The City on the Edge of Forever is held to near-religious status amongst Original Series Star Trek fans as one of, if not, the best Star Trek episodes ever written. Harlan Ellison is given near godlike regard for his contribution to this era of Trekdom, yet it is always a surprise to me when I hear that his original teleplay was not the one that was shown on television.
Eaglemoss, in its new series of Trek stories originally published by IDW Publishing has shown itself to have an extremely well-refined palate of which stories to reprint.
On the heels of its last hardcover publication, Countdown, this second volume is the original story that Ellison wanted to see realized on television and was finally brought to life by writers, Scott and David Tipton and phenomenal painter, J.K. Woodward, in the 2015 five-issue series. (Check out our reviews of the individual issues!)
The differences between Ellison’s teleplay and the actual episode are striking. Instead of narcotic-influenced McCoy driven mad, in Ellison’s original script, it is a drug-smuggling crewmember who escapes to the planet that houses the Guardians (yes, Guardians plural!) and changes the course of history by deliberately escaping into a time portal.
The site is more than just a collection of ruins but is an actual city where Kirk and the landing party are greeted by ethereal and actual Guardians – living beings, rather than the talking time portal seen in the television episode.
Furthermore, in the resulting time flux, the Enterprise becomes a ship of pirates and even Janice Rand is given a more soldierly and forceful role, making her more of an expanded character under Ellison’s scripting instead of just being the Captain’s yeoman. This is a far more fleshed out and detailed story than what was actually allowed for television and is a real treat to see it take on new life in these pages.
The Tiptons worked very closely with Ellison, frequently getting his input in key scenes and making sure that everything was as close to his original vision as possible. Rand’s presentation as a more serious character was originally an important part of his teleplay. Also, faithfully reproducing Ellison’s hallucination scene from Page 3 was of concern to the Tiptons, as this was their first challenge in adapting the teleplay to the comic. After they was shown what J.K. Woodward had come up with, his mind was set to rest.
The inclusion of artist’s annotations and writers’ notes in this edition is definitely a plus. Seeing J.K.Woodward’s process as well as learning the locations of the hidden Easter Eggs from the Tiptons is a lot of fun. But when you read about Harlan Ellison’s own inclusion as a character into Issue #5, and Ellison’s personal reaction to this, it’s another reason to fall in love with this timeless story once more.
Ellison does not hesitate to laud the Tiptons and Woodward with praise. Affectionately referring to them as “the boys,” there is a real sense of mutual respect and reverence that went into the creation of this book. There is a relationship between these creators that transcends mere storytelling; it is Ellison’s original story format being able to take its rightful place in Trek fandom and this is something that the Tiptons and Woodward clearly know.
Not only does it get to take shape once, but now twice, with the sagely wise choice on the part of Eaglemoss to reprint this commendable and compelling story.
Another added bonus to this book is the inclusion of the Gold Key Comics tale, “The Devil’s Isle of Space.” Originally published in 1968 — written by Dick Wood and drawn by Nevio Zeccara — this was Issue #2 of the Gold Key series and contained many inaccuracies and inconsistencies with the regular Trek canon. Devices were incorrectly titled (such as the Transporter Room referred to as the “Teleportiation Chamber” or inconsistent dialogue from characters like Mr. Spock’s colourful turn of phrase, “Shades of Pluto!”
This is an entertaining throwback to nostalgic times when the writing team for these comics created them around the same time that the show was released. Of course, the novelty of the program allowed the writers to get away with the canonical inconsistencies and yet in reality, the creative team behind the comic was actually given very little information to work with. Yet, the Gold Key line ran 61 issues between 1967 and 1979 and are difficult to find.
These reprints bring them back to fans in sequential order and provide a great deal of nostalgic enjoyment.
In terms of production, there is a bit of a size difference with the Eaglemoss edition compared to the original hardcover collection released in 2015. The original hardcover pages measure at around 11” x 7” whereas the Eaglemoss pages measure slightly smaller at 10.25” x 6.5”. Comparing the pages for any degradation of image quality, it is difficult to discern any such effect. Both books manage to represent J.K. Woodward’s amazing art well, though, I do confess a preference for a larger size to appreciate it more.
Still, in terms of a choice to continue a series, this is certainly an excellent one for Volume Two in this collection. The City on the Edge of Forever is an episode that pulls at multiple heartstrings as well as appealing to the widest segment of Star Trek fans. Eaglemoss’s discernment is certainly refined in choosing this fan-loved favourite story to reprint, as well as allowing the incredible talents of the Tiptons and Woodward to be seen again, along with the legendary storytelling abilities of Harlan Ellison.
There’s a great amount of pedigree in this book and clearly, in its choice to reproduce this book, Eaglemoss is also showing its expert product knowledge in showcasing Trek subject material for its clear high-quality collection.
In Eaglemoss’ US store, TrekCore readers can use promo code TREKCORE at checkout for 10% off any ‘Trek’ collectible purchase $50 or greater (Starships, Plaques, Binders, or Graphic Novels).