Combine everybody’s favorite invention, the Imagination Station, with everybody’s favorite kid character, Jimmy Barclay, and this is the episode you get. It’s a recipe for success. Plus, it features Abraham Lincoln, everybody’s favorite U.S. president. Now these are obviously all generalizations, but these various factors still ensure that this episode would become a fan favorite. It’s a classic story of a kid stumbling into Whit’s End and suddenly going on an adventure they couldn’t have predicted. But it’s also a ground breaking story as it marks the first time the Imagination Station is used to visit a historical time outside of the Bible. And yet, interestingly it’s not the first time a kid from Odyssey has found themselves in the middle of American history. Irwin Springer beat Jimmy Barclay in that respect by about seventy episodes in The Day Independence Came from Album 2. But luckily Jimmy doesn’t have to hit his head in order to experience his adventure. And unlike Irwin, Jimmy is no history buff. He hates the subject and isn’t very knowledgeable about it, which gives him a totally different perspective. If Irwin had been in this episode instead of Jimmy I’m not sure it would have worked as well. It’s Jimmy’s ignorance about history and about Lincoln’s impending assassination which keeps it upbeat and enjoyable.
Jimmy’s sudden appearance in President Lincoln’s backyard probably should have signaled to him that he needs to step up security, but unfortunately he apparently doesn’t see the need for it. Normally when kids show up in an Imagination Station adventure the historical figures are shocked and start to angrily interrogate them about who they are and where they come from. But Lincoln is noticeably different. He befriends Jimmy after a very short session of squirrel hunting, which I’m sure later inspires the Barclays to jokingly consider living off squirrel meat in Album 17 after George loses his job. Lincoln’s friendliness and trust is very prominent and he comes across as slightly naïve. For all he knows Jimmy could be an assassin. In fact, he would have good reason to believe that because the people plotting the assassination also befriend Jimmy. I guess everyone in this historical episode just wants to be friends. Lincoln’s naivety shows up again when he insists on going to the front lines, ignoring the advice of his Secretary of War and putting himself in possible danger. It’s very evident how the story is being shaped to foreshadow the climax, all unbeknownst to Jimmy of course.
Once Lincoln and Jimmy arrive at the front line of the Civil War, Jimmy is immediately left to fend for himself in the woods. General Grant says, “Just don’t wander too far though. You can never tell what you might run into!” No kidding. They’re in a warzone and they just let a kid explore the area on his own? It’s pretty irresponsible of both Grant and Lincoln to allow that. As a result of their negligence, Jimmy has to take cover from cannon fire and is then captured by the Confederates. Not exactly a great turn of events. Luckily for Jimmy the war soon ends after General Lee surrenders. It’s almost too bad that it happens so fast because we get very little time with Lee. Then there’s some more foreshadowing, as Jimmy foils the assassination attempt of General Grant by a rogue Confederate soldier. This is a great moment because it makes Jimmy’s inability to save Lincoln all the more poignant later on. So far Jimmy has been living in a world where bullets and cannonballs can rain down all around and he and his friends never get hurt. But that’s all about to change.
In contrast to General Lee, who is described as an “incredible man,” John Wilkes Booth is clearly a villain. He’s downright creepy and he uses Dr. Blackgaard-level manipulation when trying to entice information out of Jimmy. It’s reminiscent of Richard Maxwell manipulating Lucy. But since Booth is just another guy who wants to be Jimmy’s friend, Jimmy doesn’t see through his deception at first. Irwin Springer would have immediately recognized who he was. But to be fair, it only takes Jimmy a few minutes to recognize Booth and his significance in the story. But like Digger Digwillow before him, Jimmy is captured and imprisoned by the villains so he can’t prevent them from killing his hero. Speaking of which, Digger’s adventure in the Imagination Station is a lot like Jimmy’s. Both are reluctant to go at first. Digger hates hearing Bible stories in Sunday school class and Jimmy hates sitting through history class at school. Digger prefers his comic books and Jimmy his Zapazoids. But then they enter a world which they know little about and come face to face with an amazing historical figure who they grow to love. Digger witnesses people celebrating as Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and Jimmy celebrates Lincoln’s inauguration and witnesses the parades that take place after the Civil War is won. Then both Jesus and Lincoln are killed, much to the dismay of Digger and Jimmy. In a way, Lincoln is portrayed a lot like Christ in this episode. He shows his faith in God and his efforts to emulate the actions of Jesus by freeing the slaves and winning the war, but in the process paying the ultimate price.
Similarly to Digger, Jimmy is heartbroken over the death of his hero at the end of his Imagination Station ride. Nevertheless, Lincoln is no failure in Whit’s eyes. He accomplished what he was called to do. Whit comforts Jimmy as the music from “The Battle Hymn of The Republic” plays softly in the background. It is also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” and not only is it a beautiful song but it fits perfectly because it was first sung during the Civil War. It’s basically a song of Christ’s victory and kingship over the world, linked to the American context, and is a great way to end a great show. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.