TOS: S1E28: “The City on the Edge of Forever”

In which McCoy’s break from reality at least has an excuse this time, the part of Spock is played by Richard Dean Anderson, and Kirk is emotionally mature.

Remember how, back in “Tomorrow is Yesterday” everyone was super concerned about hiding all the evidence of them being there? Here’s why.

The Enterprise is in Red Alert above a turbulent planet, because it’s important to remember that Red Alert doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is attacking, it just means that all hands are needed at duty and damage control stations. Again, it’s important to note that Red Alert has a purpose other than giving everyone on the Bridge a headache. This is something that Star Trek never did very well – show the below-decks view of what’s happening. I think there’s an episode somewhere in the corpus that does it, but when it comes, I will be comparing it to Babylon 5’s wonderful episode “A View from the Gallery,” which did it perfectly.

The console exploded on Sulu, because the ship is passing through ripples in

Man, just when they almost had me turned around on McCoy, they have give him this close-up.

Man, just when they almost had me turned around on McCoy, they have give him this close-up.

time, according to Spock. Bones administers a hypo and wakes Sulu right up, but then accidentally doses himself with the whole tube and goes completely schizo.  He’s screaming about killers, and not letting them do stuff. Knowing what’s coming, because this is a famous episode, I postulate he might be picking up on the shadows of events yet to come. Also, I want to note it right now that this happens after the year that the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboots are filmed.

Cordrazine actually doesn’t seem all that dangerous. Two drops stabilized Sulu, and two hundred made McCoy go insane, but apparently the LD50 is more than a hundred times the recommended dosage. That’s actually pretty amazing. 23rd century medicine for the win.

McCoy beamed down to the planet, and there’s a big stone donut at the center of several miles of lithic ruins. They are apparently tens of thousands of

I lied. It doesn't explain that at all.

I lied. It doesn’t explain that at all.

centuries old. You couldn’t just say ‘millions of years,’ Spock? At least that explains why the only thing left of this civilization is Ionic columns and a giant stone torus with art herpes. The torus is powered up, and causing a whole mess of time displacement, and Spock declares it impossible according to the principles of known science. Compare this to T’Pol’s attitude, where she declares things flatly impossible even while witnessing it, Spock merely says that he doesn’t understand how it is possible. Spock represents the height of Vulcan rationality – most of the other Vulcans we see are rather more dogmatic about ‘logic’ than actually logical. Also, the torus talks.

And Spock was wrong. It’s billions of years old. It says it predates Earth’s sun. Astrophysicists – are there stars that existed before Sol and are still around? Wait, what am I saying, it probably preserved its own sun in a time vortex or something. It’s the Guardian of Forever, after all, and it would hardly by useful if it was consumed by its own sun. It is it’s own beginning and it’s own ending, according to it, and Spock again makes me want to stand up and cheer. He does the polite version of saying “stop being so goddamn cryptic.” Spock is the best. Hyper-advanced races and mechanisms are jerks. It’s showing off. The Guardian clearly does more than this, but it’s showing off a passage to Earth. Kirk wants to use it to take Bones back and avoid the error. McCoy, blotchy and raving, jumps through it, and all of Starfleet disappears. This is why you Do Not Mess With Time. Spock was recording, at least, so they know when to go back. But they’re leaving the rest of the landing crew behind in case something goes wrong, the others can try again.

DATELINE: EARTH, 1930s, just after the Depression. Two strangers in bright pajamas appear on the street, one of them has weird ears. They steal some clothes. Kirk tries to pass Spock off as a Chinese guy who caught his head in a rice-picker. Wow, Star Trek. There are no words. There just aren’t any words.

The costume designer had an easy job this week.

The costume designer had an easy job this week.

Fortunately for Kirk, Spock is really easy to manipulate by challenging his ingenuity, and the person who runs the basement they’ve taken shelter in is a hot chick. Edith Keeler, who runs a mission. So they’ll work for her at $0.15/ hour so Spock can build a computer to tie the Tricorder too and determine what McCoy  changed. Edith is a futurist, an idealist, and Kirk may actually be in love with her idealism. And that she basically invited him back to her apartment (building, so he can rent an entirely separate room from her but hey, it’s a start. Also, it’s good because Spock can start putting together something comparable to the Enterprise ship’s computer to dump data from the tricorder.

Behold, something comparable to the Enterprise computer.

Behold, something comparable to the Enterprise computer.

Spock has the lament of engineers everywhere, which is that he has no budget whatsoever. At least Kirk isn’t pontificating about how money doesn’t exist anymore. Apparently he forgets how to do hard work in the years between here and “The Voyage Home.” Spock is also going to rob some clockmaker, giving Edith an excuse to show off how incredibly perceptive she is and put the moves on Kirk. So much so that he decides to tell her about about the future he comes from. Unfortunately, Spock just found the correct  timeline – Edith Keeler dies in a car wreck. Or she doesn’t, and meets with the president. One of these futures leads to Starfleet, and one to an utter lack thereof. The puzzle is, of course, which course of events does McCoy cause in his current state of mind?

Given he jumps out of a wall screaming about stopping the assassins, it seems pretty clear that he’s not in the mood to take a life. Edith is coming home from a date with Kirk talking about slashing military spending and using the money for good. This is 1930. That seems like a bad plan. Also, McCoy is freaking out and some bum steals his phaser and vaporizes himself, so at least that technology is never getting into the wrong hands.

In the late 1930s, a growing pacifist movement in the US delayed the US entry into World War 2 and let the Germans develop atomic weaponry first. Wait, that’s not right at all. That sounds like the kind of timeline that could lead to some sort of alternate timeline where the *Enterprise* was never built for exploration, but for conquest. That sounds like some sort of hellish “Mirror Universe” where everyone wears goatees. Kirk is going to have to let Edith get turned into road meat in order to save the future.

Is the Kirk of the Abrams universe mature enough to sacrifice Edith for the future of the Federation, if it was him instead of Shatner’s Kirk in his place? It seems like this could be an explanation for why the Starfleet of the Abrams universe is nothing like the one we know, even as the Narada shows up. There’s so much time travel in Star Trek that any incursion could easily wind up eating its own tail.

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