Star Trek TOS: Kirk Channels American Diplomacy on Rare Occasion

Star Trek TOS: Kirk Channels American Diplomacy on Rare Occasion
Star Trek: A Private Little War

Star Trek: The Original Series

Season 2, Episode 19

A Private Little War

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were exploring plant life on Neural, a primitive planet. They pissed off the locals, who happened to be armed with guns. One of the natives got off an accurate shot, blasting Spock in the back.

The three Starfleet men quickly aborted, beaming back to Enterprise. McCoy immediately conducted emergency surgery on Spock. Meanwhile, Uhura announced a Klingon vessel was hot on the trail of Kirk’s ship. Not a good day for any of the main characters so far. 

Kirk opted not to notify Starfleet brass about the Klingon threat because it might inadvertently tip the enemy of Enterprise’s location. For some reason, Kirk was hellbent on dealing with the natives on Neural and their firearms, so he decided to beam back to the planet without notifying his superiors. With the best intentions, Kirk went rogue. 

Both Kirk and McCoy were ambushed by a ridiculous horned ape soon after returning to the planet. It was a ridiculous creature because it looked like something from a Halloween party. The thing bit Kirk, starting a countdown on his life expectancy. 

Image Courtesy of StarTrekUnabridged on YouTube:

A Private Little War marked the first time to date in the series Kirk and Spock simultaneously faced imminent death. Respectively, each man encountered peril, And both were always in danger at the same time — but this was the first occasion Kirk and Spock were on deathbeds in unison.

On Neural, Kirk had an old friend named Tyree, and McCoy summoned him while Kirk’s medical condition worsened. Much to McCoy’s chagrin, Tyree’s wife performed some witchcraft-like treatment on Kirk in a procedure that was quasi-sensual. Nona, the witch nurse, moaned and gyrated her head as if she was having sex. She passed out, and Kirk returned to life after it was implied he perhaps died.

The situation became awkward when Nona declared Kirk was hers because of the ceremony. McCoy offered a look that insinuated over my dead body

Nona wanted Kirk to aid her mini-civil war on Neural. Naturally, Kirk was skeptical of the idea — he’s an anti-war dude — and tried to dance out of the proposition. Nona was rather hawkish on top of her seductive and moody demeanor and did not react kindly to Kirk’s downplaying of the war invitation. 

As it turned out, the Klingon mention from earlier in the episode was some foreshadowing. A Klingon found his way to Neural, and the plot thickened. Meanwhile, back on Enterprise, Spock recovered from his wound with the help of a nurse slapping pain into him. He needed it to activate his senses. 

All along, the Klingons supplied the weapons to the warring faction of Neural. In response, Kirk instructed Tyree on the use of weapons, which really irritated McCoy. Explaining the notion of “balance of power,” Kirk told the doctor it was best for the planet if both sides had a fair shake. 

The Halloweed ape thing appeared again, taking the fight to Nona and Kirk. During those fisticuffs, Nona snatched Kirk’s phaser after he used it on the goonish ape. She rushed it to the enemy, but they didn’t believe in her sincerity. She was stabbed, setting up a final fight between Kirk and the gun bearers. 

Nona died.

Now bloodthirsty over the death of his wife, Tyree demanded more guns from Kirk. He wanted vengeance. This was the price of Kirk’s decision to endorse a balance of power. 

The parable from this episode is oddly a page out of Americana diplomacy. To avoid decimation and eventual extinction, Kirk convinced viewers both sides should have arms. So, despite inevitable, eventual casualties, he ensured his old friend would at least have the weapons to survive. There was simply no way for Kirk to eradicate weapons from Neural, so he chose the most sensible alternative.

Themes: Diplomacy through Alliance

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His odyssey with Star Trek starts from beginning to finish, watching ‘The Original Series,’ all the way to the present day. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).