Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Star Trek: A Private Little War

Episode: "A Private Little War"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 19
Original Air Date: February 2, 1968
via Star Trek Fact Check
"A Private Little War" is one of Star Trek's more blatantly allegorical episodes. The Enterprise visits a planet where Captain Kirk had a formative experience as a younger officer.  He is surprised to find that the peaceful, primitive society he left has developed fire arms, suggesting external influence.  Sure enough, the Klingons have been sharing technology with one faction in order to further their own political interests.  This puts the Federation in the position of having to similarly fortify the other side - at least, that's Kirk's position.  Dr. McCoy does his best to convince him otherwise but to no avail.

All of this is an obvious metaphor for United States involvement in Vietnam, the front-burner issue in 1968.  No time for subtlety, either - Kirk and Bones reference 1960s Earth directly in their discussion of the matter.  Kirk takes the American government's position, Bones takes that of the war opposition.  Interestingly, Spock isn't able to weigh in on the matter as he's recovering from a gunshot wound back on the ship.  No place for logic when discussing matters of war?


Nancy Kovack plays the part of Nona, the beautiful, ambitious and manipulative wife of Tyree, tribal leader and old friend of Kirk's.  The early Star Trek writers were certainly drawn to the Lady MacBeth types.
via The Land of Cerpts and Honey
Kovack was born March 11, 1935 in Flint, Michigan.  She graduated from the University of Michigan at the age of 19.  Her acting career started in television as one of Jackie Gleason's Glea Girls.  She had guest appearances on numerous shows, including five on Bewitched.  Her highest-profile big screen role was Medea in Jason and the Argonauts.

Kovack has been married to the great Zubin Mehta since 1969.  The two met while he was conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


  1. I remember Spock being shot, but I don't remember anything else about the episode.
    I can understand leaving Spock out of it, though, especially if they weren't attempting to arrive at a conclusion.

    1. Well, there is a conclusion in the sense that Kirk got his way. It's presented as a genuine dilemma: no option is particularly appealing. I don't know what the logical choice in the situation would be. Maybe the writers didn't either.

  2. This was the one where Nurse Chapel is required to hit Spock repeatedly in the face. The episode was full of strange images of that sort.

    1. Every time I see Nurse Chapel, I wish she were a more prominent character in the series.

  3. Replies
    1. Good question. Though people bent on war always seem able to find an excuse, or invent one.

  4. Nancy Kovack makes me quiver and quake.

    1. Certainly a beautiful woman. And exactly seven years after this post, she's still alive.