Monday, February 16, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was the sixteenth President of the United States. Assassinated at the theater in Spring of 1865, Lincoln is a legendary figure in United States history, not just for his role in prosecuting (and winning…) the Civil War, but for his moral stance in regards to the freeing of slaves in America, principle enunciated in the famous Gettysburg Address.

More than any other U.S. President (with Richard Nixon being a close second…), Abraham Lincoln has been a regular fixture on cult television.

For example, Lincoln (perennially ranked among the top #3 Presidents in U.S. history) appeared in the final scene of a Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) episode called “The Passersby.”  In this story, injured Civil War soldiers march down a long road, past a ruined Southern plantation. There, Lavinia Godwin (Joanne Linville) waits for her husband, a Confederate, to return.

In the end, we learn that the wounded men on the path are not just wounded, but dead.  And that the last man on that road -- the last victim of the Civil War -- is President Lincoln himself.

One of the last episodes of Star Trek (1966 – 1969) was titled “The Savage Curtain” and it featured the strange sight of Abraham Lincoln floating in space.  He was beamed aboard the Enterprise as its crew prepared to explore the fiery planet Excalbia.  

Kirk, who considered Lincoln a personal hero, demanded that Lincoln be treated with full presidential honors, even though he couldn’t possibly be the “real” Lincoln. Kirk and Spock soon learned that the Excalbians created the Lincoln duplicate along with the Vulcan philosopher Surak to test the concepts of good and evil (Colonel Green, Kang, Genghis Khan).

Abraham Lincoln also appeared in the One Step Beyond (1959 – 1961) episode: “The Day the World Wept,” which focused on the story (perhaps apocryphal) that Lincoln had dreams of his own death in the days before his fateful visit to the theater.  The story also explores the psychic cathexis around his death, with people from various walks of life reporting his death before it even happened. The episode’s creepiest scene involved Lincoln facing his own corpse in a coffin, a dream or nightmare image of his demise.

In time travel series such as The Time Tunnel (1966) and Voyagers (1982), Abraham Lincoln has also appeared in regards to both his assassination, and the final turns of the Civil War. He was captured by the Confederacy, for example in the Voyagers episode "The Day the Rebs Took Lincoln."

He also appeared to deliver The Gettysburg Address on the First Doctor (William Hartnell) Doctor Who serial “The Chase.”

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