Mythbusters Take On Star Trek Gorn Cannon – Recap w/ Pics & Video |
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Mythbusters Take On Star Trek Gorn Cannon – Recap w/ Pics & Video December 29, 2009

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Science/Technology,TOS , trackback

Tonight Star Trek got the Mythbusters experience as the Discovery Channel show took on the Gorn cannon from the original series episode "Arena". See below for a recap and images, plus links to extra video angles of the final result. [spoilers from Mythbusters]


Mythbusters take on the Gorn

Tonight’s episode took on six ‘Mini myths’, including the Gorn cannon. The team did a pretty good (and funny) job or recreating the original scene of Kirk creating the Gorn cannon from "Arena", with Grant Imahara playing Spock and Tory Belleci playing Kirk. In a nod to Ben Burtt, the Mythbusters added a Wilhelm scream to the Gorn when he got pelted with the diamonds.

Grant, Jessi and Tory have some Trek fun

To test the ‘myth’ of the Gorn Cannon, Grant and Tory tried to see if you could mix your own gunpowder by hand bye eyeballing Potassium Nitrate, Charcoal, and Sulfer (they also did some Kirk v Picard debating). And Jessi Combs tested if you could build an actual cannon with bamboo. Eventually, after 33 tries, they found a good mix of gunpowder and a bored out piece of bamboo (although power tools were used for that). However, in the end (and testing with a real cannon) the hand mixed version of gunpowder was not explosive enough, it would only fizzle.

Hand-mixed gunpowder just smokes and fizzles

To test the cannon itself, the team loaded the one that Jessi made with real gunpowder and fired it up. However, the bamboo was not able to withstand the explosion. Plus their crash test dummy Buster, who stood in for Kirk, wearing a red shirt, was pretty messed up by the explosion. 

Cannon made from bamboo couldn’t handle the real gunpowder

But, in Mythbusters tradition, they modified the cannon by reinforcing with wood and metal and sealing it with polyurethane. After that they filled it with real gunpowder and quartz crystals and successfully pelted the Gorn. However, the bamboo cannon still exploded, ‘killing’ Captain Kirk again.

The team count the hits from their modified cannon

However, due to the fact that they had to cheat to get the result, the final determination was that the ‘myth’ was ‘Busted.’ Tory made the summery:

As sad as I am to say, since this is my favorite episode of Star Trek, this one is busted. You cannot make home-made black powder strong enough to launch the projectiles, and even if you could, the bamboo would not be strong enough to contain the explosion.


There are six videos showing different angles of the Gorn Cannon myth at




1. Prologic9 - December 29, 2009

Jessi Combs go away!

2. Skippy2k - December 29, 2009

Uh…alien bamboo! Oh, and Captain Kirk…I mean he created the earth in seven days right so gunpowder’s a snap! ;) Cool, didn’t get to see it so thanks!

3. Lou - December 29, 2009

Re: #1
Jessi will go back to doing background work when Kari returns from maternity leave.

4. CarlG - December 29, 2009

Busted? Darn.

Still, Redshirt Buster makes me a happy nerd.

5. Courtney - December 29, 2009

They didn’t take into account that future alien bamboo may be stronger.

6. The TOS Purist aka The Purolator - December 29, 2009

#5 – Not to mention the fact that it might not have actually been “bamboo” at all – after all, they WERE on some unknown asteroid. Just because it looked the same in the episode doesn’t mean it’s the same thing.

I think they should have made more attempts to find a right mixing ratio for the hand-made gunpowder. I’m sure that there’s a more explosive combination; they kind of just stopped after they found one that looked pretty (although considering they had done so 30 times, I can understand their apparent lack of patience…). If there IS a better combination, I’m sure it still wouldn’t be as explosive as actual black powder, so you wouldn’t have the problem of it killing Kirk – but it would still have enough power to fire the projectiles with the proper force to injure/stun him.

7. Buzz Cagney - December 29, 2009

But they are lacking one vital incredient- they aren’t James Tiberius Kirk. So its not busted- they are just inferior beings. ;-)

8. Andreas - December 29, 2009

They shouldn’t have used earth bamboo.

