Domo Arigato, Mister Mugato.
I didn’t do a Fourth of July post, because honestly…I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to draw that was that patriotic. Instead, I found myself watching old Star Trek episodes, many of them allegorical about the foibles of the United States in the sixties.
The episode entitled “A Private Little War,” from the Original Series of Star Trek, has always been a favorite. It’s the nineteenth episode of the second season, which isn’t always that strong a season, to be honest. The screenplay was written by Gene Roddenberry, and it was intended as an allegory about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I didn’t really get that last part (the allegory) until I was in my late teens. 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.
Prime Directive? What’s that?
I’m going to summarize it as best I can, to attempt to explain why it’s so @#$%ing cool That said…I’m also going to keep it as brief as I can.
The Enterprise arrives at the planet Neural, and the people of the world are still pretty primitive. Kirk and Spock soon notice a group of villagers crouching in the nearby rocks, apparently preparing for an ambush. Kirk is shocked that they now have guns…when he was here last, as a younger officer, they did NOT. Also, they seem to be in some kind of war. Things go badly, and Spock is shot by one of the natives.
Once back aboard the Enterprise, Spock is looked after by Dr. M’Benga who specializes in Vulcan physiology. He does some medical things, and then Spock falls into a healing trance. For some reason, this is sensible.
Kirk returns with McCoy, both now disguised as local natives to blend in. Suddenly, the two are attacked by a mugato. Let me clarify that. Kirk and McCoy are attacked by a giant white ape with a horn, that is also full of poison. The mugato bites Kirk, injecting him with poison before McCoy can kill it with his phaser.
Only Nona, a Kahn-ut-tu witch doctor can cure the Mugato bite. Nona treats Kirk with a Mahko root, which is pretty much part spider, part plant, and I remember being straight up terrified of as a kid. In an epic witch doctor move, she cuts her own hand and presses it against the root over the bite, which just CAN’T be sanitary. It’s also a pretty sexified treatment, looking back. Kaiser Permanente isn’t going to cover THAT, I’ll have you know.
Meanwhile back on the Enterprise, Spock seems to be recovering well. M’Benga informs Nurse Chapel that once Spock revives, she must do exactly as Spock tells her no matter how bizarre the request. Right? You KNOW that’s going to be awesome.
Stuff happens about Klingons, and power grabs, and so on. All very allegorical.
Back aboard the Enterprise Spock finally wakes up, kind of. He tells Nurse Chapel to slap him around until he fully recovers, saying the pain will help him out. She hesitantly does what he asks, lightly at first, but then starts slapping him hard as he requests. Scotty happens to just stop in and sees Chapel pimp slapping Spock and stops her. In the nick of time, Dr. M’Benga arrives to explain that Spock’s life is in danger and resumes the slapping. Spock finally comes out of his trance and thanks M’Benga and the bewildered Nurse Chapel for their assistance.
Right? That kind of weirdness is pretty much par for the course in this episode. It calms down into a more standard allegorical Trek episode after that…with more metaphor, and less poisonous apes with horns, spider roots, and inappropriate medical practices.
Later…another Mugato attacks and Kirk vaporizes it with his phaser, making you wonder why that wasn’t easier before. After defeating a giant poisonous ape, Nona knocks Kirk out and grabs the phaser and then runs away seeking to cut a deal for the weapon. Kirk can defeat a giant poisonous ape with a horn, but is simply incapable of defeating an attractive woman. Hmmm. Oh, yeah…she’s also ruined the Prime Directive by losing his @#$%ing phaser.
Allegory, allegory, allegory, and the episode ends with the Enterprise pulling out of orbit. Kirk has pretty much ruined their culture with an arms race.
It really is something to behold.
Originally, I was just into the idea of homaging a Phil Noto mashup with Chewie and Han in Star Trek stuff, which I have as a t-shirt. Chewie seemed pretty on point, since one of my students got me a pin at Disneyland of Chewie, knowing that I liked the character. I wanted to put some respect down for that, but have been very much in this Star Trek Pop Art block. The Chewie mugato got me thinking about the episode, I rewatched it…one thing led to another…
This was the original artwork (below) that I drew, with no background art. At first, that was the whole plan.
Once it was done, I was pretty happy with it, and thinking about color and so forth. I may yet color it, as opposed to the Pop Art brush color palate
that I’ve been using…not sure. That seems like it would then involve some other backgrounding…and honestly, I’m not that far ahead artistically, despite it being summer. I’ve been just a little too precious about content, and how things come out on the page.
Initially, actually, I did a less abstract, less Pop Art style background. Creating different backgrounds to composite is a big part of what slows the basic art process here, by the way. Initially, I went with a more Kirbyesque 1960’s “Science Stuff” background, and cropped the image differently. It looked great…but had less to do with Mugatos and Red Shirts and all of that. Obviously, that’s what we got instead, but the original background concept was fun, and worth a look.
With all of that said, this post has gone on way longer than I thought it would, even if I did just stick to the weird parts of the Star Trek Episode. I’ve already had people asking me about befriending Mugatos, and whether that would even be a good idea, much less handing them big ol’ phasers. Cap wouldn’t care too much…she’s nigh invulnerable…so the Mugato poison is a non starter for her. That said, she would definitely unleash poisonous apes with horns on things she didn’t approve of, so it seems in character.