Star Trek 2.19: A Private Little War

A Private Little WarA Private Little War” is another head-on clash between Captain Kirk and the Prime Directive, this time on a planet with an iron-age culture. We learn that Kirk spent some time on the planet neural 13 years earlier performing a planetary survey, and befriended a native, Tyree. He beams down with Spock and McCoy to find Tyree’s tribe. Kirk says the natives are perfectly peaceful and gentle. They are surprised to find themselves in the middle of a fight between two groups of men, one armed with bows and arrows, and the other with flintlock guns! Kirk expresses his disbelief that the natives could have advanced their technology from basic iron smelting to flintlocks in just 13 years. He aims a phaser in self defence, to be reminded by Spock that Prime Directive implies, meaning they are barred form using phasers (so why carry them to the planet?). Instead, Kirk throws a rock – I guess the Prime Directive allows maiming natives with familiar weapons. Spock ends up shot and the party retreats to the Enterprise.

McCoy calls in Dr M’Benga, who interned on Vulcan. He gives Spock some treatment, and all McCoy can do is tell Kirk, “He’ll either live or die now, Jim. I don’t know which.” That’s pretty impressive doctoring! Kirk discusses the flintlocks on the bridge, saying he doesn’t believe it took the natives just 13 years to go from smelting iron to inventing guns. Uhura says the same development took 12 centuries on Earth – not just a communications expert, but a history expert too! Around this point, a Klingon ship appears in orbit. Through skilful piloting, Chekov keeps the Enterprise hidden from the Klingons. Kirk decides the Klingons must be arming some of the natives, and decides to beam down again to gather evidence.

Kirk and McCoy go native, dressing in skins, and beam down again. Kirk starts leading them towards Tyree’s camp, but they are attacked by a mugato on the way – a carnivorous ape-like being. It bites Kirk, injecting venom, before McCoy kills it with a phaser (okay, so I guess phasers are allowed against the wildlife). McCoy doesn’t know how to treat the bite, and Kirk, becoming delirious, tells McCoy to take him to Tyree, because his people can cure the venom.

Tyree has become leader of his tribe, and is married to Nona, a mystical witch woman in a bright orange fake fur bikini. She has the power to cure Kirk, and does so in a highly suggestive way, clearly taking a shine to Kirk and treating Tyree like garbage because he’s too pacifistic to steal advanced weapons off Kirk. Also, Tyree wears an incredibly bad white wig, like all the men of his tribe. When Kirk recovers, he and McCoy raid the enemy camp, finding a Klingon teaching the natives how to make the guns.

Back on the Enterprise, Spock stirs and instructs Nurse Chapel (who had been holding his hand and talking to him) to hit him. Dr M’Benga warned her to do anything he said, so she does, but Scotty interrupts and restrains her. M’Benga appears and slaps Spock around until he gains full consciousness. Only then does he explain that it is part of a Vulcan’s self-healing response – the pain helps him return to consciousness. He could have saved a lot of hassle by telling Chapel that beforehand.

On the planet, Kirk starts teaching Tyree’s tribe to fire captured flintlocks. McCoy objects to this breach of the Prime Directive, but Kirk says the Klingons have broken it, and now they need to even things up again to allow natural cultural progression, rather than a slaughter. Nona seduces Kirk with some magical herbs, but Tyree is too pacifistic to shoot him. Nona however runs off with his phaser after seeing it kill a mugato that attacks them, and takes it to the enemy camp, saying it is a powerful weapon. When Kirk and the villagers chase her, the enemy think it’s a trap and stab Nona, killing her. Tyree is angered and asks Kirk for weapons and training, losing his innocence and pacifism. Kirk agrees and goes back to the Enterprise to instruct Scotty to make 100 flintlocks. Scotty is confused, and Kirk wistfully reiterates, “Serpents, serpents for the Garden of Eden.”

It’s a real downer ending, particularly for Star Trek. The moral dilemma is clearly painted, and Kirk had to make the best of a no-win scenario. With a bit of work, this could have been made a good episode, but the execution is a bit heavy handed and clumsy, and the characterisations of Nona and Tyree a bit too black and white. Another average episode to add to the pile in the middle.

Tropes: Prime Directive, Perfect Pacifist People, Going Native, Witch Doctor, Fur Bikini, People Of Hair Colour, Giving Radio To The Romans, Converse With The Unconscious, Hit Me, Dammit!, Cruel To Be Kind, Training The Peaceful Villagers, Downer Ending.
Body count: 2 mugatos (disintegrated by phaser), Nona (stabbed).

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