Monday, March 9, 2009

Hammer Time!

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“The City on the Edge of Forever”

McCoy changes history and Kirk fears he must sacrifice the woman he loves to set things right. Meanwhile, Spock plays Marconi. All thanks to writer Harlan Ellison (with a major re-write by Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana to fit into where the series was, and had become, by the end of season one).

“City” is often given the number one slot on lists of best Star Trek episodes. I’m not a huge fan of lists, but this one definitely is a classic, loaded with drama, humor, and even tragedy. It has a great sci-fi premise, with the Enterprise encountering “waves of time displacement” emanating from an unknown planet. On that planet is the nifty-looking, ancient Guardian of Forever (bombastically voiced by Bart LaRue) which sends our heroes back in time. “City” also boasts perhaps the best Captain Kirk romance ever, with Joan Collins as the far-seeing samaritan Edith Keeler.

I much prefer my Kirk/space babe romances like this one. It develops over time and you can see why Kirk would fall for Edith – she’s smart, beautiful, giving, intuitive, ahead of her time - and not like in “Requiem for Methuselah,” where Kirk falls madly and hopelessly in love with Reyna the robo-chick in a quick THREE HOURS after a game of pool.

“City” has several memorable lines, including this one when Edith confronts Kirk and Spock:

Edith; “You know how out of place you are around here.”
Spock: “Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?”
Edith (to Spock): “You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will.”

That’s a great analysis of the Spock/Kirk relationship.

Spock delivers one of the funnier lines after Edith gets a peek at the crazy radio tube gizmo, complete with Jacob’s Ladder, he’s created to work with his tricorder. “I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.”

There are a couple of really downbeat moments in this episode. After McCoy jumps through the Guardian, Kirk and the landing party discover that their history has changed and they are now all alone on the planet -- no Enterprise orbiting overhead, no Federation, no Earth as they know it. Kirk looks up and the camera pans with him to end on the stars. They are marooned in time as well as space. Bummer! Kirk and Spock decide to go after McCoy to set time right, and Kirk tells Scotty “when you think you've waited long enough, each of you will have to try it. Even if you fail, at least you'll be alive in some past world somewhere.” ‘Nother bummer! And that ending! Major bummer! (I’m not even gonna go into it as I don’t want my tears to short out my laptop.)

The Guardian of Forever is one of the coolest ideas in Star Trek/science fiction: an ancient time doorway that is both (and neither) machine and being. It tells Kirk that it has waited on the planet surface “Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born” for it to be asked a question. That’s a long time! The design is simple and elegant, a large, oval, stone “donut” shape that lights from within, prehistoric and modern at the same time - a Matt Jefferies homerun. Why they never made a toy playset out of it is beyond me.

One goofy thing has always stood out for me: when Uhura is walking around the ruins as they are searching for the drugged out McCoy, she’s looking UP (at the stars?) and not looking down around at the ruins, with all its many nooks and crannies (in fact McCoy pops up from behind a rock just after she walks by). Way to search, Uhura!

Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to for the Star Trek screencaps.

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