Apr 21, 2008

Edith Keeler Must Die

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of time travel, so I've taken to the Star Trek Time Travel Fan Collective like a duck to water. Star Trek made the multiple universe/timeline theory a pop culture fact, and the religious ramifications of that idea are never far from the surface. The Original Series was perhaps truest to the concept of a Secret Sunday School, and watching those old episodes with newly grown symbolic sensors never fails to send me directly down the rabbit hole.

Tonight, I’m examining The City on the Edge of Forever, "the penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek". Episode 28, production 28, first broadcast April 6, 1967. This episode introduces themes explored again and again in time travel fiction - the core idea being that it is possible to visit the past, make historical changes, and then return to the present to experience a different reality than when you left. This episode also explores entheogenic drugs, self-conscious stargates and ritual blood sacrifice... fun for the whole family!

As a heads up to the reader, I have come to view Star Trek (and many other sci-fi movies and books) in the same way that I view the bible - as metaphor and mythic allegory. To me, Star Trek isn’t necessarily a vision of the future, but an akashic memory of the past - the Ages of Gods and Heroes.

We join the crew of the Enterprise as they are drawn to a mysterious planet from which time displacement waves are emanating. The waves jar the Enterprise as she passes through, causing an electrical malfunction on the bridge, injuring Sulu, perhaps mortally. Doctor McCoy is summoned to the bridge, who decides to “risk” a few drops of “cordrazine” to revive him.

“It’s tricky stuff, are you sure you want to risk it?”

Which is an odd thing for a Captain to be asking his chief medical officer, especially one he holds in such high regard. What makes this stuff “tricky”? We’re about to find out. Sulu “miraculously” recovers after the injection, but as the Enterprise is struck by another temporal bubble, McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose of cordrazine. He begins exhibiting signs of paranoia and madness. Delirious, he beams himself down to the planet’s surface.

"Hi ho, hi ho!"

Cordrazine = entheogenic drugs, the magic mushroom, the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Everything that subsequently happens to the crew is a result of McCoy’s “trip”.

Kirk and a landing party soon follow McCoy to the surface, where they meet “The Guardian of Forever” - a living time machine/stargate. “I am my own beginning, my own ending.” says the Guardian in a commanding masculine voice, which is close enough to “I am the Alpha and the Omega” to make the point.

The Guardian shows earth’s history (beginning with ancient Egypt) like a movie - in black and white - which is a nice reverse of Dorothy’s mushroom trip - like looking at Kansas from a TV in Oz.

The landing party is too late to stop McCoy from leaping through the stargate, “incarnating” himself on three dimensional earth. McCoy becomes Adam, the first “angel” born as a mortal man. Immediately afterwards, the Enterprise ceases to exist, and the landing party is stranded. McCoy went back into earth’s history and changed it, thereby altering the future. In other words, the creation of Adam resulted in the destruction of Oz, or at least the angel’s exalted place in it. They find themselves imprisoned on a desolate planet, with no past and no future.

"Captain... I'm frightened!"

Captain Kirk and Spock go through the stargate after McCoy, to attempt a rescue and to set the timeline right. They tell the rest of the landing party that if they do not succeed, they are to follow them through the gate and “incarnate” into the earth’s past as well, each attempting the rescue.

The stargate lands them in Depression era New York City, which has symbolically become Eden - the home of Adam/McCoy.

Kirk and Spock materialize in front of a poster promoting a boxing event at Madison SQUARE Garden, (Interesting how boxers box inside a “ring”) and noting that Mike Mason is on the bill, I'd say we’re in the middle of another Masonic ritual drama.

Meanwhile, McCoy incarnates on Earth as a milkman does his rounds, frightening a bum into dropping a milk bottle from the WIDIN Dairy Farm in the alley. I’m not sure what milk represents, but I’ll take a stab that it represents Manna (eternal life).

McCoy meets his first NYC native, and remarks on his small stature, yet good cranial development. “No doubt considerable human ancestry”. Spoken like a true Nephilim.

The aliens quickly locate clothes to help them fit into Depression era NYC. Kirk wears red and black checkered flannel, and Spock is in wizard blue and grey. They encounter a social worker, Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), who helps them find work to pay for the equipment Spock requires to build a tricorder interface (crystal ball).

"...and one day, soon, man is going to be able to harness incredible energies..."

Edith Keeler runs the 21st Street Mission, and while feeding the hungry, she preaches a vision of man’s eventual enlightenment and ascension via star ships, and little does she know that she is soon to be harboring refugees from her future utopia - entertaining angels unawares. Edith is Eve, and she has two suiters...

Unknown to Kirk and Spock, Edith has taken in the recently-arrived and ill McCoy. Kirk promptly falls in love with Edith and is devastated when Spock completes his tricorder and discovers that in order to repair history, they must let Edith Keeler be killed in an auto accident. If they allow McCoy to save her — as he did before — she will start an effective pacifist movement that will delay the United States' entrance into World War II, thus allowing Hitler's Germany to develop the atomic bomb first and conquer the planet. --StarTrek.com

It really IS All About Eve. So we have Adam and Eve in the Garden, and who else in this ancient triangle? The serpent. It’s interesting that even though McCoy was first through the stargate, and thus the cause of all that then occurred, it was Kirk who landed first in the garden.

