Monday, August 02, 2021

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 19 (A Private Little War)

Many of the stories in Star Trek were allegories.  The problem with this is that sometimes, the meaning is lost.  Take, for instance, A Private Little War.  The Enterprise visits a planet Captain Kirk had visited years before.  The inhabitants are relatively primitive.  They shouldn’t have weapons at all, which makes it surprising when one of the tribes has guns.

Kirk is good friends with a member of another tribe, The Hill People, who doesn’t have weapons.  Kirk’s friend is a member of The Hill People, which allows Kirk to get some information.  The other villagers started using weapons a while back and it was assumed that they were making them.  It turns out that the Klingons are supplying the weapons, which created an imbalance in power.

Now, the Klingons aren’t bound by The Prime Directive, but Kirk is.  He can’t use phasers in front of The Hill People.  He really shouldn’t be giving weapons to them, either, but he feels the best thing for The Hill People is to be put on equal footing. 

The episode was supposed to be a commentary on the Vietnam War.  A lot of that is lost on me, as I’m not very familiar with the context, but some things do come through.  The most notable is that there really isn’t any good option for Kirk.  He can’t stop the Klingons from supplying one tribe.  Even if they seemed to agree, they could turn around and go right back to supplying weapons.

Supplying The Hill People with weapons does seem like it would at least be fair, but more weapons would necessarily balance power.  It could just lead to more violence.  There’s nothing preventing one tribe from stealing the other’s weapons or just killing everyone.  And the Klingons could just as easily supply better weapons.

Escalation solves nothing, but doing nothing isn’t the right answer, either.  I suppose Kirk could call it in.  The Federation and Starfleet must have someone who would be better equipped to handle it.  Still, there is no real good answer to the problem.  The options are to let one group kill the other or make it so both sides could kill each other and hope that neither does.

This is one of those episodes where I would have liked to see some follow up.  There were a few cases where it was a shame we never get to see the consequences of what happened.  This is one of them.


 IMDb page

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