9. somethoughts - December 29, 2009

I just hope they don’t fire a missle into the sun with tri lithium and test to see if it stops all nuclear reaction to prove if there is a level 10 shock wave.

I have no idea why they are trying to disprove a sci fi episode made in the 60’s, color tv was barely out and they did not have internet or the cell phone, give them a break, sides it was a television show, ie. make believe.


In order to disprove that episode, they need to be on the same planet Kirk was on, the atmosphere/gravity/resources are quite different on a alien world. The entire test was not accurately reproduced imo.

10. Petey - December 29, 2009

Why am I not surprised that on TrekMovie, everyone’s trying to mantain the canon-icity of a TOS episode.

Kirk: Bones, what do you make of our fans’ sense of humour?
McCoy: It’s dead, Jim.

11. That One Guy - December 29, 2009

TOS Purist,
Sorry, the physics just don’t add up. You CANNOT make commercial-grade black powder in the time required. Even if the bamboo had held, the basic chemistry behind the powder simply could not be obtained.

Bamboo Cannon with Homemade Black Powder:

12. Spectre_7 - December 29, 2009

LOL Trek canon…

-“Diamonds, the hardest substance known to humans…”

-“Pure tritanium, 20 times as hard as diamonds”

13. Clinton - December 29, 2009

I really enjoyed this one. In addition, some of the Tweets going on during the show were hilarious. Besides the “alien bamboo” angle, fans also jokingly replied with comments like “it’s because you put Kirk in a red shirt” and my favorite “it didn’t work simply because none of them are James Tiberius Kirk.”

I hope the MB team does more of these.

14. Tasha - December 29, 2009

Who cares if there are a few wrongs. It was a fun and enjoyable episode to watch. And that was probably there intention was to make it enjoyable for the fans. Stop being so critical.

15. RTC - December 29, 2009

I’m still (perhaps naively) willing to believe that it was an unusually strong piece of alien ‘bamboo,’ that Captain Kirk was able to quickly mix up an appropriate grade of gunpowder because he honed the art as a prank-pulling little kid, and that he had more time than ‘Arena’ indicates because of the ‘time dilation’ effect of network television. Myth on Earth: Busted. Mythical abilities of James T. Kirk: Confirmed!

16. NCC-73515 - December 29, 2009

9, wasn’t it level 12? *super nerd mode online*

17. The First Son of Krypton - December 29, 2009

God bless you Petey. Why cant the “Trekkies” see the funny side.

FYI – I am of those fans who call TOS fans Trekkies and the rest of us Trekkers

18. Dac - December 29, 2009

B-But It was ALIEN Bamboo, with ALIEN Chemicals. The Bamboo could be 100x as Strong and The chemicals 10x as strong!


19. Holger - December 29, 2009

I think it could work only if one uses a bamboo barrel with a much smaller diameter. Then the crystals get propelled better and the barrel is more stable.

20. Holger - December 29, 2009

18 Dac: But in the episode they named the chemicals, if memory serves, it was the earthly gunpowder ingredients, not alien chemicals. As for the bamboo, you’re right.

21. Weerd1 - December 29, 2009

Didn’t the aliens set up the planet in order to make it possible? It was part of their test. The entire setup was to enable each foe to be lethal to each other.

Also, I love the mythbusters, but they do not have the virtue of being Captain James T. Kirk, and that’s going to change the outcome as well. ;)

However, as I am also NOT Capt. Kirk, I think I will remove this one from my repertoire for use in case of Zombie Apocalypse.

22. thebiggfrogg - December 29, 2009

Next on Mythbusters:
We explore the feasibility of the episode “Spock’s Brain.”

“Brain and brain! What is brain?”

23. Lore - December 29, 2009

I think a full orchestra for theme music would have made all the difference in the world.

24. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - December 29, 2009

Ok. For Earth it was a bust. But on the Alien Planet it is not busted. I mean. Kirk was on another planet and not earth. Also. The Metrons may have helped a little as well. You never know.

25. Capt Mike of the Terran Empire - December 29, 2009

Next on Myth Busters. Can Scottys poor Barrens stand the strain of sustained Warp flight of Warp 9.

26. Scott - December 29, 2009

FYI on Jessi Combs, she is Kari’s backup while Kari is out on maternity leave.

