Star Trek: Season 3, Episode 22

The Savage Curtain (7 Mar. 1969)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 706 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 2 critic

Kirk, Spock, Abraham Lincoln, and Surak are pitted in battle against four notorious villains from history for the purpose of helping a molten rock creature's understanding of a concept he does not understand, 'good verses evil'.



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Title: The Savage Curtain (07 Mar 1969)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Lee Bergere ...
Barry Atwater ...
Phillip Pine ...
Col. Green
Arell Blanton ...
Chief Security Guard
Carol Daniels ...
Zora (as Carol Daniels DeMent)
Bob Herron ...
Kahless (as Robert Herron)


The Enterprise's sensor readings indicate a planet unsuitable for any carbon-based life at the level of a developed civilization. Suddenly they get an apparition in space from someone who looks like and claims to be Abraham Lincoln. He insists on them checking him out and coming over to a small part on the planet surface (which has suddenly developed a perfect atmosphere for humans). He is received with full presidential honors and Kirk and Spock agree to beam down with him, but as they do, phasers and tricorders fail to dematerialize with them, and communicators won't work. There they meet Surak, the greatest Vulcan of all time, equally convincing. The quartet is greeted by a creature consisting of molten rock who presents them to notorious historical villains Ghengis Khan, Colonel Green, Zora and the Klingon Kahless the Unforgettable. They're told the teams represent good versus evil and must battle to the death against each other to teach the creature their concept. When Kirk ... Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

7 March 1969 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


"The Savage Curtain" introduces Klingon founding father Kahless and Vulcan founding father Surak to the Star Trek universe. Kahless' history played an important role in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) (where he is regarded as a force for good, contrary to the sentiments expressed here), and Surak's history was crucial to the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise (2001) which also gave a little bit of backstory to Colonel Phillip F. Green. Zora of Tiburon is the only "historic" figure introduced here who was not further developed in a later Star Trek series. See more »


Star Trek The Original Series was notoriously inconsistent in its clues as to when it takes place. This one contains two contradictory statements within itself. Early on, Scotty says that Abraham Lincoln has been dead for 3 centuries, suggesting that they are in the middle of the 22nd century. Later, Colonel Phillip Green is said to be from the 21st century and that his treachery happened "centuries ago." The plural reference to centuries since the 21st suggests they're past the 22nd and into at least the 23rd. See more »


Abraham Lincoln: Do I gather that you recognize me?
Captain James T. Kirk: [cautiously] I recognize what you appear to be.
Abraham Lincoln: And appearances can be most deceiving, but not in this case, James Kirk - I AM Abraham Lincoln.
See more »


Referenced in Trekkies 2 (2004) See more »

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The Evolving Abe
20 March 2013 | by (Kentucky) – See all my reviews

Gene Roddenberry's stories tended to reflect his social views, and "Stak Trek's" sci-fi dramas were frequently metaphors for social and historical issues. The 3rd season's "The Savage Curtain" was Roddenberry's take on President Lincoln and the American Civil War. Specifically, Roddenberry explores the ethics of the leadership provided by Lincoln and weighs in against those who bemoan Lincoln's willingness to adapt expedient but extra legal tactics against his opponent.

In the episode Roddenberry nicely illustrates this by using two Lincoln's. Surak is the newly elected Lincoln, a President significantly more moderate and conciliatory than most of his party. Someone who arrived in Washington fully convinced that the union could be preserved peacefully.

And during his first couple months in office many Unionists began to question whether they had put the right man was in the White House for the unprecedented crisis faced by the country. They feared he lacked iron and would be unable to rise to the occasion.

Colonel Green appears to be a blend of John Floyd (Buchanan's outgoing Secretary of War) and Brigadier David Twiggs (Army commander of Texas); who had specialized in especially deceptive (and unnecessary) acts of treason following Lincoln's election. Aggressively abusing their positions of trust and violating their oaths of office; all in the service of gaining a short-term advantage. From the devious actions of opponents like these Lincoln learned that pro-Union people would be increasingly vulnerable should they expect the old rules to still apply.

As occurred in history, the Surak Lincoln is only briefly a part of the equation. Replaced by the Lincoln who when finally compelled by events to accept the gravity of the situation, worked extra-legally to prevent the secession of Maryland and Missouri. In the episode this Lincoln states: "We fight on their level with trickery, brutality, and finality".

In the end the creature poses the same question often posed by students of the American Civil War: if good and evil use the same methods toward the achievement of the same results, what is the difference between them? Of course, Roddenberry has already answered it; Kirk is fighting for the lives of his crew and in a bigger sense his mission of advancing civilization. His opponent is fighting for the rewards of power, fighting to gain an advantage over others.

Kirk and Spock's final confrontation with the evil forces is deliberately listless; representing secession as the retreat of evil when forcibly confronted. As in 1861, evil retreats to preserve itself

  • having a vested interest in the status quo and in protecting its

advantaged status.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

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