This fan favorite Star Trek episode pays tribute to DeForest Kelley's rise to stardom

"Spectre of the Gun" took Star Trek fans to the O.K. Corral, a place Bones had visited twice before.

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In the third season of Star Trek, "Spectre of the Gun" stands out because it sent the Enterprise crew into the Wild West, where they discover it's the exact date of the history-making gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Immediately in the episode, the Enterprise crew gets mistaken for the Cowboys, the opposing gang famously involved in this fight, pitted against Doc Holliday as well as the famous lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Wyatt and Morgan.

For this episode, Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy falls into the shoes of Tom McLaury, a Cowboy outlaw who history knows definitely died at the O.K. Corral shoot-out, and this is the fate that the Enterprise crew must try to avoid if they wish to save their own necks on Star Trek.

What you may not realize is that the actor who plays Dr. McCoy, DeForest Kelley, had been to the O.K. Corral before, not once, but twice.

Kelley first visited the O.K. Corral playing one of the Cowboys in a 1955 episode of the TV series You Are There, but he more famously played one of the Earp brothers in the sensational 1957 Western blockbuster Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

In 1957, a Los Angeles Times critic praised this movie as being on par with some of the genre's best like Shane and High Noon, writing, "The more discriminating moviegoer as well as the avowed Western fan will have little hesitancy in putting his OK on Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

Kelley featured in this movie alongside a star-studded cast that saw Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday, Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp, and playing the Cowboys, as the Enterprise crew did, was the "largest assortment of certified badmen yet rounded up for a single Western," including Lee Van Cleef and Dennis Hopper.

This memorable Western was nominated for two Oscars, and for Kelley, it was a major turning point in his acting career, which up to that point had been such a failure that he was considering quitting acting altogether.

By 1960, Kelley's career had turned around, though, and he was no longer seen as someone who only played heavies in Westerns, but now viewed as an actor with range.

Finally, he was considered someone to watch at 40 years old. Before that he was only known for having clean fingernails.

"While you may not recognize the name," a critic in The Oakland Tribune wrote, "Kelley's face is familiar on TV. He invariably plays the role of a sleek, cunning hoodlum who always stands outside the door, paring his fingernails, with an evil eye on the hero. Because of this Kelley is known as having the cleanest fingernails in Hollywood."

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral helped Kelley break out of what The Kansas City Star reported in 2005 he considered his only way forward as an actor until then: "His fate was the bad hombre, and his genre was the Western."

Of course, a lot of that break-out from Westerns had to do with meeting Leonard Nimoy and Gene Roddenberry on the sets of Westerns, so that when Roddenberry was ready to create Star Trek, he had both actors already in mind.

Originally, he wanted Kelley for Spock.

Kelley saw his future more in Bones, though, and in "Spectre of the Gun," fans can consider the episode a tribute to how the O.K. Corral enabled Kelley's rise to stardom.

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supruser 31 months ago
... in tribute to DeForest Kelly, in todays political dis-function he would have said on mask mandates, "I'm not a politician Jim, I'm a Dr."
Runeshaper 31 months ago
That's AWESOME! I do remember Kelley being in a ton of westerns and he was usually a bad guy LOL Regardless, he was a GREAT Dr. McCoy on Star Trek too (-:
Runeshaper 31 months ago
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Runeshaper stephaniestavr5 31 months ago
It's cool that you picked up on and remembered that!
F5Twitster 32 months ago
"Immediately in the episode, the Enterprise crew gets mistaken for the Cowboys, the opposing gang famously involved in this fight, pitted against Doc Holliday as well as the famous lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Wyatt and Morgan."

Earp and Holliday's antagonists were , in each iteration, including "Star Trek," actually THE CLANTON GANG, not "the Cowboys."
FrankCollins 32 months ago
These are my favorite Star Trek episodes (original series)

all our yesterdays, spock and mccoy go back in time, mariette hartley

a taste of armageddon, war by computers without the blood but with the killing

balance of terror, mark lenard as romulan commander

the city on the edge of forever, joan collins, back in time to the 1930s

the cloud minders, miners revolt against the cloud dwellers

dagger of the mind, james gregory, morgan woodward, marianna hill penal colony mind machine

the deadly years, kirk, spock, mccoy, scotty get old from radiation

devil in the dark, silicon creature

the doomsday machine, a destructive machine is loose, and william windom tries to stop it

the enemy within, kirk is split into two, good and evil, due to transporter malfunction

