TOS: S3E06: “Spectre of the Gun”

In which Kirk follows bad orders, Scotty’s substance abuse problem reaches epic heights, and Spock learns something about himself.

The ship approaches a.. well, it’s a thing, 45,000 km away .Some sort of probe covered with LEDs, it looks like. Spock can’t figure out what it wants, and Kirk decides to be snarky at him. Those two are adorable together.

At least it's pretty.

At least it’s pretty.

Oh good, the probe is talking. It appears to be some sort of signal buouy that is capable of telepathically telling people “go away, we don’t want to talk to you.” Good thing Kirk’s orders were to establish contact with the species that built it “at all costs. Along with “The Paradise Syndrome” this shows us a worrying trend of Kirk’s decision-making capacities slipping. Please don’t force yourself on the advanced telepaths. It can’t possibly end well for you.

So, upon announcing their peaceful intent, they speed up to make planetfall as scheduled. Now, I’m going to get really down on Troi when we reach TNG because for the first few seasons I recall her as being super useless, but even

Fucking. Metal.

Fucking. Metal.

she would be able to point out that this is a terrible idea that is likely to get your redshirts killed. Good thing Kirk didn’t bring any. Instead it’s five main cast members, beaming down to a fog bank to be confronted by a floating brain with glowing eyes. And they decide that they will tailor the way they gruesomely massacre the landing party basedon Kirk’s subconscious or something. So because Kirk is a goddamn cowboy they’re put in what I presume to be a mental projection of the old West. Correction: A Blazing Saddles-style false set of the frontier. No, seriously. There are the fronts of buildings but no backs. Seriously, I don’t care how bad this episode turns out to be, the visuals are pretty great.

They’re in a mockup of Tombstone, Arizona, and are cast as the Clanton Gang. Again, this one is worth watching just for Spock saying “the two gangs, I believe the phrase is ‘had it out.'”

The logic, of course, is pretty goddamn sketchy. The crew see someone who’s probably a mental projection by the telepathic Melkotians die, and immediately conclude that death is real here. Now, it’s probably a good assumption that you will not survive this confrontation unless you’re pretty goddamn careful, but concluding that death is real because you saw an illusion die is not precisely speaking a good logical chain.

Once you get past how intentionally dim-witted they’re all being trying to convince what are pretty clearly mental projections following a script that they’re really not the Clantons in order to fill time before they solve the whatever, this is actually a lot of fun. Not good, but fun. I was hoping the whole ‘get out of town or die’ would be one of those test thingies, but the Melkotians have put up a force field on the city limits. Shame, that. It could have been a lesson, like “oh good, you learned how to leave when you’re goddamn told. Time to put that lesson to use.”

Chekov is involved enough in a local lass to get killed over her when one of the Earps tries to manhandle her. Good thing he was playing the part of someone who survived the actual battle at the OK Corral. Therefore the play can be changed, which means that the MacGyver-esque plan of using ether to make a gas grenade. And to test it, Scotty sticks his face in one. For like a week. Which Spock uses to finally deduce that they’re not actually in a real place, because the pieces of buildings literally floating in midair didn’t give it away already.

You can even see the shadows on the wall of the soundstage.

You can even see the shadows on the wall of the soundstage.

Spock susses it out. It’s not real, therefore one must roll for disbelief. In the bullets and the whole situation. He uses the mind meld to convince the rest of the landing party that the fact that they were transported to the goddamn 1800s is an illusion. It kind of says something about the travels of the Enterprise so far that it’s easier for them to believe in a material recreation than an illusion. Are the records regarding Talos IV so confidential that this possibility didn’t cross their minds until now? Spock was on Talos IV. Twice.

Anyway it works and they live and they’re back on the ship and Chekov is there too because the only thing he believed in was the girl. And because Kirk did a double flying kick on the Earps instead of shooting them the Melkotians decide to be friendly. Huzzah. Cue the post-episode aesop between Spock, Kirk, and McCoy. This one is actually somewhat bittersweet for Spock, since he observed Kirk’s desire to kill and his decision to overcome it. For Vulcans, it took a dedication to logic that makes most modern human dogma seem straightforward and lax by comparison, and to Spock, the fact that humanity survived the 1880s is perhaps a signal that Vulcans aren’t as much more rational than humans as a whole than he was raised to believe.

That realization will last five minutes before, in the next briefing, McCoy calls him a pointy-eared hobgoblin or something, but it was a nice moment while it lasted.

Did we miss something awesome?