TV… Star Trek (1968) The Spectre of the Gun Se3 Ep6

#1960s

 

Some call him the space cowboy, some call him Chekov in love…

 

The Old Wild West have a showdown with the new Star Trek kids in town, as history is reshot at the OK Corral.

 

TOS 3×06 ‘Spectre of The Gun’ Trailer, Trek Core

 

I called upon Darlin Husband’s advice after the review I hoped to write Carry on Cowboy (1965) fell through. After he told me about the undiscovered plots from two different Star Trek franchises, it became a case of better the devil you know. I (eventually) plonked for the original series and the one who brought you Star Trek (1967), The City on the Edge of Forever S1 Ep28 with Joan Collins.

After seeing a trailer and photos for The Spectre of the Gun, Se3 Ep6, I was intrigued, and this peaked after seeing photos of this eerie looking episode. On Wikipedia (HERE), I read that this episode was described by Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club as having a “weird, arrhythmic vibe working for the show”. Closer to home, it was described by Darlin Husband as one with a “mysterious alien force”. So a combination of these factors endorsed this completely, where (for once?) Chekov (Walter Koenig) gets a love interest, and you could argue that Scotty (James Doohan) does too in the shape of a bottle of bourbon.

Now if you are sitting comfortably I’ll tell you the plot. The Star Trek crew are zooming through space in the hope to contact the Melkotians. Then suddenly a siren is heard and they are told by a disembodied voice that they have encroached on the Melkotian air space and must turn back.

The Star Trek crew hear this verbal warning in their own native languages. It seems this voice has come from a space buoy thing that first looked like a rainbow spring coil and then turned into an outline of a tower of wooden blocks. Kirk insists to this device that they come with peaceful intentions…

Spock puts those differently heard language differences down to the Melkotians of this planet being telepathic. He then goes off on a bit of a Vulcansplanation of the whys and hows of this but no one listens. Despite this, they travel on, and then the five of the crew – Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (Deforest Kelley), Scotty and Chekov – suddenly find themselves in some fog and on the Melkotians’ planet. Their transporter is not working so they cant contact Uhura (Nichelle Nicols) and the SS Enterprise.

Then they are given another warning by a Melkotian (and they resemble what can only be described – by Darlin Husband – as a paper mache head with a very long neck). The men are told that because they’ve trespassed and not turned back as ordered, they are to be punished by death by using a way discovered in Kirk’s mind.

And surprisingly they did not appear on an island full of scantily clad 1960s babes who call Kirk Master and carry out his every whim and then kill him in the throes of passion. As the fog clears and these men find themselves on a rather groovy 1960s Western set with a crimson red sky, with only the front facades of town buildings. The men then discover that their phaser guns have turned into revolvers.

After finding a newspaper, Kirk discovers that it’s the 26th of October 1881, and they are in the American Wild West town of Tombstone (Arizona). Then with a wee bit of help from Spock, they discover that they are now in the time of the gunfight at the OK Corral. The Sheriff, barman and these townspeople believe they are the Clanton gang and these men are as (helpfully) listed on Wikipedia as…

Kirk as Ike Clanton, Scott as Billy Clanton, McCoy as Tom McLaury, Spock as Frank McLaury, and Chekov as Billy Claiborne.

Also, the townspeople are depending on the “Clanton gang” to kill the lawmen, Wyatt Earp (Ron Sobel) and his brothers Virgil (Charles Maxwell) and Morgan (Rex Holman). Spock enlightens his colleagues as he Vulcansplains that in history, it seems that these bad guys won, the Clanton Gang lost and the Star Trek guys are now doomed to replay this part of American history. (Cue dramatic music)… It dawns on them here:

Chekov: Who won?

Capt. Kirk: The Clantons lost, Mr. Chekov.

Chekov: And we… are… the Clantons?

Kirk tries and fails to convince the Sheriff that he’s actually James T Kirk and tells him he’s from the future. A cowboy in black – and not the Ed Harris dude from Westworld TV Series (2016-) – threatens them and tells them to leave by 5pm…  and this cowboy is revealed as one of the Earp brothers. Then he adds that he and his brothers will hunt them down and kill them at 5.01pm.

Meanwhile, one of the young ladies of the town, Sylvia (Bonnie Beecher) has a bit of a thing for Chekov. No matter what he says she believes him to be Billy Claiborne. Sylvia is even talking about marriage, and Chekov is not so keen and kinda tries to tell her this. And despite this, she and Chekov seem to hit it off as most of their scenes have them snogging.

Kirk and his men find they cannot escape their fate as there is a force field stopping them from leaving (as seen in some fun neon special effects). Then after Chekov is confronted by one of the Earps – as this Earp also fancies Sylvia – and Chekov is shot dead. Chekov’s death leads the Star Trek men to question their existence on this planet, as the real Billy lived.

And then McCoy has a plan… and visits the chemist, and inadvertently annoys Doc Holliday (Sam Gilman) who threatens to kill him. Holliday later joins the Earp posse as 5pm approaches…

This episode had an eerie 1960s vibe to the Western trope. IMDb adds that the weird but wonderful set was due to the budget. Also that due to constraints in filming it had to be filmed in a studio and not outside. IMDb adds that in filming they,

had to rely on camera angles, bright colorful lights, and dreamlike sets, which added to the episode’s strange alien quality.

