Star Trek: TOS The Best Episodes

“Space, The final Frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”


Spectre of the Gun

Season 3, Episode 6

Original air date:  October 25, 1968

Stardate:  4385.3

Plot Summary:

Red Alert!  A probe of unknown origin bearing no life signs is matching the moves of the Enterprise.  They come to a stop and it communicates with them, but each crew member hears the message in their native language meaning it was telepathically broadcast.  They are told they are in Melkot Space and are not welcome.  Kirk’s orders are to establish contact with the Melkot’s, he tries to tell them they come in peace but get no answer so they continue on to the Melkot planet and beam down.  Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Chekov and McCoy make up the away team that is wandering around in the fog even as there was no fog on the sensors before they beamed down.  None of their equipment works.  A Melkot appears as a floating head and tells them they are to be punished and the punishment will come from the Captain. Suddenly the away team is in the middle of an Old West town, but most of the town is just facades.  A newspaper confirms that it’s October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona. Spock assumes this scenario comes from Kirk’s past having been an American who’s ancestors settled the old west.  The sheriff shows up and knows them all but as the Clanton gang, the gang that was killed by Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday at the gunfight at the OK Corral.

They enter the saloon and similarly everyone knows them as their Clanton gang counterparts, including a woman we find out later is named Silvia.  She is obviously the girlfriend of Chekov’s character and she kisses him.  Morgan Earp comes to the table and threatens them.  Kirk tries to get the bartender to see they are not the Clanton gang but he thinks it’s all a joke.  Kirk goes to the Marshall’s office and tries to reason with the Earp’s but ends up instead getting punched in the mouth by Virgil Earp.  Wyatt tells them they have to meet at 5 PM at the OK corral or they’ll hunt them down and kill them anyway.  Back at the saloon, after tearing Chekov away from Silvia they decide just to leave town, but as they approach the city limits, they hit a force field.  The clock strikes three.

They decide to find a way to incapacitate the Earp’s without drawing their guns on them.  McCoy goes to the dentist’s office to get some drugs and runs into Doc Holliday who allows him to take the drugs but threatens him about the 5 PM deadline as well.  Silvia tries to get Billy Clayburn (Chekov) to marry her and Chekov tries to explain who he really is.  At that moment Morgan Earp shows up and punches Chekov in the face and pulls Silvia away. When Chekov gets up to defend her, he’s shot by Morgan and dies.  Scotty tries to go after Morgan but Kirk won’t let him.

Back in the saloon working on a gas bomb that should render their adversaries unconscious, McCoy and Spock have their usual argument about his lack of emotion, this time of course for Chekov and Scotty chimes in on McCoy’s side.  The clock strikes four.  Spock then realizes that the real Billy Clayburn didn’t die at the OK Corral in fact he was the only survivor of the gunfight.  Meaning they can change the history.  Kirk tries to go to the Sheriff we met earlier to ask him for his or the townspeople’s help against the Earp’s, but even as he cajoles him that he doesn’t want to murder the Earp’s the sheriff makes clear that he has no choice.  They go back to the saloon and Spock and McCoy say the gas bomb is ready, but Kirk wants it tested.  Scotty volunteers and after taking many deep breaths of the fumes feel no ill effects.  Spock is puzzled by this saying it defies physics.  As the clock shows ten minutes to five, Kirk just decides they won’t leave the saloon, but they are immediately transported to the OK Corral which is surrounded by a force field making it impossible to leave.

Meanwhile, Spock has logically figured this whole thing out.  Since the gas didn’t work, but has to work, they cannot be in a physical reality.  Everything is an illusion in their own minds, therefore if they don’t believe the bullets can kill them, then they can’t.  McCoy says a human could never be as certain of this as a Vulcan so Kirk suggests Spock mind meld with them all to convince them the bullets aren’t real, are merely specters (there it is.)  All the while the Earp’s and Doc Holliday get closer and closer.  When they arrive, they pull their guns on Kirk and company firing all their bullets, but they all just pass right through them.  Kirk then physically assaults Wyatt and getting him on the ground pulls out his gun, before throwing it aside.

The whole group is now suddenly back on the Enterprise bridge, including a very much alive Chekov.  It seems that they never left the bridge and in fact never beamed down to a planet at all, all of this happened in their minds from the probe still in front of the ship.  The probe begins to go into overload and they prepare for the impact of an explosion, but there is none, the probe just disappears. The Melkot appears and being impressed by Kirk not killing Wyatt they invite the Enterprise to their planet.


Known to Fans As: 

Gun fight at the OK Corral


Notable Guest Stars: 


Bonnie Beecher as Silvia: Beecher didn’t have much of an acting career, having quit the business in 1968.  However, she’s had quite a life.  Beecher who now goes by the name Jahanara Romney has been married to Wavy Gravy since 1965 and dated Bob Dylan when they were in college together – she may or may not be the “Girl from the North Country.”  Her and Wavy have been the directors of Camp Winnarainbow since 1983 and have a son together named, Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk Truckstop Romney which I’m sure he has always loved.  She was basically deeply involved in the 1960’s Counter Culture movement and did not put on a shoulder padded yuppie business suit in the ‘80’s and abandon those principals completely – but has continued to live them.  She is 79 years old.


Ron Soble as Wyatt Earp: He didn’t really have much more to do in this episode than his “brothers” or Holliday but Soble was a more well-known actor.  He appeared in some big movies like True Grit and Papillion.  Unfortunately for him his last role was in Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.  He died in 2002 from brain and lung cancer at the age of 74.

There were lots of other extras in this episode but that’s really what they were, extras not guest stars.

Continuity Issues:

They get a lot of the facts of the actual OK Corral event wrong, but since it’s not going back in time, or parallel universe then it doesn’t matter – it’s the facts as best Kirk’s brain remembers them I guess.

Spock uses the mind meld more for brainwashing then actually melding minds.

The star date thing is confusing.  The star date on this episode puts it before the last few episodes of season two and all the previous season three episodes. Typically, they kept the star dates from the scripts even if they filmed and aired those episodes much later.  They obviously didn’t expect this to matter to anyone fifty years later.

The Melkots didn’t want you in their space, shouldn’t you leave?  This is the second time Starfleet has forced a people who didn’t want them in their solar system to “open communication” with the Federation. No wonder they reacted this way.

Why the British spelling of Specter?


Vulcan Nerve Pinches: No, three mind melds.


Damn it Jim: “Let it go, Jim, He’s dead.”


Kirk’s Shirt Off:  No


Aged the Best:

Since everything was an illusion inside their heads, you can really brush everything good and bad off to that, like the one note acting of the Earp’s and Holliday etc.  They weren’t characters on their own so that works just fine.

I’m just not a big fan of this episode and I’m surprised it was in the top 20.  The Paradise Syndrome that aired a few before this one is a better episode in my view for example, but that’s just personal opinion.



Aged the Worst:

The Melkot’s look awful.  I wonder if this episode was done for budget reasons.  There were a lot of extras but most of them were stuntmen who would be hanging around anyway and the set was probably easily put together from stuff on the Desilu studio lot in that western crazy TV environment.

Just not impressed in general.



Overall Grade:

B-,  I’m being generous.


Monday’s Episode:  Let That be your Last Battlefield