only one of those episodes I enjoy, is A Piece of the Action, because it was such great comedy.

    Ok, I'll watch this one now. I'm too OCD to skip episodes in my Watch-all-of-Trek-marathon.

    I really enjoyed this one and the whole feel of the Western town, the crimson sky and eerily sparse buildings where a excellent touch to give a subtle yet distinct impression of warped reality.

    Retro John-Wayne-era westerns are a guilty pleasure of mine so I was bound to enjoy this one! Although I do agree that there was some slightly plodding spells in the middle, I found it very entertaining on the whole and I liked the concept of desperately avoiding violence in a desperate surreal situation. 2.5 stars would be my verdict too, possibly edging more towards 3.

    I don't mind taking a break from conventional sci-fi settings, especially when the results are this good and one of the things I enjoy most about TOS is its mythical fantasy-esque approach to this final frontier of mankind. I prefer this to the more harder and more drier sci-fi.

    TOS just has a certain charm and magic to it even if you could never take it seriously as a viable vision of the future. When its bad it is horrendously bad, but when its good its pretty fantastic.

    The real world reason behind all of the parallel Earth, and historical stories, is for the producers to save money. They can use props , sets, and costumes on the Paramount lot.

    I enjoyed this episode. It's nothing deep, but it is good fun. TOS did have a lot of episodes where they were in Earth's past, or a facsimile of Earth's past. We had the Roman planet, the gangster planet, the Nazi planet, the Wild West simulation, the ancient Greek planet (in Plato's Stepchildren), etc

    Having recently read the first two books of the "Dune" series, I kept thinking about the Bene Gessarit litany against fear at the end of this episode:

    "I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing....only I will remain."

    I agree with Jammer that this episode is more engaging than it seems like it should be; the only obvious "idea" in all this is the way Spock recognizes that the situation they are in is unreal, and that the only way to escape it is to believe they cannot be hurt by it. I think there is something pretty profound in that observation. Obviously in real life, if you get shot, whether you fear it or not, it will hurt you pretty badly. But the way in which they end up in this obviously-a-soundstage Western town, with some shops being just a facade with no interior at all, suggests the unreality of their situation in very stark, obvious terms, like a Brechtian distancing tactic. And yet, they are *still* threatened by it -- because the human mind is so easily fooled even by obvious fabrications, if these fabrications speak to a person on an emotional or instinctual level, or even an intellectual level. Fears, including irrational ones, can become devastating. Propaganda can create entire false realities inside people's heads that then control their actions. It takes tremendous effort to escape from the prison of one's own fears and the lies told by others -- even if one intellectually understands that they are irrational.

    So on the one hand, I agree with the first commenter Lt. Yarko's succinct observation that Chekov is an idiot. Apparently all it takes is for a pretty woman to bat her eyelashes at him, and he starts believing that he has a real relationship with her and, I guess, that this relationship actually exists even though she thinks he's a historical figure in 19th century Tombstone and that he's got on totally different clothes than the one he has on. Instead of working on how not to die or how to get out of this trap, he expends mental energy flirting with her, agreeing to go to the dance in a week (?) but telling her that marriage is out of the question, too serious! I mean, it seems obvious that this is not a real person, that none of this scenario is real, and that this romantic subplot is totally irrelevant to the more important concerns. But, well.... I think the thing is, humans are much more suggestible than we like to admit, and if placed in a completely bizarre situation that nonetheless "feels" real, and in dealing with a person who seems sentient, it's hard to remember that it's fake, especially for a young and open-minded and friendly and flirtatious person like Chekov. I don't know whether his apparently forgetting that none of this is real for periods of time is "realistic," but I kind of suspect that humans are less focused and more distractible by what their senses are telling them.

    One of the interesting consequences of the choice of the OK Corral gunfight as the setting for the episode is that the Enterprise crew are cast as the Canton gang, and their opposition the Earps. Quoting Wikipedia here:

    "According to the Earp version of events, the fight was in self-defense because the Cowboys, armed in violation of local ordinance, aggressively threatened the lawmen, defying a lawful order to hand over their weapons. The Cowboys maintained that they raised their hands, offering no resistance, and were shot in cold blood by the Earps. Sorting out who was telling the truth then and now remains difficult."

    Popular depiction of the fight, though, in things like John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" (with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp) and John Sturges' "Gunfight at the OK Corral" (with Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday and Burt Lancaster as Wyatt, and DeForest Kelley as Morgan Earp!) (and "Tombstone," which comes out years after the episode did) sides very heavily with the Earps and Holliday -- symbols of law and order staving off chaos. It takes just a little tweaking for representatives of civilization and order to become tyrants, figures of illegal chaos to become victims of an oppressive system they cannot escape. The choice is particularly interesting because the setting is one in which the Cantons are "trespassers" -- instructed to leave Tombstone, but with no particular way of making their way outside it, which ends up mapping quite well onto the away team, who *want* to escape the conflict but have no way to do so, and this also makes the aliens running the show map very well onto this depiction of the Earps brutally gunning down people for trespassing into their territory.

    That Kirk spares the life of the Earps at the end is not all that meaningful since they're not real in the first place. But still, the point being made is that the human instinct to kill is alive and well in Kirk, but he can overcome it. This really comes back to the same thing as Spock's helping Kirk, McCoy and Scotty recognize the unreality of what they are facing. The stagey, false Western town of Kirk's imagination is not the *real* Old West, but the imaginary one which lives on in many people, especially Americans, in which the conflict between civilization and freedom is fought out with physical violence. And so it's appropriate that the way to escape the kill-or-be-killed mentality is to escape from that mental framework altogether, by recognizing that *it is not real*.

    Still pretty silly and slow-paced but I'm somewhat fond of it. 2.5 stars also.

    They acted more like invaders in this episode than peaceful explorers. They were told they weren't welcome, warned to leave, yet they barge into their space anyway.

    This is easily one of the best episodes of season 3. "SotG" bears a striking resemblance in its basic structure to season 1's "Arena" right down to the ending. And, you know what? It's beats the pants off of it! The "showing mercy to your enemy while impressing the super alien" denouement works infinitely better here.

    As stated by an online reviewer named, Linkara, this episode is about problem solving. Kirk and Co. act like scientists and diplomats to solve their problems all the while the Melkotians are throwing up new barriers. Kirk, Spock and Co. have rarely been more resourceful than in "Spectre".

