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Season Three:
-56: "Spectre of the Gun"
-57: "Elaan of Troyius"
-58: "The Paradise Syndrome"
-63: "The Empath"
-65: "For the World is Hollow
& I Have Touched the Sky"

-78: "All Our Yesterdays"
-79: "Turnabout Intruder"
-Season 3 Rankings

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Star Trek

Season 3 (1968-1969)

Spectre of the Gun

(Star Trek story #56 in production order)
written by Gene Coon under the name "Lee Cronin"

As anyone who knows "Spectre of the Gun" will tell you, this story has nothing in actual fact to do with time travel. But what is most bizarre is that Mr. Spock and the others often discuss the events they anticipate as though it were a time travel story, with all the old hang-ups they usually have about how things can't be changed.

Technically, Mr. Spock is right. History can't be "changed". That means that the computer records aboard the Enterprise won't magically alter themselves to say that something different happened in Arizona 400 years ago. Alternate histories can be chosen though. If the crew were in Arizona in 1881, making choices and taking action, any outcome is possible, no matter how different from the unchangeable history book they have in their memories. And if they were "Sliders", they could visit an alternate Enterprise with computer records of an alternate history. In fact, trying to travel through time without sliding may require more concentration than most people can muster, since the decision making process that branches out into parallel universes is something we engage in all the time and take for granted.

But there isn't even any time travel to speak of in the first place, making many of Spock and Kirk's overly-lengthy discussions of the issue seem out of place. The great holes everywhere due to missing scenery should be enough indication that things are already different, and talking about how different they can persuade the Melkotians to make it is a better focus. The crew eventually figure all this out; I just can't figure out why they spend as much time as they do being hung up on their old time travel issues instead.

While this is not an official Hallowe'en episode as "Catspaw" (production #30) was, it seems to fit the bill perfectly, what with a specific date of October 26th being referred to so often, and since it was held back for an original broadcast date of October 25th, and since it had a make-believe old west theme with a blood-red sky for background, yet made the landscape look decidedly like autumn. And so for the second time in a row, original Star Trek's first production for a season becomes less suitable for a true broadcast season opener, and more suitable for special timing later on. Weird.

Writer Gene Coon (under his pseudo-name Lee Cronin) remains obsessed with the notion that humanity is basically violent, and exercising energy to overcome the tendency. If anything, this is a tired and overused theme in Star Trek. I prefer to think that humanity is basically noble, loving, and peaceful, particularly when less energy is fed to the ego. We need more episodes with that presumption at their heart.

Jerry Fielding provides this story with a lovely score, sadly less well known than his only other contribution to the series for "The Trouble with Tribbles", partly because of that episode's über-popularity, partly because season three didn't reuse its new original music as effectively or as often as that of previous seasons.

I bought the re-recording of the score pictured at right mostly for the rendition of the classic score for "The Enemy Within", but I find myself drawn to listen to "Spectre of the Gun" more often. It's got a very unique and appropriate main theme played interestingly on both "Old West" instrumentation and classic European orchestral instruments, plus some very good syncopated "busted piano" segments that instantly conjure up images of a saloon in a "something's not right about this" type of nightmare. The best bit has to be a hauntingly beautiful, quiet section in the middle of the suite, which I often find playing over and over pleasantly in my head for days after a listen. It's so quiet during the episode, one may easily miss it completely, but the CD version does it REALLY nicely. Even there though, I do find myself adjusting the volume a lot, as the best bits are mastered at a bafflingly low level while the less interesting variations on Courage's "Enterprise flyby" Star Trek anthem to open and close the episode are among the only few bits at a half-decent volume level. It's worth it though; this is some of the best Star Trek music ever.

Audio CD - LXCD 704: Newly Recorded Star Trek Symphonic Suites for
"The Enemy Within",
"The Conscience of the King",
"I, Mudd", and
"Spectre of the Gun"

from the U.S.
from Canada
from the U.K.

This tale does turn out to have at least two good thematic points to it, and it is a good episode for Chekov (reportedly actor Walter Koenig's favourite amongst the ones he participated in). It's a bit too slow and stiff in places to be great all-round, but remains satisfying nonetheless. A solid contribution to the canon.

Read the next Star Trek review: "Elaan of Troyius"

These Season Three time travel stories are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Star Trek Season Three "Purist" Standard DVD Box Set:

Watch the legend mature to the end of its original run. Set contains all 24 episodes from the third season in their original wacky broadcast order, plus new bonus features including a specially restored version of the original pilot "The Cage".

As someone interested in researching how the episodes actually looked and sounded originally, and when and exactly how certain musical cues first debuted, this was the DVD set for me, and it remains the most untampered-with full-season collection of Star Trek out there. Unique extras include pure text commentaries on select episodes. Sadly, these sets are starting to become rare, and prices are now rising as these become collectors' items....


DVD Canada


Standard DVD Extras include:

  • To Boldly Go... Season Three featurette (22 min.)
  • Life Beyond Trek: Walter Koenig (11 min.)
  • Chief Engineer's Log (6 min.)
  • Memoir from Mr. Sulu (9 min.)
  • Star Trek's Impact (9 min.)
  • Original Prop recreation featurette (7 min.)
  • Text Commentaries on "The Savage Curtain" and "Turnabout Intruder"
  • "Red Shirt Logs" Easter Eggs (19 min. total)
  • Production Art (still menus)
  • Original Trailers for every season 3 episode (1 min. each)
  • "The Cage" (all colour, 63 min.)
  • "The Cage" (BW/colour mix + Gene's intro, 71 min.)

Standard DVD remastered with CGI:
Region 1, NTSC, U.S.
Region 1, NTSC, Canada
Region 2, PAL, U.K.

The Original Series Remastered Sets

The re-mastered Star Trek set for season three, like that of season two, seems destined to be obsolete in very short order. Its content is easily surpassed by the more respectful presentation on Blu-ray, and unlike the "purist" DVD release listed above, appears to have none of its own exclusive content. Add to that the very gimmicky, awkward packaging that is prone to damage both during shipping and with light usage, and I'd have to recommend that all devoted Trekkers should consider other options for their ideal TOS season three product.

Season Three - Blu Ray

  24 episodes @ 51 minutes, plus pilot episodes...
Star Trek sets are now available on Blu Ray. Picture and sound quality restoration has gone up yet another notch since the remastered version, as have the liberties taken with "upgrading" the episodes. Once again, even newer CGI effects and optical shots have replaced many space scenes, matte paintings, and phaser effects.... but this time the upgrades have the same respect and user-functionality applied to select Doctor Who DVD releases since 2002, as the CGI effects can now be turned off to see the original effects. Good show. It seems that the music has still been tampered with too much for my liking though.

Blu-ray U.S.

Blu-ray Canada

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features include:

  • option to watch original or new CGI effects.
  • "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (unaired version, HD)
  • Captain's Log: Bob Justman (HD, 10 min.)
  • Behind-the-scenes 8mm home movies part 3 (HD, 11 min.) from Billy Blackburn (Lt. Hadley / DeForest Kelley stand-in)
  • David Gerrold hosts "2009 Convention Coverage" (HD, 20 min.)
  • "The Anthropology of Star Trek" ComiCon Panel 2009 (HD, 4 min.)
  • "The World of Rod Roddenberry" ComiCon 2009 (HD, 7 min.)
  • BD Live Portal
  • main featurettes from previous releases
  • "The Cage" pilot versions from previous releases

Review written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Elaan of Troyius"

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