The City on the Edge of Forever: even before watching this episode I was fascinated by its title, so captivating, mysterious, and evocative. And then it only improves on that, this is truly a masterpiece! It’s the second episode dealing with time travel after Tomorrow is Yesterday, but this one is far superior!
There’s little to say, in fact, this is top quality science fiction. The USS Enterprise arrives at a planet showing signs of a temporal paradox and at its center there’s a sort of oracle capable of transporting people back in time. McCoy, out of control due to an accident after saving Sulu’s life, is transported to 1930’s New York and causes a dramatic change in the timeline: the Enterprise completely disappears! So Kirk and Spock follow him to try to undo whatever the doctor has done.
They get to New York before the doctor, and have some time to settle. They start living in a charity institution led by Edith Keeler (played by an exceptional guest star, Joan Collins), who naturally falls in love with Kirk, and he falls in love with her. Spock understands that Edith is the key to what has happened and may still happen: in one possible future, she’ll meet President Roosevelt in 1936, and in another possible future she’ll die in a car accident in 1930. But the question is: which one is the future altered by McCoy and which one is the original timeline to be restored?
This episode is so powerful! William Shatner is always an impeccable Captain Kirk, but here he surpasses himself by succeeding in making the romance with Joan Collins’ character credible. Her performance is also phenomenal, and Leonard Nimoy is as always the perfect Vulcan governed by logic. The story is splendid and comes from an idea that has been reused and developed in other Star Trek incarnations, but never so effectively, for example see the double episode Time’s Arrow in The Next Generation.
In The City on the Edge of Forever, a classic Star Trek message is reiterated: “The needs of many out of the few, or the one“, which is then used to a dramatic effect by Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Here the message also arrives with the power of a punch in the stomach. The last ten minutes of the episode are brilliant, as is the finale. Forget the laughter and the jokes on the bridge, here there’s only dead silence after the last words spoken by Captain Kirk with a voice broken by emotion. Moving. This is an episode that should be watched multiple times, and I think that it certainly deserved to be a double episode! Ciao!
PS: now that I know that Mr Spock is vegetarian, according to a line of dialogue spoken by Captain Kirk, I like the half Vulcan even more than before!
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Next episode: Operation: Annihilate!