In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode The Savage Curtain which aired on March 17, 1969 and Star Date 5906.4.

Story Synopsis

While scanning planet Excalbia, Spock detects strange readings which seem to indicate the presence of carbon cycle life forms. Because of the planet’s molten surface, the reading are discarded as impossible until the Enterprise is scanned from the planet. The subsequent appearance of Abraham Lincoln on the viewing screen and his transportation to the Enterprise demonstrate that whatever intelligence resides on the planet has the ability to read minds and manipulate matter. Kirk orders full honors and courtesy be extended to their guest. Shortly before beaming Lincoln aboard, Spock reports that sensors showing an object resembling living rock with claws at the same position.

On board, Lincoln appears to be human with knowledge of technology from the mid 1800’s but is strangely also aware of the Vulcan philosophy of Nom. When Kirk accepts Lincoln’s invitation for Spock and him to beam down to the newly-created patch of Earth-type environment on the planet, over McCoy and Scotty’s strong objections, they encounter Surak, the father of Vulcan civilization. A piece of rock suddenly becomes animated and informs them that the inhabitants of the planet are conducting an experiment to discover which of the opposing human philosophies is stronger: good or evil. The inhabitants of Excalbia will witness the “drama,” as will the crew of the Enterprise. In this first experiment, the goal will be a simple one: survival.

To carry out their experiment, the rock creatures pit Lincoln, Surak, Kirk, and Spock, whose phasers and tricorders failed to beam down with them against Genghis Khan, Colonel Green, who led a genocidal war in the early 21st Century, Zora, who experimented with the body chemistry of subject tribes on Tiburon, and Kahless the Klingon, who set the pattern for the Klingon Empire’s tyrannies in a battle to the death. Col. Green begins the conflict by pretending to call a truce with Kirk while his associates prepare to attack. However, after fending off the attack, Kirk does not wish to begin hostilities. As incentive to fight, the Enterprise is rigged to blow up if Kirk cannot succeed within four hours. Kirk begins making tactics (and Lincoln compares his leadership qualities to those of Ulysses S. Grant), but Spock and Surak refuse to cooperate and Surak seeks out the other group to negotiate.

Green appears to parlay with Surak, but sends his associates to sneak up on him. They then attempt to trick Kirk’s party into rescuing him when he screams out in pain. Lincoln attempts to sneak into Green’s camp, but this action had been expected. As he discovers that Surak is already dead, Lincoln is speared from behind. Col. Green’s party then attacks Spock and Kirk. Spock kills Col. Green and the others are forced to flee. The rock creatures discover that evil is defeated when directly confronted by good, and Spock, Kirk, and the Enterprise are released.

Fun Fact

From comment By Will Wright- The Excalbian recreation of the legendary Kahless the Unforgettable in this episode  was played by Robert “Bob” Herron who served as a stunt double for Jeffrey Hunter in the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage” and also appeared, uncredited, as an Enterprise crew member named Sam in TOS: “Charlie X”. Charlie ‘sent him away’ because he laughed at him.

Compliance Takeaways:

  1. Executives behaving badly?
  2. Internal control work-arounds and overrides.
  3. Who watches the watchers?


Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for The Savage Curtain Savage Curtain

Memory Alpha – The Savage Curtain