The Savage Curtain

Image result for the savage curtain

One of those season 3 episodes of Trek which went for high concept and floating historical person in space over pacing and logic.

No curtains either, savage or regular.

Any good?

It’s memorable, but mostly for the ‘good vs evil’ battle element. I can’t say it’s bad, I don’t skip any parts when watching, but it is resolved in a depressingly expected way compared to other episodes, like ‘The Corbomite Manouvre’, where the resolution is clever and ultimately the alien enemy is not a bad guy, he’s just lonely.

Also, unlike ‘The Spectre of the Gun’, there’s nothing distinctive about the scenery.

It’s simply good guys vs bad guys.

But then the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

The biggest problem I had when re-watching it was the use of Kahless as a representation of ‘evil’. In TNG and DS9, the Klingons revere Kahless and see him as a liberator from tyranny. His eating of his enemy’s heart is very much in line with Klingon customs, so that’s not really evil, and he established the ‘honour system’, which has some dubious elements i.e. the punishment of the father’s sins on seven generations of that family, but is basically a worthy code.

Therefore, the fact that Kahless is featured at all, raises two questions in my mind.

i] The aliens took the historical figures from the minds of Kirk & Spock, so did they know a lot about Kahless, or was it their general dislike of Klingons that caused him to pop up here?

ii] Was the result of the battle pre-determined by the perspectives of Kirk & Spock? E.g. Colonel Green and Kahless and Genghis Khan and the woman of some alien race I’ve never heard of were always likely to attack the good guys because that’s what Kirk and Spock believed they would do?

Both points seem connected as, if the historical figures were taken from the subjective mindscapes of Kirk & Spock then the battle was pretty pointless, as even the bad guys would’ve realised there was nothing to gain from victory. Genghis Khan fought for territory and power, not to please some talking rock formation.

But then, Kirk & Spock did try to reason with the villains at first, which means that they either changed their minds about their adversaries’ trustworthiness later, or their rational minds were doing something that their subconscious minds thought was redundant. In other words, by trying to persuade Colonel Green et al to join them and figure out a plan to stop the alien rock people, all they were doing was putting on a show to hide their ID.

Kirk knew from history that Colonel Green did evil things in a specific time and context, so his ID took away the nuance and made him evil in every time and context, and that’s the figure that the rock aliens created on the planet.

It’s interesting because the Federation and Trek in general always tries to paint aliens as neither bad nor good people, but alternate culture people. It wasn’t quite as pronounced in the original series, but it was still there, in episodes like ‘The Day of the Dove’, where Kirk found out that Klingon women believed Starfleet officers were all brutal rapists/murderers, and ‘The Cloud Minders’, with the class system under the [incredibly heavy handed] microscope.

This episode seems like a backwards step then, especially in the way it portrays Kahless. It would’ve been interesting if it had made him a good guy, but then it would’ve jarred with the characters of Kirk & Spock and the way they thought about Klingons.

But the episode didn’t make it clear that Kahless wasn’t really that bad, it simply commented on Lincoln being the best version of the man because that’s how Kirk perceived him.

Could the Klingons have been treated more fairly?

Basically, the Federation was at war with the Klingons, or at cold war with them after the 1st season aliens stopped them from fighting each other, so it would’ve been a stretch for either Kirk or Spock, or the audience at that time, to see the Klingons in a balanced way.

So, yeah, the bad guys all remained bad, without even Spock saying, hang on, maybe all those villains were villains due to our own ignorance and limited viewpoints.

E.g. okay, Colonel Green sounds pretty evil from the information given in the episode, but they really missed an opportunity to provoke thought with a comment about Kahless and how he was supposed to be honourable in history yet acted like a devious thug in this situation.

Even a raised eyebrow from Spock when seeing Kahless would’ve been sufficient…

I guess by season 3 Trek was just trying to hang on…though they did have that ‘black and white face episode’ and ‘day of the dove’ so the intent to do messaging was there, it was just absent in this particular episode.

Or perhaps the message was, sometimes you have to beat up the bad guys but ultimately spare them instead of the suicide run that Surak did?

What the hell was he thinking?

Trusting people who’ve just tried to kill you is not logical, it’s ridiculous, though only in this situation as the Vulcans, who are generally more intelligent than humans, should’ve been able to figure out that the villains were not real people, they were manifestations of evil taken from Kirk & Spock’s brains, meaning they were programmed to do only evil, despite there being not much reason to do so.

Was Genghis Khan really a puppet who would follow someone like Colonel Green?

How did he even understand English?

Kahless too…

Another thought, which characters were taken from Spock’s mind apart from Surak? Why would he come up with Kahless or Genghis Khan?

Or did the rock aliens just pluck all the villains from the ship’s database?

I assumed that all historical figures were taken from Kirk & Spock’s minds, but now I’m not so sure. If it was explained, I must’ve missed it, and if it wasn’t explained then the episode was poorer for it.

An episode of two halves

The first part is all mystery and puzzled expressions; why is Lincoln floating in Space, is he evil, is he an alien trying to understand humans in a weird way?

The second part resorts to the usual action scenario, sacrificing the mystery for a re-tread of ‘Arena’ [not the 80’s straight to vid action movie].

Neither one is given enough time to assert itself, but given the choice I would’ve preferred the first part to have been stretched out, and more time given to the ‘what is evil?’ question as viewed through the prism of history. Also, I would’ve scrapped Lincoln and focused on Kahless, or kept Lincoln and only added Kahless, both supposed representations of good and evil, and by the end of the episode, Kahless could surprise Kirk and Spock by refusing to fight or showing his qualities in some other way. Re-writing ‘The Way to Eden’ or giving more lines to Uhura or Sulu perhaps?

Actually, an even better idea, they could’ve added a modern Klingon bird of prey at the start of the episode, the two ships growling at each other, firing a few pot shots, going down to the planet with their two heroes and, finally, Lincoln and Kahless refuse to fight while Kirk headbutts the Klingon captain, Spock shakes his head and both sides learn a lesson about propaganda and how nefarious it is.

Theme = you have to step outside your shoes to see your prejudices

or

just cos you’re from the future doesn’t mean you’re not a twat

or

alien rock people can’t be trusted.

That’s the point of Trek to me, show the otherness of different cultures while saying, hey, they’re also the same as us in so many ways.

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