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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: The Original Series—Volume #23 (1968)

"A species that enslaves is hardly superior, mentally or otherwise."
- Kirk (William Shatner)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: June 25, 2001

Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Nancy Kovack, Michael Whitney, Angelique Pettyjohn
Other Stars: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols
Director: Marc Daniels, Gene Nelson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: June 05, 2001
UPC: 097366002342
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB+B+ C-

DVD Review

"Bones, do you remember the 20th Century brush wars on the Asian continent? Two giant powers involved much like the Klingons and ourselves. Neither side felt that they could pull out." - Kirk

A Private Little War
Stardate: 4211.4
Original Airdate: February 2, 1968
Directed by: Marc Daniels

This episode is written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and it shows. There is depth of action and character for the series regulars combined with fairly interesting Utopian society in distress. Captain Kirk faces the restrictions of the Prime Directive (non-interference in developing cultures) as he grapples with a situation somewhat analogous to the Viet Nam war.

The Enterprise visits a planet that Kirk had surveyed as a young officer and Kirk, Spock and McCoy have beamed down to do a follow-up survey. They do not plan to contact the inhabitants of the planet. In his original report, Kirk had recommended strict non-interference in the development of the planet's societies represented by the "Hill People" and the "Villagers." The mission goes awry when Kirk sees a group of Villagers about to perpetrate an ambush on some Hill People and foils the plan. The Villagers pursue the landing party and Spock is shot through the chest by a bullet from a flintlock rifle.

After getting Spock back to the ship and into the hands of Doctor M'Benga (a black Doctor who had interned in a Vulcan hospital ward— another example of Star Trek stepping outside of the general restrictions on portrayals of African-Americans in substantial roles on TV), there is a sudden alert because of the appearance of a Klingon vessel. Kirk can't believe that the Villagers have independently developed flintlock rifles in the few years since his original survey and decides to return to the planet with McCoy as his conscience and make contact with the Hill People that he had known to discover what is happening there.

The misfortunes of this ill-starred mission continue when Kirk is attacked by an indigenous ape-like creature, and when bitten gets a dose of a fatal poison. The only hope is to get Kirk to the Hill People, who have medicine women capable of counteracting the deadly poison. McCoy gets Kirk to the nearest tribe and they meet with Tyree (Michael Whitney), his friend from before who is now chief, and Nona (Nancy Kovack), the wife of Tyree and also a Canutu woman. A manipulative woman, Nona forces Tyree to tell her the truth about the visitors as her price for saving his life and warns that her empathetic cure will make Kirk "hers." She does cure Kirk, but McCoy notices some unusual behavior on his part afterwards.

With the Enterprise forced to leave orbit to avoid detection by the Klingon ship, Kirk and McCoy go with Tyree to infiltrate the village and find out that the Klingons are indeed cunningly providing the Villagers with their weapons. He must decide how to act in the precarious situation.

The allegory of this story must have seemed very potent in 1968 as the Viet Nam war was reaching new heights of destructiveness with daily casualty reports on the Evening News. The domino theory, which was the basis of much of American Cold War policy in Asia, said that to let one nation in Asia fall to Communism would make it possible for another nation to fall and so on. In this episode, Kirk finds that the Villagers are being provided superior weapons by the Klingons and his choice is to match the Klingons to maintain the status quo of the civilization. The show features several potent arguments about both sides the basic issues of this "solution." This episode belongs in that select group of message episodes that stepped outside of the normal strictures on portraying questions of morality in television shows. Combining the message with an absorbing story mixed with action, humor and novelty are the ingredients that made Star Trek the enduring franchise it is.

"Captain's Log. Stardate: 3259.2. First Officer Spock in command. The Captain, Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekhov have been missing for nearly two hours. Computer probability projections are useless due to insufficient data." - Spock

The Gamesters of Triskelion
Stardate: 3211.7
Original Air Date: January 5, 1968
Directed by: Gene Nelson

This is one of those episodes of Star Trek that do not bear up too well under close analysis. The premise and some of the plot elements don't work, but still there are parts of the episode that make it interesting and memorable. Many times in the series, scripts were approved that seemed to have possibilities but under the pressure of making an expensive, hour-long television show they were found wanting. But, they had to be made anyway. I would imagine that no one at the time had any inkling that people would be going over the shows frame-by-frame 35 years later.

