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Star Trek - The Original Series, Episode 45: A Private Little War [VHS]

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Apr 15, 1994)
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Product Details

  • Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, Bill Blackburn
  • Directors: Marc Daniels
  • Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Don Ingalls
  • Producers: Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry, Robert H. Justman
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: CBS Paramount International Television
  • VHS Release Date: April 15, 1994
  • Run Time: 46 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6300213498
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,320 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The witch-wife of a tribal leader from a primitive planet cures Kirk of a deadly bite, making him succumb to her magic. Can Kirk shake her spell before it's too late?

TREK TRIVIA
Notice in the end credits that Janos Prohaska is billed as the Gumato, not the Mugato. William Shatner mispronounced it during filming and the incorrect name stuck!
This episode was one of many that displayed Gene Roddenberry's feelings about U.S. involvement in Vietnam, as evidenced by Kirk's speech to Dr. McCoy.

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The crew of the Enterprise visits an idyllic, pre-industrialized world inhabited by the docile hill-people and the greedy villagers. Not incorporated into the Federation of Planets, this pre-techno world is supposed to be free of any interference by either the Federation or the Klingon empire. Nevertheless, on a routine survey, the villagers attack the hill people with crude rifles - though that requires technology beyond them. With Mr. Spock severely injured, Kirk stays behind looking for evidence that the Klingons are illegally supplying technology that will allow the villagers to conquer the planet and rule it for the Klingons. Reuniting with the Hill People, among whom Kirk once lived, Kirk hooks up with their leader, Tyree and his wife, the bewitching Nona. Sneaking into the Villagers' stronghold, Kirk finds evidence of non-indigenous technology (carbon-free metal tools are a big tip-off). Though implicating the Klingons, Kirk now faces an even bigger quandry - allow the rapacious villagers to conquer the planet, or give the hill-people the means to fight back. Either alternative gurantees bloodshed, with the decision coming down to ensuring either the genocide of the hill people or a ceaseless and bloody war with the villagers. Dr. McCoy, who stayed planetside with Kirk, provides the perfect moral foil for Kirk who is defiantly pro-defense.
I must have seen this episode a hundred times as a kid, never knowing that it was obviously a take on the war in Vietnam which had already escalated by then. The weird part is how this film makes as the enemies, the urbanized and technologically advanced villagers, which is more analogous to the Southern Vietnamese regime. Like the very best sci-fi, when it must be topical, the script is dignified enough to explore both sides.
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I once overlooked this episode and it took me a number of years to realize just how good it is. Along with Friday's Child, the Cloud Minders and Operation:Annihilate, this is one of the most underated episodes of the series. Yes, the Mugato looked like it would put a gleem in Irwin Allen's eye and the Natives wear third rate poofy wigs, but the story is just terrific. They took a foreign intervention story and stuck it out on a primitve planet plus Kirk fights a healer's influence and Spock fights off a possibly fatal attack. This episode is well written and carried out in fine fashion.
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Kirk takes McCoy and Spock on a reunion to a lesser-developed world he visited as a lieutenant, garbed in native costume to preserve the Prime Directive. When Spock is wounded by gunfire on a world where firearms shouldn't exist, Kirk realizes the Klingons have interfered by introducing the advanced weaponry to the nearby villagers. Faced with the decimation of old friend Tyree's hill people, Kirk wants to start an old-fashioned arms race to keep the balance of power -- and halt the erosion of innocence in Tyree's world.
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I loved the episode so much when I first saw it six years ago,that it inspired me to begin an original serial using a Nona type character as the lead, and Tyree's people as my character's adopted people. Some reading this would say "so what?" but others would say that if an episode that has such good writing can inspire a budding writer, it's gotta be good! As to the Viet Nam parallel that people are referring to, I see the episode as just good story telling on it's own merit.
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The first half dozen times I watched this episode (as a kid) I took it as pro-Vietnam-war propaganda. Later I watched it and realized that it's a CRITIQUE of the Vietnam War. The ending is a little ambiguous, but I really believe that Kirk changes his mind about the rightness of a "Vietnamization" policy at the very last moment.

There are things to quibble about -- such as the crappy California landscape used to portray "Eden" and the incredibly cheap wigs thrown on the planet denizens -- but a couple of things are outstanding. First, Kirk and McCoy argue over what is essentially a Federation "Vietnam" policy, made obvious by Kirk's reference to "twentieth-century brush wars in Asia." The great thing about this scene is that both Kirk and McCoy give their side the best possible argument. McCoy retorts, "Yes, I remember. They went on for year after bloody year!"

We are given reasons to mistrust Kirk. As McCoy points out, Kirk is under the influence of a local witch (Nancy Kovack) who is greedy, seductive, and selfish and trying to get him to provide her people with guns. But Kirk stands his ground. "Say you're right, that I am under her influence. What would YOU do, Doctor?" You see, the Klingons are arming one side in this fight and Kirk feels the need to back the anti-Klingon proxies. It's the hill people vs. the village people. It could've been the river people vs. the mountain people. Whatever. These primitive folks are just pawns in the Federation-Klingon Cold War.

Another outstanding moment is Shatner's acting of that final line. It is a difficult scene -- the entire episode depends on it -- and Shatner delivers the episode's ambiguous, but ultimately anti-war statement. Flintlocks? "Serpents, Mr. Scott, serpents for the Garden of Eden. Just beam us up.
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