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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old February 25 2013, 03:09 PM   #16
BoredShipCapt'n
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Maurice wrote: View Post
Justman's memos show he could be incredibly snarky. He was overdramatic in a funny sort of way, I've read a fair number of memos from the show that most people haven't seen, and while Justman often had very valid comments, his ideas for "fixing" stories were often bad...he wasn't a writer and it shows. None of this is to say his notes on the City should be dismissed. He makes some very valid points in general.
And clearly some of his suggestions here were acted upon (notably the way the staircase scene is played out).

Anji wrote: View Post
Thanks for posting this memo. Interesting read. But I tell you if I was Roddenberry I would've tossed that memo after reading the first paragraph. I don't care for people with attitude like that.
Roddenberry must have had a lot of confidence in his judgment.

T'Girl wrote: View Post

It's difficult to believe that Mister Justman thought that a sizable portion of the American audience wouldn't know who Adolf Hitler was, the second world war was only some 21 years in the past.
He probably meant that children were a large portion of the Star Trek audience. I was 12 years old in 1980 and would still have had no idea who Ho Chi Minh was.
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Old February 25 2013, 05:25 PM   #17
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

mos6507 wrote: View Post
Gene used to rewrite scripts himself, you know. I don't know what his bedside manner was in doing this, though.
It's the job of a TV showrunner (which Roddenberry essentially was, though the term wasn't in use then) to rewrite every script so that the series will have consistent characterization, style, continuity, etc. So it's not as if there was anything exceptional about Roddenberry doing it. That was just part of his job.

That's what I've never understood about Ellison's objections to what happened to "City." He should've known going in that television is a collaborative exercise, that he was working in someone else's universe and thus wouldn't get to do things his own way. If he didn't want his words and ideas altered, why agree to participate in a collaboration in the first place?
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Old February 25 2013, 06:26 PM   #18
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

To be fair, even Solow addressed the fact that Roddenberry apparently did rewrites so he could get extra pay, not necessarily because the script needed it, If I'm remembering correctly, this activity resulted in some WGA action to make this more difficult to do.
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Old February 25 2013, 06:48 PM   #19
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Maurice wrote: View Post
To be fair, even Solow addressed the fact that Roddenberry apparently did rewrites so he could get extra pay, not necessarily because the script needed it, If I'm remembering correctly, this activity resulted in some WGA action to make this more difficult to do.
But I think he'd only get the pay if he got screen credit for the rewrite, which is certainly not the case with "City on the Edge."
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Old February 25 2013, 07:34 PM   #20
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

His pay for re-writes wasn't linked to screen credit. See the memo in David Alexnder's biography of Roddenberry on page 364-365 that indicates Roddenberry was paid for polishes, stories, and re-writes on several episodes which did not credit Roddenberry.
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Old February 26 2013, 12:43 AM   #21
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

As far as the collaborative medium aspect, we have a tendency to want to believe in auteur theory, which is why Gene got all the credit for Trek, and prior to the prequels, Lucas got all the accolades for Star Wars. It's only later is it better understood that what we saw was the combined influence of many creative forces, sometimes working in sync, and sometimes in fierce opposition, leading to some sort of compromise. Back in the 60s I can only think of one television writer who was known for having his scripts delivered straight through, and that's Rod Serling, since TZ was built around him, but even he had his share of nasty fights with the execs, at least by the time you get to Night Gallery.

What to the people who made these things might have seemed like a tragic capitulation might to the audience appear as a great piece of entertainment. But if you want to align yourself with one particular strong personality with an axe to grind (and Ellison is certainly known for both) then it's easy to take sides, when in effect, it's a very gray area.

There is also the issue of authorship. Someone known for writing novels is not going to be used to the rewrite process, but there isn't the same purity in screenwriting. I don't know how it was then, but these days it's uncommon for anything to have a single writer attached to it, especially big box-office movies. Even take someone like Christopher Nolan. He works with his brother on scripts. Usually the collaboration makes for a stronger story. You need a strong devil's advocate by your side to challenge all your ideas.
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Old February 27 2013, 07:52 PM   #22
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Wow. Thanks for posting this!

I only have the prologue and act one from the second revised draft, as I read through the draft and memo I see what Justman is refering to, but it's strange what he gets wrong.

It was already posted the dog was in The Enemy Within, not the Man Trap, but that isn't the only thing off.

On page 2:
He complains about Sulu announcing "so soon" about Dr McCoy "going ape" but the script scene discribes Dr. McCoy assaulting Mr. Spock and 2 other crewmen. It doesn't mention them alerting security, but why wouldn't they? Then Justman asks how Kirk knows McCoy has 2 hours to live in his narration in scene 16, but the last words of scene 15, which is the end of the teaser, Spock states "He'll be dead in two hours."

I wish I had the whole script, and I don't have page numbers, but I can guess that page 14a which caused him to be cruel to his family is when Dr. McCoy uses Janice Rand as a shield, maybe? That's the end of what I have. It's strange how Justman actually has a lot of good points but has so much wrong. I really like the episode as filmed much better, no animal bite, no backwards chronometers, and some of the descriptions of Dr. McCoy's appearance is kept. Also, why do they beam down so far away from where they are going and the Guardian was much better as that big gateway than a fishbowl.

Finally, the speech on page 11 that Justman says would change it from a drama to a comedy is probably,

"I always thought stories about time machines were drunk-stuff of lab technicians when they'd had too much pure grain to drink."