    P.S.--It's also Eddie Murphy's favorite Star Trek episode (as stated in his Playboy interview). He found the 'mind over matter' theme at the end inspiring.

    Really loved this episode. It's intriguing, surreal, spooky, and -- yes -- thoughtful. The analysis of Old West morality, together with the whole analysis of the nature of reality, comes across very well-written here. This is classic Trek, hitting a theme -- xenophobic aliens test whether they can trust the Federation -- with a flavorful execution. I would give it 3 or 3 1/2 stars and agree with Patrick D. that it's one of the best episodes of Season 3. I'd say it's one of the top-drawer episodes of the series overall.

    Felt like I should have liked it better than I did. I can see all the good points, but still found it slow and preachy, with Chekhov so infantile I wanted to slap him up alongside the head. The trouble is, there has been so much better Trek created since the days of TOS. Some of these old TOS shows just don't hold up. (And some do--can re-watch The Enterprise Incident, the Horta, the Tribbles...true classics.)

    "I really enjoyed this one and the whole feel of the Western town, the crimson sky and eerily sparse buildings where a excellent touch to give a subtle yet distinct impression of warped reality. "

    Very much this. The creepy unfinished buildings with red sky were very effective. Disappointed that Chekov survived.

    What's with the lighting in series 3? It's extremely harsh and distracting. Is it a budgetary issue?

    WRITER 1: We need a new idea for a Star Trek episode. Anyone got any ideas?

    WRITER 2: How about an all-powerful alien makes Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism?

    WRITER 1: Bleh, we already did that. I want original ideas people. Original!

    WRITER 3: OK, ummm... Kirk comes across a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot and so re-enacts a portion of Western history?

    WRITER 1: I said original, dagnabbit! That was like half of the last 10 episodes!

    WRITER 4: Hmmm... I'm just spitballing here, but what if... what if we had an all powerful alien make Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism... within a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot in order to re-enact a portion of Western history?

    WRITER 1: Brilliant! That's the sort of original thinking I like to see here!

    OK, snark aside, it really was that hard for me to get past the premise of the episode. I mean, the execution was pretty well done. Like others said, the mystery of what was going on built up well, and I think the reveal, that this was all in their heads, worked reasonably well given the clues we were given beforehand. Even the very first reveal of the aliens - when they spoke to everyone in their own languages - hinted that nothing they did was necessarily physical. And the clue of the knockout bomb not working was a big one. It was maybe a bit silly that Spock had to meld with everyone in order to save them (yet another example of Spock's magical Vulcan-ness saving the day), but the scene of the crew standing calmly while the Earps shot them was effective I thought.

    It's just that the idea is so hokey... Maybe I was just in a snarky mood when I watched it or something, but some of the decisions just seemed weird. What was with Chekov being more obsessed with getting it on with the girl than the fact that he was scheduled to be executed in a few hours? How is Spock so absurdly well-versed in everything that he is fully aware of one single even that happened on Earth 400 years ago? Why is the Federation mission to establish contact "at all costs"; what if these people just want to be left alone? Why is it that the answer to everything in the Star Trek universe is a quick battle to the death rather than any sort of communication?

    I guess it was just too much of a pill to swallow for me.

    We saw a Federation directive to establish contact "at all costs" in A Taste of Armageddon too.

    Shades of The Corbomite Maneuver with that warning buoy.

    The best part of this episode was the spooky atmosphere - the red skies, half finished buildings, the background hum -- it did an excellent job of putting the crew in a surreal situation where they need to figure out a solution. Whether it is lack of budget (highly likely) or by design -- it worked.
    I thought the guest actors playing the Earps etc. were convincing in their steadfast desire to kill Kirk & Co. Chekov acts unprofessionally but his death does give a clue to the solution of mind over matter.
    It's always a bit awkward when Kirk & Co. get put into a contrived situation due to the incredible powers of some alien but it's all to tell a story and this one is not a bad one. The pacing is slow and it does drag on a bit, but it ultimately a test from the Melkotians -- as another commenter mentioned, similar to "Arena".
    Makes "sense" how Spock arrives at the solution - evaluating how things have happened and how the laws of reality aren't being observed.
    Agree with Jammer's 2.5 stars rating - not a bad hour of Trek but not a great one either. A contrived story but one with a reasonable solution that seems to add up.

    Skeptical - that was a great analysis of the episode.

    I can forgive them for reusing existing sets and costumes given the budget. And give this one a little credit for not being a "just like Earth" planet.

    It wasn't all that great, but it stands out above most of season 3 as being passable.

    The actors who played the Earps and Doc Holliday could have been cast perfect in any movie about the OK Corral!

    I'm surprised that NoPoet, above, deems this episode "not progressive". In an era where westerns typically ended with the law reasserting order via violence, this episode sides against Wyatt Earp and resolves its conflict by having our heroes allowing themselves to be shot. In the face of a reality which threatens violence, which is seductive, which is designed wholesale to make you pull the trigger, Kirk and the gang refuse to abide. That's a very potent pacifist message. Also interesting is the way the episode reverses traditional mythology; traditionally, Wyatt Earp and the gang are the heroes (though historically we know they were violent opportunists). This episode dares to do the opposite

    Also interesting are the episode's surreal sets and distinct red skies. There's a neat alien statue and floating head too, reminding us that TOS has always had the most odd, alien and surreal aliens/planets.

    Of course "Spectre of the Gun" has its problems. Let's be honest, a good 25 minutes of this episode is pure filler. There's not enough material here for a 50 minute episode. Still, it's decent.

    Interesting episode, the first of Season 3 produced.

    Another good looking production. The plan was to shoot the Tombstone material on location, but thanks to the slashed budget, they couldn't afford it. There was no money for extras, transportation, and catering. So was born the clever idea that the town was put together from Kirk's spotty memory. I was glad to see what money was left was used for that great buoy miniature plus a non-humanoid alien. (Yeah, yeah, I know the Melkotian was obscured by the mist it could have been a sock puppet for all we knew, lol!)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I saw it as two things: first, a provocative exploration of the nature of reality vs. illusion, and second, another booo-hisss at Starfleet for sticking the Enterprise crew into hot water yet again. My favorite scene was that incredible triple mind-meld, coupled with powerful hypnotic suggestions, in which Spock convinced the landing party that the bullets did not exist and could not harm them---and the shootout in which the wooden fence was turned into inedible Swiss cheese! And, of course, Kirk-Fu at its best. Yes, Enterprise met the Twilight Zone, and it was good fun all around.

