Well, we’re almost at the end of the original Trek. And what do we have now? Captain Kirk fights alongside Honest Abe Lincoln. Spock’s there with the founder of the Vulcan philosophy Surak. And on the other side there’s a Klingon, Genghis Khan, and two others who mean something to Kirk and Spock but not to anyone else. It’s a real oddity of an episode that looks like it was written by pulling random names out of a hat.
I actually rather like this one.
Let’s forget for a moment how messed up this whole scenario is. I mean, we can’t, but we can try. Out on patrol, the Enterprise comes across a planet that seems completely uninhabitable, but before they can leave, they get a call from Abe Lincoln.
Yes, he looks just like Honest Abe. True, he probably should be a little taller, but the rest of the appearance is there. Against the better wishes of, well, McCoy, Scotty, and pretty much everyone else, Lincoln gets beamed aboard the ship, and Kirk says his motivation is whether or not this man actually is Abe Lincoln or not, he believes he’s Abe Lincoln. And that may be worth investigating while still treating the man with the respect a leader deserves.
Now, it does seem to be that Kirk never quite follows through on those stated reasons. He’s smiling the entire time, and McCoy and Spock both theorize it has something to do with the fact Lincoln is one of Kirk’s personal heroes.
Despite all that mess, Lincoln convinces Kirk and Spock to beam down to the planet with him to see…something. The area Lincoln came from will now support human life, and against the rather reasonable objections of McCoy and Scotty, the pair beam down, only with their phasers and tricorders not making the trip. So, you know, we have another godlike being involved somewhere. Those are the only types who can disrupt the ship’s systems and create life from nothing. Heck, Scotty almost beamed in a mineral-based something before Lincoln showed up. So, a godlike being who is also a rock man?
That is what’s down there, a being trying to judge whether good or evil is stronger. For good, he has Kirk, Spock, Lincoln, and Spock’s personal hero, Surak. On the other side, there’s Genghis Kahn (who doesn’t talk), some woman who experimented on people named Zora (also doesn’t talk), Colonel Green from the eugenics wars (he talks a lot and he’s bad), and if we have the Vulcan who set his culture’s standards, then the Klingon equivalent should be there in the form of Kahless.
That name comes back later. Much later. But this Kahless, if nothing else, is great at vocal impressions.
By the by, those aliens are actually rather impressive by this show’s standards. True, they’re probably just some rubber rocks in a humanoid shape, but the Christmas light eyeballs that flip on and off as the thing talks is a nice touch. To determine who the stronger ones are, they just have to beat the other in a battle.
How Kirk and Spock win that battle is something else considering Surak doesn’t believe in violence and tries negotiation and he and Lincoln both end up dead when Lincoln tries to rescue him while the two real people set a distraction.
So, the aliens basically believe they learned nothing. Good won, but it used the same methods as evil. Of course, Kirk’s answer is good used a different motivation. Evil agreed to help to get themselves power. Good worked to do what it did because the aliens were holding the Enterprise hostage. That…seems to satisfy the rock man.
You know, all things being equal, this was a very basic episode. I mean, it wasn’t anywhere near as deep as earlier episodes would be, but it more or less worked. Once you get past the famous faces, and many of them weren’t exactly people the home audience would recognize. Lincoln speaks in basic terms, using grade school level history to make analogies like when he compares Kirk to Ulysses S. Grant, but then, well, the aliens maybe learned something, but it does seem they’ll do it again. Plus, really, the philosophies were good and evil? That’s pretty basic. Why not something deeper than “don’t be bad”?
I may have put more thought into this silly episode than anyone else involved did.