27. The Commissionaire! - December 29, 2009

Everyone knows that alien bamboo is 20 times harder than diamonds!

28. Frederick Von Fronkensteen - December 29, 2009

Kirk’s sheer willpower and charisma caused it to work, much as it makes the Kirk-Fu effective for fighting. Nobody else could pull it off.

29. Buzz Cagney - December 29, 2009

#10 I think you will find the joke is on you! Most people will be getting onto the spirit of this- besides a few of you who don’t seem to be getting the ironic nature of people’s incredulity of the show’s result. Lighten up.

30. Andy Patterson - December 29, 2009


Yes,Kirk made it work. I believe in the Shatner also. And loved this episode as a kid.

I want them to do some feasibility studies on the fight moves they used throughout the show The McCoy chop. The Kirk fu chop to the sides of the neck. The Kirk Fu double hand pummel to the base of the spine. And just to irk the haters of “The Way to Eden”, try out the thumbs to the side of the neck to knock some one out that the space hippies employed. And let’s see if it can knock someone out as groovily as it seemed to. Khan also used this method.

31. OneBuckFilms - December 29, 2009

This was a fun one. I love these guys.

32. Jorg Sacul - December 29, 2009

FYI on Jessi Combs… I like her, she’s exciting!

33. Sarah Stroud - December 29, 2009

I about died laughing when the ball rolled out of the cannon, but hey, the mixture did give a light show.

Come one, who out there would have really thought the Gorn Cannon would work? Okay I’ll admit it, I did. I’m disappointed, but loved the episode. I hope they’ll do more Trek myths. That was a lot of fun to watch.

34. Scott - December 29, 2009

I’m going to boycott Mythbusters.

35. Sarah Stroud - December 29, 2009

#4: How perfect was it, for Buster to be a redshirt? LOL!!!

36. CarlG - December 29, 2009

@35: Could he have been wearing any other color? :)

37. Captain Dunsel - December 29, 2009

@25 Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
“Can Scottys poor Barrens stand the strain…”

“Bairns”, actually. Scottish term for a baby…

38. Jorg Sacul - December 29, 2009

I can see it now, Jamie and Adam build the warp drive, and then send Tory out into space to test the limits of it…

Tory! See the knob that says 1-10? turn it to “11”!

39. SynjoDeonecros - December 29, 2009

People, if you’re arguing that the “alien bamboo” was stronger than Earth bamboo, you need to watch the episode again; not only was the force of the explosion great enough to knock Kirk back, but it was ALSO strong enough to BANANA PEEL THE BARREL. And, as we all know, any explosion that is big enough to compromise the structural integrity of a projectile launcher like that is BOUND to cause significant damage to anyone within its immediate vicinity, outside of the projectiles themselves. Myth Busted, both on Earth AND in space.

40. Randall - December 29, 2009

Easily solved by some Handwavium… of a sort.

First of all, Shatner coulda done it. Shatner can do anything.

Leaving that aside, however, we have the “facts” of the episode to go on.

1. The Metrons (who started all this) wanted to test the two species that were f**king around in their backyard, to see who was the bigger threat. (This was not made all that clear in the televised episode, but was expounded upon in the uncut script and in James Blish’s prose version). Their real intention was to see who won the one-on-one battle… and then kill the winner—NOT the loser, as they had claimed—because they figured hey, what the f**k. Also, they figured the winner would be the real threat to them.

2. In light of all this, they gamed the situation a bit. They not only TOLD Kirk and the Gorn that they could create weapons on the asteroid–they deliberately SET UP a weapon that could be easily assembled–in short, the cannon. We saw no evidence that there was anything else of that nature, other than the obsidian knife which the Gorn carves.

3. SO… the Metrons WANTED the cannon to be found and constructed… and so, they tweaked things so that the cannon would work. In real life, Kirk couldn’t have done it. But they made it so he could.


41. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

Another Trek legend…Gorn With The Wind!

42. Lord Garth, Formerly of Izar - December 29, 2009

I call Bullsh*t!!! That was Metron bamboo and thus as strong as a steel housing

43. Will McCammon - December 29, 2009

“To test the cannon itself, the team loaded the one that xxx made…”

Jessi is a really good looking gal, but c’mon, she’s too classy for xxx. Need to remove that placeholder text TrekMovie guys.