    I love the Earps in this episode. Well acting mustached fellows. But Morgan would have been a better Wyatt.... And when Kirk and the boys try to convince everyone who they really are it's not only cringeworthy, but embarrassing... Also, Kirk has never been shy about fighting it out do I don't understand the peaceful desperation routine...Lastly, the poor season 3 budgetary issues are just sad.

    Can’t understand why this episode gets by many so favourably reviewed, probably because it is western themed.
    The story is very uninspiring and the episode with its dialogues drags on endlessly, there seems not to be enough content to fill the hour, so a lot of scenes feel stretched out. For most of the episode, nothing of interest really happens except a lot of western clichés that have not aged very well.

    This is the first episode of season 3 where you can see a real impact of budget slashings.
    Granted - they did the best they could do - making it a surreal world to explain the poor set - rooms without walls etc. - but it is what it is: a poor filler episode. They put some faces of buildings in a studio up, probably lent somewhere from Paramount, and lighted the background red to imitate a planet surface. Then they got some used western costumes and pistols and created a poor science fiction framework around a western themed set they wanted to use. It just didnt work for me. The incomplete buildings and rooms without walls looked so cheap it destroyed the immersion. You can even see in some scenes the reflections of studio lights on the hair of the actors in contrast to the dim background set.

    This episode is mostly just a western homage with strange lighting - and with only some crumbs of science fiction content tacked onto it.
    The pacifist message played out very unconvincing, Kirk used violence, wanted to take revenge, but somehow it is enough for him to spare a person, who he regards as a illusion anyway, to convince the sock puppet alien that humans are peaceful. ok. (this idea was taken from Arena and Corbomite Maneuver, nothing original)
    In the beginning, Kirk gets a clear warning to stay away and ignores it, because „we need to make contact at any price” - could anyone think of a lazier plot device to get the crew into trouble? Spocks conclusions and remarks about illusion and reality at the end of the episode are interesting and sound, but good 5 minutes don't save 45 minutes of boredom.

    I give it 1 Star, maybe 1,5 Stars if you get warm with the surreal look, it was at least an inventive idea.

    Quite a bit of silly - no explanation as to the Federation's ridiculous demand that the Enterprise make contact "at all costs."
    Also why was Scotty not affected by the fumes? Didn't he believe they were real? I guess he doesn't have much faith in the Doc or Spock. And Chekov! And some other minor stuff.

    But suspension of disbelief is a requirement for being an ST fan, and comes into play often, sometimes for favorite eps. And closing my eyes to all that, the ep is decently entertaining (a like slow) and well acted (exceptions for preachy Kirk and smitten Chekov).

    I did like Kirk making them test McCoy's contraption. Paralleled and foreshadowed the whole idea of testing - and WHY you do it, why the aliens were doing it.

    Average offering overall.

    @William B

    "The episode gets points off for not making a "Chek[h]ov's gun" joke."

    Good one.

    And thanks for the All Our Yesterdays vs Turnabout Intruder info.

    I'm hanging in there with this - I like getting all this background. I've seen most of the eps before, but very long ago - my memories of them are sporadic and vague, so it's good to see what started it all, and see what some of the TNG, VOY, and DS9 eps were based on.

    I thought this was a fair though not great episode if for no other reason that the fact, noted by other commenters, that this episode had a Twilight Zone feel to it. It pretty much was Roddenberry meets Serling. I think it rates about 2.5 stars.
    I haven't read all the comments on this page but I'm a bit surprised that no one seems to have mentioned that DeForest Kelly had been in two separate remakes of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral prior to this one.
    I have to kind of suspect that they had a partial Western stage set up and the writers were asked to somehow incorporate it into an episode. The fact that Kelly had been in two previous incarnations of the O.K. Corral had to be the genesis for this episode.
    It's main weakness does seem to be that there just wasn't enough dialogue to fill 50 minutes so there seemed to be a bit of fluff here and there. And the Western characters all had a cardboard cutout quality to them but that may have been the intention to add to the surreal effect.
    As for the commenter that objected to Spock knowing about a 400 year old piece of Earth history....come on, it's Spock. It fits his character perfectly. He's half Vulcan, a species that is mentally superior to humans. And he is half human, so he would have a special interest in humanity. And the guy was a genius by any standards, so yeah he has Earth history down pat. And if all that isn't enough he under goes ponn farr just once every seven years. Just think how much smarter the average guy would be if he didn't spent so much time and energy on sex.
    And in the final, errie shootout scene did any one notice that the off camera wind machine had to be turned up to high and was blowing 90 degrees to the path of the supposed bullets? This was because the shots were being fired point blank at the actors and they needed a high wind speed to deflect any blast debris away from them.
    And I have to say the best comment on this page was given by the guy that said, "There is no spoon." Perfect!
    Finally, for what it's worth I have noticed that there is another commenter on this site named Greg so I have changed my nick to Original Greg.

    I’m pretty biased in favor of TOS, having been raised on this series and none of the following ones, so the fact that this is one of my favorite episodes probably doesn’t hold much weight compared to somebody with a broader perspective. But, alas, I’ve always loved this episode, even given all of its long and repetitive dialogue and minced plot.

    The reason I enjoy TOS so much is its unapologetically theatrical execution. The sets are evidently fake, the performances are overdramatic, the costumes are ridiculous, and the dialogue is preachy - and I adore it. I think I loved Spectre of the Gun so much because it exemplifies all of that to an extreme. The half-constructed western town was so fascinating to me as a child, especially the buildings without walls and randomly designated edifices. There is something so unnerving about an empty stage before or after a performance, and that’s just what the charicature of Tombstone captures in SotG.

    I’m a sucker for actors who take their roles completely seriously, and Star Trek TOS required that from its cast. The dedication (and overacting) of the actors help suspend disbelief and create a light-hearted atmosphere of “look, I know this is fake, but humor me”. The guest actors who play the Earps and Doc H are absolutely phenomenal and genuinely creep me out. Often my least favorite part of Trek is the guest characters (motives hard to believe, backstory ridiculous, etc) but the stone cold performances really gave our leads something to act with.

    The dialogue is slow and redundant, but I’m the kind of person who enjoys a scene where the characters are just bantering back and forth, even if it is meaningless. My favorite part of TOS is the main characters and their ongoing dynamic. I appreciate Spectre of the Gun because it was one of the few episodes that actually included Chekov.

