Review: Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever #1

star-trek-city-edge-forever-ellison-idw-variant-cover City 1By Harlan Ellison, adapted by Scott Tipton & David Tipton

Art: J.K. Woodward

IDW Publishing, out now

When a drug dealer on the Enterprise is cornered, he makes a break for it – and beams down to a very unusual planet…

Just from that brief description, you can see just how different Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay for The City on the Edge of Forever was from the story which eventually was broadcast under that title. Ellison’s version has been available to read for many years – James Blish incorporated some elements into his novelization of the episode, and Ellison published it himself. The rights and wrongs of what happened over the script – and who wrote which bits – could, and indeed do, form the basis of an interesting book, but IDW’s Chris Ryall quite rightly sidesteps all of that in the notes on this first issue. The events are nearly half a century old and it’s time for a new generation of Star Trek fans to get a chance to experience the story without the attendant baggage.

It’s a slightly different Enterprise from the one we’re used to: Janice Rand has a much more important role to play than she ended up with in the broadcast season, and the effects of deep space travel are more noticeable on the crew than we ever really saw on screen. Lebecque and Beckwith are more flawed characters than we’re used to (although interestingly, I can see both fitting in very well into the concurrent Vanguard novel-only series), and it would be intriguing to see a Star Trek series continue which reflects this more cynical view of humanity.

If you don’t know Ellison’s version, then I won’t spoil the surprises, but suffice it to say that the title of the story makes considerably more sense in this version (hint – there’s no sign of an oddly-shaped doughnut). Woodward’s painted art works well for this story – he captures Shatner and Nimoy’s expressions, and it’s nice to see Grace Lee Whitney caught so accurately – and the Tiptons’ script maintains Ellison’s flair for the dramatic.

Verdict: A strong start for a story that’s great to be able to see rather than just imagine. 8/10

Paul Simpson

 

 

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