Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever

Episode: "The City on the Edge of Forever"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 28
Original Air Date: April 6, 1967
via Wikipedia
For many, "The City on the Edge of Forever" is the episode in Star Trek's original series, the one by which all others are judged.  It is one of two original series episodes to win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (the other being "The Menagerie" - reflections here and here).  As such, I've been looking forward to this story.  In addition to general critical acclaim, I figured it would be the ultimate test of my patience with Trek where time travel narratives are concerned.  As discussed in previous posts, I feel it is a storyline the franchise generally doesn't handle well.  If the most revered tale in that vein can't change my mind, there's no hope for me.

The Enterprise crew discovers the "Guardian of Forever," a time/space travel portal.  Driven mad by an inadvertent drug overdose, Dr. McCoy leaps through the portal and apparently alters history.  Their own existence at risk, Kirk and Spock have no choice but to follow him in hopes of undoing whatever temporal damage has been done.
via Memory Alpha
They arrive in 1930s New York, approximately a week before McCoy's arrival in the same place. They have a most fortunate encounter with Edith Keeler, a young, beautiful missionary woman who gives them work and finds them cheap lodging.  Before McCoy turns up, Spock discovers the temporal dilemma. In the original time stream, Edith is killed by an automobile. In the new, McCoy saves her life. Her peacekeeping work is effective in keeping the US out of the Second World War, allowing for eventual Nazi world conquest, killing the space program that would ultimately lead to the Enterprise's mission.  To complicate matters further, Kirk has fallen in love with her.

My verdict: this is definitely a good episode.  Edith is a great character and the moral dilemma presented is exactly the sort of thing I love about Trek.  However, I still have my issues with the time travel.  If the time stream had changed when McCoy went back, not only would the Enterprise have disappeared but so would the landing party standing in front of the portal, Kirk and Spock included.  In fact, McCoy himself wouldn't even have been there to jump through in the first place, so history wouldn't have changed, and so forth.  Sure, it's fun and well-written but take a step back and it's messy.

*****
via Wikipedia
Joan Collins (Edith) was born May 23, 1933 in London.  In show business from the age of 9, she didn't achieve the cultural icon status she enjoys today until 1981, when she landed the part of Alexis Carrington on Dynasty.  She made her big screen debut in 1951's Lady Godiva Rides Again and her credits include appearances in softcore porn adaptations of her younger sister's novels. Jackie Collins is, of course, one of the titans of the publishing industry but Joan is no slouch herself, having written 17 books with more than 50 million copies sold worldwide.  She's an accomplished singer, too, including a performance with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in The Road to Hong Kong.

Joan Collins has been married five times, including Percy Gibson from 2002 to the present.  She has three children and three grandchildren.  A devoted royalist, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1997.

20 comments:

  1. From the moment McCoy disappeared into the portal, and none of the the landing party vanished, it was assured that the effort to correct any temporal damage would be successful. One of my favorite episodes!

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    1. Or I wonder if the portal was just toying with them - this is how the past COULD have been altered and this is what it would mean.

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  2. I believe you're right. Portal talked a lot like "Oz, the great and powerful!" and might have been a calculated illusion.

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    1. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

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  3. LOL. Time travel is such a tricky concept to write well. I grew up loving the Back to the Future series, but it wasn't until we shared them with the kids that we realized the paradoxes--and had many subsequent conversations about them. (Woes of raising geniuses.)

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    1. B2tF - haven't seen those in so long. It's probably about time we introduced our daughter to them. At least with those movies, it's all a bit tongue-in-cheek.

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  4. I think this Harlan Ellison written episode is probably the best episode of the original series. It makes the viewer feel the moral dilemma acutely.

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  5. I love love love Star Trek. If it were up to me, I'd stay away from time travel simply because the first time I do things aren't always great. The second time around, I'd probably mess up things even worse.

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    1. Ha! Good point. Who's to say we wouldn't all be just as clueless the second time around?

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  6. This was a n interesting one for me. But I agree with the time travel mess and asking some of the same questions you did. It is always confusing for me, the portal should have changed the second he jumped through.
    The moral dilemma is quite heartbreaking, But as it already was in the past and in reality they shouldn't be there. It was their history.
    What a dilemma .

    cheers, parsnip

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. The dilemma - a choice that isn't really a choice once you know all there is to know.

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  7. I love this episode. I try not to ever think about time travel because of the paradox. How did Captain Janeway go back in time to get the Voyager home safely? Paradox.
    I know Shatner gets slammed a lot for overacting, but the look on his face at that last scene just gets me every time.

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    1. He lives in Kirk and that's apparent from the very first episode. That's a lot harder to do than most people realize.

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  8. A classic, and so much fun, for sure. Time travel is always logically impossible, what with all those paradoxes.

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    1. And yet, there are stories that handle it better. The Madeline L'Engle stories work. Dr. Who usually works, at least more often than Trek.

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  9. I always got the feeling that the stranded crew near the Guardian of Forever would have eventually winked out of existence, too, but the portal was keeping up a kind of force field around them for as long as it could.

    Classic episode, of course. Harlan Ellison's has a book that contains his reminiscences and original script drafts -- worth it for lots of inside baseball.

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    1. Interesting interpretation - I like that. Thanks for the book recommendation, too. Onto the list it goes.

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  10. Based on your review, it sounds like an amazing episode.

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