A Private Little War

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"A Private Little War"
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 19
Directed by Marc Daniels
Story by Jud Crucis
Teleplay by Gene Roddenberry
Featured music Gerald Fried
Cinematography by Jerry Finnerman
Production code 045
Original air date February 2, 1968 (1968-02-02)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Return to Tomorrow"
Star Trek: The Original Series (season 2)
List of Star Trek: The Original Series episodes

"A Private Little War" is the nineteenth episode of the second season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast on February 2, 1968, and repeated on August 23, 1968. The screenplay was written by Gene Roddenberry, based on a story by Don Ingalls under the pseudonym Jud Crucis, and directed by Marc Daniels. It was intended as an allegory about America's involvement in the Vietnam War.[1]

In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise discovers Klingon interference in the development of a formerly peaceful planet and joins them in what becomes an arms race.


On stardate 4211.4, the Federation starship USS Enterprise orbits the planet Neural, a primitive world that Captain Kirk has visited before. Down on the planet, Kirk and First Officer Spock notice a group of villagers apparently preparing for an ambush. Kirk is surprised to see them with firearms, and their quarry seems to be a group of Hill People, one of whom Kirk recognizes. Forbidden to use phasers, Kirk throws a rock toward the villagers, causing one of their guns to go off. A chase ensues and Spock is shot.

Once back aboard the Enterprise, Spock is taken to sickbay. Sensors detect a Klingon vessel in orbit around the planet, and Kirk suspects the Klingons of having supplied the firearms to the villagers.

Kirk returns with McCoy, both in native dress, to investigate. The two are attacked by a mugato,[note 1] which bites Kirk with its poisonous fangs before McCoy can kill it with his phaser. McCoy is unable to call for help, as the Enterprise has left orbit to avoid detection by the Klingons.

A friendly group of Hill People finally arrive and take Kirk and McCoy to their cave, where Kirk discovers that his friend Tyree is now their leader. Tyree is married to Nona, a Kahn-ut-tu woman who can cure the mugato bite. Nona has been urging Tyree to acquire firearms for their tribe.

On hearing of Kirk's arrival, Nona enters the cave and spies McCoy using his phaser to heat rocks. Nona is intrigued and quizzes Tyree about the mysterious guests. She then proceeds to treat Kirk, pressing a mahko root into cuts on their hands. At the conclusion of the ritual she claims that Kirk is now hers, and Tyree explains that, according to legend, he will be unable to refuse her anything as a result of the treatment.

When Kirk recovers, he asks Tyree about the villagers' weapons. Tyree says he saw them for the first time a year ago and believed the villagers were making them. Kirk and Tyree decide to reconnoiter the village that night. Once there, they locate a forge in which they find a chrome steel drill and virtually carbon-free iron, evidence of outsiders' involvement. Soon a Klingon appears with the village leader, who discuss the manufacture of improved weapons. Kirk and McCoy surprise and overpower them, taking a flintlock weapon and escaping with Tyree's help.

The next day, Kirk shows the Hill People how to use the weapon, but Tyree refuses to handle it. McCoy protests, but Kirk counters that both warring parties must be put on an equal footing if both are to survive.

Nona then makes a play for Kirk with the help of narcotic herbs. A mugato attacks Nona and Kirk vaporizes it with his phaser. Nona then knocks Kirk unconscious, flees with the phaser, and coming upon a group of villagers, offers them the weapon. Not believing her story, they assault her. When Kirk, McCoy, and Tyree appear, the villagers believe she has led them into a trap, and kill her.

Tyree now demands more "fire stick" weapons to avenge his wife's death. Kirk reluctantly orders Mr. Scott to manufacture and beam down a hundred flintlocks for the tribesmen. Mr Scott questions the unusual order, and Kirk confirms it, calling the weapons "serpents for the Garden of Eden."


Don Ingalls' first draft of the script had specific references to the Vietnam War, such as Mongolian type clothes and a character described as a "Ho Chi Minh" type. Other early ideas included Kirk's friendship with Tyree developing completely during Kirk's second visit to the planet and a personal conflict between Kirk and Krell the Klingon.[2]

Episode credit title shows as "Gumato" as this was creature's original name


  1. ^ A horned white-furred gorilla-like creature, pronounced "mu-GAT-u"


  1. ^ Solow, Herbert; Justman, Robert (June 1997). Inside Star Trek The Real Story. Simon & Schuster. p. 356. ISBN 0-671-00974-5.
  2. ^ Allan Asherman (1989). The Star Trek Compendium. Titan Books. p. 90. ISBN 1-85286-221-1.

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