Star Trek

Season 2 Episode 19

A Private Little War

Aired Unknown Feb 02, 1968 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
144 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk becomes involved in an arms race when the Klingons equip a native people with superior weaponry.

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  • Kirk visits a planet that the Klingons are interfering with and is wounded by a deadly creature.

    This planet-based Vietnam War allegory by Don Ingalls (an old friend of Gene Roddenberry's credited under a pseudonym) is a simplified version of how some Americans viewed the Vietnam conflict in the late 1960s. (In a way, it's interesting to see what the writer comes up with considering he doesn't know how the real war - which is even referenced in the dialogue - will end. That said, with what we know now, the episode's story is not a very good representation of what was really going on).

    With the the war, an old friend of Kirk's, the Klingons, a mysterious woman, a wild animal, and a B story with Spock on the ship, the episode probably has too many elements; it's like a redo of "Friday's Child" with more complexity. The interesting (and most unique) about the Spock story is that it's really a brief comedy runner that clears the deck for the main thrust of the episode to be a straight up Kirk/McCoy story. As great as Nimoy is, Kelley is his equal, and the episode benefits from leaning on his talent and exploring the always interesting Kirk/McCoy relationship. That said, even Kelley has difficulty carrying the episode when the writer uses this opportunity to employ parallel scenes where Kirk and Spock (on the planet and aboard the ship) struggle to regain consciousness. It's something that probably looked cute on paper, but it basically turns one quarter of the episode over to Kelley and the guest stars, and only one of those actors is decent. (I'll leave it to you to guess which). The most notable guest appearance is that of Nancy Kovak, who plays Nona, a shaman of sorts and the focal point of the story. It doesn't take long before the episode establishes two notable aspects to the character: A, she knows her husband's a tool, B, she gets really annoying really quickly.

    A planet-based episode that mixes location shooting with stage sets, the setting is actually quite well done, and somewhere in the concept is an interesting story. (The step by step progression of Nona's husband losing his innocence would be a more interesting focal point). Unfortunately, the pieces don't come together, and the result is a bit of a mess. (First season's "Errand of Mercy" does a similar concept better).

    Remastered Version: "Private Little War" gets a basic upgrade with new shots of the Enterprise and a more realistic, Earth-like planet replacing the original's reuse of the "Friday's Child" globe.

  • On a supposedly peaceful, un-advanced planet, Kirk and McCoy become involved in an arms race when a Klingon equips a band of natives with basic weaponry which they have not yet discovered themselves. A hard one to rate...moreless

    I don't really know how to sum up this episode. It has some good bits, and some not so good bits.

    With Mr. Spock being badly wounded in the teaser, it is nice to have a Kirk-McCoy combination for the bulk of the episode. I like Spock, but it makes a change from his logic-driven manner driving the story for once.

    Some don't like the Mugato. Indeed, it is quite obviously a man dressed in a giant white suit with horns on, but at the same time, I personally quite like it when the series goes for such alien beings. I think it was just a result of the limitations and budget of the era that prevented it from looking any better.

    The Klingon of the episode is very good, and probably one of the best Klingons seen in the Original Series; He comes across as very cunning and sly.

    The first half of the episode is by far the better, with a decent story. Later, after Kirk is healed and indebted to Nona, things start to lose their way slightly.

    Kirk's decision to arm both sides equally is very questionable, but at the same time believable, as there seems to be little logical answer to the situation.

    The ending of the episode is very good, with Kirk not sure he has made the right decision.

    As I say, I'm really undecided how to sum this one up; it has some good bits and some weaker bits. In the end they even out and end up as a mostly average instalment.moreless
  • Black wigs vs. blond wigs, which is sillier?

    I have always held a special admiration for this one because it was my late father's favorite episode. I think the script is quite strong and the scene where Kirk is explaining to McCoy about the balance of power is really powerful. I must say Krell was probably the most sublime Klingon characters I've ever seen. He wasn't very nasty, was he? A Klingon putting his arm around someone and saying "A way to shoot farther and straiter."? I admire the way they left you feeling at the end of the show. That desolate music along with Kirk's words. "We're very tired Mr. Spock. Beam us up home."moreless
  • Some plusses and some minuses

    This an episode with some fascinating aspects and some genuine liabilities. On the negative side there's the really terrible white ape creature with the ridiculous rhinocerous horn on its head. There's no reason for this creature to have been included (it really belongs in an episode of LOST IN SPACE) when the producers could easily have found some other way for Kirk to have been stricken down - severe allergic reaction, food poisoning, alien insect bite.

