Star Trek 062: Spectre of the Gun

62. Spectre of the Gun

FORMULA: A Piece of the Action + Arena + The Corbomite Maneuver

WHY WE LIKE IT: The shoot-out at the end is very effective.

WHY WE DON'T: Alien cowboys? Ugh.

REVIEW: I'm not sure Star Trek should ever have done a western. On the one hand, westerns were such a staple of 60s television that it was more than a little obvious. Secondly, Trek was BASED on a western formula, so you don't really need the western tropes added on. The Prisoner once did a western episode that worked a lot better because it was so incongruous and unusual. Here, after seeing space Romans, space Nazis and space Indians, it's nothing special, and only serves to highlight the fact that the creators are raiding set and costume warehouses for their "alien" environments.

The twist, of course, is that it's all happening in their minds, though this is unevenly realized in the plot and acting. When they "return" to the ship, for example, there should be shock and surprise, but it's all handled too matter-of-factly.

The whole reason for going to see the Melkotians against their wishes is glossed over in the worst way, and I don't know who's stiffer, the immobile Melkot puppet, or the acting from the four Earps (if you count Doc). Not only are the Earps played like the bad guys (which is strange), but they're really little more than robots. Menacing, sure, but kind of boring too.

And yet, the episode kept my interest. There are enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged, and plenty of obstacles for the characters to overcome. It's one giant puzzle. I admit to jumping when the crew first runs into a force field. So yeah, I was interested. Turns out the Melkotians were interested in finding out if humanity had overcome its history of violence. Somewhat of a retread of Arena, but it works ok (of course, why does Kirk care if figments of his imagination are murdered? He only does for the sake of the plot).

The surreal sets could have looked cheap, but they're used effectively, especially with the clock hanging in mid-air. The fight at the OK Corral is the real set piece here, with the crew all lined up, the fence getting shot apart behind them, and a zen tranquility inhabiting them. It's eerie and really effective. I'd recommend the journey just to get to that point.

LESSON: Even a holographic bullet can kill (oh wait, that's a lesson for much later).

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: I wouldn't want to see this sort of stuff too often, since they tend to feature wooden stereotypes as characters, but Spectre of the Gun creates an interesting mood and definitely has its moments.

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