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The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay (Harlan Ellison Collecton) Paperback – June 3, 2014
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From Library Journal
"The City on the Edge of Forever" was recently voted the best episode of Star TrekTM ever. Despite that praise, Ellison has been bitching for 30 years that his original teleplay for the episode was butchered by Trek producer Gene Roddenberry and Paramount Studios henchmen. This volume offers the original, complete, unedited version of the script plus commentary by Ellison and many of the principal actors involved in the production. Ellison's numerous fans along with the general clamoring for all things Trek are bound to put this book in high demand. The script was previously published in a limited hardcover edition, but this paperback makes it much more accessible.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ellison has had it--up to here! He wrote the original teleplay for the first Star Trek TV series' most popular episode (in which Kirk and Spock leap through a time gate into 1930s Chicago in order to prevent history being changed) and then watched, patiently fuming, for 30 years as Gene Roddenberry, that blankity-blank-blank, told everyone what an incompetent job Ellison had done and how much he had to labor to realize the script that was finally filmed. Yet since Ellison's original won a Writers Guild Award, the highest honor TV dramatists bestow, how incompetent could it have been? The answer, verified by the script's reappearance here alongside two prefatory treatments and two scenes Ellison added at Roddenberry's request, is "not at all." Seconding that assessment, four other ST writers and four original cast members weigh in. But what makes this the ST book of the year (maybe all time) is Ellison's sputtering, raging, fuming introduction in which he sets the record straight, by God! Invective doesn't come any better these days. Both ears and the tail, Harl! Ray Olson
Top customer reviews
Let me say again, Ellison is wickedly talented, and his original screenplay is very, very good. It is not, however, Star Trek. He nails Kirk, though, so why Shatner had a problem with it, I don’t know. With his ego, I can’t imagine it’s the same problems I had with it, because in every draft, Kirk is great.
I admit that if this WAS Star Trek, if Ellison’s vision was the guiding vision, Trek would have been a lot more fascinating. But Roddenberry, the true, flawed, guiding visionary established something completely different than Ellison’s take on it.
I’ve been a show runner, too, a guiding producer, and understand the Great Bird's problems with the script (not his lies and continual flaming of Ellison, though). Spock wasn’t Spock. Crewmen, especially officers, in Trek wouldn’t be drug dealers. No matter what he says in the book, the script would have been incredibly expensive to shoot; too expensive. Yet it was well written. Especially at the age Ellison was then, it’s a remarkable script and well worth reading.
Roddenberry says Ellison wouldn’t rewrite it. Ellison did, but he didn’t shore up the problems with it. (I think it’s funny he was shocked at who did the final rewrite; seemed obvious to me. There was only one writer who could clean up Roddenberry and Colon’s butchery, and she did a marvelous job. “He knows, Doctor, he knows.” That line captured everything Ellison went for badly (Spock opining on love is just… wrong. Could Nimoy pull that off? Sure...) Also, bringing McCoy in was necessary. While Ellison’s solution for McCoy getting drugged was better than what was shot, it would have been expensive to shoot. The whole pirate thing was dumb, too, and in the second script, no way Kirk would leave Rand to the mercy of pirates (to his credit, Ellison thought that was stupid, too. Pirates weren’t his idea.)
The City on the Edge of Forever was the best Star Trek show, and it is all owed to Harlan Ellison, but the rewrite into the script we saw was as good as TV gets. Ellison wrote with great watercolor strokes; TV is black crayon on paper). It’s one of the few classic Trek shows that is still mostly watchable.
Also, a word about his treatment and scripts. As a director, I would have hated Ellison. So much of the script was description that was unshootable. It’s an entertaining read, but interpreting would be impossible. There was no way, even if they’d done his original script, that he would be happy with it.
Is this book worth reading? YES. Great story, better commentaries. If you like Star Trek, the essays by Nimoy, Kelley, Takei, et al is worth the price of the book; they are masterful at avoiding the bitterness of the controversy.
I hope Ellison feels better getting all this off his chest. I understand his anger stemming from the lies, but the producer’s professional concerns were right on, though I’d love to see Ellison’s idea of Star Trek fully developed. The Utopian dream of ST made writing for it crazy hard, I’m sure. Ellison’s would have been a hoot. It just wouldn’t be Star Trek.
Given my already low opinion of Hollywood and its perversions, I tired of it all.