The story begins with Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Uhura and Ensign Chekhov beaming down to a planet , when suddenly they are whisked "half-way across the galaxy" by a powerful force. How or why they were chosen or how it even happened is never explained. But, they find themselves on the planet "Triskelion" where people from different parts of the galaxy are imprisoned and trained to fight to the death for the amusement of mysterious entities known as "The Providers."

In a parallel story, Spock is in command and argues with McCoy and Scott in the best way to search for their lost comrades. Implied in the two humans' arguments is the idea that Spock cannot make the correct decisions because he does not 'feel.' But, Spock perseveres against their doubts as he relentlessly continues the search despite the scarce evidence of how it occurred.

This episode carries a bit more sexual content than most Star Trek stories. The Enterprise prisoners are introduced to their "drill thralls," whose task is it to educate them in the proper behavior of a slave and fighting tactics. Once they are trained they will be sold to one of the Providers and added to his herd of slaves.

Uhura draws Lars (Steven Sandor) as her drill thrall and he informs her that additionally she has been "selected" for him— a term that indicates that they are to breed. Within the hearing of her fellow captives, she fights off his advances. On a different note, Chekhov's drill thrall is Tamoon (Jane Ross), a somewhat sexually ambiguous figure who takes an instant liking for the young officer. He is bemused by the difficulty in determining exactly what sex she is.

These encounters lay the ground work for Kirk's relationship with his drill thrall, Shahna (Angelique Pettyjohn). With her green hair, doe-like face and excellent figure in a silver bikini outfit, she is the quintessential alien babe in the mythology of Kirk's womanizing. He romances her with the hopes of gaining more information about the situation, and they have several poignant scenes together as she discovers love as opposed to the mechanical nature of breeding.

Pettyjohn had appeared in two episodes of Get Smart as Charlie Watkins and also played a small role in Elvis Presley's Clambake. She went on to appear in such films as Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon and Repo Man. But, her career mostly steered toward B-Movies like G.I Executioner, Biohazard and The Wizard of Speed and Time. She also appeared in adult films including Bordello, Stalag 69 and Takin' It Off. In an odd twist, there is an entertainer who calls himself Elvis Aaron Presley, Jr. who claims that he is the son of Elvis Presley and Pettyjohn.

Although this episode is flawed, the parts combine to make an entertaining hour of Star Trek fiction. It has all the expected elements, but, some of it is a little too silly. There are the usual strong characterizations by the principals utilizing irony, humor and a bit of overacting. And there is a message, albeit a simple one, that slavery is bad and freedom is good. Still that is a message that can bear repeating in whatever form.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Consistency has been the hallmark of the image transfers in the Star Trek collection and both of these episodes demonstrate this impressive effort. The skin tones are marvelous and once again, I just enjoy looking at the Enterprise bridge and other interiors. Although, as has been the case with other episodes, there are minor defects and the unfortunate fact that the clarity of the image reveals the primitive nature of special effects in that era; I can't quibble.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Consistency is also demonstrated in the fine job that is done with expanding the original mono television sound out to accommodate Dolby 5.1 home theater. Very subtle expansion of the sound across the spectrum provides depth without the artificial quality that over-processed sound can have.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Information Booklet
Extras Review: Each episode comes with the standard subtitles and original television teaser. At this point in the release it is senseless to bemoan the lack of extras and just be glad that they are out there for the fans and are almost reasonably priced. The informational booklet provides the usual amount of trivia and info about the episodes (not much.)

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Two sides of the Star Trek coin here: A well-considered political allegory and a somewhat less developed, slightly ridiculous tale of alien fighting slaves. All the elements of the series, both good and bad are on display. Probably neither would make anyone's top ten episodes list, but still there is great entertainment value in each.


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