I like Jessi fine, but look forward to Kari’s return. She’ll always be the MythBuster Geek Goddess in my book.

I thought they did a good job with the myth. They’re obviously fans of Trek and it was nice to not have people subtly mocking Trek-fandom (for once).

44. UlicQel - December 29, 2009

And obviously, Kirk put some of the diamonds in the bottom of the barrel and then the gunpowder on top, so as to form a blast cap and absorb some of the force of the explosion.

Of course he did, because he’s the damn captain.

45. Lieutenant - December 29, 2009

Well of CORUSE it didn’t work. A redshirt was firing the cannon!

46. Lieutenant - December 29, 2009


47. Daoud - December 29, 2009

Perhaps the Metrons not only make gunmetal bamboo (it was said to be an *artificial* planetoid both in the script and on air)… but mixed into the potassium nitrate some of that pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PTEN) that the shoe bomber, and the very recent underpants bomber tried to use on those planes….

So Kirk had his chemistry wrong, and recited the wrong nitrate…

Those sneaky Metrons.

48. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

No matter how you slice it, Kirk was able to bamboo-zle the Gorn!

49. Andy Patterson - December 29, 2009


50. HelenofPeel - December 29, 2009

It wasn’t bamboo. It only looked like bamboo. It was really an organic titanium bamboo tree…

51. Admiral Waugh - December 29, 2009

This is like constructing an engine that can go to warp speed and then saying, “Gee whiz, we can’t make warp speed. MYTH BUSTED.” It’s good entertainment, but the circumstances are substantially different. You’d have t go to that exact locale with those exact materials. It wasn’t Earth. We don’t know if it was proper bamboo.

Myth so-not-busted.

52. Syn4Ever - December 29, 2009

Star Trek NEVER lies!

53. jr - December 29, 2009

Clearly they anticipated that Kirk would die. Hence, the RED shirt.

54. jr - December 29, 2009

There is no way to bust this myth. How can you test alien bamboo? Yet alone the mythical Gorn.

55. Ceti Alpha 5 - December 29, 2009

Alien bamboo….really…that’s your argument.

Given the fact that hand-mixed gun powder doesn’t work, it wouldn’t of matter anyway.


56. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

Ah, but Metron-made hand-mixed gunpowder ALWAYS works!

57. Chris - December 29, 2009

Okay, if it WAS alien bamboo, and it WAS alien chemicals, then Kirk had no experience with it and no expectation that it would work. So you’re telling me that Kirk is thinking, “Hmm, these chemicals LOOK ten times stronger, so this thing that I KNOW won’t work just might do the trick on this alien planet!” That’s about as ludicrous as Luke saying he planned everything that happened when he rescued Han from Jabba.

“First I’ll send them the droids and they’ll put R2 on the Sail Barge. Then we’ll send Leia and Chewie to get captured. Then I’LL get captured, and kill the Rancor. Jabba will have no choice but to put us ALL on the Sail Barge and take us to the Pit of Cacoon and feed us to the Sarlac. Now here’s where it gets tricky…”

I’m sorry to have to tell you this kids, but TV and movies are fake.

58. jonboc - December 29, 2009

Unless the Gorn and Kirk were transported to Earth, where all conditions and materials of the test would be equal, the mythbuster’s results mean nothing.

59. DancesWithKlingons - December 29, 2009

There are FOUR words that will always make the Mythbusters cringe when it comes to Hollywood/Star Trek myths:


60. James Heaney - December 29, 2009

Folks, somebody’s got to say it.


61. Sarah Stroud - December 29, 2009

Nah, it’s not a disaster. Star Trek is entertainment, and this in my opinion, was a compliment to it.

62. Sarah Stroud - December 29, 2009

Sorry, horrible grammar

Star Trek is entertainment and in my opinion, this was a compliment to it.

63. Mindmelt - December 29, 2009

Maybe the Mithbusters guys will next test the “mith” that the Enterprise can travel back in time by going around the Sun.

And, if they confirm that mith, they should go back in time and remove the lens flares, get rid of the Bud brewery, put Shatner in the movie, and so on…..

