|Posted on May 22, 2012 at 10:20 AM|
References to history tend to be dicey in the Trek universe. Not only are some of the situations contrived, but if we don’t research and learn the truth, we’ll believe what the fiction tell us over reality. It is, in fact, the same phenomenon as when secular producers attempt to make a Bible movie; their lesser knowledge makes them make mistakes.
On December 9, 2009, I noted several bobbles in “Requiem for Methuselah,” about a man who supposedly lived several lives through the centuries, including a handful of biblical figures. Not only would a nobody like Lazarus have nothing in common with a great king like Solomon, but there’s an overlap in the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Gutenburg, meaning Flint must’ve been two people at once!
I have also noted how mild the brutality of the Nazis and the Roman Empire seemed, when Trek attempted to put Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and others in the same arenas. The presence of false gods is assumed to be more historical than theological, which I’ll mention again in a couple of months.
But now let’s look at original Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun” and “The Savage Curtain.” When it comes to contrived histories, I believe these two represent most of them.
In “The Savage Curtain,” Captain Kirk meets what appears to be Abraham Lincoln. The former president first materializes before the Enterprise’s viewer, with space as a backdrop. When he invites himself aboard, he apparently transforms from volcanic rock on the surface of Excalbria. In spite of the constant upheavals below, a patch of Earth-like geology and atmosphere appears, complete with sparse vegetation.
The actor tried to give Lincoln the same lighthearted humor and frankness the real one is noted for. But to me, the character comes off bland, and I know I’m not alone.
The other actual historical figure, Genghis Khan, appears as an enemy, but as with Rome and the Nazis, his vicious nature is considerably toned down. In the 12th and 13th centuries of Asia, Khan was more a Mongol military leader than a fighter, yet here we see him in hand-to-hand combat a couple of times.
And what is the purpose of this fighting? It seems the lava beings which inhabit this planet have no concept of good vs. evil, so they want four good guys to battle four bad guys to see which side is stronger. I believe this is the biggest contrivance in the entire episode. Would God create a sentient creature who does not know the difference? I seriously doubt it.
Though the stocky and vaguely hominid lava thing looks like something out of Lost in Space, Trek would like us think it could be an actual creature. It’s never given a name in the episode, but Trek tradition calls it Yarnek.
The other “good guy” on Kirk’s side is Surak, “the father of all we [Vulcans] became,” according to Spock. I assume this means he’s the progenitor of using logic over emotions. The three other “bad guys” with Khan are equally fictional, and since an hour is too short to develop either of them, they don’t have the time show their full violent natures.
Yarnek describes each of these baddies. “Colonel Green, who led a genocidal war early in the 21st century. Zora, who experimented with the body chemistry of subject tribes on Tiburon. Kahless the Unforgettable, the Klingon who set the pattern for his planet’s tyrannies.”
I don’t think we need to go further. All of them seem relatively mild, given their buildup. In fact, I have no idea what Zora’s work has to do with out-and-out combat. At the most, she would have developed chemical warfare rather than implemented it, which we never see.
The final contrivance: “You are the survivors,” Yarnek tells Kirk and Spock. “The others have run off. It would seem evil retreats when forcibly confronted.” Oh, yeah? Since when?
“Spectre of the Gun” is slightly more reasonable. The only comparison is that the altered history is generated by aliens—in this case, Melkotians. Just because the Enterprise came to offer them peace, the Melkotian says they’ve “encroached on our space.” When they fail to retreat, and instead beam down to Melkot, they find themselves in a thick fog, facing a skull-like image on a stick. Is this supposed to be what they look like?
“You, Captain Kirk,” says the skull, its mouth not moving, “the disobedience was on your orders. … Yours shall be the pattern of your death.”
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov suddenly find themselves in a mocked-up Tombstone, Arizona, dateline October 26, 1881. Sheriff Johnny Behar, who is an actual historical figure, greets them as though they are the infamous Clanton gang. Other portrayed players include the three Earp marshals—Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan—and Virgil’s deputy Doc Holliday.
Not only are the Enterprise men mistaken for the Clantons, even by appearance to the other characters, but each is assigned a name from the gang. However, the only important appellations are Kirk as Ike Clanton and Chekov as Billy Claiborne. In addition, Dr. McCoy is Tom McLaury, Spock is Frank McLaury, and Scotty is left with being Billy Clanton.
Of course, all this leads up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but with a futuristic twist. The landing party tries to use their advanced technical knowledge to find a way out, using period materials. But Tombstone is surrounded by a force field, the tranquilizer McCoy comes up with doesn’t work, and they are forced to play out the hand.
I said “Spectre of the Gun” was a little more realistic than “Savage Curtain,” mainly because the Earp threat feels more real than four watered-down villains, such as Genghis Khan. But this historical lesson is still imperfect. The show does note that Wyatt Earp killed Billy Claiborne (Chekov) for taking his girl, though real history says the real Billy had survived. But we don’t really know whether a girl was involved. Also, they don’t say Ike had also lived through it. Later, he had tried to sue the Earps for murder, without success.
Here are a few more inconsistencies they don’t mention.
1) In the episode, the O.K. Corral incident happened at 5:00; history says it was 3:00. 2) The shooting took place not in the corral as shown, but in a side street not far away. 3) One of the things Scotty is known for, unfortunately, is being a boozler, but historically Ike had filled that role. 4) It had not been all four who killed the other three men; Virgil Earp, the family leader and chief marshal, was the main shooter, covered by his brothers and Holliday from other locations.
All of that being said, however, we’re talking about science fiction, not a documentary on the History Channel. Perhaps much of the unrealism can be explained as the respective aliens’ misunderstanding of Earth’s past, in appearance and events. In the same way, I do believe that Spock’s mind meld—making his companions regard the bullets as not real—should be seen in the sci-fi context as well.
Well, it’s a good thing the Bible is quite a bit more historically accurate. Unlike Americans, the Israelites passed down the stories from generation to generation, so every recitation almost exactly matched the ones before. In the same way, the Scriptures have been so meticulously copied, what we have today is what they had thousands of years ago, minus rare insignificant errors. The Dead Sea Scrolls have already proven this abundantly.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Understanding the past pleases God, for His hand has been at work all through the ages. The O.K. Corral is a story where justice triumphs over cattle rustlers and stage robbers, albeit a more brutal brand of justice the way the Earps practiced it.
But at least real justice was served.