    Okay.... Chekov. What a mess. I love the character, and I love the actor, but I hate the writing. While I’m appreciative that SotG gives the character an opportunity to do something, it vexes me that he was written so lamely and almost out of character. That is, if there was any character to write him out of. Why would he jeopardize the entire mission to be with a random girl who - when they first met - basically molested him...? And, also, if he’d really do that in this episode, why in The Way to Eden does Chekov’s old girlfriend say he is rigid, correct, and straight-laced??

    The problem with chekov is it seems no one ever knows what to do with him. Does he HAVE any personality traits besides flirty, Russian, and occasionally psychopathic? Even though Chekov is my favorite character in the series (unpopular opinion, I know, but I’m a sucker for hard luck cases), I feel the only reason he has a somewhat consistent personality in the series is due to Koenig making the best of every line he’s given.

    I think that speaks for the rest of the episode, and the series, too. In TOS the producers and the actors just had to make the best out of what they were given. SotG really demonstrates that in its writing, set, and costumes. I don’t know... for me, the most enjoyable part of the show is not just its fakeness, but the reality it wants you to accept.

    Thoughts on Star Trek Continues "Divided We Stand" with Kirk/McCoy experiencing the American Civil War thanks to an invasion of nanites going thru the ship's history tapes when an explosion takes place ...

    What's cool about this episode is it's TOS using devices from later Treks where 2 characters are in stasis but their minds are very actively experiencing another scenario. Episodes like "The Thaw" or "Flashback" come to mind -- there are others. The ship's computers getting taken over also reminded me of "Evolution." What is odd is that Spock, in charge of finding the solution, never thinks of somehow communicating with the nanites or arriving at a peaceful solution. The idea is to isolate them, beam them into space, and phaser them! Certainly very un-Picard-like.

    Kirk gets to make some speeches about freedom and how everybody is a slave -- very much in the TOS vein. There's also the uplifting aspect of a handicapped person being able to stand just as tall as a fully functional person. I do appreciate STC being true to TOS that way -- reminds of "Plato's Stepchildren" with the dwarf Alexander's hopeful future.

    It's a tad idealistic with the kid Billy developing some massive courage from Kirk's speech, not to mention the successful solution of having the nanites migrate to a crew member's bionic arm in the nick of time -- but at least the procedure was tried and tested earlier. There's a bit of padding in here too with the war scenes, which were well done -- got a lot of stand-in people to help out. Definitely a very good production and better than the battle scenes in "Hide and Q" maybe on par with "The Q and the Grey."

    2.5 stars for "Divided We Stand" -- again another solid piece of work although not really reaching into the realm of greatness. Good idea here of using plot devices that future Trek series would do to make Bones/Kirk go back in time. No issues of contaminating time lines, which was theorized at one point, but proves inconsequential just like "Spectre of the Gun".

    Really enjoyed reading the comments for this one, and I'll agree that while this is only a fair episode it has an engaging quality to it (I even had a dream about a showdown after watching it, for what that's worth!)

    I'll try to go to bat for Chekov's behavior in this one. I think the underlying message here is about how Russia (the USSR back then) was also enamored with the legend of the American West. Chekov, a Russian never having been a part of American culture, might actually fantasize and romanticize about being a tough cowboy who stands up to the bad dudes and gets the hometown girl because that's something completely new and compelling from his cultural point of view. Kirk, in contrast, has an American history in his blood and knows that the cowboy days were not all grand so he doesn't get caught up in the romance.

    2.5 stars with a shout out to the thought put into this one seems good to me.

    I felt a deep sense of dread watching his episode. The weird dark landscape and empty fascades really made it feel like Kirk and co were actors in play which ends in inevitable tragedy. The matte paintings made it obvious they were on a small sound-stage. Really made it claustrophobic, only adding to the dread. Reminded me of an episode of twilight zone where they are going to lynch a innocent man at dawn. Because he is innocent, the sun never rises leaving the town in desolate darkness.

    Pretty decent 2 1/2 star episode that could easily have been improved with a few minor adjustments.

    For one, as @Original Greg points out, since DeForest had played an Earp in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (alongside Burt Lancaster!), and the same story in another TV show called "You Are There”, it should have been Bones’ memories that the Melkotian used to recreate the setting. That would have had two benefits:

    1. It would have avoided the ridiculousness pointed out again by @Original Greg, that Mr. Spock would know anything at all about this event in history, and

    2. It would have given us a little back story on Bones - maybe his family had been involved in that initial move westward.

    Another easy fix would have been a little more humor. The show was funny enough, but not exactly Back to the Future III funny.

    Drunk Scotty was a nice touch.

    And the matrix-like message (@Kiamau) is fairly cool.

    The lengths Kirk goes to avoid the fight are epic. I loved the scene where Kirk goes to the Sheriff and begs protection of the law - and the Sheriff just keeps promising him that no one will ask any questions! It was great commentary on how different the morality of humans as depicted in old westerns differed from the morality held up by Star Trek.

    As Kirk puts it,

    KIRK: We fight only when there's no choice. We prefer the ways of peaceful contact. I speak for a vast alliance of fellow creatures who believe in the same thing. We have sought you out to join us. Our mission is still one of peace.

    That is Star Trek, isn’t, boiled down to its essence? Sad that nuTrek does not follow this code. But then again, nuTrek isn’t really Trek at all, is it?

    Lastly, as you may or may not remember, we get pretty close to this episode again in DS9’s Things Past

    @ Mal,

    For some reason this episode was one I really liked as a kid. Maybe it was the playing dress-up theme of the episode but where our heroes decline. Other TOS episodes sort of do this, but in Piece of the Action for example they finally do get dressed up. But this is like a bizarre Halloween party where you didn't know it was supposed to be in costume and everyone around you is dressed funny. Or is it *you* (in your Starfleet uniform) who is dressed funny. That, along with the backdrops and the matte painting, make the whole episode strange and eerie, and probably much more effective than they have any right to be. I also like the fan-fic type thing where our heroes get to meet some other literary (or historic) heroes and hash it out. Another episode could be Spock meets Socrates, or Kirk goes to a party with William Shatner...ok maybe that's too meta. But the ending is one of my favorites, when Vulcan logic is the answer and yet the humans essentially can't handle it and so need help. This is one of those times when Spock's approach is unambiguously the only way out alive. Fascinating.

    The ominous tension is amazingly effective, and it really does feel like they are doomed to fight the battle.

    Reportedly, the abstract set was because they couldn’t afford location shooting, but I wonder if that is true considering Paramount studios certainly had Wild West setups in its backlot.