64. Daryl - December 29, 2009

It would have worked if the shirt had been green … they jinxed it with the red one!

65. Zebonka - December 29, 2009

Where’s Kari?!? I want to see Kari in a hot redskirt

66. BringBackTheShat - December 29, 2009

The red shirt did him in along with the lack of alien bamboo and alien gunpowder ingredients, and their lack of skill mixing alien gunpowder compared to Kirks.

67. James Heaney - December 29, 2009

@ #61, 62. Sarah Stroud:

THIS IS A DISASTER is an old reference to an amusing fiasco we had on TrekMovie a long while ago. It’s a parody of fans who take the minutiae too seriously. Links:

That being said: I agree with alien bamboo. :P

68. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

Sung to “That Voodoo”

“That bamboo that you do
The diamonds fly through you
And no one can do the bamboo
You do
Do to Gorn yeah…”

69. Allen Williams - December 29, 2009

I don’t get why every one is against Jessi. I think shes cute and adds some new verity to the show. When Kari comes back (don’t get me wrong i like her better) I hope Jessi stays with them.

70. The Angry Klingon (without a trenchcoat) - December 29, 2009

…I just hope they leave Chuck Norris alone…..

71. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

Norris wears a worse rug than Shatner!

72. ryanhuyton - December 29, 2009

I kinda figured the “bamboo cannon” experiment would fail. I always believed that it wouldn’t work in real life. In the episode, it was all for dramatic effect, no more, no less.

#67 and others: THIS IS A DISASTER is an actual phrase from a “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode. In “Tears of The Prophets”, Weyoun was furious at Gul Dukat after learning that the former Cardassian leader had caused the collapse of the wormhole. Weyoun said …”THIS IS A DISASTER!…” when expressing his anger and disbelief.

73. Dayton Ward - December 29, 2009

As I said earlier today, the reason the MYTHBUSTERS folks didn’t get their Gorn cannon to work is simple: No one on the crew is JAMES F*CKING KIRK. That’s why he’s the captain.


74. TomBot3000 - December 29, 2009

Um, yeah, I recently “watched” a Mythbuster that “busted” a Dukes of Hazzard stunt, and you know, it works in the movie/show because it has to! Mythbusters is a fun show, but aside from the it’s overly drawn out teases, it’s not something to take too seriously. Come on, everyone knows that Capt. Kirk has some improbility generator on his side! ;-)

75. Harry Ballz - December 29, 2009

Kirk, like Han Solo, would be the first to remind you, “never tell me the odds!”

76. TK - December 29, 2009

Itsgood to see the cannon from canon…… :P

77. Harry Ballz - December 30, 2009


I already used that joke in the Mythbusters thread of a few pages ago…

78. ryanhuyton - December 30, 2009

#77 You should have gotten a copyright for it then, heh heh! :-)

79. Harry Ballz - December 30, 2009

Nah, it’s only Harlan Ellison who pulls crap like that!!

80. ryanhuyton - December 30, 2009

#79 Careful! There might be tomatoes and eggs thrown in your direction! :-) Heh heh!

81. Tox Uthat - December 30, 2009

Was Mythbusters filmed in the Prime universe or the new alternative u’verse?

82. That guy... - December 30, 2009

“you can’t make homemade gun powder”

Excuse me? And just where did the ancient Chinese get theirs? They certainly didn’t pop off down to the local gun shop.

83. Krik Semaj - December 30, 2009

You can make gunpowder at home. I have done it. The chemicals they used on the show are correct, but you need a binding agent to produce the explosive power. Usually a heated water/alcohol mix is used for this, and then the slurry is dried. That is what gives you “real” black powder.

84. Frederick Von Fronkensteen - December 30, 2009

I’ll never be able to watch this episode againand believe in it. Thanks, Mythbusters, for raping my chidlhood!

85. Zebonka - December 30, 2009

Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against Jess, she’s awesome. But I mean, they’ll probably never do another Trek myth and there’ll never be another chance to get Kari all Yeoman’d up!

86. Harry Ballz - December 30, 2009


Congrats, Krik! The FBI should be kicking in your door any second now!

