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Star Trek: The Savage Curtain

"President Lincoln, indeed. No doubt to be followed by Louis of France and Robert the Bruce."

How can you not like an episode that begins with Lincoln floating in space?

Well, I suppose you could; it had some weak spots. But I liked the nice bit of characterization, seeing Kirk and Spock interacting with their own personal heroes. I particularly liked that Kirk immediately treated "Lincoln" with respect, admiration and full honors, as if he were the real thing – which in a sense, he was. I also liked that "Surak" came across so strongly as the Vulcan Gandhi, determined to stick to his principles and seek peace, even though it cost him his life. The actors that played Lincoln and Surak did a fine job with their parts.

Like much of season three, though, "The Savage Curtain" was a rehash of earlier episodes, most notably "Arena" and "The Gamesters of Triskelion" with the addition of a living rock creature like "The Devil in the Dark." The opposing forces set against our heroes weren't anywhere near as interesting. While Colonel Green took the lead and was convincingly slimy and two-faced, Kahless just did vocal impressions (disappointing for a famous Klingon leader), and Zora and Genghis Khan didn't even have lines. (I guess that's not surprising if they came out of Kirk's and Spock's heads, though.)

The godlike rock aliens could have been more interesting, and their contest didn't make a ton of sense. If they were trying to learn about the nature of good and evil, why did they automatically assume Kirk and Spock were supposed to be on the side of good? Wasn't the difference obvious to them when the evil side tried to win through treachery and murder, while the good side focused on rescue? It might have been interesting if they had captured an actual Klingon (or even better, Romulan) ship to provide two living opponents and their personal heroes to fight Kirk and Spock. But that would have made this episode's resemblance to "Arena" even more obvious.

All the same, I have to give them big points for Lincoln and Surak. I'm just sorry we never got to see the Vulcan boomerangs.

Ben P. Duck says:

This reminded me of that time that Billie and I were drinking in a bar in Bratislava when, out of nowhere, in walks Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Iceni from Roman Britain. We were surprised of course, but decided to honor her with full royal pomp. So Billie bought the whole bar another round. I objected that she couldn't really be Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Iceni, and openly doubted whether this whole plotline made even the tenuous sense that my lax plotline standards allow. Billie told me to just chill-lax and theorized that she was probably an illusion anyway and that the jukebox was no doubt an alien species testing some theory or another. I was about to argue when in walks Leibniz, inventor of calculus and long a hero of mine, so I decided to go with it. Unfortunately, a bar brawl followed fairly quickly when Attila the Hun, Imelda Marcos, Hitler and Benedict Arnold arrived. At this point, I began to seriously doubt whether idolizing a German mathematician as opposed to, say, a gladiator or Joe Lewis was a great idea.

Long story short (I know, too late), Billie dunked Hitler's head in a Slovakian toilet, Boadicea Warrior Queen of the Iceni slapped around Attila and Arnold, and I stole Imelda's shoes. Leibniz was, as expected, not much help. Still, good triumphed over evil, and the jukebox started playing Queen's "We are the Champions."

Luckily, "The Savage Curtain" (which most notably featured Lincoln defeating Kahless and Genghis Khan in wrestling) made at least as much sense as that drunken Eastern European bar crawl. This leads me to the conclusion that more people should drink with Billie.

Back to Billie for bits and pieces:

— Stardate 5906.5. The molten lava planet of Excalpia.

— "The Savage Curtain"? What does that mean? Was it a quote of sorts?

— One of the first things Spock says is that the aliens have scanned them and produced an illusion of Lincoln. This turns out to be true. I liked that it was stated up front, because if they expected us to believe it really was Lincoln, it would have been mildly insulting to our intelligence.

— I do love Scott's dress uniform. Too bad we never saw Chekov's. Would it have included a big fur hat and epaulettes?


Lincoln: "A charming Negress. Oh, forgive me, my dear. I know that in my time some used that term as a description of property."
Uhura: "But why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century we've learned not to fear words."

McCoy: "Jim, I would be the last to advise you on your command image..."
Kirk: "I doubt that, Bones, but continue."

McCoy: "You're the science officer. Why aren't you — well, doing whatever a science officer does at a time like this?"
Spock: "I am, Doctor. I'm observing the alien."

Scott: "Lincoln died three centuries ago on a planet hundreds of light years away." (gestures)
Spock: "More that direction, Engineer." (gestures in the opposite direction)

Kirk: "You're somewhat different than the way history paints you, Colonel Green."
Green: "History tends to exaggerate."

Kirk: "Your Surak is a brave man."
Spock: "Men of peace usually are, Captain."

Two and a half out of four dress uniforms,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Kind of a silly episode, but not as bad as some of the other third season episodes.

    "The Savage Curtain" is indeed a quote - I want to say from Shakespeare (big surprise there) but a quick check of my reference books didn't turn up anything.

    Couple of tidbits: Lee Bergere, who played Lincoln, wasn't the first choice of the producers - they wanted Mark Lenard. Unfortunately, Lenard couldn't get away from "Here Come the Brides" long enough to do the episode.

    This is also Uhura's last appearance in TOS - she didn't appear in either of the final two episodes.

  2. Ahhh, the space Lincoln episode, which is actually where I first learned there was even such as person as Honest Abe. Even average Trek episode can be educational.

  3. In my younger years, I would have identified with Surak as the pacifist hero here but not any more. Sometimes people and their terrible ideas cannot be reasoned with. He died for nothing. And I saw a bit of the twinkle go out of Spock's eyes because of it.

  4. Ben, your comments are always great, but this was a masterpiece! What a great way to start the work day!

    Which Lincoln was better do you think? This one, or the real thing in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure? I am not ashamed to admit I liked them both!

    A rehash again to be sure, but an enjoyable one. Can't really argue with the 2.4 stars.


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