    The second liability is Kirk's solution - arming the peaceful tribe so that the balance of power is re-established. Surely, a security team could have beamed down in the middle of the night, removed the weapons and destroyed the forge. But of course then there would have been no story. So, sloppy, sloppy storytelling.

    On the plus side, that same liability is also one of the episode's strengths. Kirk's answer to the problem. Clearly Kirk is not happy with the solution, but has the strength of character to push his solution onto the situation, despite the protests of Dr McCoy, and the conscience to feel bad about it.

    The final plus is the incredibly sexy and ambitious Nora (played by Nancy Kovack). Kovack had been around tv and low budget films for years yet was just 31 when she made this. She certainly made her mark here as one of the great STAR TREK babes.

    Well worth a look ...moreless
William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Nancy Kovack

Nancy Kovack


Guest Star

Michael Witney

Michael Witney


Guest Star

Ned Romero

Ned Romero


Guest Star

James Doohan

James Doohan

Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett

Nurse Christine Chapel

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (9)

    • Los Angeles can be glimpsed in the background as Nona confronts the villagers with the phaser.

    • When Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam back to the ship in the beginning of the episode, Scotty is in the transporter room with them, and no one is apparently in command on the bridge when a red alert is signaled. When Kirk gets to the bridge, no one is in the captain's chair for him to relieve.

    • In the closing credits, the Mugato is listed as "The Gumato." Reportedly the creature was originally named "Gumato" in the script, but Shatner mispronounced it as "Mugato" and they kept that name.

    • Scotty said that the first firearm that the inhabitants would develop was the flintlock rifle. Actually the first firearm they should have developed would be the matchlock.

    • Right after Spock is shot, the trio beam back up to the ship. During transport the equipment next to McCoy disapears but it doesn't have the glitter effect that usually appears.

    • After Nora heals Kirk and lies down, you can see that she's wearing pumps.

    • The Mugato leaves the same footprints as the White Rabbit in the episode "Shore Leave" (they used the same footage). There's the same problem here, too - the footprints are parallel to each other, which only makes sense if the Mugato is hopping rather then walking.

    • They forget to dub in the communicator beep at the end - Kirk and McCoy are talking and suddenly they both "react" and McCoy pulls his communicator out, even though there is no signal-beep.

    • More sound-dubbing - when the villagers shoot at Kirk, McCoy, and Tyree, there's a powder-burst or two near them at the end but no richochet noise.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Kirk: Spock, ask Scotty how long it would take him to reproduce 100 flintlocks.
      Scotty: I didn't get that exactly, Captain. 100 what?
      Kirk: A hundred serpents. Serpents for the Garden of Eden. We're very tired, Mr. Spock. Beam us up home.

    • Kirk: Research is not the Klingon way.

    • M'Benga: Don't let these low panel readings bother you. I've seen this before in Vulcans. It's their way of concentrating all their strength, blood, and antibodies onto the injured organs. A form of self-induced hypnosis.
      Chapel: You mean he's conscious?
      M'Benga: Well, in a sense. He knows we're here and what we're saying, but he can't afford to take his mind from the tissue he's fighting to heal. I suppose he even knows you were holding his hand.
      Chapel: A good nurse always treats her patients that way. It proves she's interested.

    • Apella: I thought my people would grow tired of killing. But you were right - they see it is easier than trading. And it has its pleasures. I feel it myself. Like the hunt, but with richer rewards.

    • Kirk: We once were as you are. Spears and arrows. There came a time when our weapons grew faster than our wisdom, and we almost destroyed ourselves. We learned from this to make a rule during all our travels never to cause the same to happen to other worlds... just as a man must grow in his own way and his own time.
      Nona: Some men never grow.
      Kirk: Perhaps not as fast or in the way another thinks he should. But we're wise enough to know that we are wise enough not to interfere with the way of a man or another world.

    • Kirk: War isn't a good life, but it's life.

    • Kirk: The only solution is...a balance of power. We arm our side with exactly that much more. A balance of power... the trickiest, most difficult, dirtiest game of them all. But the only one that preserves both sides.

    • Kirk: We are wise enough to know we are wise enough not to interfere with the way of a man or another world.

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

  • NOTES (3)