The Great Star Trek Rewatch: The City on the Edge of Forever

Whilst the Enterprise is investigating a series of time ripples, McCoy accidentally injects himself with a hypospray full of cordrazine – a dangerous and powerful drug. Under the influence of the drug, McCoy beams down to the source of the time ripples, and ends up jumping through a time portal to Earth’s past and changing history so that the Enterprise no longer exists. Kirk and Spock’s only choice is to follow McCoy back to 1930s Earth and undo the damage he’s done – no matter what the personal cost.

Despite its award-winning status, this actually isn’t my favourite episode of season one. That being said, it’s still a good episode, with as much of a tragic love story as one can fit into fifty minutes, as Kirk falls in love with a woman, only to have to let her die in order to preserve history.

Character development

There’s no breaking the Kirk and Spock streak with this episode, as once again the supporting characters step aside to let our leads hog the limelight. Spock’s role in this episode is mainly as foil and technical expert, as he bemoans the primitive circumstances under which he must construct some semblance of the technology he is used to. He also proves that Vulcans can indeed dissemble, when he embellishes and outright ignores the truth in an attempt to hide his alien origins from the people of the 1930s.

Kirk, meanwhile, finds a kindred spirit in social worker Edith Keeler, a woman so far ahead of her time that she can dream of the peaceful, united future that is Kirk’s present. Romance naturally blossoms between them, but for Kirk it can only be a bittersweet love, once he learns that, if Edith’s life is saved by McCoy in 1930, she will lead a pacifist movement that keeps the US out of World War II, ensuring Hitler’s victory and a very different future for humanity. Incidentally, Kirk is rather handsome in his 1930s civilian clothes – and as a Spock fangirl that’s not something I admit to lightly!

Most illogical, Captain

  • If cordrazine is so dangerous, why fill an entire hypospray with it? It should always be dispensed in tiny amounts, so that such large overdoses simply can’t occur.
  • Why are no trained bridge or security officers able to stop McCoy? He’s a doctor, not a fighter!
  • McCoy says “I’m a surgeon, not a psychiatrist”, despite having some psychiatric qualifications.
  • You’d think the builders of the Guardian of Forever would have put better safeguards on it – if just anyone can jump through and change history (and let’s not get into paradoxes for once), that’s quite a dangerous thing to have lying around.

Summary – The City on the Edge of Forever: Don’t touch that hypospray!

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