    Also, the notion of illusions and what is reality is featured prominently in dialog, and is key to the crew overcoming the situation.

    Either way, the set is truly effective.

    I enjoyed this episode though it’s by no means the only drama series to employ the Wild West as a metaphor. “Living In Harmony “ - an episode of The Prisoner - used it, and I’m sure that there are others. There are also echoes of The Royale (TNG) in that the crew find themselves in a dream-like Earth scenario and unable to communicate with the ship.

    It’s not a classic but still very enjoyable. I like the scenes where the party notices inconsistencies like the incomplete township, their retaining uniforms, incorrect sequence of events, etc. Also, the Earps were convincingly unreal as if only the sinister stage props they turned out to be.

    Yes, it does occasionally drag, and the episode was obviously a money-saver. As for the Melkotian appearing as something out of the Muppets... LOL

    3 stars for entertainment value.

    The guest actors, including Sylvia, were all very good in this episode. The Chekhov/Sylvia scenes were sweet and believable. The set was excellent as was the music. The story was engaging, other than the silly ending with Chekhov not having really died. The last conversation between the “big 3” was one of their best, with the assertion that humans had evolved past their violent tendencies, and Spock simply raising an eyebrow. 3.5 stars.

    Easily a top five episode. Combines the surreal with actual historical fact. Spock is at his analytical best. Kirk gives a serious subdued performance. Scotty and Bones are totally in their great characters. Checkov too!

    An OK episode, but I have to mirror NoPoet's comments about TOS having garbage plots. Yes, TOS laid the foundation for everything Trek and had some gems, but way too many episodes were about parallel Earths, fighting, and Kirk getting laid. It's a shame that a show with opportunities to highlight the mysteries of space instead focused on space Romans, space Nazis, space native Americans, space cowboys, and Kirk's efforts to beat up their men and pork their ladies.

    This is a crappy, ridiculous episode. There’s quite a few of them, especially in Season 3.

    That being said, I watch TOS pretty much nightly to help me fall asleep. This is one of my top five when I’m winding down. Just such a guilty pleasure. Yea, its no City , Menagerie, or Enterprise Incident , but somehow it is so stupidly satisfying.

    Must be in a minority who love this episode, but not living in the USA, this was the first portrayal of the Earps and Doc Holliday as psychopaths that I had ever encountered, having seen only 'Gunfight at the OK Corral ' - and I was aware that Deforest played a part in that. I love the eerie incompleteness of the buildings, like a stage set, and the way people abruptly appear/disappear and the way music is suddenly heard from the saloon. It has the strange quality of a dream - nightmare in this case - with the Enterprise characters trapped in a scenario where aliens are trying to force them to use violence and to thereby confirm their preconceived prejudice against strangers. Love the denouement where Spock works out that universal laws are not operating and therefore the whole scenario is an illusion. The reaction to Chekhov's supposed death is good too - Kirk is obviously doing his usual job of beating himself up over it but for once does it in an understated and far more convincing way. So one of the best third series episodes for me and one of my overall favourites.

    @Ms Spock

    I admit I found the story somewhat uninspired, but nevertheless I liked the special set. This episode wouldn’t be half as memorable without it. As you describe, the roughed-out landscape, the half-formed buildings, the strange sounds that seem to come from nowhere and may be music or not, people emerging out of nowhere and disappearing when their part is done… it all feels like something between a stage play and a strange dream.

    Reading the other comments, I found it extremely interesting that @Tidd called the Earps “sinister stage props”. I totally agree. As far as the buildings are concerned, both the Enterprise crew and the viewers can clearly identify them as backdrops, creating an illusion of reality – and the townspeople are not real persons either, but also part of the scenery, in their respective roles as sheriff, barkeeper etc. They only “perform”, act their part, fulfill their role, but that’s pure functioning, there is no active thinking, no working mind behind it. And when I read that comment, it suddenly occurred to me that this explains extremely well why Kirk’s attempts to reason with them, like in his dialogue with the barkeeper, are destined to fail. The barkeeper, by definition of his function, just CAN'T see anyone else than the Clantons. There is nothing in his mind that could process the information Kirk is giving him (the different clothes, for example) and draw the conclusion that those men are not the Clantons. Of course, this is true for the Earps as well.

    I also like the episode's take on illusion and reality, showing that reality is not an absolute, but subject to our perception. Things are what we think they are, and if we act (or react) accordingly, our subjective perception makes them seem real. A first hint could be the opening scene on the bridge, when everyone can hear the Melkot's announcement in his or her native language. And finally, this is the solution to the conflict, when Spock manages to convince the others that the bullets can't hurt them.

    @Lannion, agree that the story examines the nature of perception, reality and illusion. I also forgot to say that I liked the postscript where the usual exchange with Spock,/Kirk and McCoy is sober and meaningful instead of a jokey triviality as sometimes occurs.

    @Ms Spock

    I agree about the final scene on the bridge. Firstly, there is the brief exchange with the Melkot which reminded me a lot of “Arena” – crewmembers trapped in a situation where killing their opponents seems to be the only way to survive, and in both cases, refusing to kill breaks the spiral of violence and leads to a positive outcome. Secondly, we see the discussion between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, who acknowledge that the “instinct for violence” is always there in humans, but that it can be overcome… which again sounds a lot like „We’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today.“ And while I think that this message was even more powerful in "A Taste of Armageddon", the merit of "Spectre of the Gun" may be that it brings these two messages together, meaning that it’s always worth a try to restrain one’s instinct for violence because doing so can open the door to a peaceful solution, instead of being stuck in a kill-or-be-killed situation which might eventually cost your life.

    From this point of view, I too am glad that the episode doesn’t end with a joke… overall, although I’m not looking or hoping for coherence, this seems to be a tendency in season 3, and I really appreciate those thoughtful moments.

    I find it strange that the stage-managing aliens are more impressed with our heroes' unwillingness to kill someone the heroes knew to be an illusion, than with our heroes' ability to think and collaborate their way out of a mostly convincing virtual reality.

    I've always liked this episode. It's a good thing that Spock beamed down this time or the rest of them would probably be dead. His pure logic saves the day. Physical laws simply can't be ignored. Without them, there is no reality. I judge the bullets to be unreal, therefore they can not hurt me. Chekov is dead because his mind killed him. Brilliant writing .

