Director: Herschel Daugherty
Writers: Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Lee Bergere, Barry Atwater, Phillip Pine, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Arell Blanton, Carol Daniels DeMent, Robert Herron, and Nathan Jung
Composer: Fred Steiner
Air Date: 3/7/1969
Production #: 60043-77
While investigating life signs originating from the inhospitable planet Excalbia, the Enterprise crew is confronted with an apparition of Captain Kirk’s childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln (Lee Bergere). Searching for answers, Kirk travels with Spock and Lincoln to an Earth-like region of the planet’s surface; immediately thereafter, a silicon-based lifeform named Yarnek explains his curiosity with human perceptions of good and evil. To determine which “side” is more powerful, Yarnek pits Kahless the Unforgettable (Robert Herron), Col. Green (Phillip Pine), Zora of Tiburon (Carol Daniels DeMent), and Genghis Khan (Nathan Jung) against Kirk, Spock, Lincoln, and Surak (Barry Atwater) in the ultimate showdown of good versus evil.
An engaging study on moral judgment as it pertains to violent combat, “The Savage Curtain” overshadows the ridiculous concept upon which it was founded. Though many awkwardly choreographed fight sequences are present, a clumsy execution never detracts from the profound thesis that underlies every character motivation in this episode.
By exuding a level of gravitas befitting the United States’ most revered Commander in Chief, Lee Bergere made credible an otherwise cartoonish and one-dimensional conflict. Despite failing to parallel Lincoln’s imposing stature (the real Lincoln would have towered over Kirk and Spock), Bergere portrayed the 16th President with an elegant but determined quality that, when tested by the dishonorable fighting methods of an opposing force, prompts the Enterprise captain and first officer to remain strong-willed even while compelled to utilize the same underhanded tactics employed by Zora, Kahless, Colonel Green, and Genghis Khan.
A mustache-twirling villain, Colonel Green lacks sufficient cunning and may therefore struggle to convince viewers of his notorious military conquests. Even when “negotiating” with Captain Kirk, Green never maintains the guile that one would expect of a man who once defeated his adversaries by establishing an intricate web of lies with which to entrap and destroy them.
Operating on the premise that good and evil can seldom be identified as such, “The Savage Curtain” challenges the notion of a black-and-white reality and will thus appeal to those who enjoy Star Trek for its philosophically substantive content. The contrast between Surak and Lincoln in particular demonstrates that practical rather than peaceable measures must occasionally be taken when outmaneuvering one’s enemies, with the Vulcan luminary throwing away his life after ignoring the advice of a more militarily experienced comrade (that being said, audiences who object to war under any circumstances may fail to be moved by Lincoln’s justification for bloody conflict).
“The Savage Curtain” makes surprisingly good use of the tag team trope, the scenarios of which are rarely successful when used outside of professional wrestling and comic book fare. Especially commendable, a nuanced commentary on the human condition allows this episode to excel in spite of the hackneyed plot devices contained therein (e.g. rock monsters and historical figures of an illusory construction).
Overall Quality: 9/10
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