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Star Trek – Is There in Truth No Beauty? (Review)

This July and August, we’re celebrating the release of Star Trek Beyond by taking a look back at the third season of the original Star Trek. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the latest update.

The third season of Star Trek is very odd. It stands quite apart from the previous two seasons.

There are a lot of reasons for this; a new executive producer, the loss of veterans from the first two seasons, production limitations imposed by a slashed budget. Star Trek was never a lavish show, and it always faced production challenges, but those challenges were never more acute than during the third season. In a lot of cases, that oddness is not a good thing. And the Children Shall Lead and Spock’s Brain are very strange pieces of television, but not in a good way. They are clumsy, cheap, ill-judged and ill-advised.

Healthy green glow.

Healthy green glow.

At the same time, that strange vibe of the third season is not inherently bad. There are a number of episodes produced during the third season (particularly during this stretch of the third season) that feel weird and odd, but also refreshing and exciting. Episodes like Is There in Truth No Beauty?, The Empath and The Tholian Web have an eccentric and ethereal quality to them that feels quite removed from the first two seasons of the show. They are also three of the strongest episodes of the season, feeling adventurous and playful.

After all, for all that the third season is maligned, it is surprisingly influential. The third season of Star Trek contributes a great deal to the language and iconography of the franchise, perhaps as a result of the unusual constraints and production realities that inform it. Is There in Truth No Beauty? is an odd little tale, but it is also a clever and effective metaphor that explores grand ideas in the classic Star Trek tradition.

Jonesing for for some Diane Muldaur.

Jonesing for for some Diane Muldaur.

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Star Trek – The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison/Cordwainer Bird (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

The City on the Edge of Forever had a troubled history, not that you’d know it based on what appeared on screen. Like quite a few classic Star Trek episodes (The Enemy Within, The Doomsday Machine, Amok Time), it was developed from a script written by a giant of science-fiction. Harlan Ellison is a respected author with a considerable reputation. However, the version of The City on the Edge of Forever which eventually made it to screen at the end of the show’s first season is radically different from the version Ellison original wrote. “It’s not the vision I had,” Ellison quotes at the start of the paperback edition of his original screenplay, released in 1996.

The book is a fantastic read, and well worth a look for anybody with any interest in Star Trek or Ellison, or even good science-fiction or the craft of television writing. Reading the various drafts, there’s no denying that it is a phenomenal script, as good as the script that eventually went into production. At the same time, it’s also quite clear that it would not have made for as classic a Star Trek episode.

Into the vortex...

Into the vortex…

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