7/29/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Savage Curtain"

Vital Information
Series: The Original Series
Episode: S03E22
Air Date: March 7, 1969
Written by: Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann
Directed by: Herschel Daughtery

Premise
Kirk and Spock are pitted with and against galactic historical figures in a competition between good and evil. Abraham Lincoln runs out of vampires to hunt.

Review
While exploring a planet that is completely inhospitable to carbon-based life, the Enterprise inexplicably picks up carbon-based life signs. Kirk is about to give up on the life signs due to the toxic nature of the planet when suddenly ABRAHAM LINCOLN! The tallest president appears on screen and says something along the lines of, "Yes, I know, you don't think I'm real, but I assure you I am. You can bring me aboard and examine me when you pass over my position on the planet in 12 minutes." Meanwhile, a space about the size and shape of Australia on the planet forms into a habitable, Earth-like atmosphere and Kirk is convinced that his personal hero must come aboard.

Lincoln takes a look around the ship and is rightfully impressed by all the technical wonders that abound. He's also impressed that Kirk had his crew give full presidential honors, with dress uniforms and everything. Bones, however, is not impressed that he's dressing up for someone who can't possibly be Lincoln. Scotty's a little irate about it, too. Meanwhile, Lincoln visits the bridge and is quite impressed by Uhura. And Uhura is pleased to tell him about the progress the human race has made. And although Lincoln remembers everything from his day, he doesn't remember anything prior to that, and he seems to know a lot about Vulcan philosophy for whatever reason.
"And you're sure, Mr. Spock, that you are not a vampire?"
The visit is rather pleasant, but Lincoln soon says that he, Kirk and Spock must beam down to the habitable area of the planet. He doesn't know why, but he's sure it's important. Everyone warns Kirk that it's a trap and that he's letting his love of Lincoln get in the way of his decision making. But Kirk insists that their mission is to seek out new life, and they have now been given a opportunity to fulfill that mission. They beam down and meet Surak, the Vulcan of Vulcans who came up with their philosophy of logic. Later, a rock-like being, Yarnek, an Excalbian, explains that he's staging a sort of play. And he introduces, Genghis Khan, Colonel Green, Zora and Kahless. One might remember Colonel Green from the philosophies espoused by one Mr. John Fredrick Paxton of one of Enterprise's more intriguing storylines. You might remember Kahless as the great Klingon leader mentioned throughout Star Trek canon. You might remember Zora in... uh... wait, who?

Of course, Kahless the Unforgettable doesn't have any ridges on his head, as he would have since he existed before the advent of the augment virus, but the Excalbians have no concept of Klingons; they're just going off of what the Enterprise crew knew, and they'd only seen flat-headed Klingons. The image of Kahless is just about as off as the image of Colonel Green who, in reality, had thinner eyebrows, bigger ears and a better fashion sense. Genghis is fatter and stupider than he's known to be and Zora is... well, for all we know she could be a perfect representation. Lincoln and Surak, however, look and act exactly as they're supposed to. So, clearly, this is an even match.
"Wait, who am I playing again?"
Kirk tries to protest, but when the Enterprise is threatened, the contest proceeds anyway. It starts with Green trying to make peace, but Kirk points out that he's know for striking in the middle of peace agreements. So, with that failed, they go to war. Except Surak doesn't want to go to war. The Vulcan of Vulcans still wants to make peace. So against the advice of Kirk, he goes and finds a non-violent solution gets himself captured. Back at the good-guy base camp, Kirk, Spock and Lincoln hear the voice of Surak cry out in pain and agony. Kirk almost runs to save him rashly, but Spock holds him back and then Lincoln offers up a strategy. He'll save Surak while Kirk and Spock make a diversion.

Lincoln sneaks around the back way and finds Surak all tied up. He unties him... and Surak falls to the ground dead. When Lincoln looks around, he sees Green and Kahless. Kahless doing his best Surak impression to show that the Vulcan was dead all along. Lincoln walks back to Kirk and Spock, but before he reaches them, he falls over to reveal a spear through his back. Kirk and Spock continue the battle. They end up killing Colonel Green and Kahless, and the other two run away... because they weren't really contributing anything anyway. Team Good wins!
"Congratulations. Cake will be provided in the lobby."
Yarnek says that he couldn't really tell a big difference between Good and Evil because they both used the same methods to achieve the same ends except that Evil appears to run off when forcibly confronted. And that's why aliens are dumb. Back on the Enterprise, things appear to be back to normal. And Kirk feels he understands that while there is peace on Earth, there is still work to be done in the galaxy at large.

Overall Thoughts
This is, of course, a classic episode, but the biggest thing I take away from it is that Excalbians are jerks. Yarnek claimed that the purpose for their charade was to gain knowledge, the same thing the Federation wanted to do, but they could have just interviewed people. Didn't have to threaten death. Then again, they don't know what evil is, so death must be just another thing to them. In either case, they're never joining the Federation.