Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: The Savage Curtain

Airdate: March 7, 1969
78 of 80 produced
77 of 80 released


Charged by Starfleet to investigate "space legends" about life on a desolate planet, the Enterprise investigates. They are stunned, however, when an apparent replica of Abraham Lincoln appears, asking them to visit this inhospitable world. But when Mr. Lincoln's invitation turns out to be more than was bargained for, will Kirk and Spock be able to extricate themselves before they, and their ship, are destroyed?

Go Space Lincoln, go Space Lincoln, go Space Lincoln Go-oooo!


Matthew: The story we are presented here is inherently silly, but also somewhat repetitive. Centering around an alien who pits people against each other in order to research good and evil, basically, it turns out to be "Arena" with historical figures. So the story kind of lives or dies not on the concept, which is being repeated, but on how well it is done.

Kevin: Part of me really wants to just enjoy this episode. There's a lot of fun stuff to watch here, but I am forced to agree with Matt. It's recycled plot, and even the most suspended of disbelief would snap of the set up here.

Matthew: Problems - Would Kirk really keep Scotty and McCoy waiting for 2 hours in the conference room? Why would they actually wait? Why do we get four famous generals and warriors for the evil side, but an old guy and a pacifist to augment the good side? Why do these evil, treacherous people cooperate so easily? In terms of the villains, we get the trope of one person we know, three we don't. As far as the conclusion... soo... good defeats evil by beating it up? We are given a pretty weak moral, namely that "Evil retreats when forcibly confronted." Yawn.

Kevin: I agree. It feels like someone had an idea about running into Abraham Lincoln in outer space and built up an episode to make that happen. None of the plot elements felt organic or connected. It's like the writers said, "Wouldn't it be cool if [X] happened?" and then wrote that. Even in Gamesters of Triskelion, the story at least felt cohesive. Here, it was just a mash of ideas.

Matthew: More interesting attributes of the episode include some VERY Roddenberry dialogue: In our century, we've learned not to fear words, Uhura says. Yes, Kirk continues: We've all learned to delight in what we are, Vulcans discovered that centuries before us! As hackneyed as this might sound, for one thing it is quite indicative of the idealism Roddenberry had. For another, it lays the foundation for first contact stories between Vulcan and Earth - it had never really been established before when and under what circumstances they met - the implication here, later fleshed out, is that Vulcans were more advanced, both technologically and philosophically. This episode is the introduction of Colonel Green, Kahless, and Surak. Did anything really interesting happen with them? No. But they are important historical characters in Trek, and they are all developed further in the future. I liked the scenes in which McCoy and Scotty berated Kirk for walking into the trap. Turns out they were right! I hope the Captain apologized off screen later.

Kevin: The addition of two pivotal characters for two major species was really cool, and I wonder to what extent the writers planned on bring those characters back initially, or if was just writers later on fleshing out existing canon. The scene on the bridge with Uhura was quite charming actually, and you are totally right, Matt, it is vintage Rodenberry.

Matthew: Some science notes: Kirk tells Lincoln that "we can convert to minutes," and Spock as well mentions "old style measurements." This is inconsistent, given their frequent use throughout TOS. Kirk also gives us an explanation of the transporter - he says it "converts" molecules to energy, transports the energy, then reconvert it back to its original pattern of molecules. This implies that the matter is not "destroyed" in one location and then the pattern is reassembled from different matter in a different location. This is of particular interest to philosophers like myself who wonder about consciousness and replication in questions of transporter use. And no, I'm not the only one!

Kevin: I can vouch that many a conversation has taken place in Matt's living room contemplating the metaphysical implications of transporting. The "minutes" dialogue was stupid. They clearly have used our minutes, right down to using modern military time for three seasons now. Were they just padding dialogue for time?


Matthew: This episode had a lot of guest stars. Only one was particularly good, and that was Philip Pine as Col. Green. I'm not saying the other actors were bad, but only Col. Green was truly entertaining, fun and devilish. As far as the main cast, Scotty and McCoy had the best lines, as they protested Kirk and Spock beaming down.

Kevin: Space Lincoln (for that is now his name) put his shoulder into the role, and it largely paid off. He projected the mild mannered, principled statesman that is the backbone of the Lincoln mythos pretty well. Surak wasn't bad, he was just boring. Special acting recognition should go to Zora of Tirburon's eyebrows. They were truly the scariest villain of all.

Production Values

Matthew: This is our second silicon-based alien "poop monster." The effect was mediocre, pretty average for TOS. Sort of a big pile, but this time with light up eyes and claws.Otherwise, we get some alien costumes for our warriors, and the basic planetary set. Pretty basic, all told.

Matthew: The shaky-cam effect during the fight scene was annoying. Maybe THIS was the one episode Abrams watched to "research" his crap-fest of a movie?

Kevin: The monster here is why people laugh at Star Trek. And they should. It was laughable. The Horta despite its innate hokiness actually works somehow. This is like the department store Santa of rock-based life forms. It looks cheap.

Matthew: Whenever we see dress uniforms, it's always fun. This season, Scotty wears a variant with a kilt, which actually looked pretty good. The security personnel also wear white phaser belts for their "honor guard," which was interesting. Makeup and costumes for the guest stars were pretty decent. Lincoln's face looked a bit strange, with some very visible "shadowing" makeup. This, however, is excusable given the screens of the day, it's only now on big HD screens that we'd really notice how bad it looks up close.

Kevin: Personally, I loved Surak's multicolored tunic getup. When not devoting their energies to warring on each other, the Vulcans can clearly whip out some far out threads.


Mathew: At the end of the day, despite introducing some neat characters, this episode was kind of a dud. It had a repetitive premise that wasn't developed very well. Budget constraints limited the number of combatants, the fight scenes were unimpressive, and the take away message of the ending was murky. It's a 2.

Kevin: Not even Space Lincoln can save this one. It's not a 1 because there moments of the episode that were quite entertaining, though not perhaps for the reason the writers intended, but overall, I agree with Matt. This is a 2, for a total of four from the both of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment