Star Trek

Season 3 Episode 22

The Savage Curtain

Aired Unknown Mar 07, 1969 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
160 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Kirk and Spock meet Abraham Lincoln and Surak of Vulcan and must do battle with some of history's most terrible villains.

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  • Kirk and Spock are forced to take part in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

    With more historical figures than a junior high school history pageant and the most comically obvious trap ever laid for our heroes ("Help me, Spock!"), this planet-based Gene Roddenberry "good versus evil" story is one of the more memorable TOS episodes, despite not being very good.

    Like a precursor to Super Friends, Kirk and Spock get to fight alongside their heroes, Abraham Lincoln and Surak, against four of history's most evil villains, though sadly the latter doesn't include Khan. (Hitler is excluded as well, but that's probably for the best).

    If the episode has a strength, it lies in the talents of the character actors, with Lee Bergere particularly believable as Lincoln. (Phillip Pine is also somewhat interesting as the fictional Colonel Green). But the story takes a meandering path to get to its point, and it's not a very interesting point at that. (As a morality play wannabe, the episode really needs evil to lose due its own internal destructive nature, but the writers choose a different climax). And as an action-base episode, it doesn't help that the fighting is confined to the small planet stage set, reducing what should be an epic battle to minor skirmishes.

    It's likely Roddenberry new this one wasn't working out very well when he was writing it, which is why he ultimately gave up on it. Unfortunately, producer Fred Freiberger pulled it out of the trash and gave it to Arthur "Way to Eden" Heinemann to finish.

    The Klingon guru Kahless, played by a different actor, returns in TNG's sixth season episode "Rightful Heir". The Vulcan guru Surak, also played by a different actor, returns in ENT's fourth season episode "Awakening".

    Remastered Edition:

    There's not much of note here, other than new shots of the Enterprise and the planet (replacing the original's reuse of Vulcan). The new planet sphere, however, is one of the best this project has accomplished, a vivid globe of hot magma that ties nicely into the surface environment. The digital team also touches up Lincoln's first appearance (in space), redoing the surrounding stars.

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  • "Your existence is Ended"

    Well, at least for the first series I suppose!

    Actually I like this (as I like most) episode because of the base message and it's inherent pessimism. I mean, only Star Trek, at least in those days - would come out and say something like "good and evil use the same tactics, get the same results" - sort of taboo even today in the light of things like beheadings and abu ghraib in Iraq just a few years ago.

    Maybe I'm taking it too deep but the series fully intended it to be read so in those days. They were trying to find a way out of the Viet Nam war and.... this was a micro chasm of that angst. I wasn't alive then, but it was just short of a national civil war at times: this country was mentally ill. Colin Powell was recently asked if the times we're in right now (2012) are the worst he's seen and he said "No way! The cultural revolutuion of the 1960s and 70's was much MUCH worse!"

    Anyway, the acting is pretty darn good considering that this episode is clearly one of the most implausible upon implausible upon implausible scripts and storylines in the whole ST universe really. And you have to enjoy Spock and Kirk getting their rocks off and their hopes fulfilled meeting their life-long all time idols!

    And...the message is true; war is bad no matter what side you think you're on.moreless
  • Surprisingly good, for a third season last-half episode.

    You don't hear this episode mentioned much, but it's a curiously good episode, given the show was basically shutting down and the third season is generally considered as a downhill slide. What could be a schlocky jump-the-shark concept - "Enterprise Meets Lincoln!" turns out to be a curiously thoughtful exploration of good and evil.

    It's also clear the episode struck a chord since later writers would use Kahless, Green, and Surak first seen here. In a way this episode forms a trilogy with "Amok Time" and "Journey to Babel," showing us Vulcan society and mores. Barry Atwater, a talented second-string actor, portrays the Father of All Vulcans with suitable aplomb.

    Lee Bergere, another veteran actor, gives a deep thoughtful performance as a Lincoln who isn't heroic, but clearly a man who has been torn by leading a country through a bloody civil war.

    On top of these two performances there's the deeper significance that the two characters arent' real, but are manifestations of Spock's and Kirk's imaginations of what these characters would be like. Look deep enough and you can see what it says about those two characters. So it's much more then simply "Lincoln beams on board the ship."

    Philip Pine gives a suitably slimy performance as Colonel Green, although the other three "evil-doers" get short shrift.

    The other interesting aspect is the Excalbians, who comes across as a totally alien race, not in appearance but in concept and intellect. The idea of pitting good vs. evil doesn't seem to make much sense, but then again probably a few of our concepts of resolving disputes and settling intellectual issues wouldn't make sense to an alien, either. The concept is graspable - "if good is stronger, it should win in a fight" without seeming totally stupid, and seems like something an alien race might come up with.

    We also get a McCoy and Scotty who are still feisty and anything but yes-men, and a few comments on race and advancement in the future. And lots of quotable lines (see Quotes).

    Overall, a surprisingly pleasing episode, and one that caught on enough to act as a springboard for several future episodes in other Trek series.moreless
  • The crew of the Enterprise are confronted by what appears to be Abraham Lincoln, which leads to Kirk and Spock being forced into battle against illusionary villains by a race trying understand 'good' and 'evil'. One of the far better late episodes...moreless

    At first, I expected very little from this episode. I expected the appearance of Abraham Lincoln to be gimmicky, and combined with the whole "forced to fight to the death while the ship's crew watch on the viewscreen", which had been done before in a number of other stories, I really wasn't expecting much.

    But to my pleasant surprise, "The Savage Curtain" turned out to be one of the much better episodes from the tail end of the series, and I am surprised that it isn't held in higher regard amongst most fans.

    Unlike many late Original Series episodes, where the plot is pretty much laid out in the first five minutes, I liked how the story of this one gradually unfolded. Was this really Abraham Lincoln? What is he doing in deep space? The explanations, and the leading on to the forced battle on the planet below, are well paced, and I didn't feel that the story really dipped at any point.

    As well as Lincoln, we also meet Surak, the "father of Vulcan civilization", adding some more background to Vulcan's history.

    Out of the villains, Colonel Green and Klingon Kahless aren't bad (well they ARE bad, but you get what I mean!), but the other two barely get a look in.

    Back on the ship (which, of course, is endangered, to add some more urgency to the situation), there are some nice moments between Mr. Scott and Dr. McCoy; I would have liked to have seen more of those through the series.

    As I say, I personally found this to be one of the far better third season instalments, to the extent that it could just as easily been from the first or second season. It might not look much on paper, but the final episode is a good one.moreless
Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

Mr. Spock

William Shatner

William Shatner

Captain James Tiberius Kirk

DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley

Dr. Leonard Horatio "Bones" McCoy

Nathan Jung

Nathan Jung

Ghengis Khan

Guest Star

Carol Daniels

Carol Daniels


Guest Star

Arell Blanton

Arell Blanton

Lt. Dickerson

Guest Star

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

Ensign Pavel Chekov

Recurring Role

Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols

Lt. Nyota Uhura

Recurring Role

George Takei

George Takei

Lt. Hikaru Sulu

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (13)

    • Right before the commercial break, Yarnek says Kirk has four hours until the Enterprise explodes. However, after the commercial break, Scotty makes a log entry saying they have two hours, and Kirk and the others are in the same position on the view screen as when Yarnek said four hours.

    • During the talk with Lincoln over the view screen, old footage is reused. Notice that in shots facing the view screen, Checkov is replaced by another crewman and Sulu is wearing a season one uniform.

    • About 25 minutes in, there is another reversed shot as the good guys discuss what to do, right before Colonel Green comes over. Notice that Shatner turns left to talk to Lincoln who is on his right and that the Starfleet insignia is on his right side, not left.

    • The close-up on Lincoln as Surak screams is taken from his speech about being a woodsman from a minute or so later.

    • The final battle has an odd glitch. Genghis Khan pops up and throws a rock from the bad guys' refuge. Then we see Green and Kahless charge at Kirk and Spock. Then Kirk and Spock step back into a clearing and Kora and Genghis hit them. A couple of seconds later Kahless comes charging in. How did Genghis get there from his refuge before the charging Kahless did?

    • Barry Atwater who played Surak has noticeable difficulty giving the Vulcan "Live long and prosper sign", and he still doesn't get it right: he holds his thumb against his index finger instead of separate.

    • During the fight with Colonel Green, Kirk's pants split up the back, but in subsequent shots they're fine.

    • Right after Yarnek introduces the opponents, there's a shot of Shatner's face with his part reversed - the director reversed shots to save footage by recycling.

    • When Spock gives the orbital distance in miles of the Enterprise to Lincoln, he says "Using your old-style measurements..." Spock has used "miles" in the past, such as in "The Immunity Syndrome", and Kirk and Sulu use miles too when they talk about changing orbit in "The Deadly Years."

