Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever (IDW)
Written by Harlan Ellison, Art by J.K. Woodward
“The City on the Edge of Forever” is a classic episode of Star Trek. The original teleplay was written by the prolific writer Harlan Ellison, though it was deemed not Star Trek enough and several rewrites were performed by both Ellison and several show editors and producers including Gene Roddenberry. Now IDW is releasing Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Tomorrow, a comic based on that original teleplay. Most recently released was issue number three.
City on the Edge of Forever is a great example of science fiction writing. At least so far I have to agree that much of it doesn’t feel like Star Trek, particularly the characterization of Spock, who seems more emotional than a Vulcan should be. I am fascinated by the idea that one person can have such a singular impact on historical events that changing their lives also completely changes history, which is exactly what happened in this story. While it may not be hard to imagine that someone like Roosevelt or Churchill might have that much historical impact, it’s much more difficult to picture that from an unknown person, which is exactly where Ellison goes with this story. The dialogue is cleverly written and properly captures the time period in which it is set, making the reader fit in immediately. The teleplay was initially too long for television, and it does feel drawn out a little for a comic as well. This may also be due to a desire to be as accurate to the original text as possible, which I can respect and deal with if it gives me a more accurate telling of this famed story.
The art is not what I would normally expect from IDW. Last week I gushed about the beautiful art in Little Nemo and I’m pleased to see more excellent art in a different title. J.K. Woodward has a wonderful, painterly style that fits with the story. I’m amazed at how much the characters actually look like Kirk and Spock. Often when artists attempt to recreate actors on the comic page, it either doesn’t look like them or looks like some kind of creepy doppelganger. Woodward also manages to convey great emotion through his characters. At one point Kirk and Spock are working to earn room and board and Kirk genuinely looks worn out by the end of the scene. The use of various color palettes is pleasing as well, alternating between bold and more muted colors as the situation dictates.
While I’m disappointed that this particular version never became an episode of television, I am glad for the chance to read it in one of my favorite formats. 4/5 Death Stars.