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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Original Series, Episode 56: Spectre Of The Gun » User review

Surreal set & excellent performances make it one of the best

  • Jun 23, 2004
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A major question that will have to be addressed when humans meet new species will be convincing them that our intentions are indeed peaceful. If the creatures can read our historical records and perhaps our minds, they will find ample evidence that we are not to be trusted. Our history is replete with the callous destruction of each other as well as any species deemed unworthy. Our minds are full of irrational fears, prejudices and impulses to destroy that which we don't immediately understand.
In this episode, the Enterprise is given specific orders to make contact with the Melkotians. As they approach Melkotian space, they encounter a buoy, which issues a warning, telling them that they are not welcome and to immediately leave the area. After noting the warning, they move onward to the Melkotian planet. Once arriving, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov beam down to the planet, only to find themselves in a fog, which parts to reveal a facsimile of a frontier town.
This is the backdrop to a reenactment of the famous gunfight at the OK corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. In that fight, the Clanton gang fought it out with the three Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Kirk's party is forced to assume the role of the Clanton gang, which lost the fight. Only one member of the Clanton gang survived the battle, the person whose role is being filled by Chekov.
Despite everything they do to avoid it, the "Clanton gang" is clearly being forced into a fight that they feel they cannot win. However, when Chekov is "killed" by Morgan Earp, Kirk and company realize that the results are not pre-ordained. However, when they try to build a device to render the Earp gang unconscious, Spock realizes that there is a solution that does not involve killing the members of the Earp gang. He understands that what they are doing is not real, so if they truly believe that the bullets from the Earp gang are not real, then they will not be harmed. They manage to win the fight without "killing", which impresses the Melkotians, and they allow the Enterprise to continue and make contact.
This episode is superb, both in the premises of the story and the execution. The choice of a scenario from Earth's violent past (and Kirk's mind) is an excellent test of the true nature of the humans who desire the contact. All of the members of the Earp gang play their roles very well. Their muted, yet clearly violent hostility towards the "Clantons" is very well done. I consider it some of the best acting by guest stars in the series. The surreal aspects of the set and the other supporting members of the episode all combine to create just the right atmosphere for a test of what the human species really is capable of doing and avoiding. It is one of the better episodes in the original series.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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In this taut, exciting episode, theEnterprisetrespasses Melkotian space and is punished in a unique fashion. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), and Chekov (Walter Koenig) are all transported to the planet's eerie surface, where they are trapped in a re-creation of 1881 Tombstone and mistaken for the Clanton brothers, doomed principals in the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral.

Despite their efforts to avoid trouble, Kirk and company can't seem to avoid their fateful duel with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman). When Chekov is shot dead by Morgan Earp (Rex Holman), the danger is all too clear. The strange Twilight Zone look and atmosphere of this episode--tumbleweeds and Old West facades popping up in a black void--grips one's imagination and doesn't let go until the very end. Fans of Captain Kirk's street-fighting style will especially enjoy the thrilling climax. --Tom Keogh

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Studio: CBS Paramount International Television

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