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"The City on the Edge of Forever" is the penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek. It is episode #28, production #28, first broadcast on April 6, 1967. It was repeated on August 31, 1967 and marked the last time NBC aired the series on Thursday nights. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The only other episode with such an honor is the two-part episode "The Menagerie". The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, but was controversially rewritten by several hands before filming. It was directed by Joseph Pevney. It guest-stars Joan Collins as Edith Keeler.

The episode involves crew of the Enterprise discovering a portal through space and time, which leads to McCoy accidentally altering history.

Plot

Stardate: Unknown; The Starship Enterprise investigates temporal disturbances centered on a nearby planet. Sulu is caught in a console explosion during the investigation and suffers a heart flutter. Doctor McCoy is summoned to his aid and decides on a cordrazine shot to awaken him. Moments later, a further temporal disturbance causes the ship to shake violently; as a result McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose of serum, causing him to become violently paranoid. Delusional, he flees from the bridge and beams down to the planet.

Captain Kirk forms a landing search party made up of two security guards, himself, Spock, Scotty, and Uhura. Once on the planet, Spock finds that the source of the time distortions is an ancient ring of glowing, stone-like material. The ring speaks and, identifying itself as the "Guardian of Forever", explains that it is a doorway to any time and place, and displays periods of Earth's history in its portal opening. The team soon locates McCoy, but he runs away and leaps through the portal before anyone can stop him. Suddenly the landing party loses contact with the Enterprise. The Guardian informs the landing party that history has just been altered and that, as a result, the Enterprise no longer exists.

It is clear to the landing crew that, after leaping through the portal, McCoy has somehow altered the past and erased the history that they knew. Kirk asks the Guardian to loop the history images again and he and Spock get ready to jump through to a time just before McCoy entered, in the hope that they can correct what he has changed. Kirk and Spock leap through at the correct moment and materialize in New York Citymarker during the 1930s Great Depression era. Their uniforms and Spock's ears shock a passerby, so Kirk steals some clothes he spots hanging on a fire escape and the two hide in the basement of a nearby building. There they meet a woman named Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins), who identifies herself as a social worker of the 21st Street Mission. They apologize for trespassing and offer to work for her; she allows them to stay. In the meantime, Spock begins to construct a processor interface and uses it to find out what part of history McCoy has altered.

Kirk soon begins to fall in love with Edith. He finds her a remarkable visionary with a positive outlook about what the future holds for mankind. McCoy materializes at this point, and, after an encounter with a homeless man, stumbles into the 21st Street Mission where Edith notices him and takes him to rest. Kirk and Spock are not aware of his arrival. Meanwhile, Spock finally finishes the interface and he and Kirk analyze the data. It reveals that Edith was supposed to have died shortly after in a traffic accident but that, having been spared this fate on account of McCoy's actions, she instead went on to form a pacifist movement whose influence delayed the entry of the United States into World War II; this delay in turn gave Nazi Germany time to develop an atomic bomb and ultimately conquer the world. Kirk must face the fact that if Edith does not die as she is supposed to, history will be altered forever.

Meanwhile, Edith nurses McCoy, who tells her who he is and where he is from. Edith does not believe his fantastic-sounding story, but tells him that he would fit in nicely with her eccentric new boyfriend who will later be taking her to a movie starring Clark Gable, an actor with whom (to Edith's great surprise) McCoy is not familiar.

Later, as Kirk and Edith are walking to the movie house, she mentions McCoy. Alarmed, Kirk emphatically tells Edith to "Stay right here" before dashing across the street to notify Spock. As he reaches Spock, McCoy emerges from the mission right in front of them. A surprised Edith crosses the street to join them, but fails to notice a fast-moving truck which is approaching. Instinctively, Kirk moves to pull Edith out of the way but freezes when Spock cries, "No, Jim!". McCoy then tries to save Edith but is held back by Kirk; the truck hits her and she is killed. A shocked McCoy exclaims to Kirk, "I could have saved her...do you know what you just did?". Kirk pushes him away, speechless, and Spock says quietly, "He knows, Doctor. He knows."

