by Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton, David Tipton, J.K. Woodward

This is a great idea for a graphic novel – take the original screenplay treatment for one of the most highly regarded of Star Trek Episodes and show how it would have looked as an episode had it not been so famously rewritten. Star Trek fans will likely already know about the lawsuits, slander, and bitterness between author Harlan Ellison and Trek creator Gene Roddenberry over this particular screenplay.  Now they can make their own decision on whether Roddenberry made the right call to rewrite.

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Although ultimately redone by Roddenberry’s staff writer DC Fontana, it is interesting to compare and contrast Ms. Fontana’s version to Ellison’s. Ellison’s version is darker, baser, and has a wider cast of characters; one could say it had more humanity in the form of a drug dealer’s random act of kindness and a crippled war vet. Fontana’s is more cost effect, narrows the focus down to the core crew members, and jettisons tangents that would have likely put the episode over the 45 minute episode framework.

The look and feel of the show is fairly intact here, though I found it interesting that the illustrator chose to draw a fairly heavyset and thuggish man as the enterprise drug pusher. But Shatner’s quirks are able to be downplayed in graphic novel format and the focus more on the story and pathos than theatrics. Spock is especially well done and translated very well to print.

The parts of the script that did make it into the episode are faithfully recreated.  Certainly Joan Collins looks the part and the 1960s feel remains.

Admittedly, I have to agree with the Star Trek producers that the story, as written, deviated from the canon a bit too much by having crewmembers as thuggish drug dealers and Kirk willing to sacrifice several crewmembers’ lives in order to prevent Keeler’s death. Yeoman Rand as a super warrior is also rather incongruous. But Ellison’s work definitely has more nuances and depth (and some serious political statements about war).  Both really have their points.

The illustration work is colorful and detailed. I did have a hard time understanding the action sequences but knowledge of the original episode certainly helps to know what is going on in the panels. But the drawing of the characters is spot on.

This is definitely one for the Star Trek fans – a wonderful gift of ‘what might have been’ and a different view of the controversial episode. But also for those who have seen the original episode and are curious about how it was originally written.

Note: you don’t need to have seen the original episode to enjoy this story since this is just an alternate version.

Reviewed from an copy provided by the publisher.

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