James Blish’s second book of episode adaptations was published in February 1968, just past the half-way point in the production of the show’s second season, even as all the scripts in this book are, as in the first book, from the show’s first season. As with the first book, the adaptations are moderately short, with 8 of them filling out a book of just 122 pages.
And as in the first book, Blish’s narratives follow Kirk’s point of view, so any scenes from the original scripts that dealt with other characters, when Kirk wasn’t in the room, are automatically omitted, or at best summarized in some fashion.
As with the Blish’s own writing, the publisher’s descriptions, especially on the first page inside the front cover, indicate that whoever wrote them had either never seen the show, or had not paid close attention. The inside front cover describes the three main characters: Kirk, Spock, and … Uhura! The last is described as: “Easily the most popular member of the crew, the truly ‘out-of-this-world’ female has drawn the important assignment of scan engineer on her first mission in deep space.” Scan engineer?
Once more, I’ve mentioned in previous posts concerning Blish’s Trek books that for years I’ve felt he did several of the shows some notable improvement, smoothing out infelicities of the plots and providing justification for some stories’ more outrageous gimmicks. But Cushman’s books, especially now his second book (https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-These-Voyages-Season/dp/0989238148/), confirm that most of the differences between the broadcast episodes and Blish’s short story version were due to Blish being send draft scripts that were not final. The best such case is one of the stories in this book. Even so, some changes were surely Blish’s own contributions, as I try to note here.
- Blish jumps to the chase, so to speak, omitting nearly the entire first half of the broadcast episode that concerned the discovery of the destroyed outpost on Cestus III and the pursuit of the alien vessel. All of this is summarized in the first page of Blish’s prose. (Blish makes no attempt to rationalize how alien beings could have faked voice recordings of the outpost’s commander inviting the Enterprise crew down.)
- After that, the dialogue and action follow the broadcast script pretty closely. Per the focus on Kirk, though, we never see that the Enterprise bridge crew gets to watch the action down on the planet.
- One big plot difference: Blish retains a line (from an earlier version of the script, presumably), in which, as the Metron reveals himself at the end, he explains that he lied earlier – that the Metrons’ plan all along was the destroy the winner of this battle, since the winner would obviously be the greater threat to the Metrons.
- But since Kirk refused to kill the Gorn, the Metrons were left with no clear winner. The Metron does offer, after all, to destroy the Gorn ship—and Kirk hastily explains that that’s not necessary.
“A Taste of Armageddon”
- Blish’s version follows the script closely, though again he collapses initial scenes into a prose introduction, cutting to the introduction to Anan 7 before introducing any dialogue.
- Minor bit: the female Yeoman in the landing party is Manning, not Tamura.
- Presumably the script has some specific directions for how particular scenes or actors would play; in any case Blish’s own adjectives seem preternaturally precise, compared to how they came across on screen: Mea Three’s (Blish spells out all the numbers in the Eminiar names) manner is “cool, but correct”; Anan speaks about causalities “evenly.”
- When Kirk confronts Anan Seven in the latter’s quarters, Blish omits the transparent ploy by Anan and the subsequent fist-fight between Kirk and an Eminian guard in the corridor. Blish tended to omit or gloss over action scenes, which aren’t nearly exciting in prose as perhaps they were on screen (even as they look a bit anachronistic, by TNG standards).
- Mention is made, near the end, of the name of the head of the Vendikar High Council: Ripoma.
“Tomorrow Is Yesterday”
- As you would expect by now, Blish omits the initial off-ship scenes of the US air base detecting the ‘UFO’ and sending up a fighter to bring it down. But he does spend a couple long paragraphs at the beginning providing some astrophysical background about the notion of “black star.”
- In passing, Blish establishes that warp 4 is 64 times the speed of light.
- On the one hand Blish describes the Enterprise as being in a “fixed orbit” around Earth, but on the other hand that the ship is “too low in the atmosphere to retain this altitude,” which doesn’t sound like an orbit at all. So even Blish doesn’t seem to have a reasonable understanding of orbits or how things move through space.
- As Blish does several times in his books, he describes Uhura as a “beautiful Bantu girl,” which surely was never in any script.
- In the scene in which Spock relates his research in the future contributions of this Air Force pilot, Cpt. John Christopher, Blish (unlike the scriptwriters) has Spock note that “There was a popular author by that name, but it was a pen name; you are not he.” He’s referring to http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/christopher_john.