This studio set then was based on Kirk’s then thoughts about the Wild West and this way of thinking certainly adds to the spooky, unreal ambience. The blood red sky and the town, where only the front of the buildings and clocks hang apparently in mid-air add to the chill factor as if these were created by aliens with a macabre sense of humour.

Added to this eerieness is the trio of actors who played the Earp brothers who were all indistinguishable from each other. They were clad in black from head to toe and resembled those bad guys in Western movies. In the inevitable shoot out scene, these three similarly dressed men unnervingly change position as they confront the Star Trek crew.

These chilling characters add to this alien ambience and this chilling angle would most certainly have disappeared had Roddenberry been given his dream of filming at the O.K. Corral in Arizona or at the Western themed sets based in Arizona studios.

Many of the cast had appeared in Western films before joining the Star Trek series. Deforest Kelley even starred in the Western based Horror, Night of the Lepus (1972). Night of the Lepus was filmed in Roddenberry’s dream studio location for this episode of the Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona.

As a bit of a novice in Wild West history – my knowledge goes as far as biopics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and sci-fi such as Westworld (1973). So it was interesting to see that this Star Trek episode was an interesting spin on a true tale. And had this crossover of fact and fiction actually taken place, I would have loved to have seen it recreated in the Wild West Chronicles TV Series.

This docuseries series has touched on Annie Oakley: Rise of a Shooting Star (2021) and Bat Masterson & the Dodge City Dead Line: Part 1 and 2 (2021). I’m now hoping the planned series 2 of this show will tell the true tale of this gunfight between the Earps and the Clanton Gang. But, I must admit that I’d still have loved it to see this real-life journalist, Bat Masterson, interviewing Kirk or his crew on events.

I also loved that Chekov and Scotty got more scenes and that Chekov got the love interest. He gets some fun dialogue…

Capt. Kirk: [as Sylvia kisses Chekov passionately] Um, Mr. Chekov?

Chekov: [slowly disengaging] What can I do, Captain? You know we’re always supposed to maintain good relations with the natives.

All too often it seems to be Kirk getting both of those plotlines. Scotty naturally takes full advantage of the local saloon and tries out the local bourbon…

Ed: You boys want your usual?

Scott: Absolutely! Er… half a gallon of scotch.

Ed: You know we ain’t got nothin’ but bourbon, ‘less you want corn whiskey.

Finally, I’m keen to check out that other original Star Trek series episode set in the Wild West and described as one where Darlin Husband reports that the men encounter “stereotypical 1960s Native Americans” and where inevitably it’s Kirk with the love interest.

Or even – if I get some Darlin Husbandsplanation on those Star Trek Enterprise crew members, I’ll brave an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with A Fistful of Datas (1992). This Darlin Husband informs me was a holodeck episode where the cast member seemingly played 2 or 3 characters as it’s a plot for a few Datas more…

 

Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂/10

Hulk Rating:  mrgreen/10

 


The Foreign Western Blogathon 2022, No 14

This post was added to Moon in Gemini’s The Foreign Western Blogathon Other reviews with this cast written on this site include Star Trek cast in  Star Trek (1967), The City on the Edge of Forever S1 Ep28 and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. William Shatner also appears in Incubus and Horror at 37,000 Feet. Deforest Kelley stars in Night of the Lepus. Leonard Nimoy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Bonnie Beecher in The Twilight Zone. Rex Holman in Fantasy Island, Streets of San Francisco and Charlie’s Angels. Sam Gilman in Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Walter Koenig in Columbo.


 

 

12 thoughts on “TV… Star Trek (1968) The Spectre of the Gun Se3 Ep6

  1. I can’t believe I don’t remember this one, especially considering the theme. (I do recall very clearly the one with the Native Americans.) Good excuse to check it out. Love that Chekov gets a little love in this one.

    Thanks so much for contributing to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the review. It sounds like the cast made the best of a surreal situation, although I do wonder why they chose to cast them as the Clantons when the Earps are traditionally the heroes. Or maybe I’m getting confused?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember bits of this episode, but had forgotten how it all went down. Your review made it seem fresh again, and I’m going to see if I can find it. I think one of our streaming services has the complete original series, I’m happy to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of my favorite episodes. Stylish, and very interesting take on Old West themes and motifs. Keep listening to the hubby, he seems like a wise man. 😉 BTW, Kelley played Wyatt Earp’s brother in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).

    Liked by 1 person

    • You didn’t ask, but here are my favorite movies about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral:

      My Darling Clementine (1946)
      Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
      Hour of the Gun (1967)
      Doc (1971)
      Tombstone (1993)
      Wyatt Earp (1994)

      Tombstone (1993) is probably the most entertaining and stylish. It’s a little over-the-top, but I love its cast and high energy.

      Wyatt Earp (1994) is probably the most realistic version. It’s a long, but thoughtful and gorgeous-looking production.

      From a technical standpoint, I think My Darling Clementine (1946) is the best of the bunch. It’s, after all, a John Ford movie.

      Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) is a little too Hollywoodized, but Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and the supporting cast are great, and the color cinematography looks fantastic.

      Hour of the Gun (1967) and Doc (1971) aren’t perfect, but the movies are interesting because they try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. They attempt to demythologize the Old West.

      Liked by 1 person

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