Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Blog on the Edge of Forever.

Yesterday's WSJ had a front-page article involving Harlan Ellison, who's suing AOL Time Warner for something or other. Hadn't thought about Ellison in years. As soon as the second paragraph, the teleplay for the original Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" was mentioned, cited as perhaps his most famous work.

It was a good episode, better than most, though I'd say I liked "The Doomsday Machine" better. But one thing has long bothered me about it. The story hinged on Kirk facing the awful prospect of allowing Edith Keeler, a woman he had grown fond of while visiting Depression-era Earth, to die. If she lived, the central conceit of the story goes, she would found a pacifist movement that would delay American entry into World War II, thus allowing the Nazis to go nuclear, etc. In the end the Earth as Gene Roddenberry envisioned it -- a peaceful, one-government, namby-pamby sort of place that doesn't seem to have a money economy -- would not exist. Some unspeakable evil would have evolved instead, maybe a world in which Spock has a beard.

There's dramatic tension in that, certainly, but it occurred to me after watching that episode for the nth time as a lad that the story assumes no Pearl Harbor. In the world in which you and I live, no amount of pacifist activism would have keep the United States out of war with the Axis after December 7, 1941. No less a public figure than Lindbergh was a defeatist, and look what came of that. Nothing.

Of course, I expect too much from a television show.

One other thing... there's also a scene in that episode in which Dr. McCoy, temporarily crazy as a loon, allows a down-and-out-looking person he meets on 1930s Earth to get a hold of his phaser. The man promptly vaporizes himself. What about him? Isn't it possible that his death upsets the future dramatically? But it was merely a passing moment, just another illustration of the well-satirized fact that being a minor character on that show was risking gratuitous death.


Post a Comment

<< Home