87. Bill Lutz - December 30, 2009

At last,
Now I can sleep soundly knowing that time and money went to make such a useless show as Mythbusters to prove that the GORN CANNON didn’t work.

88. Andy Patterson - December 30, 2009

Hey, Erik Gates of Mythbusters is dead. Crazy. Sad.

89. SChaos1701 - December 30, 2009

LOL at some of you taking this too seriously. This was a fun little mini-myth episodes. Some of you really need to get lives and just chill out.

90. Dennis Bailey - December 30, 2009

#58: “Unless the Gorn and Kirk were transported to Earth, where all conditions and materials of the test would be equal, the mythbuster’s results mean nothing.”

Just when you think that Trekkies can’t get more defensive and thin-skinned… LOL

91. SChaos1701 - December 30, 2009


That’s what I’m thinking. They’re making me look bad as a Trek fan.

92. Scott B. here. - December 30, 2009

Re: #40 – I’m with Randall. Good explanation, sir.

Fun myth, well done by the MB team. Loved Tory’s “Are you kidding?! KIRK!”

Now if I can just get that earwax candle sequence out of my mind….

Scott B. out.

93. Enc - December 30, 2009

any side by side shot comparison of MB v ST gorn cannon?

my problem was the
thickness of the bamboo
the length of the cannon
the distance of the gorn
the diameter of the twine also (did they wind it the right number of times)

and what did they use for diamonds? (as long as they were strong enough to survive such a blast) did they?

as too kirk and the gun poweder recipe. we dont know of such things. seriously. we know OF it. and maybe HEARD and MAYBE remember the reciepe. But KIRK on the other hand. He went to the academy. his training might include such knowledge and experiance far beyond what we could get. I know, ‘its gun powder’.

its not busted. i didnt hear you say that.

94. Captain Robert April - December 30, 2009

I think the most critical aspect is that they did their recreation at the Alameda bomb range, and not Vasquez Rocks.

C’mon, Discovery Channel, pony up with the gas money! Let’s try this again and do it right this time!

95. Captain Robert April - December 30, 2009

Just checked out the Mythbusters message board, and the first post on the “Errors in the Gorn Cannon Myth” discussion thread points out that they had the cannon pointing backwards, i.e., Kirk’s cannon had the roped off section towards the front, with the gunpowder and diamonds only going in about six inches or so, whereas the MB team had the stuff clear down at the end.

Now they HAVE to revisit this one!

96. Admiral Crane - December 31, 2009

Jamie and Adam should get to work on constructing a working warp drive. Buster will test it.

97. Admiral Crane - December 31, 2009

My thought on the gun powder issue is that I got the impression from the episode that the gun powder wasn’t really strong enough to fire the diamonds anywhere near the speed of bullets. The Gorn looked like he was stunned more than anything else. I don’t think Kirk’s cannon shot the diamonds into him, they just hit him hard enough to KO him.

98. Enc - December 31, 2009

uh yeah.

it was the atmospheric conditions of the vasquez rocks area that alowed the cannon to work.

i say they need to revisit this one.

99. Entrprisingguy - December 31, 2009

Did anyone hear that Eric Died on Dec. 20th?

I can’t believe that more hasn’t been reported on this.

RIP Eric.

100. Hat Rick - December 31, 2009

I said it before and I’ll say it again: It was ALIEN bamboo. Stronger than titanium.

IOW, it was unobtainium.

So, myth busted?


101. Harry Ballz - January 1, 2010

Any word of the myth being busted is a myth!

102. Hat Rick - January 1, 2010

Yesh, indeed. It would be a mythstake!


103. Harry Ballz - January 1, 2010

Me mythstaken????

104. Björn Johansson - March 9, 2010

It was nothing wrong with the gun powder or the canon.
The fault was in the loading.
The gunpowder must be very tightly packed in with paper or cloth and perhaps sand or dirt to allow the pressure build up before the bang.
If you follow these simple roles you will have a nice explosion.
I know, because I did exacly this experiment when I was aroud fourteen years of age. Not with bamboo but with a steel pipe.

105. DC - February 17, 2012

Why doesn’t hand-mixing work? Gunpowder has been around long before there was machine mixing. is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.