- Similarly, Blish adds a bit of background or perspective that didn’t occur to the scripters. When Scott says the engines are working, but “we’ve no place to go in this era,” Blish has him go on: “Mister Spock tells me that in the 1970s the human race was wholly confined to the Earth. Space outside the local group of stars was wholly dominated by the Vegan Tyranny, and you’ll recall what happened when we first hit them.” Fascinating.
- And Kirk clarifies, for Christopher: “There is no such solar planet as Vulcan… Mr. Spock’s father was a native of The Vulcan, which is a planet of 40 Eridani.” 40 Eridani being a real star, only about 16 light years from the sun (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40_Eridani). But no Trek episode ever established Spock’s Vulcan as being a planet of 40 Eridani. Anyway Spock warns: “If we took the Enterprise there, we would unwrite their future history too.”
- Blish omits the entire subplot of Kirk and Sulu beaming down to retrieve Air Force evidence of the Enterprise, their capture by a policeman, and the inadvertent beaming up of yet another local.
- As they discuss the idea of slingshotting back into the future, Blish has Kirk made an extraordinary concession: “I would rather destroy the Enterprise than the future.”
- And as Christopher expresses distress for possibly losing his memories of this glimpse of humanity’s future, McCoy offers some advice, which at first repulses Christopher, then deeply impresses him. McCoy: “In perhaps sixty more years, or a few more, you will forget things many times more important to you than this—your wife, your children… You will forget every single thing you ever loved, and what is worse, you will not even care.” Christopher is shocked; but McCoy goes on: “I’m only trying to remind you that regardless of our achievements, we all at last go down into the dark. …I’m trying to call to your attention the things that are much more valuable to you than the fact that you’ve seen men from the future and a bucketful of gadgetry. You will have those still…” He goes on; it’s quite a passage.
- Blish, more than once, refers to a “navigation tank” located presumably at the helm and nav station – a suggestion that a depiction of 3-dimensional space would need a 3-dimensional image, not a flat, round panel.
- And Blish implicitly acknowledges the absurdity of the crew manually timing the beam down of Christopher as the Enterprise flings past Earth: “This was going to have to be the most split-second of all Transporter shots. No human operator could hope to bring it off; the actual shift would be under control of the computer.”
- And Blish avoids the question of whether the Enterprise returns precisely to its own time, by not mentioning it at all, nor having the Enterprise contact star fleet command. Instead Blish ends with Spock alluding to the poet Omar, and the passage about the moving finger that, having writ, moves on.
“Errand of Mercy”
- Follows the broadcast script very closely, though yet again Blish summarizes the set-up and initial encounter with the Klingons, with no dialogue until Kirk and Spock meet the Organian council, and Spock makes his remarks about an arrested culture.
- Blish implies the Klingons are actually an offshoot of humanity: “The Klingons were hard-faced, hard-muscled men, originally of Oriental stock.” I suppose that might explain how they speak English.
- Blish has Spock not only explain what trillium is (a medicinal plant of the lily family), but later mentions that the word has some other meaning to the Klingons.
- Blish collapses the plot a bit: Kirk and Spock explode the munitions dump; Kor immediately responds by phasering 200 Organians; Kirk and Spock surrender themselves in Kor’s office. No scene in a jail cell from which Ayelborne magically releases them.
- As Kirk and Kor talk, Kirk recalls the Spartans, warriors who nevertheless lost to Athens, known as the mother of all the arts. Kor finds the analogy “a little out of date” which again seems to imply a common background.
- The rest follows the script very closely, all the way through Spock’s comparison to an amoeba and Kor’s final line “It would have been glorious” – but then omits the redundant final bridge scene.
- Blish’s version of this story seems to be derived from a draft or two before the final script. Kirk’s romantic background with Areel is omitted; the key issue is whether the ship was a “double red alert” rather than just “red alert”; and Finney, at the end, doesn’t sabotage the ship, requiring Kirk’s quick work to repair it.
- Rather, we get a better resolution of the subplot concerning Jame, Finney’s daughter. In the broadcast script we see her twice: at the very beginning, angry at Kirk for apparently killing her father; and then later, when she’s much calmer and concerned for Kirk’s well-being. She explains her change of attitude as the result of having “read through some of the papers he [her father] wrote, letters to mother and me.”
- Blish saves those lines for later, and has Jame show up on the ship just as Kirk finds Finney in engineering, resolving that scene in an emotional, rather than violent manner.
- This may be a case where a character-development plot was sacrificed for the sake of a fist-fight – between Kirk and Finney – an action sequence that NBC always appreciated.
