The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The Savage Curtain

When the Enterprise is hailed by none other than Abraham Lincoln apparently floating in space, it’s obvious that something strange is afoot. Whilst Captain Kirk insists on welcoming Lincoln aboard with full presential honours, Spock sets to work in determining the exact nature of this visitor – who is in fact an emissary from an alien race seeking to understand the concepts of good and evil.

We might be nearing the end of TOS, but there’s still time for one more episode in which powerful aliens mess around with the Enterprise crew for their amusement. This time around, it’s the rock-like Excalbians, who decide that the best way to understand good and evil is not simply to read the Enterprise library and maybe have a chat with the crew, but to pit teams of four representing Good and Evil against each other on the surface of their planet. And they don’t even get straight to the point – instead, the episode spends twenty minutes or so meandering around aboard ship as Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty (in full dress kilt) debate who or what exactly this apparent Abe Lincoln is, and whether they should follow him down to the surface of an unknown planet. As if Kirk has ever hesitated or asked for advice when beaming down to a planet in any of the preceding 75 episodes.

Even when they do finally get down to the planet, very little happens – the pitched battle between good and evil mostly consists of both sides throwing sharpened sticks at each other, before good inevitably wins the day and everyone goes home.

In the blue corner, representing good

  • Kirk and Spock are of course on this side, and they each get one of their childhood heroes to accompany them. I should mention briefly here that in the previous episode, we got our first and only “Spock’s inner monologue” scene.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Kirk’s hero and of course 16th president of the United States of America.
  • Surak, the father of Vulcan logic, a lifelong pacifist who tries to make peace with the evil side even when the others warn him against it.

…and in the red corner, representing evil

  • Genghis Khan, the only recognisable figure from Earth’s history, which might reflect the diversity of the galaxy, but doesn’t give us much to go on.
  • Colonel Green, an eco-terrorist from the 21st century. I had forgotten that he is later referenced in Enterprise.
  • Kahless, the first Klingon Emperor, looking very different here to his TNG incarnation. I’d hesitate to call him evil, since he is a man of honour and a product of a society with different notions of good and evil, but since the Excalbians don’t understand these concepts, and Kirk probably considers all Klingons to be villains, I guess his inclusion here is understandable.
  • Zora, the only female on either team, an evil scientist known for conducting inhumane experiments on planet Tiburon.

Summary – The Savage Curtain: Arena was a lot better.

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