The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Spectre of the Gun

Determined to make first contact with the telepathic Melkotians, Kirk ignores a warning from them to leave well enough alone. But when they beam down to the planet Melkot, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov find themselves sentenced to execution – as the losing side in a recreation of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy rewatching this episode, but I had failed to realise that it would be on a par with the increasingly infamous Spock’s Brain. I dislike Westerns to start with, and this shoddy attempt at the genre merely adds insult to injury. Due to budget limitations, half-built sets are excused with “the Melkotians are only setting the stage for our execution, so they don’t need to fully simulate reality”, and the build-up to a potentially tense stand off at the OK Corral is completely washed out by the slow pace and soulless, disconnected scenes. Never mind the “if we just believe, everything will be ok” cop-out ending, which just tops off the whole mess. Powerful aliens have tested the Enterprise and shown them illusions before, and all those instances were much better than this episode.

Remember when character development was a thing that happened?

  • Chekov gets some screentime in this episode, as he gets to not only join the landing party, but he even gets to kiss the girl – taking that honour away from Kirk! He doesn’t even get berated all that much by Kirk, who usually spends his time pointing out Mr Chekov’s flaws and inexperience.
  • McCoy and Scotty are quick to jump on Spock when the Vulcan shows insufficient emotion at Chekov’s apparent death. Shouldn’t they be more tolerant of the fact that he processes events and emotions differently to how a human would? If he’s trying his best to keep his emotions under wraps because that’s how he deals with things, how much harder does it become when people are having a go at you for being a heartless machine?

Federation values

  • I understand the brief is to seek out new life and new civilisations, but if the Melkotians really want to be left alone, shouldn’t Starfleet respect their wishes? Yes, it turns out fine in the end, but at best they were riding roughshod over the wishes of the Melkotians, at worst they were committing an act of interstellar war.
  • Kirk is determined not to kill the Earps, even though he doesn’t know that will count in his favour, and also has a pretty good idea that this scenario isn’t even real – what with the half-built sets and all.
  • In fact, since this is blatantly not real, why is Kirk so hung up on the idea that it must play out exactly like history did? It’s not like they are actually back on 19th century Earth.
  • With hundreds of years of Earth, Vulcan and Federation history to learn and remember, is the gunfight at the OK Corral really such a big thing to the people of the 23rd century? Perhaps Kirk had recently been reading a book on it, and so that was what the Melkotians picked up on when they looked into his mind for “ironic ways to kill a starship captain”.
  • Since Chekov was fine in spite of his apparent death, would anyone else have actually died for real at the OK Corral?
  • Spock seems to go from knowing nothing about the historical events, to having either thorough or rudimentary knowledge of it as the episode progresses.
  • If Spock can use the mind meld to convince Kirk, Scotty and McCoy that the bullets aren’t real, what other ideas could he plant in their minds, if he was so inclined? Could he go full Inception on them, or can he just reinforce things they want to believe in the first place? “Mr Spock, make it so I never doubt that I am an awesome lover”.
  • Chekov ‘died’ because he believed getting shot was fatal, so why didn’t the anaesthetic gas work just because the landing party believed it would? Was Scotty secretly doubting its efficacy?

Summary – Spectre of the Gun: I don’t like Westerns. That is all.

One thought on “The Great Star Trek Rewatch: Spectre of the Gun

  1. Okay—so the author doesn’t like Westerns. That’s his prerogative. But this is one episode I keep returning to and rewatching, for one reason—which occurs in Act 4 of the story. I have always enjoyed the scenes where Spock performs the Vulcan mind-meld, and here he does it in triplicate—and every time I watch this procedure I get caught up in it, and my deep appreciation of “wuh tepul t’wuh kashek” (Vulcan for “the power of the mind”) is enhanced yet again. This was always one of the things I liked best about Star Trek.

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