ByPeter K Nyblom, writer at
Radio Non-Personality, puts words together in sentences. Sci-Fi and Super Freak
Peter K Nyblom

If you're a fan of our 16th President or just a red-blooded American, you may want to set 40 minutes aside to watch the 16th commander in chief fight a Mongol savage, a military madman and THE ultimate, badass Klingon. Forget that whole legend of a vampire hunter, Lincoln was really a time-hopping, galaxy-guarding icon who apparently wore the same clothes and hat every day.

In the annals of sci-fi, presidents and time-travel are a familiar trope. We saw it in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, as well as in Doctor Who and Twilight Zone episodes. But President Lincoln really gets a chance to shine as an interstellar combatant in the third season of the original Star Trek. The episode, entitled "The Savage Curtain," sets the Enterprise crew at odds with an unyielding lava rock alien and a gang of historical thugs.

The plot takes Lincoln (Lee Bergere) from his giant floating space chair to the bridge of the Federation's flagship, to the surface of a molten magma planet. Kirk welcomes our star-spanning president in the transporter room with full dress uniforms and presidential honors. There's also a couple of redshirts brandishing phasers, who have no idea that they're going to die in some horrific way next episode.

Peppered with light humor, the episode get serious in several spots, especially when it takes the race issue naively head on. Entering the bridge, Lincoln notes that Uruha is a "charming Negress." Seeing a look of bewilderment on her face, he immediately apologizes. Uruha handles it with perfect Roddenberry grace. This sequence is part of what gives the show its power. There's NO WAY that exchange would make it on TV now, which is too bad, because as Uhura says, "In our century we've learned not to fear words." Boom. Smiles, drops the mic, walks off-stage.

Lincoln invites Kirk and Spock down to the planet, where they of course are forced into a good versus evil battle. The fray will give the hot rock people meaning to each philosophy, and if the good guys win, the Enterprise will be released.

Jim and the squad are pitted against four purveyors of evil. Two are brutal figures from Earth's history: Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongol Horde, conqueror of the Far East, and the fictional Colonel Green, a Trek Universe creation credited with instigating "late 21st Century wars." Most notably allied with Khan and Green is the Klingon Kahless, a legend ST:TNGers will recognize as the dude who started the Klingons on the path to perpetual war. There's also some alien female who looks sufficiently mean spirited, but isn't developed as a character much.

The team-ups seem incredibly lop-sided in favor of the baddies. Kirk and Spock are stuck with a pacifist, Surak the Vulcan, who started that planet's inhabitants on the road to emotionless logic, and Abe Lincoln. It's interesting when you fully realize the dynamic of the Good Guy Crew. The show's writers are telling us that both Kirk and Spock will eventually be viewed as galaxy-wide heroes. Of course, with the benefit of history at our backs (OR is that future history? Try and drink that in, right?) we know that's true enough. Pretty heady stuff.

As you can guess, Surak tries to make peace and gets offed pretty quick. He's then used to lure the others into a trap. Lincoln steps in with a plan and what ensues is what we all want from our Lincoln: a soliloquy loaded with calm decisive reasoning, which comes across as common sense. Eventually, honest Abe convinces them his plan is the right course. In the concluding battle, Lincoln stumbles in retreat, warns the Space Cowboys of a trap, and falls, assassinated again, this time with a home-made wooden spear in his back. Good old Abe Lincoln, he just can't catch a break.

You can currently binge on all the original Star Trek episodes via Netflix.

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