- Blish retains most of Cogley’s speech about the rights of men in the face of the machine, but omits the specific examples given in the final script: “Rights, sir. Human rights! The Bible, the Code of Hammurabi, and of Justinian, Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies, the Statues of Alpha Three.”
- Blish does not try to rationalize what I’ve always felt were two huge flaws of this episode: how the altered video of the ship’s bridge, when it was or was not at red alert, has anything to do with changed computer logic for playing chess; and the clumsy, implausible manner of locating a missing crewman, by masking out the heartbeats of the last few others left on board.
- This is likely the best example of how very different Blish’s stories could be from the broadcast episodes – and now that we have Cushman’s books, the best verified example of how those differences were due to Blish being sent early drafts of the scripts.
- (One wonders why the people at, where?, presumably Desilu, would not have taken care to send only final shooting scripts. My guess is that TV in the ‘60s was ephemeral, no one at the time had any idea Trek would become an eventual hit, or that it would quickly attract fans who would notice the discrepancies between Blish’s versions and the broadcast versions, and complain, as they did. In contrast, about the same time there were paperback versions of Time Tunnel and Lost in Space that had nothing to do with their show’s scripts, but with stories, only vaguely consistent with the shows they were based on, invented by their authors. For that matter, there was a Trek book like that too, by Mack Reynolds — https://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Horatius-Mack-Reynolds/dp/B000EX7CAO/ — but it was marketed as a kids’ book and no one cared.)
- In Blish’s version, there’s a character named Aurelan on Deneva, but she’s not the wife of Kirk’s brother or the mother of a son; the family connection to Kirk was added late in rewriting by Gene Roddenberry.
- More substantially the story here doesn’t end with the experimental blinding of Spock, and the deployment of UV satellites around the planet, and the silly cop-out ending of Spock not really being blind. Rather, the theorizing of the nature of the creatures leads them to conclude that they are all connected to some central core, light years away at the far end of the pattern of mass insanity described at the beginning. So the Enterprise heads off for this planet, launches two (in Blish’s words) “fully-armed planet-wreckers,” and destroys the planet, whereupon the infestation in Spock dies – and the same thing happens back on Deneva, they verify, its inhabitants fully recovering.
- Cushman’s Season One book (https://www.amazon.com/These-Are-Voyages-TOS-Season/dp/0989238105/) describes this and other earlier drafts of the script, including the final additions by Roddenberry of the family connection and Spock’s blindness.
- There are some nice concluding lines in Blish, presumably from the earlier script, about the nature of parasites and evolution.
- This version was better than the broadcast version, I think.
- Cushman’s Second Season book, pp310-312, describes the production staff’s reactions to James Blish’s first two Trek books. They were not pleased. D.C. Fontana – story editor and writer of several of Trek’s best scripts, including “This Side of Paradise” – wrote a long memo to Roddenberry, in which she complained especially about this episode, but also about the lack of action scenes at the ends of “Tomorrow Is Yesterday” and “Court Martial.” TV writers have different priorities than prose writers.
- Roddenberry had a Desilu exec send Blish a copy of the Trek Writers’ Guide, along with an admonition not to downplay Dr. McCoy’s character, as Blish had done. (McCoy, not Uhura, should have been the third major character described inside the front cover of Blish’s second book.)
“The City on the Edge of Forever”
- Blish has a footnote on the first page of this story, about how Ellison’s original script was drastically different than the final version, and how he, Blish, tried to “preserve what I thought were the best elements of both scripts.”
- But in fact, Blish’s version is 90% the final broadcast version.
- Again, Blish summarizes the opening scenes, with no dialogue until the landing party is on the planet and sees the ‘Guardian.’ But at least Blish has McCoy’s frenzy due to a defective hypo-spray – not McCoy’s uncharacteristic clumsiness at tripping as the Enterprise bumped over a ripple in time.
- Blish describes the Guardian as “a large, octagonal mirror… Whatever it was, it gleamed, untarnished, agelessly new. A cube, also untarnished but half-buried in dust and rubble, sat beside it.”
- In this version the Guardian explains itself as a “time portal,” and “Through me the great race which once lived here went to another age. … The past, always and only the past. And to their past, which you cannot share. I can only offer you yours. Behold—”
- And it shows primeval images of the forming of the solar system, and life on Earth, and of primitive jungles…
- As Kirk and Spock arrive in 1930s New York, Spock remarks, “Is this the heritage my mother’s people brag about?” And Kirk replies: “This is what it took us five hundred years to crawl up from.”
