Customer Review

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved the Essay and the Episode...The Script? See Below..., May 17, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay that Became the Classic Star Trek Episode (Paperback)
Harlan Ellison's bitter introductory essay is the absolute finest reason to buy this book. He handily deconstructs the myth that has been Gene Roddenberry in a literate, angry rant that makes the reader almost experience a vein-throbbing aneurysm as an act of pure empathy. I myself had to be hospitalized for several days after exposure to his acidic version of what went down. That having been said, I'm still a fan of the televised version of The City on the Edge of Forever and I think it was an improvement on Ellison's original draft. The number one reason is (as D.C. Fontana points out in her afterword) that Ellison's script just wasn't very series television friendly. The City and the Guardians as originally envisioned by Ellison could have never been delivered to his satisfaction given the special effects/makeup limitations of the time and would have been a legitimate budgetary concern. Personally, I think it was a stroke of genius to make the Guardian actually BE the gateway and substituting the original antagonist of the drug-dealing Beckwith (what's the street value on a Jewel of Sound, by the way?) with the accidentally doped-up but otherwise decent Dr. McCoy simply made more sense from a TV standpoint. Ellison's addition (okay, okay at Roddenberry's insistence) of space pirates came off as silly and the Enterprise simply ceasing to exist was certainly more profound than having them turn into a ship full of buccaneers. What I find incredibly interesting in the reading of Ellison's essay and the various afterwords are the unanimous suggestions that Roddenberry wanted HIS Starfleet people to be portrayed as perfect and uncorrupt while refusing to address the many episodes made under Roddenberry's supervision that depicted imperfect and corrupt Starfleet personnel. In Charlie X, the captain of the USS Antares passes Charlie off on the Enterprise even though he suspects the young man is a dangerous force and only tries to warn them when he figures his own vessel is a safe distance away. In Court-Martial, a Starfleet officer fakes his own death so as to incriminate Captain Kirk. Don't even get me started on John Gill and his little Nazi-experiment on the planet Ekos. Of all the people involved with this book, only Peter David took the trouble to write about this obvious double standard while not offering a theory to explain it. I have little doubt that Gene Roddenberry did have the most fond desire to have the universe he's credited with creating (he had a LOT of help) populated by the most brave and perfect human beings and I also have little doubt that he paid lip service to this concept throughout his life but it was obviously a desire he was able to put aside when the story demanded it. The simple truth is that The City on the Edge of Forever didn't need the arch-villain Beckwith to set in motion the events that resulted in the brief annihilation of the universe as James Kirk knew it. Point of fact: it was an act of mercy and kindness (the snatching away of Edith Keeler before she met her demise under the wheels of the beer truck) that caused this annihilation and was certainly much more in character for the kindly Dr. McCoy than some evil junior officer dealing space-crack. Ellison made much to-do of the changing of his original ending (which I won't reveal here) but I have to say that the one that was filmed has endured in my mind as more affecting than any thing I have seen on Star Trek to date with the possible exception of Spock's death in Star Trek II. Isn't it human that Kirk had the desire to give up his universe for the woman he loved but in the end sacrificed her and his happiness so that millions would live? Isn't it human that he had the desire but in the end did what was right? Isn't it more heroic? To Ellison's credit, the basic story is all there in his original script so City is his baby, albeit a bastard one with many vying to be the father. I doubt that the multiple fingerprints it endured on its way to the screen could have fashioned such a piece of TV history without Ellison's apt jump-start. For those of you who reviewed the book and wondered if Ellison had ever even seen an episode of Star Trek when he wrote his script, I would suggest that you read the book again and put yourself in the time and place. Ellison turned in his first treatment in March of 1966 and the second in May of that same year. Star Trek hadn't even premiered yet. The only episodes that were probably in the can at that time were the two pilots. It's quite possible Ellison was able to view those episodes in preparation for writing a Star Trek script but bear in mind that Spock was the only character in The Cage who appeared in the series and he wasn't really the Spock that we all know and love. Likewise, the characters as they appeared in Where No Man Has Gone Before were still characters in flux so Ellison had a lot of room to play around. I admit that reading Ellison's script gives one the initial reaction that he missed the characters by a country mile when it came to dialogue and mannerisms and I have no doubt the even the most casual Star Trek fan could summon exchanges between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy so authentic sounding that they would put Ellison's attempt to shame but just bear in mind that he did not have the benefit of experiencing Trek as a thirty-year old cultural icon. This was a guy who was in on the ground floor, folks. And in spite of my personal opinion on what he came up with, he is still the person who built The City on the Edge of Forever.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 26, 2015 1:56:42 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 26, 2015 1:57:42 PM PST
jackrush says:
I completely agree about the script. I found it hard to believe that an officer(no matter how junior or senior) could be dealing drugs without the senior officers becoming aware of it. Also, what sort of junkie goes to his dealer to tell him that he's going to turn him in to the authorities? I FIND THAT EXTREMLY HARD TO BELIEVE!
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