    It never occurred to me before, since in Trek it's not uncommon for some advanced race to impose an artificial environment on the crew, but the Melkotians are telepaths. And therefore it stands to reason that the "fake reality" was just a telepathic illusion, rather than an illusory fake world. The fog they saw when they landed, the Melkot figure, as well as the entire Arizona scene, were all mental conjurations, and this explains why Spock was able to assist the others in thinking their way out of it. Essentially, it took a telepath to block other telepaths. I had never thought of it that way before.

    It's also noteworthy that this is yet again a case of the Enterprise crew surviving only because of Spock's Vulcan nature, something that anticipates plot resolutions in TNG with Data. Numerous TOS episodes involve Spock alone being able to provide skills or knowledge that no human crew members could provide. It seems to me this is possibly saying something about humans, in that there are essential skills we maybe lack that someone like Spock possesses. TOS does certainly make the case that "emotional humans" need a logical side to round them out, but it doesn't seem like there are too many episodes where McCoy is the only one standing between the ship and doom. So if anything Spock is indeed an essential part of the crew because of how different he is, much as Data is on TNG. I think maybe this is saying that humanity is really not quite equipped to handle all problems by ourselves, that some sort of other help will be needed in the long-run. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it?

    I enjoy Spectre of the Gun's surreal atmosphere. That eeriness may be why it was chosen as 1968's Halloween episode. Unlike The Empath, at least there is an in-story explanation for the minimalist sets. I agree with Mal that the Melcots lifting McCoy's memories would have been more apropos. "It doesn't work," is one of our most-used TOS quotes here, followed by, "But it must work," (actually, Spock says "function"). 2.5 stars, maybe 3 during October, which for me translates into Season 3's best episode so far. A few better ones will follow.

    Your 'stating the obvious' regarding repeated dialogue is probably true - but in this day and age, some people are simply too fucking stupid to realize the true history anyway - let alone back,k in 1967 when many of the viewers by this time were just kids themselves- so why not?

    This is one of those obviously low-fi budget savers that season three was known for. Not only do we get an old timey western theme, a set design I’d imagine would be particularly easy to realize in the western-rich late 60s, but on top of that the “town” isn’t even fully constructed, consisting of facades and misty surreal skies. Whether these creative decisions were intentional or driven by necessity is probably a question with a complicated answer, but in the case of this episode I think the seams being visible actually makes it work better. The result here is a dreamy, fascinating, and highly memorable outing with some interesting symbolism and ideas.

    I took the central elements of this story to be about fear and violence and how the two feed one another to create an artificially inflated feedback loop, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Violence is not an inevitability, but rather is the product of illusions that we create for ourselves. Illusions that are often driven by fear. Which in turn creates an antagonistic cycle, a back and forth, often brutal struggle. To escape this cycle of violence, you must face fear and realize that it isn’t actually real, that it’s produced by your mind and thus can be controlled by your mind.

    The name Spectre of the Gun I think alludes to this, in which the “gun” is the embodiment of fear itself, to give in to it is to breathe life into it. Even the melkotians themselves are locked in a sort of prison of fear, manufacturing this scenario of violence to rid themselves of “disease”, which is some sort of test I guess, to measure our crew’s threat level and propensity for hostility? The melkotians were fairly enigmatic, even in the end, so I’m unsure what they were ultimately after. But when Kirk says of the melkotians “let’s find out what it is they’re afraid of” I think he’s channeling the central theme.

    Some of the plot mechanics are a bit sloppy. I’m not sure why Kirk and company felt they had no choice but to kick the door down on melkotian space, even in the face of an unequivocal “get the fuck out” message from a warning bouy, but it seemed inelegantly forced. Also, Chekhov. What the heck bro? Even if you accept that Sylvia is a real person, she’s still obviously part of this murderous situation, why Chekhov would tumble into puppy love without considering the very likely probability that she’s part of a trap is beyond all reason.

    I love the constant low key stereotyping of Scotty and his penchant for getting smashed, half a gallon of scotch indeed.

    Did the melkosians project the entire experience telepathically into the minds of the crew? As in, they never actually left the bridge to go to a faux-tombstone, but rather were given a hallucination that went by in a very brief moment of real time, sort of like In The Inner Light? I wasn’t sure about that.

    2.5/4 mind bullets.

    I agree the episode would be far less memorable were it not for the surreal set.

    It's well attested that this was indeed a cost saving measure, considering how perfectly appropriate it is. Amazes me because surely Paramount had an appropriate set on its backlot already. Of course all that might have been busy.

    What cracks me up is how the crew is totally familiar with this battle-- including Spock!

    Still, I like it a lot. 3.5 stars.


    One of the best in season 3 if not the entire series. The surreal sets were fantastic and the Earps are among the most fantastic TV villains, with their steely gazes and Terminator-like personalities. The episode is quite dramatic, with a sense of impending doom. None of the crew's escape plans work. Spock brilliantly saves the day for the crew.

    But it's the relationships between the characters that works so well throughout the series that makes this episode work so well. McCoy snaps at Spock :"Why don't you join us common humanoids in figuring out how to get out of this instead of explaining why we can't get out of this." That one sentence sums up everything about the establishment of McCoy and Spock as characters that we understand and relate to.

    I haven't watched this episode for years. I decided to watch it today. Foolishly, I think, because there are some things that don't make sense to me.

    "History cannot be changed". This statement comes from Spock. I guess he has forgotten what occurred in "The City on the Edge of Forever". Also, being totally familiar with Earth history and priding himself on that statement, he should realize that bits and pieces of a wild west construct do not equal the history of that period.

    I liked the bits and pieces of background though. They are reminiscent of the dream sequence in the movie, "Oklahoma". My issue with the particular episode is, if the creators decided to use this as there inspiration for some kind of Star Trek dream sequence among the away team, there are errors aplenty.

    The solution of "none of this is real" is a very hard pill to swallow. Sure, Chekov fell down, dead, believing the bullet hit him even though there was no wound. Yet, when Morgan punched Kirk, Kirk sustained a lip wound, serious enough for McCoy to treat it with whiskey for its alcoholic properties. No wound in one case, but a wound in another?

    Did Kirk really believe Morgan was going to punch him in the lip and it was going to bleed, enough that McCoy would have to treat it? Using that same logic, when Scotty sniffed the tranquilizing grenade, he should have been physically affected by it, because he believed it would work. There was no reason for him not to believe it. Then we get the laughable reasoning that Chekov never really died and never really left the Enterprise because his only memory of reality was the girl and of course, she wasn't real.

