Mythbusters Take On Star Trek Gorn Cannon – Recap w/ Pics & Video

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



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Jessi Combs go away!

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!

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

Busted? Darn.

Still, Redshirt Buster makes me a happy nerd.

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

#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.

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

They shouldn’t have used earth bamboo.

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.

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.

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:

LOL Trek canon…

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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

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

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


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.

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.

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.

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

“Brain and brain! What is brain?”

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

#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.


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.

This was a fun one. I love these guys.

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

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.

I’m going to boycott Mythbusters.

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

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

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

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

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”!

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.

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.


Another Trek legend…Gorn With The Wind!

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

“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).

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.

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


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.

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


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