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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Original Series, Episode 77: The Savage Curtain » User review

An alien species exhibits intellectual curiosity

  • Jul 18, 2004
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The major premise of this episode is intellectual curiosity, although in this case the curiosity is exhibited by alien creatures made of liquid rock that live on a volcanic planet. They probe the minds of the Enterprise crew and from Kirk's they create a facsimile of Abraham Lincoln as an emissary to the Enterprise. Lincoln is beamed aboard and is treated as a visiting dignitary. He demonstrates all of Lincoln's charm, wisdom and humor and Kirk is taken with him. Lincoln then asks Kirk and Spock to beam down to the surface of the planet with him. After reflection, they agree and beam down to an area on the planet that has been made suitable for human habitation. Once there, they discover Surak, a Vulcan revered for his principles of nonviolence, the founder of the Vulcan way of logic, and a hero plucked from Spock's mind.
A rock creature called Yarnek appears and conjures up four people from history considered to be the epitome of evil. The four evil ones are then to battle against the four "good guys", in an experiment so that Yarnak's species can learn which is stronger, good or evil. To guarantee compliance, Yarnak vows to destroy the Enterprise if good is defeated. Surak and Lincoln are killed, but in the ensuing battle, the evil ones are defeated and the survivors flee. Yarnak returns and is puzzled and disappointed by the results. He feels that they have learned nothing of the difference, although he releases the Enterprise.
The choice of of the four evil ones puzzles me. They are Ghengis Khan, Khalis, the founder of the Klingon Empire, and two others that are unknown. My first choice would have been Adolf Hitler, and I will always wonder why they did not make that choice. Perhaps his time does not go back far enough into history for the producers to consider it appropriate. To the Klingons, Khalis is a hero, which may explain some of the ambiguity that Yarnek senses. Ghengis Khan is also a significant figure in the history of northern Asia, not necessarily considered to have been evil. Yes, he conquered a large part of Asia and Europe, but there are other figures from human history that were far worse.
The main premise of this episode is one that I believe has a higher probability of coming true than many others used in the Star Trek series. When humans encounter other intelligent beings, the two species could immediately go to war. Barring that, the other species could easily demonstrate an enormous curiosity about humans and our values. If they are a species that does not possess a moral sense equivalent to ours, then good and evil would be concepts that they would not understand. If they are capable of probing human minds, then experiments of this type could certainly be possible. Therefore, I enjoyed the episode, ranking it roughly in the middle of the list.

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Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Perhaps best known as the episode in which Abraham Lincoln is seen, rather absurdly, floating through space in a big ol' presidential chair, "The Savage Curtain" is one of those death-match shows in which a busybody alien wants to witness true human(oid) mettle in an arranged battle. Lincoln asks Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to accompany him to a planet where Excalbians have organized a fight between good (Kirk's party plus a Vulcan icon) and evil (Genghis Khan, Kahless the founder of the Klingon Empire, and two guys you never heard of). The derivative, obvious story was half-written by Gene Roddenberry and dumped on another writer, Arthur Heinemann, after Roddenberry pulled back fromStar Trekin its third season. Heinemann added some interesting moral underpinnings, but this is one of those instances in which a good television show seems to be mimicking itself. On the plus side, the show gives Sulu (George Takei) a rare opportunity to command theEnterprisebridge--experience that surely served him well later as a Starfleet captain inStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.--Tom Keogh
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Studio: CBS Paramount International Television

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