the enterprise incident, kirk and spock steal a cloaking device from romulans

errand of mercy, the organians stop the klingon war

mirror, mirror, the parallel universe where kirk, spock et all are evil, and spock has a goatee

mudd's women, including Karen Steele, drug makes women more physically attractive

the naked time, strange disease on a planet causes crew to act drunk

the omega glory, morgan woodward, yangs and cons

a piece of the action, planet like the chicago mobs

plato's stepchildren, kirk kisses uhura

requiem for methuselah, the story of flint, the thousands year old man, james daly, louise thorel

return of the archons, landru controls the society

the savage curtain, kirk, spock, with lincoln and sarek, fight the bad guys, genghis khan et all

space seed, ricardo montalbon as khan

spectre of the gun, back to the gunfight at ok corral

the trouble with tribbles, whit bissell, william schallert

what are little girls made of, androids created on a planet, with Lurch (Ted Cassidy)

who mourns for adonais, apollo is discovered on a planet, centuries after he lived on earth
Snickers FrankCollins 32 months ago
What about " Amok Time" or " I Mudd"?
Coldnorth FrankCollins 31 months ago
I like the trouble with tribbles
Runeshaper Coldnorth 31 months ago
Love the tribbles!!!
Skippy007 32 months ago
I went to school at Emerson junior High in west la. Julie Nimoy was in my classes and Adam was behind us. My next store neighbor was Robert H Justman on loring Avenue behind UCLA. He gave me an original model of the Enterprise and my mom thru it out. When I got older James Doohan was one of my clients at tile World in North Hollywood. We were hoping the Mr. Nimoy would wear his pointed ears to 9th grade graduation but of course he did not. This was in the late 60’s when we graduated 9th grade. Was a lot of fun back then. Lloyd bridges lived across the street. Barbara Bain and Martin Landau also lived down the street. Great memories.
Pacificsun Skippy007 32 months ago
A fortunate life indeed. Thank you for sharing.

