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Star Trek: A Private Little War

Kirk: "A balance of power. The trickiest, most difficult, dirtiest game of them all, but the only one that preserves both sides."

When you get past the mildly silly white fur monster with horns, the bad wigs, and the wiggling root used to heal Kirk, this is actually a very good episode with something important to say.

The Prime Directive is a critical concept in this series, although it is usually observed in its absence. What do you do when an enemy violates the Prime Directive in such an underhanded way, exploiting a primitive culture while making it look as though the progression was natural? In truth, sad though it was, Kirk's decision to arm the other side at exactly the same level was the only solution. You can't put the genie back in the bottle.

Along with the very sixties cold war metaphor (plus Columbus corrupting the culture of the original inhabitants of North America), "A Private Little War" also did the Garden of Eden much better than "The Apple," with Nona playing the obvious part of the tempted Eve, with Kirk's phaser as the serpent. They apparently recycled the white wigs from "The Apple," but the primitive costumes were much closer to skins or homespun than the white towels and fake flowers (except for Nona's costume, which was mostly black leather and orange fake fur left over from "Friday's Child"). I liked the face jewels, too; it was a nice touch.

I also liked the B plot with Spock's self-induced coma. This episode's Most Obvious Symbolism was the violence that Christine Chapel was forced to inflict on Spock that paralleled the awful decision Kirk made to arm Tyree's people. I also liked Dr. M'Benga. He was fun and matter-of-fact.

And hey, Kirk and Spock are so in tune that they got mortally injured at pretty much the same time. Not to be outdone, McCoy managed to get shot in the arm by a flintlock. Yes, a doctor got a shot in the arm. Ha ha.

Ben says...

The hardest thing about writing something about this episode was selecting where to start. Because, let's face it, we have both the Vulcan Slap Cure and the Mugato.

A cautionary point though. You can start a review with either one, but if you bring either one to a party it will not win you friends. Sure, the Mugato is popular at first, but then it tosses your neighbor's girlfriend out a window and mates with the punch bowl, and suddenly it's all about "are you insane? You can't bring a dangerous science fiction animal to a party, man!" and unsympathetic animal control officers and "preliminary hearings" and all that.

And let me add that, although you will be tempted, this is not, NOT, the time to try the Vulcan slap cure on the host. It will only make things worse. The whole thing just devolves into a violent Star Trek themed episode of Mr. Bean. I am pretty sure that this just proves that I am not going to the right parties. Also, I checked and there is nothing illegal about dyeing a gorilla white and strapping a fake horn to its head (so in your face, ASPCA).

Oh yeah, also this was another great episode which tackled the realities of the Cold War and its collateral damage to people in the developing world in a tremendously thoughtful way at a time when science fiction was still thought of as a kid’s genre. (More about this after I complete my "community service.")

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 4211.4. An unnamed planet that looked an awful lot like the mountains of southern California. In fact, I could swear that I could see the San Fernando Valley in the distance.

— Kirk visited the planet thirteen years ago and became friends with Tyree. Pretty big coincidence that Tyree's people were being victimized by the Klingons, isn't it?

— When Spock was shot, McCoy said he would have died if his heart hadn't been where his liver should be. The splot of green blood made me think of paintball.

— There were no replacements for damaged Vulcan organs on the Enterprise, probably because there is only one Vulcan. But isn't he an important Vulcan? He's important to me.

— Krell the Klingon was a return to the previous Klingon make-up. Those cute little hair tufts were back.

— McCoy used an awful lot of phaser blasts to heat up those rocks. I thought phasers were more powerful than that.

— The Mugato was a terrifically cheesy alien animal with white fur and horns.

— The line about Asian brush wars made me think of "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, never get involved in a land war in Asia." (The Princess Bride)


Nona: "There is an old custom among my people. When a woman saves a man's life, he is grateful."

McCoy: "Since Tyree won't fight, he'll be one of the first to die."

McCoy: "Spock! You're alive?"
Spock: "An illogical question, Doctor, since obviously you are hearing my voice."
McCoy: "Well, I don't know why I was worried. You can't kill a computer."

Three out of four flintlocks,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. What would have happened if Nona lived

  2. So, at no point are we going to address tha whole 'by the way, Tyree, your wife's totally been roofieing you' thing? No? Ok.

  3. As a kid I either missed a lot of the symbolism or rolled my eyes at it; I just want some cool sci fi/fantasy stuff man! As an adult, I appreciate such things for them adding a serious undertone to my entertainment, so this is a very good episode to be sure, horned albino ape and all!

    Some hard decisions to make here, but when one is in a position of authority, it has to be done, and I feel your point about it in the main review and what Kirk had to do is spot on, Billie.


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