Flashback: 1967 – Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever

imageWhat would you sacrifice for the woman you love? What lengths will you take to do what is right? These are the questions that James Kirk asks himself in this highly acclaimed, fan favourite episode of Star Trek.

This episode is argued as being the best episode of The Original Series’ three year run. It was directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Harlan Ellison. It won a Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation and won Ellison a Writers Guild of America Award. Despite it’s success, Ellison is famously not happy with the differences between his original work and what aired. I looked at both. The episode that aired I have on DVD and the graphic novel of Harlan’s original vision I happened upon in the “New” section at my comic store.

I know  I’ve already looked at 1967, but I felt like this was worth writing about. Plus, I’m only focusing on one thing from 1969 this week. This story is out of my timeline, doesn’t introduce any new characters or universes, and I’m looking at work from both 1967 and 2014. But screw it, this is a damn good story, and it’s my time machine so I’m going to make the rules!

imageThe main plots are pretty much the same. The crew are seeking out a temporal anomaly on a planet. When one member of the crew attempts to escape down to the surface, Kirk and Spock lead an away team to retrieve them. the come across the source of the anomaly which is this thing(s) called the Guardian’s of Forever. The fleeing crew member runs through the guardian and into the past. Kirk and Spock are forced to travel into the past as well, because time has changed outside of the planet and the Enterprise doesn’t exist anymore. You would figure this would be an easy mission to accomplish. The wrench in the machine is they discover that in order to restore time they must ensure that a woman, Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), who was originally meant to die, does. But Kirk falls in love with that Edith Keeler.

Obviously, not nearly the same scale or ramifications, but this reminds me of when I was first dating my wife. The question of what what would I give up for this person that I have fallen in love with. Kirk had to ask, do I save her to live and live with her in this timeline, or do I let her die and everyone else who had existed continued to exist. We did not live in the same city and she couldn’t move because of school, so for me, it was do I move to where she is and give up my life as it is, leaving everything behind. Or, do I return to my life, knowing our relationship is not likely to last. We’re married now so it is clear what choice I made. I miss my old life at times, and though many of my relationships of dwindled, I can still, and do still, return to visit. Would I have made the same choice if it were the life of my family and friends or a single woman, whom I love? I don’t know. But I can only feel for Kirk.

This could have been a stand alone film. Remove the fact that it’s Kirk and Spock stuck in the past and you loose your whole connection to the franchise. The episode has McCoy being the crazy crew member that led them there, but the original script has it being a regular crew member. It is quite simple to have characters written in and out. However, watching these events happen to Kirk, a character you are familiar with already, makes the story that much more compelling.

The storyline in both stories are pretty much the same. The main difference is in the anecedent incidences. In the aired version, it is McCoy who heads to the past after accidentally injecting himself with a powerful drug. In the original script it is a drug dealing crew member, Beckwith, who is trying to escape. Trying to increase his sales of an alien sound drug, another crew member threatens to turn them both in. Beckwith the kills him and that is why he is on the run. That this is not the route they went with is assuredly where Ellison found most of his frustration with the changes. I get it, he had a unique vision he wanted to see come to fruition. It was the 60’s though and that was really pushing the envelope. He should not have been that surprised the idea didn’t go through. Ellison’s script was able to capture depression era quit a bit better than the show, including the effect that Spock’s appearance had on people and the racism that followed. The show touches on it briefly and then they cover his ears up with a hat.

imageBoth the show and graphic novel have some very powerful imagery in how they handle specific scenes. I offend find myself in disbelief when a character quickly falls in love in a movie or on tv, but these scenes made me… less critical. In the graphic novel there is a powerful scene in which Spock confronts Kirk about his feelings and Kirk initially denies the truth, but eventually confesses and Spocks reminds him of the gravity of what they must do. In the show, KIrk just blurts out almost out of nowhere his love for Edith, but they make up for it later. The scene of her death (it’s pretty clear that she dies right? The show does continue) is different than anything I’ve seen on the show. It looks more like it’s from a Hitchcock film than it does Star Trek. Visually, it is a very powerful scene. I had to rewatch it just to confirm it was awesome at is was.

If I had to pick what I liked more, I would go with the aired version. I think the drug dealing isn’t really fit for the original series, and the direction of the episode was great. However, the Ellison version is still great and deserves a place on my bookshelf. (I am actually very impressed with the look of the book itself, it captures modern retro very well, I am dissapointed to have to put it on my shelf). If only they had filmed both. Now that we are back to this era in the films could Ellisons vision be revisited. Probably not, it wouldn’t work well with the movies style, and I don’t think Pine can bring as much depth to the performance as Shatner did, but it would be interesting to see. They revisited Kahn, Just saying.

Thats about it for now. Thanks for reading. And remember, just say no to alien sound drugs!

Images from StarTrek.com/article/idws-city-on-the-edge-of-forever-graphic-novel-early-2015 and Wikipedia.org/wiki/the_city_on_the_edge_of_for ever  and https://crapthatpissesthisoldmanoff.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/star-trek-city-on-the-edge-3.jpg

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