Unbelievable access during a time when people could be trusted to be civil to one another.
Runeshaper Skippy007 31 months ago
That's so cool! (-:
Titan2 32 months ago
Bakersfield, CA "lost" it's MeTV station as of October 1st. I do not know if this was a MeTV decision or a decision of the station (KERO). At any rate, I will still have this MeTV Trivia page to take the quizzes and read up on some interesting trivia. Hope Bakersfield gets MeTV back soon. By the way, I noticed one morning as the great classic "Highway Patrol" was going off the air, that I saw the name of Gene Roddenberry as a writer for the late 1950's tv series. Did I see it or were my eyes playing tricks on me?
Snickers Titan2 32 months ago
Gene did write some episodes of Highway Patrol as well as " The Detective" series.
Titan2 32 months ago
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Pacificsun Titan2 32 months ago
Toonhead 32 months ago
Damnit Jim, I’m a Toonhead not a doctor! To paraphrase Dr. Mc Coy’s other famous phrase. We miss you Mr. Kelley!
CarolCoons 32 months ago
Think someone was watching Doctor Who when they thought up this episode,lol?
Toonhead CarolCoons 32 months ago
Mmmm could be?! lol with thanks to a certain Bunny. 😎
Snickers 32 months ago
"Spectre of The Gun" was one of a few good episodes from season three. And Deforest Kelly will always be " Bones McCoy".
Pacificsun Snickers 32 months ago
Here's more. Sorry I got waay interupted. This article is even better!
The Paradise Syndrome.
Snickers Pacificsun 32 months ago
Just saw " Spectre of the Gun" on MeTV last night.
VLuckett 32 months ago
Love Star Trek, the original series MeTV! Why must you run it so late, (EDT), on Saturday night? It was time frames such as this that killed the series when it ran originally on network TV! Please consider an earlier time frame any evening of the week! Thank you so much!
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Snickers djw1120 32 months ago
They wouldn't dare show six hours of Nash Bridges. People would leave the channel in droves!
Snickers Toonhead 32 months ago
I think people should let H&I know about this program change by not tuning in. Maybe losing some ad revenue would change their mind.
Toonhead Snickers 32 months ago
Maybe send them feedback via text? I’m also upset that Numbers is apparently going away. I plan to send them a strongly worded statement to that effect. Let’s give them a headache people! Lol But be classy, k?
Pacificsun Snickers 32 months ago
It's okay folks .... just slight changes to their schedule. This is now the 4th Quarter schedule. And nobody in their right mind would schedule 5 hours straight of Nash Bridges 5 days a week. Unless they wanted to kill the channel. Sometimes those rumors get started on less informed chat forums. So I waited for the official printable schedule to come out. And sure enough it changed as of today. Here it is. The main change is they put ST:TOS at the end of the nightly franchise per evening and filled-in with Walker, Texas Ranger. They don't exactly need 3 hours straight of it, but must've gotten some kind of bargain on 7 instances of it, weekly.
Andybandit 32 months ago
Nice story. I will watch that episode tonight. I never saw that episode.
Snickers Andybandit 32 months ago
My favorite episode of Trek " Balance of Terror" from season one, worst episode "Spock's Brain" from season three.
djw1120 Snickers 32 months ago
Personally, I loved the episode "Amok Time" when Spock was going through Ponn Farr.
The scene at the end when Spock realized that Kirk was really alive brought the house down - "Jim!!! You're alive!!! I mean Captain, I'm pleased to see you."
CaptainDunsel 32 months ago
Uhhh... I think someone at MeTV did a mistaken "search and replace" on this article. Kirk and company were thrust into the role of "the Clantons", not "the Cowboys".
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CaptainDunsel Pacificsun 32 months ago
You are absolutely correct!
A few years ([mumble][mumble] back, a fellow in my Toastmasters* group gave a very nice speech having to do with college football. In the speech, he referred several time to "the SEC". At the end of the evening, I complimented him on his talk, but said to him, "I'm puzzled by one thing. What, exactly does the Securities and Exchange Commission have to do with college football?"
A football fan would have known immediately that he was actually referring to the "South Eastern Conference". But speakers (and writers) should not assume such knowledge on the part of their audience. Define your references at least once.
[*For anyone not familiar with Toastmasters, it's a wonderful organization for improving your speaking and presentation skills.]
Toonhead CaptainDunsel 32 months ago
I didn’t think that sounded right when I read it, nice catch! 😎
Toonhead Lacey 32 months ago
I think the confusion comes from the fact that the Clantons were part of/supporters of a larger gang who referred to themselves as the Cowboys. Of course I could be wrong.
Fior Pacificsun 32 months ago
I do not understand your comment, “…if they actually ‘watched’ everything…they wouldn’t have time for researching and writing.” Isn’t “actually watching” the episode you are going to write about part of research? Writers write presumably to convey information and readers read to be informed. I don’t think it is too much to ask that the information that is conveyed be accurate. Getting the details right would have required only one careful viewing.
MrsPhilHarris 32 months ago
I hope METV doesn’t work this story into a quiz. I skimmed it quickly. I always fail Star Trek quizzes.
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😜 Yikes! I usually only watch up until the end of the opening credits.
djw1120 MrsPhilHarris 32 months ago
Sorry, but due to Covid-19, all tests and exams will be done remotely.
Toonhead djw1120 32 months ago
MrsPhilHarris Michael 32 months ago
😳 Oh no!
KJExpress 32 months ago
Glad he was able to break away from the "bad hombre" roles. I always liked the McCoy/Spock dynamic and the way they interacted with one another. He certainly created a memorable character.
ELEANOR 32 months ago
I love the look on DeForest's face. You can instantly tell what he's thinking, "Oh no, I don't believe that I'm doing this again!" And I'm sure that William Shatner made a snarky remark, "Well Dee, the third time's the charm."
LoveMETV22 ELEANOR 32 months ago
Lol too funny, They should do a what are the actors thinking by the look on their face quiz or story Lol!
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 32 months ago
Ahh, we could make that up to show them!

But how would we ever know what they were really thinking??

We could start with Perry Mason! Have you ever seen any actor as straight-faced as Raymond Burr??

