“The Savage Curtain” is another episode I didn’t remember any details of until after I started watching it, and then it was not until about halfway through that I remembered the remaining major plot elements. It starts with the Enterprise surveying a dull and supposedly lifeless volcanic planet, only to find Abraham Lincoln, complete in monumental chair, appear on their viewscreen as if floating in space. He asks to be beamed aboard, and Kirk displays an odd reverence for what is presumably an alien trick by according “Lincoln” full presidential honours. There’s an interesting point when Lincoln asks if they still measure time in minutes, and Kirk says “we can convert”.
After some time filling byplay on board, Kirk, Spock, and Lincoln beam down to a mysteriously habitable area on the planet, where they meet Surak, a similarly long dead and revered Vulcan. The jig is revealed to be an experiment by one of the natives of the planet, a semi-omnipotent being made of rock. It wishes to understand the strange carbon-based concepts of “good” and “evil”. Of course, what better way to do this than to arrange an involuntary battle to the death between representatives of both sides!? (That’s an average of 2.33 involuntary battles to the death per season of Star Trek!) Ranged against kirk, Spock, Lincoln, and Surak are Genghis Khan and three fictional evil dudes (though one is a dudette). When Kirk objects and refuses to fight, the rock alien threatens the Enterprise with destruction unless they play along.
In the opening fist fight before the factions retreat to build weapons, Spock once again gets to fight the girl. Given time to discuss and plan, Lincoln argues they should fight dirty, citing his experience as a wartime President and arguing that anything goes as long as good wins. Surak argues otherwise and wants to go talk peace with the evil guys, insisting it is the only way. When he inevitably gets captured, Lincoln bravely goes to the rescue. When he inevitably gets captured, Kirk and Spock bravely go to the rescue. Lincoln warns them it’s a trap before getting a spear in the back, then Kirk and Spock duke it out one last time, managing to kill the evil leader, which causes the other three to flee. The rock alien pronounces judgement, saying that there’s no difference between good and evil as far as it can see. Kirk points out that they were fighting to save their comrades, while the baddies were fighting for power. The rock alien dismisses them, apparently learning nothing at all from its experiment.
The ending is really rushed and pointless, which seems wrong given the padding at the front of the episode. They could have restructured it to make it hold together better, but there’s probably not much point as it’s pretty uninspiring stuff that smells like reheated plots from a half-dozen other episodes.
Tropes: Two Of Your Earth Minutes, Famous, Famous, Fictional, Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Starfish Aliens, Blue And Orange Morality, Involuntary Battle To The Death, Archived Army, Would Hit A Girl, Reluctant Warrior, Actual Pacifist, Good Cannot Comprehend Evil, Voice Changeling, Dirty Coward.
Body count: Surak, Abraham Lincoln (both killed by the evil guys).