Star Trek (1968): S03E06 – Spectre of the Gun


“Spectre of the Gun” is the sixth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

Written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the pseudonym of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety, it was first broadcast on 25 October 1968.

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 Enterprise has been directed to make contact with a reclusive species known as the Melkotians. As they approach the Melkotians’ planet, they encounter a space buoy sending warning signal to stay away, but Captain Kirk orders the ship to remain on course. Once in orbit, Kirk and First Officer Spock, Chief Engineer Scott, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Navigator Ensign Chekov transport to the surface.

They are met by a Melkotian who declares that they have been 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 (and 87 years minus 1 day before the episode first aired). 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, 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, leading them to believe that history cannot be changed. However, when one of the townspeople, Sylvia, gets close to Chekov, Morgan Earp interferes and kills Chekov. Spock remarks that the real Billy Claiborne had survived, suggesting that the day’s events could be changed in other ways. Additionally, Spock creates an improvised tranquilliser 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 realises 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 ignore the illusion of the Earps’ gunfire.

Kirk chooses not to shoot Morgan Earp in revenge for the 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.

Star Trek TV Series

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Vincent McEveety.
  • Writer(s): Lee Cronin.
  • Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 25 October 1968.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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