He did that crazy alternate character appearance the other night. And I thought he was going to become unglued.
ELEANOR Pacificsun 32 months ago
Stay tuned for the Final Fade-Out. Many inside jokes, appearances by crew members as actors, and many other items of interest.
Pacificsun ELEANOR 32 months ago
Do you remember when it shows" AM or PM? It's an episode I've never seen. But the color one, right?
CarolCoons Pacificsun 32 months ago
It’s the last one, not the color one; on at night, not the morning.
CarolCoons Pacificsun 32 months ago
Well, you wouldn’t think he was so straight faced if you’d watched any of his film noir performances.
He played many crazed sadistic villains. He was a very underrated actor, simply brilliant.
Pacificsun CarolCoons 32 months ago
True, and that's why (IMO) Perry Mason (as he plays it) is so fascinating. He absolutely lets everyone around him do the "emoting" (pardon the expression), which helps them to shine obviously. He was a great ensemble actor! Having learned the secrets of giving and taking. That's why it was fun when MeTV presented the candid shots of the Person Mason cast having some fun!
Pacificsun 32 months ago
What I loved most about this episode, wasn't just the simplicity of the sci fi plot. But the beauty of the minimalist set design!
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KJExpress Pacificsun 32 months ago
Thanks, Pacificsun. I am using my phone so the links aren't highlighted, but I will check these out at some point. 😀
Pacificsun KJExpress 32 months ago
THIS is a really interesting summary of where many of the ST:TOS episodes/scenes were shot. MeTV did a story way back on Franklin Canyon (Los Angeles area) where the Paradise Syndrome was filmed outdoors.

btw: I've been on the "40 Acres" lot in Culver City, which MGM used.
Michael Snickers 32 months ago
Movie production began in New York/New Jersey.

They moved to Hollywood because of the better light. But it was undeveloped, so land was cheap. Hence the studios bought up big areas. Build a set, and then leave it up, to be used for something else.

These were sets, just outdoors.

In the seventies, it became too costly, or maybe demand for land meant selling it was too tempting.

Once the studios sold off the backlots, they had to film indoors and on location.
Snickers KJExpress 29 months ago
your thinking of the episode called " The Paradise Syndrome" where Kirk loses his memory and marries Miramanee.
Pacificsun 32 months ago
Is there anyone in Hollywood of that time, not considered for the role of Spock!
Toonhead Pacificsun 32 months ago
We are fortunate that Mr. Roddenberry had the good sense to cast the perfect person. As an aside, I have seen Leonard Nimoy as a heavy on both Highway Patrol and Dragnet!?! It was a bit of a shock, that! And as one more aside, Gene Roddenberry wrote some excellent scripts for Have Gun - Will Travel. Sorry, just putting in my two cents worth about two of my favorite Hollywood guys. 😎
Pacificsun Toonhead 32 months ago
Comment well taken and appreciated!

As every fan knows, one of the most interesting guest-star casting serendipities put Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and Werner Klemperer into a MFU S1Ep9 episode called The Project Strigas Affair (1964) two years before ST:TOS aired. These actors already had a lot of film in their resumes. But the ability to see them within the same hour (even without interacting) provided an easy way to evaluate their styles of acting, together. Roddenberry already knew key players (RV, LN, etc.) and what he needed was ensemble-worthy actors to fill the positions of other character-personalities he had in mind. Nimoy was certainly interesting and unique enough. Shatner demonstrated range even within those same 50 minutes, as well as his flair for women. Klemperer had that no-nonsense appeal from the start. And the off-putting nature of the storyline gave DM plenty to do. The point being, is that it’s easy to see how these actors got plugged into the roles that later on made them famous. I never did understand how anybody but Nimoy could carry off Spock and be at-home with his co-stars. These actors were rightly matched-up, given an act of fate.

It ‘s rare to catch a complimentary MFU episode anymore, but check out the video in this hyperlink to see that Strigas episode again. Directed by Joseph Sargent (credited multiple times) who understood the “personality” of the MFU series very
well. Even for those not MFU fans, Strigas has an interesting, complicated plot and provides a lot of actor-drama and movement!

Toonhead Pacificsun 32 months ago
Many thanks for your insightful and very interesting response. I agree with you down the line and I will definitely check out your suggestions. I really enjoy corresponding with you and the others on this forum. By turns y’all are intelligent, interesting and occasionally hilarious. Thanks for your most interesting and kind response. Thanks 😎
Snickers Pacificsun 32 months ago
Still remember one of Nimoy's early roles as the sargent in the movie "Them" had to look twice to make sure it was him.
Pacificsun 31 months ago
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Pacificsun 31 months ago
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Zip 32 months ago
I remember seeing Deforest playing a baddy on an episode of Wanted Dead Or Alive as well. Or maybe it was The Rifleman. I can't remember which one, because I have been switching between the two shows so much.
Cowgirl Zip 32 months ago
He also played a bad guy in the Bonanza episode, "The Honor of Cochise".
Toonhead Zip 32 months ago
One of , I thought, his best western roles was in Warlock with Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Widmark. He was slick as ice, started out as a baddie, but ended up a good guy. Sweet!😎
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