Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Review: 'Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever' by Harlan Ellison

Star Trek: City on the Edge of ForeverI have to admit that I am not a major Star Trek fan. I have always firmly been on the Star Wars-side of that debate. However, I do appreciate some of its moments and I have heard a lot about this particular episode. Therefore I thought, 'Why not try it out?'.
For the first time ever, a visual presentation of the much-discussed, unrevised, unadulterated version of Harlan Ellison's award-winning Star Trek teleplay script, "The City on the Edge of Forever!" See the story as Mr. Ellison originally intended!
As I said, I have not seen the episode that is based on this graphic novel. Therefore I can only judge the story by what Ellison himself wrote and unfortunately I have to say he runs into the same trap most authors run into when they start messing with time-travel. That trap is the concept that one person changes everything, only to then not show how they would do so. From my history research it has become very clear to me that what changes history is, in the end, usually economics. When people are well-off culture flourishes and so does kindness etc. As we can currently see, economic down-turn leads to distrust and anger. Although a single person can become known for being the front person to a movement, they are hardly ever the one with whom a movement originates.

My problem with time-travel narratives, then, is that authors go for the emotional message that a single person can change the course of the future. Personally it is a message I love hearing as well because it makes me feel important. However, I know it only applies to my own life and on the grand scale on which most of these narratives function it simply doesn't work. City on the Edge of Forever is set between the First and Second World War, a time in world history in which lives were meaninglessly flung away. Partly I found a way in which this aspect of the contemporary history was treated almost disrespectful. The 'person in history' who matters to Kirk and Spock is hardly worked out as a character, rather there is a lot of time spent on Kirk thinking and feeling and Spock not quite understanding. There were some moments which I thought quite insightful, but at times I felt that they could have gone deeper.

Something I really liked were the illustrations. I thought that they captured the atmosphere really well and used colour in a very good way. There were some stunning illustrations of New York and the Star Trek characters were definitely recognizable. What I enjoyed most was being able to actually see different expressions on the characters faces. I have read comics where the face and expression are the same for every panel and it was very off-putting. At times the paneling was a but confusing, leading to me not being quite sure how to read the page.

I give this graphic novel...

3 Universes.

It was interesting to read but in some ways it confirmed my previous suspicions about Star Trek. The stories are there to continue character tropes, rather than develop a story for its own plot line. However, I enjoyed reading Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever and I would definitely recommend it to Star Trek fans. Besides that, it's a fun sci-fi read that is bound to give you an hour or so's of fun!


  1. I am probably the only TOS fan who hates City on the Edge of Forever for the "wrong" reasons.

    See, there were changes made to the script and Harlan Ellison didn't like them (to put it mildly), so there is something of a rift between TOS fans and people who are bigger fans of Ellison than they are of Star Trek. I agree that the changes were dumb, but it doesn't change the fact that even without those changes, the story is still pretty weak. Sorry, Harlan.

    A lot of Trek fans like it because this is Kirk's encounter with "The One Woman" (or at least this is what the people I've talked to about this ep say about it), but it just rings so false in a show that has Kirk bedding, charming, or falling halfway in love with a new green-skinned space babe every other week.

    1. I was aware of the controversy surrounding this episode but because I never watch the show I decided not to get into it in the post! I completely agree with you that Kirk's encounter with 'The One Woman' feels disingenuous and it just didn't sit right with me! Thanks for commenting :)

  2. I've just started becoming a Star Trek fan (like a year ago) and have such a positive experience with the episode that was inspired by this story. I remember immediately googling it because from a sort of campy adventure in space show, there was suddenly this episode with it's emotion and difficult decisions. I really need to read the original because I'm not even sure what the changes are. But it's interesting to read your perspective on the story and the nature of the time travel element. It's made me even more curious to read the original!