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Spectre of the Gun - Recap

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The Enterprise has been sent to contact the Melkotians, an alien race that have never left their planet. A crystalline buoy that telepathically warns them to turn back intercepts the ship, and notes this will be their only warning. Kirk has no choice but to proceed under Starfleet orders, sending a message of peace and good intentions.

I prefer being a welcomed guest, but there seems to be little choice.

Upon entering orbit, a landing party of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, and Chekov beam down to the planet's surface. They find themselves in fog bank that doesn't register on their sensors. McCoy suspects a transporter malfunction but when they try to leave a Melkotian appears before them. It warns that they are "disease" and will be executed for trespassing. Since Kirk is responsible for the order to proceed, his mind will provide the pattern of their deaths.

Captain Kirk, the disobedience was on your orders. Yours is the responsibility. Yours shall be the pattern of your death.

The landing party suddenly finds themselves standing in an Old West frontier town from the 1880s. Their communicators and tricorders have disappeared and their phasers have been replaced with .44 Colt revolvers. However, the town is curiously incomplete, with walls and ceilings of the buildings missing. Kirk finds the town familiar and they find a newspaper saying that they are in Tombstone Arizona on October 26, 1981. Kirk finds the date vaguely familiar but before they can pursue the matter, the town's sheriff, Johnny Behan, approaches them. He refers to them as members of the Clanton gang and is happy that they'll have to fight. After he leaves, Spock and Kirk recognize the names as members of the Clanton Gang, who were killed by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on this date in history. And history can't be changed.

Who won?
The Clantons lost, Mr. Chekov.
And we are the Clantons?
We are the Clantons, and if this is a replay of history…
History cannot be changed.

At the sound of breaking glass, the landing party turns to see a man gunned down at the local saloon. They recognize his killer as one of the marshals, Morgan Earp. Going into the bar, everyone recognizes them as the Clanton gang. They go into the bar where everyone greets them as the Clanton Gang. The barmaid, Sylvia, also believes that Chekov is Billy Claiborne and kisses him. Morgan Earp looks threateningly at them but Kirk manages to overcome his instinctive response and backs down. Morgan tries to pull Sylvia away and Chekov tries to defend her. Morgan figures they're trying to provoke him into a five-to-one gunfight and leaves, but warns that he'll be back. They get Sylvia away and try to figure out what's going on. The gunfight is at 5 o'clock that day and they only have a few hours left to alter history if they can. Kirk tries to convince the bartender, Ed, that he's not Ike Clanton but Ed thinks that he's nuts.

Do these clothes look like yours?
Not exactly.
Have you seen clothes like this?
On the Clantons.

Kirk goes to the Marshall's office to talk to Virgil and Wyatt Earp. They don't believe he's someone other than Ike Clanton and Virgil comes after the captain. Kirk disarms him but refuses to draw his gun. They refuse to gun down an unarmed man… until 5 o'clock when they warn they'll shoot him one way or another. Returning to the others, Kirk tries to leave but force fields keep them within the town limits. Without communicators, they have no choice but to construct defenses out of the local environment. McCoy suggests they use drugs and Spock devices a crude gas grenade. McCoy goes to the barber to get medicinal supplies and finds himself confronting Doc Holliday, who owns the place. Holliday lets him takes the supplies, figuring it's all part of the joke, but tells the doctor that at 5 o'clock the joke's over.

It just takes a bit of getting used to, Captain. Actually, a man could grow quite fond of this stuff.
Take it easy. I hate to think what that stuff's doing to your stomach lining.

While collecting supplies for the gas grenades, Chekov meets Sylvia. She has a dress for the upcoming dance he's taking her to but suggests they make it a wedding. Chekov tries to explain but is interrupted when Morgan Earp shows up and harasses Sylvia again. This time Morgan easily guns Chekov down as his brothers look on. Kirk and the others arrive but are forced to back down rather than provoke the gunfight early when they're not ready.

I warned you, Claiborne. Stay away.

Back in the saloon, they try to complete the gas grenade while Kirk wonders if he's to blame for Chekov's death by ignoring the Melkotian warning. Spock tries to console him and McCoy questions his own lack of emotion. Spock notes he is half-human but notes a historical anomaly: Billy Claiborne didn't die in the original timeline. Concluding they can alter history, Kirk goes to see Behan and tries to convince him to help them against the Earps. Behan refuses, insisting that Kirk should get revenge. The captain starts to snap at him angrily and reigns in his temper just in time. Returning to the saloon, he finds they have the gas grenade ready. Noting that nothing has worked correctly so far, Kirk insists on a test. They use the gas grenade on Scotty, but it has no effect. Spock notes that there is some fundamental alteration to the laws of physics at work, while Kirk insists they won't move. However, they find themselves teleported to the O.K. Corral, with force fields sealing them in and only minutes left until 5 o'clock.

It's to kill the pain.
But this is painless.
Well, you should've warned me sooner, Mr. Spock.

Spock announces his hypothesis: the entire scenario must be a telepathic projection. If they believe that the bullets can kill them, then they will. Spock can use Vulcan mental discipline to control his belief, but the others don't. With only minutes remaining, Spock mind melds with his three companions, instilling his disbelief into them. The Earps arrive to find the landing party calmly waiting for them. Kirk motions for his gun and the Earps open fire… to no effect. Kirk beats Wyatt in hand-to-hand and considers shooting him… then throws away the gun.

They are lies...
specters without body. They are to be ignored.

The entire landscape disappears and the landing party finds themselves back on the Enterprise just before the buoy intercepted them. Chekov is unharmed and doesn't seem to remember anything except the girl. This time the buoy self-destructs and the Melkotian appears on the viewing screen to ask them about their need for violence. Kirk asserts that they only use violence in self-defense and the Melkotian invites them to approach the planet and be welcomed. As they arrive in orbit, Kirk notes that humanity did indeed have a killer instinct and he wanted to kill. However, they, and he, overcame it.

I wonder how humanity managed to survive.
We overcame our instinct for violence.