Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Comic Review: Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever, The Original Screenplay

by Harlan Elison, Scott Tipton and David Tipton
Illustrated by J. K. Woodward
cover by Juan Ortiz and Paul Shipper

Pros: great artwork, interesting story, thought provoking messages

Cons: story drags a bit in the middle, some unnecessary characters

A drug dealer on the Enterprise teleports to a planet that has been making the chronometers on the ship count backwards.  When an away team follows, the fugitive passes through a portal to Earth in the 1930s.  A change there affects the present, forcing Kirk and Spock to go after him.

The story has Kirk fall for a woman who’s making things better for those living in the depression era, but Spock discovers that she’s fated to die and saving her life is what changed the timeline.  

There are a lot of differences between the original screen play and the episode that aired under this name.  Several characters are removed entirely or condensed, making the plot tighter.  The guardian is the same in essence but not in execution.  I thought some of the changes made the story stronger but others changed its ultimate message.  I’ll detail my thoughts on this in the spoiler section.

The artwork is in a realistic style that I enjoyed.  The shading is done in such a way that each panel looks more like an oil painting than a comic book page.  Expressions are clear and give added emotion to the story.  Even full pages of dialogue have interesting backgrounds and character motion.

Ultimately, I preferred the TV episode to the screenplay, but I think the screenplay has a lot to offer and this comic rendition of it is beautifully done.  It’s an excellent story and a wonderful tribute to Star Trek fans to make it available.

[There are conflicting publishing dates for this comic, with Amazon showing February 17th and Indigo February 10th.  The publisher, IDW,'s site doesn't show a date at all and Netgalley, where I got the review copy, says the 3rd.] 

*** Spoilers ***

When it comes to the aired episode I found that there was more connection for the other characters - and the viewers - having McCoy be the one to go back in time rather than an unknown crew member.  I thought making Edith the one who finds Spock and Kirk and offers them a job made the story cleaner and less complicated.  Having the Enterprise simply not be there made more sense than having an alternate ship just happen to be at the planet, at that exact time with the same transporter and communications technology as the Enterprise.  I preferred Spock’s discovery of Edith’s importance and how history changes to the guardian’s predictions and Spock’s guesswork that are used in the screenplay.  The episode’s discoveries come as more of a shock than the screenplay’s and knowing how things change helps mitigate the ending in a way that the character’s educated guesses just don’t accomplish.

With regards to the screenplay, I thought its handling of the Verdun soldier’s character was much better.  While the idea that some people matter in the greater scheme of things and others don’t may not be the nicest message, having the character die in the episode, with no one even knowing about it and no commentary about it, seemed like a waste.  

It’s also unfortunate that Yeoman Rand’s scenes were cut, as it would have been cool to see a woman shooting a door open in the episode.

The screenplay builds Kirk and Edith’s relationship better than the episode.  In the show, when he says he loves her you question it, as they’ve only known each other a short time.  In the screenplay there’s the idea that more time has passed and you see Spock warn the captain off, already seeing what’s happening.  

The end moral of the screenplay, that sometimes good comes from evil and evil from good is lost in the episode as you’re only left with the ‘evil from good’ half.  It’s the one reason using Beckwith would have been better as the antagonist than McCoy.

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