Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If It Worked Properly, "The City On The Edge Of Forever" Ornament Would Really Be Something!

The Good: Interesting concept, Generally decent sculpt, (Part of) the sound chip
The Bad: Not a great likeness of characters, Expensive for the quality, Balance issue, Sound chip issue.
The Basics: A good, but fairly expensive Star Trek ornament, "The City On The Edge Of Forever," just doesn't cut it with its erratic sound function.

As the Hallmark Keepsake ornaments ran out of starships to make to sell to the die-hard Star Trek fans, they decided to branch out and try a few new things. One of their more ambitious concepts was a series of diorama ornaments, recapturing some of the great scenes from the Star Trek franchise. Because it has - arguably - the largest fan base, Hallmark opted to start its exploration into diorama ornaments with one with a vital scene from the fan-favorite episode "The City On The Edge Of Forever."

For those unfamiliar with the episode, it is a time-travel episode written and disavowed (except when someone wants to give him an award for it) by Harlan Ellison. "The City On The Edge Of Forever" (click here for that review!) featured a powerful artifact called the Guardian Of Forever, which was a time portal or an entity or a machine (it was kept purposely vague in the episode) and by passing through the portal, Dr. McCoy alters world history, causing the future to be radically altered. Protected from the changes in the timeline by the Guardian Of Forever, Kirk and Spock attempt to go back in time to find McCoy and prevent him from changing history.

It is Kirk and Spock passing though the Guardian Of Forever that is the subject of the "City On The Edge Of Forever" Hallmark Ornament. To add extra value to this one, Hallmark provided this ornament with a pretty magnificent light-up function and a pretty ambitious, but substandard, sound chip.


The "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament recreates the moment Kirk and Spock leap through the Guardian Of Forever (actually, it looks like the moment they leap back from the past). The ornament recreates the scene with the Guardian Of Forever, a small section of ruins, Kirk and Spock and a small island of land in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2004, is a mixed bag as it has a very cool and accurate sculpt of the Guardian Of Forever, but the characters of Kirk and especially Spock are lacking in detailing and realistic shading.

Still, Hallmark clearly made an effort on them as the people on this ornament are detailed with accurate rank insignia and division badges. Measuring three and five-eighths inches tall, four and an eighth inches wide and two and three-quarters inches deep, "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament is one of the largest "Star Trek" ornaments and with the light and sound feature, it seems to be almost reasonable that Hallmark charged $28.00 for it when it was originally released.

The Hallmark "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the the two officers leaping out of the translucent membrane that is the time portal of the Guardian Of Forever. The ruins and officers are generally colored properly, with the bright yellow and blue of Kirk and Spock's shirts nicely contrasting the muted grays of the Guardian Of Forever.

However, the heads and faces are mediocre at best, with Spock especially bearing coloring and cheeks that are not accurate for the character. There is no realism to the flesh color and the eyes and this is somewhat understandable given the small scale of the people on this ornament (they are approximately two inches tall). The Guardian Of Forever is detailed adequately, both in sculpt and color. This ornament remains fairly easy to find in the secondary market, despite the fact that the scene and sound chip are pretty popular. The back of the ornament has a five-inch wire to connect it to a light strand to activate the light and sound effects.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "The City On The Edge Of Forever" has both a light effect and a sound effect. Plugging the cord into a light socket - removing a light bulb first to make this possible - on a non-blinking light strand, The Guardian Of Forever lights up. This is actually a pretty neat effect; the portal membrane lights up with a two blue lights at the top and a yellow one at the bottom that give it a sense of shading and depth that is very cool.

On one of the ruins next to Spock, a broken column, there is a well-concealed button. That button, when pressed, activates the sound chip. The sound chip actually contains three different clips from "The City On The Edge Of Forever." Rather extraordinarily, the chip has several seconds of dialogue between Kirk and the Guardian, Spock and the Guardian and then the Guardian Of Forever's final lines in the episode. This is an impressive function. . .

. . . when it works. I swear, my ornament somehow knew I was about to pan it and for the first time ever, the sound chip worked perfectly. Literally up until today, whenever I have plugged it in and pressed the button, it has played the first clip, played part of the second clip and not played any of the third clip. As I began this review, after four years of having this ornament, it finally made it through the second clip and played the third clip for me! And that is very cool, but it is hard for me to ignore the prior years where it didn't work properly.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament is a high priced option that can only enhance the tree of those who like a lot of lights and sounds. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the Guardian Of Forever. This is fairly unobtrusive and necessary for the ornament. Hanging unplugged, the ornament is pretty well balanced.

Unfortunately, the stiffness of the power cord throws the balance off when the ornament is hanging and it is plugged in. The ornament pitches forward noticeably about thirty degrees and it is tough to arrange it so it looks right and almost impossible to keep it so balanced when one depresses the sound button.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships and many of the characters from the franchise and they have all been more mass produced than that first one. "The City On The Edge Of Forever" ornament was bought by fans, but largely not by the public at large. There were few fans who bought it and almost no investors or general fans of science fiction picked it up. The relative expense of this ornament makes it a bit stifling for those who are only casual fans.


Fans of the Star Trek franchise, "The City On The Edge Of Forever," and Hallmark ornaments are likely to be split on this ornament. Ultimately, I bumped it up to "average" because it chose to work today, but it is still a bit too expensive for me to recommend, even to Star Trek fans.

For other Hallmark ornaments reviewed by me, please check out my reviews of:
2010 "Amok Time" ornament
2010 Legends Of Star Trek Captain Kirk ornament
2005 Khan ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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