In which a brush war is declared, a folk song is played, and a biblical references is inserted very clumsily.
McCoy is collecting some samples on an inhabited planet which is also fraught with enormous carnivorous bears. It seems Kirk has been to this planet before. as a young enseign, and it’s a tranquil planet with no war, despite enormous deadly homonids. Only now the natives have guns.
In fact, it appears only faction might have guns. The others, including Kirk’s friend when he was in the Backwoods Exchange Program, only have bows, arrows, and spears. Kirk interferes with an ambush and gets Spock shot. Damn shame, that.
So, given the emphasis on not using the phasers, the setup where some of the humanoids just happen to have guns that exactly parallel the human development of flintlock rifles, and the fact that nothing they have is actually threatening to a civilization of Federation level technology, this one is pretty clearly going to be about either proxy wars between lesser nations (the Klingons just showed up) or the Prime Directive.
There’s a rather interesting discussion on the bridge about why it may not be so out of place that the inhabitants developed flintlock rifles barely a generation after learning to forge iron, and it’s dead wrong. Unless you just happen to be the luckiest sumbitch on the planet, the first time you try to make a firearm you will blow something up, and if you’re very lucky, it will only be your eyebrows.
Kirk gets savaged by a mugato and McCoy has to disintigrate it. Shatner’s actually doing a reasonable job of simulating alien poison. Things are looking grim, and Kirk has to be cured by the hill tribes that have no guns, so clearly McCoy is going to have to be the one to make the call about how much technology to give out to the natives to defend against the dudes with guns. And even though McCoy is no longer the worst person in Starfleet, he’s still not command material.
The leader of the camp is married to an herbalist. By which I mean she rubs some leaf full of MDMA all over him in an effort to persuade him to go get some guns. Tyree, Kirk’s contact and host from way back when, isn’t all that enamored of war, but she has this whole Lady MacBeth thing going on, plus she catches McCoy phasering some rocks to keep Kirk warm. So she’s pretty clearly going to insist that they get some phasers to kill the people of the village.
So far, the plot of this episode is the song One Tin Soldier by The Original Caste, but with some highly adult overtones. Such as fact that the Nona, the witchy woman, apparently now has Kirk’s balls in a vice. Something about the herbalism supposedly make it impossible for him to refuse her requests.
Yesss… feel the ’60s flow through you. Givce yourself to the folk side.
There’s a B plot about how much Nurse Chapel is in love with Spock. So far it’s not as important as the Klingons giving weapons technology to the village people and teaching them to take the women captive and rape them. Hooray, isn’t it wonderful. Now we see how the Klingons accomplished their empire-building. In the TOS era, they were, in fact, heavily focused on hegemonic expansion rather than straight-up conquering. They teach one faction to make war on all the others and install a planetary governor.
Kirk decides unilaterally that he’ll have to maintain a balance of power between the two factions, and gives the hill people guns. Then there’s some clumsy bullshit where Nona gets attacked by a mugato after drugging Kirk so he can barely defend her, then she clubs her over the head with a rock and steals his phaser, then immediately defects from the hill people and gets herself overpowered and molested. I try not to subscribe to blame-the-victim mentality, but if you’re going to confront a bunch of murderous thugs with a brand new magic weapon, wouldn’t you at least test it first so you know how to shoot them if they do the predictable thing and turn on you?
So she gets herself killed in the scuffle, and at the end of the episode, the pacifist hill people have learned the virtues and pleasures of war. Hooray, I guess?