With Edith's death, history reverts to its original timeline and Kirk, Spock and McCoy return to the Guardian's planet to find the rest of the landing party where they had left them. Scotty remarks that the three had only been gone for a few moments. The Guardian says, "Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before," and adds, "Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway." However, Uhura indicates that the Enterprise is ready to beam them back up and the traumatised Kirk responds with the instruction, "Let's get the hell out of here."

40th Anniversary remastering

This episode was remastered in 2006 and aired October 7, 2006 as part of the 40th anniversary remastering of the Original Series. It was preceded a week earlier by "The Naked Time" and followed a week later by "I, Mudd". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the USS Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include:

  • The time planet has been updated and appears more realistic. Much of the episode's original effects were enhanced but remain unchanged.


  • When the episode was remastered in 2006, the scene of the homeless man vaporizing himself with McCoy's phaser was not shown in the new syndicated print. The scene abruptly cuts from McCoy collapsing with the man standing over him, to McCoy wandering into Edith's mission house. The edit does remove a potential on-screen goof, in that the homeless man's death could have altered the course of history due to McCoy's presence. This scene was not cut from the version that is distributed in HD using the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Video, the print sold on iTunes, or the Blu-ray or HD DVD versions released by Paramount.


Production

Original script

In the original script, Lieutenant Richard Beckwith, a drug dealer selling the illegal "Jewels of Sound," kills Lieutenant LeBeque after he threatens to expose Beckwith's activities. After escaping to the planet's surface, with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Yeoman Rand, and six Security guards close on his heels, he enters a Time Vortex, watched over by the Guardians of Forever, to escape. The time changes he effects cause the Enterprise to become the Condor, a pirate vessel.

The rest of the show is roughly the same (with Keeler being the focus of the time travel, Kirk's growing love for her), but with more emphasis on Kirk and Spock spying on Keeler, waiting for Beckwith to find her. The script also includes an additional character in the person of a legless World War I veteran known as Trooper. Beckwith murders Trooper with a shot from a phaser, but his death, unlike Edith Keeler's survival, does not alter the continuity of time; Kirk and Spock rationalize that Trooper's life was unimportant, to Kirk's great distress.

The ending has Beckwith being captured, and Edith Keeler being hit by a truck in a fatal vehicle accident. But in this version, Beckwith attempts to save Edith, and Spock must tackle and stop him. Captain Kirk, knowing Edith must die, but wanting her to live, as he has fallen completely in love with her, is frozen in indecision and does nothing.

With the timeline set right, Beckwith attempts to escape again, but the Guardians of Forever have set a trap for him—he finds himself in an exploding supernova, and just before he dies a fiery death, is pulled backwards in time and forced to relive his agonizing death again and again for all eternity.

The very last scene was a quiet one between Kirk and Spock, where Spock treats his captain compassionately, telling him that "no other woman was ever offered the universe for love." In his adaptation of the story in Star Trek 2, James Blish explained to readers that he tried to preserve the best elements of both Ellison's original script and the final rewrite. In Blish's version, Kirk allows Edith to die, with the result that Spock tells him, "No other woman was ever almost offered the universe for love."

The second revised final draft had McCoy bitten by a toxic animal, which caused him to go insane and beam down to the Guardian's planet.

Ellison's original story outline had the action set in Chicagomarker instead of New York, and the Slum Angel's name was Sister Edith Koestler, not Keeler. This confusion seemed to carry over into the final storyline, where in the closing credits of the episode that ultimately aired, the character is erroneously identified as "Sister Edith Keeler."

Controversy

The script was commissioned in early 1966 from Harlan Ellison. Justman and Solow's book Inside Star Trek recalls that the script was delivered late.

