Saturday, June 6, 2015

Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever:Mini-Review

Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever is a graphic novel adaptation (by Scott & David Tipton) of Ellison's original screenplay for arguably Star Trek's best television episode. According to Ellison's introduction, the Tipton's have done a perfect job representing his original vision: "I could not have pictured it as perfect as it has turned out." And perfect it is. Ellison's vision, per usual, is a bit darker than the televised episode, but it also digs even deeper into Captain Kirk's psyche and the loneliness he feels as the man in charge. Ellison has presented readers with an intelligent story with meaning and he does us the great courtesy of assuming that we are fairly bright people who don't need absolutely everything explained. He lets the story speak for itself. That's a great gift from a writer.

There are a few differences between the screenplay and the episode that I'd like to point out. First, there is very little McCoy here. The character who goes a bit crazy and winds up going back in time to change history in the teleplay is a drug-dealing, murderous rogue lieutenant, not our favorite doctor accidentally injected with a full hypo. McCoy shows up just once, to attend to the man Lieutenant Beckworth attacked...and then not by name. And, of course, having a drug-dealer on board the flagship of the Federation is another change. It is also nice to see Yeoman Rand represented as a competent, serious member of the crew and not just secretarial eye candy for Kirk. The other biggie is the role of Trooper, the down-and-out WWI soldier who helps Kirk and Spock find Beckworth. 

Trooper, it seems to me, was a huge loss for the televised version. The contrast between his historical value and the value of Edith Keeler is vivid and poignant. It makes a statement about sacrifice as well. Spock's sacrifice in Wrath of Kahn is important--but he makes the sacrifice for his friends and his shipmates. Trooper also sacrifices--but his sacrifice benefits strangers...and ultimately humanity's future. Hard-hitting stuff from a master story-teller.

As far as the graphic novel goes--it is gorgeous. The teleplay has been expertly adapted for the graphic novel and the artwork is impressive. Most of the regular crew members look as we expect--McCoy's brief appearance being the only exception, but perhaps since he wasn't center stage he was given quite the attention that Kirk, Spock and Rand received. Overall, a fantastic graphic novel that any Trek fan should make part of their collection. ★★★★


Anonymous said...

Sounds great Bev - I have Ellison's book with the original drafts of the teleplay and his fairly caustic but very funny essay about the whole debacle when it got so heavily re-written - great stuff. I'll have to track this down!

fredamans said...

You had me with the Star Trek references. I probably saw the episode, but had no idea is was book based. That draws me in. Great review too!