45 "A Private Little War"

(airdate: February 2, 1968)

Story: Jud Crucis [pseudonym for Don Ingalls]      Teleplay: Gene Roddenberry
Director: Marc Daniels

Nona: Nancy Kovack
Dr. M'Benga: Booker Bradshaw
Apella: Arthur Bernard

Tyree: Michael Witney
Krell: Ned Romero
The Mugato: Janos Prohaska

Stardate: 4211.4

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is investigating a planet for potential useful plants when the landing party discovers evidence of technology beyond the cultural level of the planet's inhabitants, with flintlocks instead of bows and arrows. Kirk, having previously surveyed the planet and made contact with the some of the natives, elects to go undercover to determine what's happening with the other natives. He's attacked by a large white ape-like creature, the Mugato, but his friend, Tyree, has his wife Nona heal Kirk. Kirk and McCoy do reconnaissance and uncover evidence of Klingon interference in the village of Tyree's enemy. Kirk, over McCoy's objections, reluctantly decides to equip Tyree's people with flintlocks as well, in order to maintain a balance of power, but Tyree doesn't want to fight; his tribe is peaceful. Nona, frustrated by Tyree's indecision, steals Kirk's phaser to trade with the villagers, but they try to rape her instead. The villagers are scared off by the arrival of Tyree, McCoy, and Kirk, who had noticed the missing phaser, but not before one of the villagers kills Nona. Tyree, angered and full of grief, announces his intention to fight, and so Kirk chooses to give him a set of flintlocks.

Whoops!: What's the Klingons' goal here? There's no evidence that this is a planet of any strategic importance, and in fact it's been designated as off-limits to both the Federation and the Klingons, so it's not like they're trying to get rid of the Federation presence or something. So what point is there in surreptitiously arming just the villagers? Did Tyree unintentionally insult the Klingons somehow, and they just want revenge? Because that makes about as much sense as anything we're presented with. [There seems to be a suggestion that the Klingons want to turn the place into a Klingon colony, and that they figure if it looks like the villagers naturally reached the point where they wanted Klingon help then the treaty wouldn't apply. But it still seems like a strange plan.]
      We're also told how peaceful this planet is, yet the villagers seem quite happy to wipe out the hill people - setting ambushes for them, even. This is apparently because the villagers learned that when they had superior firepower, they could take what they wanted instead of trading for it. So this thought had never occurred to them before the Klingons showed up?
     The end credits misspell mugato as "gumato". ["Gumato" was in fact the original spelling, but DeForest Kelley reportedly kept mispronouncing it as "mugato", so everyone else just followed suit - but they forgot to change the credits to match.]

Cringe Lines: McCoy: "Since Tyree won't fight, he will be one of the first to die." Kirk: "Well, war isn't a good life, but it's... life."
      Scotty, questioning Kirk's order to make a hundred flintlocks: "A hundred what?" Kirk: "A hundred... serpents. Serpents for the Garden of Eden."

Don't Wear a Red Shirt: A bad day for the main cast, as Kirk is savaged by a poisonous mugato, Spock is shot in the back with a flintlock, and McCoy is grazed in the arm by a different flintlock.

Alien Love: Kirk, thanks to some botanical influence, falls under Nona's spell, although it doesn't last long before they're attacked by a mugato.