    • Lincoln asks Kirk if they measure time in minutes and Kirk replies "We can convert it." In every previous episode they've always used minutes - their ship chronometers are still set to minutes, etc.

    • Why does Kirk try to hit Yarnek? Even if he doesn't know the alien is superhot, punching a rock creature doesn't seem like a bright idea.

    • The fact that Kirk is completely ignorant of Surak seems kind of odd - Surak is "the father of all that the Vulcans hold dear." Apparently they don't teach basic Vulcan history at Starfleet.

    • Lincoln has no clue about transporters and taped music, but he handles walking through the doors quite well - a 19th century man would probably stop before getting to them and look for or reach for a doorknob, but Lincoln just walks on through.

  • QUOTES (21)

    • Yarnek: It would seem that evil retreats when forcibly confronted.

    • Surak: I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.

    • Kirk: How many others have you done this to? What gives you the right to hand out life and death?
      Yarnek: The same right that brought you here - the need to know new things.

    • Lincoln: One matter further, gentlemen. We fight on their level. With trickery, brutality, finality. We match their evil. I know, James. I was reputed to be a gentle man. But I was commander in chief during the four bloodiest years of my country's history. I gave orders that sent a hundred thousand men to their death. at the hands of their brothers. There is no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war except its ending. And you are fighting for the lives of your crew.
      Kirk: Your campaign, Mr. President.

    • Kirk: Your Surak is a brave man.
      Spock: Men of peace usually are, Captain. On Vulcan, he is revered as the father of our civilization. The father image holds much meaning for us.
      Kirk: You show emotion, Spock?
      Spock: I deeply respect what he has accomplished.

    • Surak: The face of war has never changed, Captain. Surely it is more logical to heal than kill.
      Kirk: I'm afraid that kind of logic doesn't apply here.
      Surak: That is precisely why we should not fight.

    • Lincoln: Do you drink whiskey?
      Kirk: Occasionally. Why?
      Lincoln: Because you have qualities very much like those of another man I admire greatly - General Grant.

    • Lincoln: For an illusion, my opponent carried a considerable punch. Oh, I forgot. You consider me an illusion too.

    • Kirk: You were notorious, Colonel Green, for striking at your enemies in the midst of negotiating with them.
      Green: But that was centuries ago, Captain, and not altogether true. There is much I would change now if I could. Don't let prejudice and rumors sway you. (starts an ambush)

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

    • Spock: It is not logical that you are Surak. There is no fact, extrapolation of fact or theory. which would make possible...
      Surak: Whatever I am, would it harm you to give response?

    • Kirk: The very reason for the existence of our starships is contact with other life. Although the method is beyond our comprehension, we have been offered contact. Therefore, I shall beam down.

    • McCoy: You're the science officer. Why aren't you, well...doing whatever a science officer does at a time like this?

    • Scotty: Lincoln died three centuries ago hundreds of light-years away. (points)
      Spock: (helpfully pointing a different way) More that direction, Engineer.

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

    • McCoy: Where the devil are they?
      Scotty: Probably looking up haggis in the galley.

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

    • Lincoln: A most interesting way to come aboard, Captain. What was the device used?
      Kirk: An energy-matter scrambler, sir. The molecules in your body are converted into energy, then beamed into this chamber and reconverted back into their original pattern.
      Lincoln: Well, since I'm obviously here, (pats himself on the chest) and quite whole... (Kirk chuckles) ...whatever you mean apparently works very well indeed.

    • Scotty: President Lincoln, indeed! No doubt to be followed by Louis of France and Robert the Bruce.
      Kirk: If so, we'll execute appropriate honors to each, Mr. Scott.

    • Spock: Fascinating.
      Lincoln: I have been described in many ways, Mr. Spock, but never with that word.

    • Lincoln: No need to check your voice telegraph device. Do I gather that you recognize me?
      Kirk: I recognize what you appear to be.
      Lincoln: And appearances can be most deceiving, but not in this case, James Kirk. I am Abraham Lincoln.

  • NOTES (4)

    • This marked the last performance given by Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura until the animated series.

    • The century in which the series was set was still vague at this point and Scotty's line that Lincoln died three centuries ago (the nineteenth century) suggests the show was set in the twenty-second century, rather than the twenty-third. The episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday" implied this as well.

    • This episode first introduces Surak of Vulcan, the Klingon leader Kahless the Unforgettable, and the infamous Colonel Green. These characters are later mentioned in other series and films.

    • (Translation) Vulcan: [Knome] English: [All]