    The other thing that bothers me about this episode is Kirk's failure to heed the Melkotian no trespass warning.

    I know that this is the third season and much worse episodes of Star Trek were to follow, but the Enterprise was on a peaceful mission. That has not changed and would have included honoring an alien civilizations' request. Instead, Kirk barges ahead no matter what, and his brainiac escape on this technicality is to blame it on his orders. I'm wondering why Starfleet would order such a thing as no one has ever been in contact with the Melkotians. Yet somehow they know there are Melkotians out there that they need to forcibly contact. Whatever.

    Just for my own fun, here's yet another example of owning space, similar to owning a planet. I would love to know who arranges these examples of ownership.

    Illusion is a fine plot element, but it has been used before in the series. It worked then, but it doesn't work in this episode. Why not instead give these aliens some credit? I like to think that the Melkotians were so powerful, they could create life and thus, test Kirk to practice what he preaches.

    Instead we have the yet again, tired premise of Kirk wanting to kill, but yet having the strength not to kill. Oh wow, humanity has learned its lesson by this time. Really? Yawn.

    I give the episode points for the surreal makeup of the town. The gunmen were decidedly creepy and determined to murder the Clantons. They were believable which is more than I can say for Kirk and company on this one. I do agree that the episode seems to run out of steam every now and then, but there are some classic dialogue interactions that are nothing short of great. I agree with the 2.5 rating. With some tweaking, this really could have been a four star episode.

    @ Winnie,

    "I'm wondering why Starfleet would order such a thing as no one has ever been in contact with the Melkotians. Yet somehow they know there are Melkotians out there that they need to forcibly contact. Whatever."

    I never thought to try to make sense of this, but I have now and I'll go to bat for this one. The episode's title is something I always take very seriously, and this one suggests that it's about the "spectre" (i.e. fear of harm by) of "the gun". In other words, the fear of violence or harm. Since our topic is apparently going to be the fearful prospect of being threated by violence, it seems to be fitting that the scenario of the Earps telling the Clantons to get out of town or die is made to be a parallel to the Melkotians telling the Enterprise to get out or die. And in fact the Melkotians seem to intentionally make this the parallel to see what the Federation people are made of. This would seem to contradict the idea that the Enterprise "should have" heeded them and left them alone, since in the reality of the Western setting it was not in fact possible for them to avoid a confrontation with the Earps. And I think this is a way of saying that confronting a race like the Melkotians is pretty much inevitable when spacefaring races are going around everywhere, and the real question is how one will deal with such an encounter.

    What's actually funny about this episode is that everyone would have died if not for Spock's superior mental control. From that standpoint perhaps the message is that the Vulcans are not merely an incidental Federation member but are, and always have been, an integral element in what makes the Federation possible. Some kind of steely discipline is needed to temper the wild energy of the humans and other races. But nevertheless Spock's ability to align his belief with his rationality enables him to understand that he is not threatened by the bullets of the Earps, which in turn suggests that he would be capable of making himself understand that he's not threatened by actual bullets in the real world. Of course he would literally be threatened by them, in the sense that they would kill him, but he would not have to *act* threatened by them and respond to a threat with a return of violence. And this plays out in the end with the Melkotians are in fact perfectly willing to receive the Enterprise at their planet, once they know they can be trusted not to respond violently to things they perceive initially as threatening. This, I think, is the summation of the episode:

    SPOCK: I wonder how humanity managed to survive.
    KIRK: We overcame our instinct for violence.

    The instinct comes up when someone like the Melkotians tell you to get lost and threatens you. It could come up in any number of ways when you are denied what you want or need. But overcoming that instinct and focusing on reason and peace (i.e. the Vulcan way) will lead to relations that need not be governed by a power struggle. So I think the episode is very much about confronting the fact of being afraid of threats, and that the superior method to overpowering threats is to approach without fear. To me this really shows the opposite of the idea that the Melkotians should have just been left alone. Like in the Western setting, leaving everyone alone all the time, even if that's what they want, is really not viable in an interstellar setting. What perhaps could have used a bit more finesse in the writing was doing better than just stating as a brute fact that the Enterprise's orders are to contact them, end of story. Perhaps a bit more justification for why they had to continue with their mission could have been warranted. But in the end the situation between the Clantons and the Earps spells out for us what we are meant to understand about the situation between the Enterprise and the Melkotians.

    @Peter G.
    "And I think this is a way of saying that confronting a race like the Melkotians is pretty much inevitable when spacefaring races are going around everywhere, and the real question is how one will deal with such an encounter."

    It may be. But Kirk needs to learn that not all alien civilizations are going to act warm and fuzzy when he and the Enterprise come to call. If the real question is how to deal with such an encounter, one very important point is to let the alien civilization decide if they want to be contacted. Or not.

    The Melkotian said this to Kirk:

    "You are outside. You are disease. The disease must be destroyed."

    Do you think think the Melkotian was being literal toward Kirk?

    @ Winnie,

    "The Melkotian said this to Kirk:

    "You are outside. You are disease. The disease must be destroyed."

    Do you think think the Melkotian was being literal toward Kirk?"

    I think we are not meant to know the answer to the question at the start of the episode. It could be a real unconditional threat, or posturing, or a threat *if* the intruders are of a certain sort. The options of what to do in response do not have available the answer of what the race's problem really is. So in choosing a response, be it fear, violence, retreat, peaceful approach, etc, one has to understand that any option may be the reality. You're right that in actual practice an alien race may just be offering an unconditional threat (like in TNG's Clues), but without knowing what's behind apparent hostility I think the episode is saying that we should endeavor to get past the fight/flight threat response, and to get over being afraid of the threat. You're quite right that actually leaving might be a perfectly viable answer to the threat, but it should be because of reasoning rather than fear. In this particular situation we are factually told that the Melkotians were only offering a conditional threat, and our crew were in fact welcome once they passed the test. The risk of just leaving and never taking the test is not knowing a new race and developing relations with them.

    The thought had occurred to me while watching this episode that perhaps the Melkotians are unable to kill.

    The thought actually just occurred to me that maybe the Melkotians can kill, but only through psychic attack. And once Spock proves that they are potentially immune to this type of attack the Melkotians realize they have no choice but to accept diplomatic relations. This isn't my actual head canon, as I do think the episode's point was what I mentioned above; but this would still perhaps be consistent with what we see onscreen.