The production staff considered Ellison's script excellent; (Bob Justman wrote a memo saying, "This is the best and most beautifully written screenplay we have gotten to date... If you tell this to Harlan, I'll kill you," though director Joseph Pevney said, "Harlan had no sense of theatre... in the original script's dramatic moments, it missed badly"), but they had several concerns. As originally written, the episode would have been too long for a one-hour show, too expensive to stage, with too many speaking parts and elaborate special effects. Also, several plot elements—such as a member of the crew dealing drugs and Kirk preparing to sacrifice his crew to be with Edith—led the producers to feel that the teleplay was simply "not Star Trek." Ellison did a number of rewrites himself, delivering his Second Revised Final Draft in December 1966. The story was still considered too expensive to shoot as written and was instead rewritten internally, variously by Steven W. Carabatsos, Gene L. Coon, D. C. Fontana, and Gene Roddenberry himself. Ellison was unhappy with the rewrites and considered disowning the script by putting his "Cordwainer Bird" pseudonym on it.

Part of the reason for this controversy was a subtle but important change in Edith Keeler's character. In the original script she was a social worker with a vague hippie philosophical bent while, in the final version, she was changed into an all-out war protester. The version that was aired carried the implication that anti-war movements were harmful to the future of humanity. This was particularly aimed at the anti-Vietnam movement that was gaining momentum at the time. When producer Robert Justman was asked if the episode was intended, "to have the contemporaneous anti-Vietnam-war movement as a subtext," he replied, "Of course we did." This new thematic element, which may be interpreted as critical of the anti-war movement, ran counter to Ellison's strongly held anti-war views, established in many of his writings.

According to Ellison, Roddenberry would later repeatedly claim that Ellison's original script had Scotty dealing drugs, but Scotty does not appear in that script. Ellison set out his side of the story in a 1995 book, The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay that Became the Classic Star Trek Episode, containing two drafts of his story outline, his first draft teleplay and the teaser and first act of his second revised draft (the latter dated December 1966).

The episode started shooting on February 3, 1967, and finished on February 14, 1967. It took seven and a half days to film, more than was typical for an episode, and according to Inside Star Trek, came in at $250,000, compared to the weekly average of around $185,000.

The ancient ruins were allegedly the result of someone misreading Harlan Ellison's description in the script of the city as "covered with runes." Also alleged, it was the first time the word "hell" was allowed on network TV.

In addition to Ellison's 1996 book the original script was published in 1976 in "Six Science Fiction Plays", edited by Roger Elwood (ISBN 0671487663).

On March 13, 2009, Harlan Ellison filed a lawsuit against CBS Paramount Television, seeking payment of 25% of net receipts from merchandising, publishing, and other income from the episode since 1967; the suit also names the Writers Guild of America for allegedly failing repeatedly to act on Ellison's behalf in the matter. On October 22, 2009, the lawsuit was settled with Ellison claiming he was satisfied with the outcome.

Filming



Reception

The filmed version of "The City on the Edge of Forever" is considered the best episode of the original series by many critics such as Entertainment Weekly. TV Guide ranked it #68 in their 100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History feature in its July 1, 1995 edition, featured it in another issue on the 100 greatest TV episodes of all time, and ranked it #80 on its list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time." IGN ranked it as number one out of their "top 10 Classic Star Trek Episodes" It is one of the most widely acclaimed episodes of the original series of Star Trek. It was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at that year's World Science Fiction Convention. It would be twenty-five years before another television program would receive that honor; the next recipient being the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light".

Harlan Ellison's original version won a Writers Guild of America Award for best dramatic hour-long script. Gene Coon reportedly said at the time: "If Harlan wins, I'm going to die," and that "there are two scripts up tonight for the Writers' Guild Award, and I wrote them both." This quote is of dubious merit, however, as the WGA rules do not allow production companies to submit scripts, only the credited writer, who may submit whatever draft of their script they desire. Ellison submitted his original first draft for WGA award consideration, not any version that originated with the Star Trek production staff, so Coon's supposed version of the script was ineligible and never submitted. Gene Roddenberry noted that "many people would get prizes if they wrote scripts that budgeted out to three times the show's cost." In the documentary To Boldly Go... included in the Season 1 DVD set, Leonard Nimoy characterizes the episode as a high watermark in the series, calling it "good tragedy." William Shatner considered it one of his favorite episodes, and it appeared as his "Captain's Pick" in the "Star Trek Fan Collective — Captain's Log (2001)."

References

External links






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