Spock’s tricorder needs a computer interface in order to extract the data it contains (the true history of mankind). Spock endeavors to create the interface using “stone knives and bearskins” - primitive technology. The tricorder is an ancient angelic/Atlantean artifact (the Hall of Records), requiring Hiram’s “key”. Spock’s revelation is given via a newspaper of the day called the “Star Dispatch”, which is perhaps a clever reference to astrology. Spock is a Magi and alchemist of high degree.

"Edith Keeler must die."

Unfortunately, the key reveals that Edith must die in a traffic accident in order to restore the timeline. The accident is "allowed" to happen.

After the ritual sacrifice, all is returned as it should be, and the angels are restored to their proper places in heaven. Edith is mute. As the landing party departs the God forsaken planet, Kirk exclaims “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Hell being Sheol. Telling us quite literally where these fallen angels have been doing time.

Making the future safe?


JB said...

How appropriate that you mention this very episode, since that living stargate is an important part of the plot of the next Star Trek movie.

If the rumors are true, a much older Spock will return to the City on the Edge of Forever to travel back in time and stop the Romulans from changing history.

His choice will be severe: Save the life of his friend James T. Kirk, or save his homeworld Vulcan from being destroyed?

Jake Kotze said...

Taking control of the medium with those screen shots. A lovely and exciting development for us fans of your fine work.

Be very well

Michael said...

Fascinating, JB. Sounds like another "the good of the many" vs. "the good of the few" dilemmas. This episode is amazingly rich, even a direct reference to a visitor from Orion, said to arrive at or around the turn of the next century (i.e.: now). It's interesting how in this version of the Fall, Lucifer (Kirk) attempts to dissuade Adam from using the fruit, not tempt him into it.

Jake - yes, I have constructed my own tricorder graphical interface with which to view screen shots of earth's ancient history!!! (insert maniacal laugh here)

Anonymous said...

Last night on Southpark - a repeat - they played the episode where two Star Trek nerds turn Timmy's chair into a time machine to open a stargate and send the kids back to 3rd Grade.

It's also the episode where Mr. Garrison (Jim Garrison from JFK?) finally goes into the base of the Banyan tree to admit to himself he's gay.

Did you see it? This was basically your episode! How excellent I should find this post here today.

I, of course, love the Oz synchs. And pulling in Diana takes it to a totally new level. You're inspiring me to rewatch Star Trek, which I haven't since I was a kid.

Thanks for the Adam and Eve link.


Michael said...

Thuth - I have a huge confession to make: I don't watch TV anymore, at least not cable. I rent movies from Netflix, but that's about it. Technology has conspired against me - I upgraded the TV to a flat screen, which is no longer "cable ready". So we decided to do without, and see how it goes. So far, it goes just fine. Also, I sort of fear the commercials, so to make a short story long, no, I didn't see it. Sounds right up my alley, though.

Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting, always appreciated.

Michael Skaggs said...

Michael, great piece! I grew up as a child on the original series, and loved TNG as a teenager. Been watching TNG through "new eyes" so to speak now, watching the metaphors and symbolisms!

Great stuff, can't wait to see more!


aferrismoon said...

Brilliant! I remember this episode, wasn't it a 2-parter?
Joan Collins - she did great adverts for Cinzano with Leonard Rossiter [ in the 70's] , he had a role in 2001: Space Odyssey
One can almost trace the 'disappearence' of Joan Collins as British female goddess symbol to the emergence of Diana .
Also the episode couldn't have been written long after the PROFUMO SCANDAL [ 1963] - Christine Keeler , the 'opposite' of the Edith Keeler character
Great flow

Michael said...

Hi Michael, I was raised on ST too, I think we ALL were, and it's interesting to go back and analyze the programming with 20/20 hindsight.

FM - Just one episode, but it packs a wallop. Thanks for the Joan Collins info. I discovered her in the 80's via Dynasty - quite the fabulous diva.

Devin said...

I think that perhaps I missed a bit by not being a "Trekkie" yet always being interested in sci-fi -it seems whichever way the most "popular" wind is blowing I go against it-this was extremely fascinating to me -especially as though I have seen some episodes of ST I havent seen nearly all of them -I am going to save this article to faves and go through it again -I so agree about your "Akashic" records and "gods" thinking-although the thinking about the gods of old is taking me some getting used to-This post has led me to change my mind on putting in a bit at a future post at my history blog about Augustus Caesar's favorite god being Apollo and an incident that happened-at least it shouldnt be that much of a re-write as the incident was small -wonderful article-really gets me thinking-from the time you put this post up I think I was emailing someone privately if they thought the "Akashic" records were real-will look at time stamp again thats the first time I have ever asked anyone that and it has another synch in my life as for the first time at MFM someone mentioned Edgar Cayce the other day and also caused me to think of Akashic records-best to you and Varen as always!! as always enjoyed the other comments also!!

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