Mar 23, 2015

The Edge of Eternity

The City on the Edge of Forever
With the recent death of Leonard Nimoy, who played the alien-human hybrid Spock in the original 1960s Star Trek television program (TOS), the impact of Gene Roddenberry on science fiction has been on my mind. The folks at io9 posted a list of 100 top Star Trek episodes and that got me making comparisons to a list of 10 episodes that I blogged about three years ago.

Here, I'm going to restrict my comments to the two TOS episodes that appear in positions high on the io9 list, at slots #1 and #3.....

1. Balance of Terror
Mark Lenard commits suicide and later
returns as....what?   ....Spock's father.
This episode was written by Paul Schneider. Another one of his Star Trek stories, The Squire of Gothos, made my list of 10 interesting TOS episodes. While both "The Squire of Gothos" and "Balance of Terror" have a military theme, only "The Squire of Gothos" strikes me as being an actual science fiction story with the kind of interesting aliens that we might expect to run into "out there" in the galaxy.

I've always disliked Balance of Terror. Schneider derailed the exploration mission of the Enterprise and forced us to suffer through a tedious submarine movie. The mission of the Enterprise was to explore strange new worlds, not fight World War II. I have to place blame on Schneider for leading Star Trek into a long dreary reliance on military themes to fill in its hectic roster of episodes.

Nice hat!
I can't imagine why "Balance of Terror" should be number 1 on a list of Star Trek episodes. Spellbinding? Apparently the "noble" Romulan commander had been blasting defenseless outposts into space dust. Now, maybe because he is showing respect for Kirk as a military strategist, we are supposed to be intrigued by this mass murderer who is, deep inside, a "good person"? The whole anti-Vulcan bigotry part of the story was over-acted and unconvincing and totally out of place for the Federation. However, after Schneider got away with introducing bigotry into the Star Trek universe, other writers took the liberty to keep rolling that theme out again and again and again.....

3. The City on the Edge of Forever
"He caught his head in a mechanical rice picker."
The best thing about "The City on the Edge of Forever" (#3 on the io9 list of Star Trek episodes) is that it was possible, with a huge amount of effort and innumerable re-writes, to craft Harlan Ellison's totally unacceptable story into a fairly reasonable Star Trek episode. I'm a huge fan of both time travel stories and plots that involve ancient aliens, but I was always bothered by the ending of this episode. After the Enterprise has discovered an amazing piece of ancient alien technology that can send people anywhen into the depths of time and to planets scattered far across space, Kirk just says, "Let's get the hell out of here". They simply walk away, abandoning the most amazing archeological site ever discovered. Right.

The End of Eternity
Time Travel
My favorite time travel story is Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity. My current writing obsession, the Exode Trilogy, grew out of my desire to write a fan fiction sequel to The End of Eternity. I'm currently thinking that my science fantasy story Star Dance can become part of the first book in the trilogy, Trysta and Ekcolir. I like the idea of using Ghyl to introduce readers to the type of time travel that Asimov invented and the dynamics of Reality Changes.

In The City on the Edge of Forever, Dr. McCoy jumps into a time portal and is sent into a time in Earth's history when there are studio back-lots that look like pre-World War II New York City. In turn, Kirk and Spock must go in search of McCoy and prevent him from terminating Star Trek in its first season altering Earth's history. We know that history has been changed by McCoy because the Enterprise suddenly disappears, but somehow, Kirk and Spock remain on the planet's surface. They purposefully jump into the past, to a time just before McCoy has arrived on Earth in the primitive 20th century.

Spock makes a mnemonic
memory circuit using
stone knives and bearskins
SPOCK: First, I believe we have about a week before McCoy arrives, but we can't be certain.

KIRK: Arrives where? Honolulu, Boise, San Diego? Why not Outer Mongolia, for that matter?

SPOCK: There is a theory. When one crew member of the Enterprise travels through time and is lost, the rescue team will always magically arrive at the same point in space and time.

In Hollywood, we never want to think too critically or carefully about time travel.....thinking might get in the way of the story.

Time Portal
When Asimov wrote his time travel novel, he introduced the idea that Time has a certain amount of inertia. Yes, you can cause a Reality Change, but in most cases, the shape of Time will return to its original course several millennia after the time point where the change is made.

Another innovation that was used by Eternals was the portable temporal field generator. A time traveler who wore such a generator would not be altered by a Reality Change. Of course, in order to have time to "develop" the romance between William Shatner and Joan Collins, there was no available time to explain how Kirk and Spock avoided being erased along with the Enterprise. At the end of the episode, Kirk, Spock and McCoy magically return to the future.....well, in Hollywood, when your hour-long time slot is over, you just have to call, "Wrap!"

New York City
Carl Sagan
Apparently the original destination in Time for McCoy was 20th Century Chicago (Ellison lived in Chicago for a time). Following the script re-writes, in the televised Star Trek episode it seems like the Kirk-Edith love story takes place in New York (stock images of the Brooklyn Bridge and other such clues were included).

For my science fantasy adventure store, Star Dance, I needed to send Bet and Ghyl to New York City, where they must alter the timeline so as to bring into existence Carl Sagan.

While writing Star Dance, I have not bothered to change the name of the place that we know as New York City to "New Amsterdam". However, If I do merge Star Dance into the Exode Trilogy then I will have to make that change. In the Ekcolir Reality, the city of New York is in Virginia.

The Lenape
In the Ekcolir Reality, the Lenape "ancient ones" formed an alliance with the Dutch settlers of Manhattan and kept the British from taking control of Manhattan until after the French War of the mid-1700s.

Among the "ancient ones", the Water Elf Siomha was the special guardian spirit for those Lenape who made annual pilgrimages to the sacred caves at the northern tip of Manhattan island. However, the elf Siomha was beholden to the Creator, Kacheh Munitto, the guardian of the future. Siomha, known to Ghyl and Bet as Obsidia, had one remaining task in Manhattan after the departure of Ghyl from Earth at the end of his Interventionist mission: taking a copy of Alexander Godunov to the Galactic Core from 1982 New York.

The City on the Edge of Eternity
The Inwood house that Obsidia constructs for Bet and Ghyl is on the site of an ancient cave that Obsidia used as her base of operations during the time when European explorers first visited New York.

For Star Dance, I imagine that Obsidia rescued a large number of Lenape who were sickened by small pox. Obsidia sent them off to the Galactic Core where they could propagate their culture and share stories and legends with the man who would raise Bet (Alexander).

Beverwijck en Nicotiana
In the Ekcolir Reality, the British were much less successful in colonizing the New World than in the Buld Reality, the world as we know it. The nation of Beverwijck en Nicotiana (commonly called New England) did not become a British protectorate until 1754 and only gained independence in 1889, after the Civil War.
Fort Orange

Next: a fan fiction tribute to Gene Roddenberry's Assignment: Earth, my Exode story element called Assignment: Tar'Tron.....

2016: more Star Trek
Gallery of covers

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