Star Trek (1969): S03E22 – The Savage Curtain


“The Savage Curtain” is the twenty-second episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

Written by Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann (based on an original story by Gene Roddenberry) and directed by Herschel Daugherty, it was first broadcast on 07 March 1969.

In the episode, aliens force Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock to join forces with “Abraham Lincoln” and “Surak” to battle villains in a contest between good and evil.


The Federation starship Enterprise arrives at the volcanic planet of Excalbia to conduct a geological survey. Impossibly, sensors detect carbon-based life on the volcanic planet’s surface. Suddenly, the image of a seated Abraham Lincoln appears drifting toward the ship on the viewscreen. While Spock is sceptical that the figure is the real president, Kirk extends full presidential honours as he transports aboard the ship. Lincoln appears to be human, has no knowledge of technology past the 19th century, but is somehow familiar with the Vulcan philosophy of Nom (meaning “all”). Lincoln invites Kirk and Spock to accompany him down to the planet where an area has appeared with “Earthlike” conditions. Kirk accepts despite objections from Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott.

Once on the planet, Kirk and Spock discover their tricorder and phasers did not transport with them. They are met by a Vulcan named Surak, “the father of Vulcan civilisation”. Spock does not believe this Surak is real and accordingly refers to him as the “Image of Surak”. Nearby, a boulder changes form into a rock-like being with clawed hands and several glowing eyes atop a bulbous head. The alien, named Yarnek, announces that the inhabitants of the planet wish to conduct an experiment to determine which opposing human philosophy is stronger – good or evil. The inhabitants of the planet, as well as the crew of the Enterprise, will be able to witness the drama but will not be allowed to interfere. The test will be a simple one of survival. Kirk grabs the alien but withdraws in pain, as the alien is extremely hot.

The alien introduces four more beings: Earth warlord Colonel Green, Kahless, a woman named Zora, and Earth’s Genghis Khan. The alien pits Kirk, Spock, Lincoln, and Surak against Green, Kahless, Zora, and Genghis in a fight to the death.

Colonel Green, notorious for attacking his enemies while in the midst of negotiations, offers Kirk a truce, stating that they should not fight for the amusement of the Excalbians. Meanwhile, Green’s associates secretly ready an attack. Familiar with Green’s treachery, Kirk and his companions are prepared for the surprise attack. They manage to fend off their opponents and make a run for cover.

Kirk protests the experiment and refuses to continue the battle. The Excalbians offer an incentive to fight by threatening to destroy the Enterprise if Kirk does not comply. Without another choice, Kirk and the others plan strategies and begin to manufacture spears. Surak surmises that their belief in peace is being tested, and offers to negotiate with their enemies. While Spock says he will fight alongside Kirk, he urges Kirk to let Surak try.

Surak makes his way to the enemy camp to talk while Kirk and Lincoln continue planning their strategy. A moment later, a scream of pain is heard in the distance followed by Surak shouting for Spock’s help. Green tries to lure Kirk from hiding by taunting him about Surak’s need for assistance. Spock believes it is a trick, saying a Vulcan would not cry out so. Lincoln offers to sneak around and free Surak while Kirk and Spock cover him. When Lincoln arrives, he finds Surak dead and discovers Kahless’s uncanny ability to mimic voices.

Kirk waits for Lincoln to return and when he finally appears, Lincoln shouts a warning not to come any closer; the enemy is planning a trap. Lincoln then collapses dead with a spear in his back. Angered, Kirk vows to finish the battle and engages the enemy head on. Kirk and Spock easily defeat them and when Green is killed, the others panic and flee.

With the fight over, the Excalbian reappears and announces that, while evil retreats when confronted with force, there is no great difference otherwise between the two philosophies. At this point Kirk states that the representatives of evil were motivated by a desire for power, but the good were moved to protect the Enterprise crew, implying it is not the methods but the ends that distinguish good and evil. The aliens conclude their experiment and allow Kirk and Spock to return to the Enterprise.

Star Trek TV Series

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Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Herschel Daugherty.
  • Writer(s): Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann.
  • Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 07 March 1969.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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