Library Computer: The planet [named Neural in the script, though not on screen] is an Earth-like class M world, with the part we see looking a lot like southern California in the summer (the trees, grass, etc.). Thirteen years ago, Kirk led the first planetary survey (which was also his first survey) and observed a very primitive culture who had barely learned to forge iron and who were very peaceful; they had bows and arrows for hunting but there was no fighting among themselves. Kirk recommended in his report that "Inhabitants superior in many ways to humans. Left alone, they undoubtedly someday will develop a remarkably advanced and peaceful culture"; thus, Starfleet's orders stated that there was to be no interference with social development. While on his survey, Kirk befriended a native named Tyree, to whom he revealed his true nature as an alien observer; Tyree pledged to keep Kirk's secret, and he and Kirk were made brothers.
     Starfleet has returned to this planet because it believes (correctly, according to Dr. McCoy) that the roots and soil cultures found on the planet could be "a medical treasure house". Because of Kirk's earlier survey, there is an express order not to interfere with the culture's development - an order which extends to forbidding the use of phasers [in view of the natives]. While on the planet, however, the landing party uncovers evidence that the Klingons have been providing the villagers with advanced technology, but that they've been attempting to disguise their actions as natural, albeit rapid, progress. This has included showing them how to forge iron and providing parts for flintlocks that have been made to look homemade. The Klingons have been interfering with the culture for about a year, and the villagers have taken advantage, using their weapons to attack the hill people. The leader of the villagers and the primary contact with the Klingons is named Apella. The villagers that we see are dressed in loose long-sleeved tunics, with pants and strapped boots. They have silver starburst designs painted on the center of their foreheads, and all the villagers we see appear to have dark hair.
     The hill people we see are a simple folk, encamped near a cave. Their leader is Tyree, a man of peace [at least until the villagers kill his wife]. They're blonde (with the exception of Nona, who we'll get to in a moment) and are wearing short-sleeved tunics that have been fashioned from animal hide, with hide trousers and boots like the villagers. They also have silver decorations painted on the center of their foreheads. Tyree does not wish to fight the villagers, even to protect his people. He's married to a woman named Nona, who is a Kahn-ut-tu woman. Unlike the rest of the hill people, she has black hair with two long braids in the front, and a silver laurel branch design on her right cheek. [The suggestion is that Nona is from a different tribe; note that all the other women we see (and there are a couple, in simple dark brown dresses) all have blonde hair like the rest of the tribe, and that her dress (black slacks and short, bright orange top) is considerably different from anyone else's.] According to Nona, Kahn-ut-tu women are very rare "in this land", and men who are involved with them become great leaders. The Kahn-ut-tu have studied the local herbs and roots and thus have an extensive knowledge of local medicine. Nona knows of a green plant that, when smelled and/or rubbed on the skin, acts as a powerful aphrodisiac, causing those affected to become besotted to the point of not caring about anything else. She is also familiar with the mahko root, a moving brown root that is used to cure a poisonous mugato bite. The root is placed on the victim's wound, while the healer cuts their own hand and also places it on the root. This causes both wounds to be completely healed and the poison to be neutralized. According to Nona, their blood both passed through the mahko root, meaning that their souls have been together. Legend says that when a man and a woman have been joined in this manner, he can refuse her no wish [but we don't see any actual evidence that this is true, despite what Nona later claims].
     A mugato is an ape-like carnivorous creature with a large tail, native to the planet, with white fur and a row of spines running down its back. It has a large horn on its head and poisonous fangs. Mugatos travel with their mates; they don't stay in one place for very long unless one of the pair is killed, in which case the other will remain nearby. They travel at night, and they're considered very dangerous. Starfleet doesn't have an antitoxin to combat the mugato poison.
     According to the [Organian peace] treaty, the Klingons are allowed to conduct scientific missions on the planet, but they're forbidden to interfere with the local culture. Kirk claims that research isn't the Klingon way.
     In the late 20th century, a series of brush wars were fought on the Asian continent by two superpowers. Neither side could pull out and the wars went on for many bloody years. The only "solution" to the conflict was maintaining a balance of power. [In case you haven't figured it out, this is a reference to the Vietnam War.]
     When a Vulcan is severely injured, they can go into a form of healing trance, where they focus all their strength, blood, and antibodies on damaged organs; this makes their biological readings look very low. They remain aware of their surroundings during this self-induced hypnosis, but they can't respond to outside stimulus as they must concentrate on repairing the damaged tissues. A Vulcan will wait until the last possible moment, and then have someone strike them: the pain focuses them and helps them fight back to consciousness.
     Dr. M'Benga is a tall, handsome, black male doctor with short hair and dark eyes. He interned in a Vulcan ward and consequently has a good deal of experience with Vulcan patients.
     The Vulcan heart is where the human liver is​ in the body.
     Coranalin is a type of drug.

Final Analysis: "You would let him die when you have weapons to make him powerful and safe? Then he has the wrong friends. And I have the wrong husband." The Vietnam reference is a bit misleading, as (other than the balance of power stuff) this isn't really "about" Vietnam, but rather a more general examination of what would happen when that power balance shifted between two peoples, and what it would take to make a pacifist society warlike in the face of a powerful enemy. But it's a bit unfortunate that so much of the plot rests on the actions of Nona, who's every inch the femme fatale version of Lady Macbeth; Nona's character is thus very unsympathetic, and this part of the story hasn't aged particularly well. Combine that with the rather irrelevant Spock subplot and this episode ends up rather less than the sum of its parts.

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