    @ PeterG
    "And once Spock proves that they are potentially immune to this type of attack the Melkotians realize they have no choice but to accept diplomatic relations. "

    The Melkotians apparently forgave the trespass violation, placed the away team back on the ship, and righted everything back to the way it was. They seemed to be much too powerful to be cornered with the only option at their disposal being one of no choice.

    I do agree that the Melkotians were testing Kirk, and my thought is that the test involved his reaction to killing. Throughout the episode, he is given every opportunity to kill, either by way of approval from the town folk themselves, or via threats from Earp and his gang. To his credit, no one from the landing party draws a gun. Despite that, I think the Melkotians had doubts about Kirk and his talk of peaceful intentions. He did, after all, ignore their warnings and set foot on their planet anyway.

    Spock's idea of implanting mental blocking in the team was a fine move. Another benefit is that it allows Kirk and his party the chance to take out Earp and his gang and win. I found it interesting that Kirk is the only one who makes a move, beating the crap out of Wyatt, and only then drawing his gun, but refusing to kill at great restraint.

    Regarding the Melkotian statement of, "You are outside. You are disease. The disease must be destroyed.", I think it has great bearing on the episode. What the Melkotians saw in Kirk was a violence, and in a way, a bullying and forceful sort of attitude. We don't know to be sure, but the Melkotians could be a peaceful sort, and associating with these humans could lead to disaster.

    Based on whatever happened to Chekov, I don't believe the Melkotians killed him. Even though they threatened Kirk with death, I don't think they would have killed him or the landing party.

    However, knowing what little Kirk knows about these Melkotians, I have to wonder if bringing a delegation down to the planet to be welcomed by them at that particular time is a wise move. It seems both the humans and the Melkotians have got off on the wrong foot.

    Thanks for your comments. You've brought up some interesting thoughts about this episode that I had never considered.

    "And once the US proves that they are potentially immune to this type of attack the Japanese realize they have no choice but to accept diplomatic relations. "
    I don't know but your discussion of a political entity not wanting diplomatic relations and then being forced to open up reminded me of the Perry expedition. As we all know, forcing Japan to come out of it's isolation had no negative effects.

    Considering what the USA was doing in Asia in 1968, this story feels a little uncomfortable, doesn't it?

    It strikes me that the melkotians use feints and bluster as diplomatic tools. They kick and scream for you to leave, call you gross, and even give you a seemingly lethal hallucination, all to test your reactions and commitment. It’s possible Starfleet had gleaned this and that’s why they gave full steam ahead orders to Kirk and co. Respecting the melkotian’s claim of wanting to be left alone could literally have been the equivalent of severing diplomatic ties before they began.

    ldh wrote: "It strikes me that the melkotians use feints and bluster as diplomatic tools. They kick and scream for you to leave, call you gross, and even give you a seemingly lethal hallucination, all to test your reactions and commitment. It’s possible Starfleet had gleaned this and that’s why they gave full steam ahead orders to Kirk and co. Respecting the melkotian’s claim of wanting to be left alone could literally have been the equivalent of severing diplomatic ties before they began."

    I wonder just what constitutes "contact" from Starfleet's point of view. I find it interesting that the Melkotians' buoy intercepted the Enterprise, and the Melkotians communicated with the Enterprise. We know that the bridge crew was informed (in various dialects) that they had encroached Melkotian space. They were told to turn back immediately and they were informed that that this communication was to be their only warning. To me, this is contact with the Melkotians. There's always the possibility that it is not going to end favorably.

    Kirk's thinking here is very strange. He seems to be under the impression that, because these aliens told the Enterprise to pound sand, they "really didn't mean it". I don't know how many times the Captain would have to be told "no" before he gets the gist that the Melkotians mean "no".

    It's also possible, from Kirk's determination, that there is something about the Melkotians' planet that Starfleet wants badly. Maybe badly enough to obtain it quickly through negotiations before any other organization can step in. I'm not saying that peaceful relations aren't important, but surely Starfleet could offer something more tangible than that.

    Interesting that Kirk is labeled as Ike Clanton. Clanton was a coward, and the bad guy in the OK Corral incident. It's an insult, and I would imagine he doesn't like it one bit.

    Ok so a Melkotion here, a Metron there, a Triskelian over here, an Excalbian over there, can a poor star ship Captain ever get any rest? These all powerful alien entities hold our intrepid crew and their ship captive, say their punishment for just happening to be passing by is death, and force them to joust on screen for their and our entertainment. Then after the humans, against all odds, somehow emerge victorious while simultaneously expressing benevolent mercies of all kinds....... the alien entity says OK you can go now, drop by for a cup of tea anytime.

    Yes I read all about it, the OK Corral episode, had to make a fake Western town on stage because the exterior shoot crew had all been let go. Producers told to boost Chekov because his "The Monkees" hairdo had worn off and the other four were pushing the envelope to protest how stupid the series was getting. I enjoyed the Western characters whom I presume must be actors from earlier shows of that type, and they way they recognized the crew as their designated Hatfield-McCoy feuding counterparts, even despite the crew's insistence and objections not to mention their apparel. I see some here label that "Twilight Zone" like. That's a mighty good thing you done, Anthony. So I was wondering, which of the command crew has by now NOT been killed in an episode yet then UN-KILLED by the end of the same episode? I don't think Sulu was ever killed. Afflicted, yes, almost froze to death, yes. Maybe he got killed as a green beret, but I don't recall having watched it. Ohura was not killed, although her mind was emptied, but she still acted like every other woman lol. Nurse chapel was not killed, because who then would be the receptacle for Spock's consciousness? I got it, Yeoman Rand was killed but came back. There were some redshirts that were killed but then came back as another redshirt or extranneous character but no one thought there would be an audience to notice 50 years later. The more one learns about these dismal season 3 episodes the more sympathy we have for our heroes to have endured these humiliations only to reemerge as bona-fide movie stars decades later. And decades after than to be still thought and written about. Not bad.

    Plodding: slow-moving and unexciting.
    "a plodding comedy drama" to walk heavily or move laboriously; trudge: to plod under the weight of a burden. to proceed in a tediously slow manner

    Comparisons to the Twilight Zone episodes is just an insult to the Twilight Zone. A cardboard cutout, by the numbers, lazy, reuse of existing western sets and troupes. A wind machine, crappy lighting, and some lightning special effects does not make an interesting episode of science fiction.

    Obviously first production back at the start of season 3 and it looks like the work experience kids forgot about a script leaving the actors and directors to their own devices to wander around and ab-lib/recreate spagetti western cliches....

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