The classic Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” remains one of the most iconic episodes when fans recollect their list of favorites. There are many reasons why: greater insight into the nature of Spock and Kirk’s relationship, the appearance of one of Joan Collins’ earliest television roles and that legendary science-fiction author Harlan Ellison wrote the original script.
However, what Ellison originally wrote was not exactly what was broadcast. IDW Publishing has rectified this oversight by reproducing the teleplay as it was originally intended in an incredible hardcover graphic novel.
Ellison reintroduces this episode with so much gratitude that you immediately know that this is what he really wanted to show.
Thinking back to the television episode, we remember that it was McCoy who was accidentally driven mad by a mind-influencing narcotic. However, in the graphic novel, it's drug-smuggling that causes a crew member to flee the Enterprise before he can be arrested. He escapes to the planet of the Guardians (note the plural) and loses himself through time. The resulting flux in the time continuum is more dramatic than was presented in the television episode and forces Kirk and Spock to follow him.
There are great differences in this version that need to be accounted for. First, the Guardians of Forever are many, instead of a single disembodied voice emanating from a circular portal. Also, the site is more than just a simple collection of ruined columns — the landing party visits an actual city. The amazing art by J.K. Woodward portrays an image of a magnificent and ancient metropolis upon the fringe of a majestic mountain range; it's a true city on the edge of forever.
Ellison himself lauds layers of praise upon the teleplay adaptation written by Scott and David Tipton. Familiarly addressing them as “the boys,” we get the sense that there is a true collaboration between writers that transcends simple storytelling; this is a chance for Ellison’s real story to emerge from out of time and to correctly take its place in Trek history, appropriately mirroring the spirit of the tale.
Another difference in Ellison’s original version from what we are used to is the greater insight into the love between Edith Keeler and Kirk. One of the criticisms of the episode is that the relationship between the two characters never really got full justice due to the limitations of an approximate 50-minute show.
The relationship had to be accelerated in order for the story to be captured within that framework, but in this graphic novel we see more of Edith Keeler’s personality and understand fully what draws these two time-crossed lovers together.
It's more than just Keeler’s ability to project a possible great future for mankind; it's her capacity to love mankind that makes her such an endearing character. In the episode we only saw what Kirk could love in her; in the graphic novel we can see how we can love her, too.
There is a greater emphasis on Spock’s Vulcan nature in this retelling as well. Spock’s logical perspective is made extremely clear and his black-and-white perspective on things comes out very strongly. While this may seem a tad jarring, we understand at the end of the story as he comforts his friend that this is done to highlight the closeness of Kirk and Spock’s friendship. There is more time and attention devoted to their friendship, which is one of the fundamental pillars of this show. Because Spock is able to surpass his logical mind and tap into his human heart for a longer time in greater detail, the story is made ever more poignant.
Janice Rand gets a greater role in this reimagining as well. Rand is portrayed as a true soldier and not simply as the captain’s flunky. Upon a return to the Enterprise, the landing party discovers that time has been altered and the Enterprise is no longer a starship but a privateer crewed by renegades and cutthroats. It's Rand who seals the transporter room and defends it from the pirates that have replaced the Enterprise crew in order to allow Kirk and Spock to repair the time continuum.
The look of resolution that J.K Woodward creates for Rand gives her an added sense of importance that was not present in the televised version.
This is a simply amazing book that all Trek fans need to read. IDW Publishing has made a name for itself in demonstrating its expertise in weaving comic fiction for this franchise, and this graphic novel is an example of its reputation. This is creating something new from something classic and giving a chance for a classic Trek creator like Ellison to have his voice heard again, in the way he had originally intended.
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