Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mucking about with History--AGAIN!

cover artist unidentified

Gold Key's Star Trek comic didn't do many call-backs to elements from specific TV episodes, probably because early on it was being written and drawn by creators who were not necessarily familar with the show.

But near the end of that book's run, we did get a sequel of sorts to "The City on The Edge of Forever," in which a temporarily bonkers Dr. McCoy uses an ancient time portal known as the Guardian of Forever to go back in time and change history.

The comic book sequel appeared in Star Trek #56 (October 1978) and is written by George Kashdan and drawn by Aldus McWilliams. 

This time, it's an insane former dictator named Trengur who uses the Guardian to muck about with history. Trengur had recently escaped from an insane asylum on his home planet and the Enterprise is tasked with finding him. But he makes it to the Guardian and jumps back into Earth's ancient history before he can be stopped.

It's not explained why someone not from Earth chooses to muck about with Earth history rather than his own. Also, why doesn't the Federation have a guard or at least a strongly worded DO NOT ENTER sign in front of something that can be used to literally destroy reality as we know it.

Both those points are legitimate criticisms of the story, but if you jump past that, "No Time Like the Past" is quite good. Kirk, Spock and McCoy jump back in time after Trengur.

They end up in the Alps in 218 BC, when Hannibal invading Italy. They soon find out that Trengor has become Hannibal's advicer and is helping the Carthiginians crush the Romans and prevent the Empire from ever rising. The guys from the Enterprise are unable to stop this.  History will be changed.

When Kirk and Co. get back to their own time and beam back to the Enterprise, they learn that Trengur had started a chain reaction of historical changes. The plot now mirrors the episode "Mirror, Mirror," with the crew of the Enterprise now evil. The Federation apparently still exists, but the Enterprise belongs to another faction that is planning on destroyng the Guardian of Forever.

It's interesting that an early version of the script for "The City on the Edge of Forever" included scenes in which the Enterprise was still around after history changed, but was now crewed by space pirates. I've no idea if the comic story was deliberately lifting ideas from either this or "Mirror, Mirror," but it makes for a fun plot twist.

It's a plot twist that also makes Kirk, Spock and McCoy work to earn their pay for the day. Spock suddenly nerve pinches his captain, but this is merely the first step in an improvised con job that would have made the Mission Impossible team proud. Evil Scotty is soon convinced that Kirk has caught an incurable plague. Since Spock and Bones might also be carriers, he forces all three to beam back down to the Guardian's planet, where a planet-destroying bomb is ticking away.

That, of course, is exactly where Kirk and his friends want to be. They jump back to 218 BC again, this time getting their a little earlier than they did the first time. They nab Trengur before any history-changing can be done and the day is saved.

It is a fun, clever story, with Spock's con job on evil Scotty being a real highlight of the tale. But all the same, somebody has got to tell Star Fleet to restrict access to the Guardian. Maybe a rope strung in front of it? Anything is better than nothing.

Next week, we'll visit with Lee Hunter and Reb Stuart for the third of their four stories.

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