Wow. The fundamental story, the basic idea, is good, but the dialogue sure isn't! I was neutral about the whole "he changed my story" crap, but I hate how some people have had to spread lies or have skewed opinions to support their side. Not here, I mean in different print through the years.
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Old March 1 2013, 06:18 AM   #23
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

I've been saying for years that as a scriptwriter, Harlan Ellison is a great short storyteller. The first draft of COTEOF is all the proof I think I need.
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Old March 1 2013, 09:55 AM   #24
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

The first draft of anything is usually bad.
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Old March 1 2013, 03:26 PM   #25
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

FormerLurker wrote: View Post
I've been saying for years that as a scriptwriter, Harlan Ellison is a great short storyteller. The first draft of COTEOF is all the proof I think I need.
For me, the proof is in the later drafts -- the fact that the producers gave him an unprecedentedly long time to revise and rework his script over and over to fit their production and continuity requirements, and he still couldn't give them something that could be filmed on a TV budget.

Which isn't a criticism of Ellison's writing. Different formats/media have different requirements, and not many writers can adapt from one to the other. A lot of prose authors can't write scripts, and a lot of screenwriters can't write novels. The parameters are just so different. Screenwriting is more external, more visual, more minimalist, more concise. I like to say that Ellison's imagination was just too big to be constrained by the limits of TV. Which was why it took experienced TV writers like Roddenberry and Fontana to take the core of his story and adapt it into a filmable form.

Although I do think the Roddenberry/Fontana version was a stronger story dramatically in a lot of ways -- we could identify more with McCoy, be more emotionally engaged with him as the source of the threat, than with some guest-star drug dealer. But again, that's a difference in style rather than ability -- Ellison was used to doing standalone, self-contained stories, so didn't think as much in terms of the audience's emotional identification with series regulars.
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Old March 1 2013, 07:21 PM   #26
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=2]
[/FONT][/SIZE]
[SIZE=2][FONT=Verdana][FONT=Verdana][SIZE=2]Although I do think the Roddenberry/Fontana version was a stronger story dramatically in a lot of ways -- we could identify more with McCoy, be more emotionally engaged with him as the source of the threat, than with some guest-star drug dealer. But again, that's a difference in style rather than ability -- Ellison was used to doing standalone, self-contained stories, so didn't think as much in terms of the audience's emotional identification with series regulars[/SIZE][/FONT]
And of course, in Ellison's original draft, it is Spock who prevents Keeler from being saved, not Kirk, who was supposed to be the series leader and man of action.
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Old March 1 2013, 07:33 PM   #27
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

mb22 wrote: View Post
And of course, in Ellison's original draft, it is Spock who prevents Keeler from being saved, not Kirk, who was supposed to be the series leader and man of action.
The heck with the man-of-action stuff -- what makes the aired version better is that it's a more wrenching choice for Kirk to make. If Kirk tries to save Edith and Spock stops him, as in Ellison's version, then each is just following a simple, linear path, making the choice they were already inclined to make. But what we got is much more powerful, because Kirk resisted his personal feelings to make the harder choice, and has to live with the guilt and pain of that decision.

And it's a better arc for the relationship between Kirk and Spock, because Kirk listens to his friend and has his mind changed, rather than just following his own impulses and ignoring Spock's warnings. And Spock's line at the end -- "He knows, Doctor. He knows" -- shows his sympathy for what Kirk is going through.
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Old March 1 2013, 07:43 PM   #28
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Justman could indeed be snarky, but keep in mind they are working in an incredibly pressurized environment and when they were TYPING memos they didn't have a DELETE key to make snarky, or even snotty, comments go away. No time for re-writes there...while Whitfields "Making of..." is clearly sanitized it does hint that one of the ways the crew dealt with pressure was with juvenile humor and pranks. I can see how someone might see Justman as being overbearing and insulting, but I don't think it's all that bad, really. As for Ellison, well it wasn't like he was a virgin when it came to TV. He had written for other shows and in the case of at least one episode of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" he had his name taken off the credits and changed to "Cordwainer Bird" (Or was it Cordwainer Smith?), so it's hard to really feel sorry for him. If he needed the money, he should have taken the money and shut up. If he was writing for TV to fulfill some artistic need, then he was in the wrong medium.
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Old March 1 2013, 08:47 PM   #29
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

I don't think Justman was being overbearing or insulting. As anyone who's read The Making of Star Trek should know, Justman and other ST staffers wrote their memos with tongue firmly in cheek. It's a jokey, playful tone, part of the way the people doing this busy, stressful job let off steam and had fun.

Ellison's pseudonym was Cordwainer Bird, which was partly in honor of Cordwainer Smith, the pseudonym author Paul M. A. Linebarger used on his science fiction. He used the Bird pseudonym as sort of his personal Alan Smithee, when he wanted to take his name off of something in protest. So it's odd that he left his real name on "City" when he's been protesting about it ever since.
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Old March 1 2013, 09:39 PM   #30
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Re: Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Maurice wrote: View Post
That was the first draft. I don't believe any subsequent drafts have been reproduced anywhere, other than the teaser of the second.
I thought in Harlan's book there were several different versions of the story. I may be mistaken; it has been a long time since I read it. In any case I do remember thinking that it was a good story but not good as a trek episode as originally written. In the book I believe that at least three others tried to rewrite it not including Harlan's own stabs at it. As a trek fan of course I prefer the filmed episode but it is always cool to see the beginning of such things.
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