** (2 stars out of 5)
"A Private Little War" will never be a favorite of mine. Let's dig in!
Thirteen years ago, Lieutenant Kirk did his first planetary survey on a tranquil Class-M planet where violence was virtually unknown. He stayed with the Hill People (all blonde guys for some reason), and made a friend called Tyree. The planet's inhabitants were just starting their Iron Age. Kirk recommended they be left alone to develop in peace.
Today, however, the return visit results in disaster. Spock is shot in a flintlock skirmish. McCoy, Chapel, and a specialist in Vulcan medicine, Dr. M'Benga, fight to save Spock's life.
The Klingons are lurking around, though this is a hands-off world. Kirk and McCoy don native garb to see what's what. Kirk is soon bitten by a poison monkey called a mugato. Tyree's wife Nona cures the bite with a rare herb and blood magic ritual. By legend, a man healed in this manner is the mental slave of his healer.
Nona is a rare 'khan-ut-tu woman' and, pardon my French, a bloodthirsty bitch. She's ensnared her husband with rage-&-lust inducing herbs, egging him on to seize power through killing.
Kirk tries to explain to Nona why he won't arm Tyree's people. "There came a time when our weapons grew faster than our wisdom and we almost destroyed ourselves. We learned from this to make a rule during all our travels: never to cause the same to happen to other worlds."
Klingons have no such qualms: Commander Krell is arming the Village People (all guys with brown hair but no hard hats or sunglasses) and encouraging them to kill the Hill People and take their women.
Christine Chapel is having a rough day because the method for bringing a Vulcan out of a healing trance is a hearty slapping, which she cannot bring herself to administer. Dr. M'Benga knew this procedure, doesn't tell her in advance, and gets her body-slammed by Scotty who thinks she's beating an unconscious man for no reason. Hijinks!
Kirk arms the Hill Folk exactly as much as the Village People (I can't stop saying it now!) convinced that a balance of power is the only way to preserve both sides. He is unwillingly but knowingly creating the same situation as the "20th Century Brush Wars of Asia" which went on "bloody year after bloody year". McCoy hates it but can't think of any other answer.
Such as, I dunno, maybe disarmament talks after invoking the Organian Treaty on those Klingon varmints? Too much work! Pass the ammo!
Nona slips Kirk her potions, seduces him, nearly gets them both shot by jealous Tyree... who cannot bring himself to kill her. Then witchy woman nearly gets them eaten by Poison Monkey Number 2. Kirk summons just enough willpower to disintegrate this mugato. Nona thanks him with a rock to the head and takes his phaser to the Villagers. The Villagers thank her with sexual assault and a fatal stabbing.
In fact, fatal stabbings for everyone. Or, if they're lucky: Flintlock Face! Way to go, balance of power. I'm calling you a clear win for the Klingons.
It's a stab at realism, and a shaken fist at the senselessness of the Vietnam War. All war, probably. However, the episode is icky, sweaty, creepy, and vile. I guess that's real. It's not much fun, though.