- Blish tempers Spock’s time travel theory about eddies and currents; Spock goes on to say, “Like the solar-system analogies of atomic structure, it is more misleading than enlightening, but there may be a certain truth to it all the same.”
- Edith Keeler’s speech at the mission is not the unlikely, mystical vision of a future about traveling into space, but an inspirational one, nonetheless, one suited to her time:
- “Shadow and reality, my friends. That’s the secret of getting through these bad times. Know what is, and what only seems to be. Hunger is real, and so is cold. But sadness is not.
- “And it is the sadness that will ruin you—that will kill you. Sadness and hate. We all go to bed a little hungry every night, but it is possible to find peace in sleep, knowing you have lived another day, and hurt no one doing it.”
- To which Spock whispers to Kirk: “Bonner the Stochastic.” And Kirk replies, “He won’t be born for more than two hundreds years.”
- The narrative proceeds, with most of the best lines retained, though per policy, the scenes of McCoy arriving are omitted.
- Spock underscores the gravity of Kirk’s decision with a couple more lines than broadcast: “Millions will die who did not die before” and then Kirk: “Abstract millions. A different history. But Edith Keeler is here. She’s real. She deserves to live.” Spock: “And so do Scott, Uhura, and the others we left behind—or ahead. Sir, you are their Captain. They are waiting for you, in the ruined city on the edge of Forever. They, and the future that nurtured you. The choice is yours.”
- Blish provides a final, substantial scene, that was not broadcast — he adapted it lightly from the final scene of Ellison’s original screenplay. (https://www.amazon.com/City-Edge-Forever-Harlan-Ellison/dp/1880325020/) After they’ve returned to their future, Spock comes to Kirk’s quarters, where Kirk is disconsolate. Spock: “Jim, on my world, the nights are very long. In the morning, there is the sound of silver birds against the sky. My people know there is always time enough for everything. You’ll come with me for a rest. You’ll feel comfortable there.”
- Kirk can’t over his sacrifice of Edith. “She was negligible.”
- Spock: “Her death saved uncounted billions of people… Far from negligible. … No woman was ever loved so much, Jim. Because no other woman was almost offered the universe for love.”
- Again, Blish condenses the opening scenes to summary, a chief difference from the broadcast script being that Lt. Marla McGivers is a control systems specialist who happens to be a historian on the side. I always wondered why the Enterprise needed a full-time historian, as implied in the broadcast episode.
- Better than Trek generally did, Blish makes a smart deduction from the position of an interplanetary vessel being out in interstellar space. “They must have been trying for the Tau Ceti system,” the navigator says. A star only 12 light years from Earth. So that a ‘sleeper ship’ would reach there eventually, without taking forever.
- Blish has more background about the Eugenics Wars and those behind them, e.g. how the selective breeding was among the scientists responsible themselves; how the “sports and monsters” appeared later, the result of “spontaneous mutations erupting from all the ambient radioactivity” once the war had already started. And that Khan – Blish gives his full name as Sibahl Khan Noonien [though elsewhere throughout, Blish’s version spells it “Kahn”] – was one of those scientists’ children.
- Per policy, Blish doesn’t include any of the scenes between Khan and McGivers.
- During the dinner party scene, Blish has Spock challenge Khan about never being afraid. Spock asks, “And does that not frighten you?” Khan thinks this is a contradiction. Spock replies, “Not at all. It is a null class in the class of all classes not member of the given class.” Now that’s logic.
- Blish makes the focus of the story more on the question of why Khan and his people fled Earth, with Spock trying to apply psychology to draw Khan out—if he wasn’t afraid of anything, why did he flee? The broadcast version focused more on Khan seducing McGivers.
- Blish condenses the action scenes – omitting Kirk and Khan’s fight in engineering altogether – into one short paragraph, before commencing with the trial scene. Beginning with an answer to the question of why they fled: “To free themselves of the rabble, and start fresh.” But Spock thinks, “In my opinion they would never have succeeded, even had they made it to a habitable world. The man who cannot know fear is gravely handicapped.”
- The trial ends with Khan and McGivers exiled to a planet – which here Kirk does not name – and Khan invoking Milton. But Blish adds a line apparently scripted but left out of the broadcast version. After Spock says it would be interesting to return in 100 years, “to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today,” Kirk replies: “I only hope than in a hundred years, that crop won’t have sprung right out of the ground come out looking for us.”
- A last line that inspired the second Trek film.
(All these posts turn out much longer than I’d thought they’d be.)