Notes re. The City On The Edge Of Forever....

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Warped9, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    While reading a Robert Sawyer post on Facebook he provided a link to an interesting find: memos from Robert Justman to Gene Roddenberry regarding Harlan Ellison's second draft of TCOTEOF.

    It's only five pages, but it's quite interesting and strongly supports the idea that Ellison's original approach was unsuitable for Star Trek. From what we can see we get a strong sense that GR and company had no choice but to extensively rewrite Ellison' story to make it work. The fact that TCOTEOF is one of TOS' very best episodes---and one of the best examples of SF on television---makes it hard to criticize Ellison's story being so extensively rewritten.

    Even more so now I'm intrigued to read Ellison's original treatment just so I could have a better idea of why it couldn't have worked. A story for television isn't a one-man job and a work of holy gospel that cannot be changed. The issue isn't whether Ellison's original was good or not, but whether it was suitable for Star Trek and what was trying to be done with the show. If something has to be changed for the good of the show then so be it. GR and company obviously saw something worthwhile in Ellison's original story, but they also recognized it had to be reworked to fit into the fictional Trek universe already being established at the time. I haven't read Ellison's book on the subject (I'm going to order it) so I don't know how much of his complaint is him not liking what was changed or him not liking how he was treated (or how he perceives he was treated). Roddenberry has been known to be a jerk at times.

    Well, have a look and see what you think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  2. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    Fascinating stuff -- agree or disagree, Robert Justman had a memorable writing style of his own. I had always wondered what the context of the "made me be cruel to my wife and children" line (quoted in Whitfield's "Making of...", if memory serves) was.

    Sir Rhosis
     
  3. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    I will add that this memo refers to a draft of the script that is not covered fully in Ellison's book. He includes in their entirety two outlines and a slightly revised edition of his First Draft. For the draft that Justman is referring to he only includes the Teaser and Act One.

    Sir Rhosis
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  5. Timewalker

    Timewalker Cat-lovin', Star Trekkin' Time Lady Premium Member

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    Ellison's original script was published in a book called Six Science Fiction Plays. I have that book and have read the City script a few times over the years. My impression is that yes, it was a really good story... but just not Star Trek. The characters were not quite "right" - not themselves. The Guardian wasn't a character in its own right (I've always considered the Guardian to be an intelligent life form of some sort); instead, there were 3 "Guardians" that were sort of mystical aliens who gave clues and hints which Spock, of course, was the one to figure out once they went back in time.

    It was too mystical, and the characters were off. Still, there was enough for the writing staff (or whoever was responsible for the final aired script) to work with.

    If the version of Ellison's script I read is the last one he turned out, it shows he really should stop screaming about this - he really didn't get what was wrong with it to make it a proper Star Trek episode.
     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That was the first draft. I don't believe any subsequent drafts have been reproduced anywhere, other than the teaser of the second.
     
  7. Kamdan

    Kamdan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Haha, the dog dressed as an alien was from The Enemy Within, not The Man Trap. I think it's just funny that they thought it was just as pathetic as I thought it was when I first saw it.
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    They did what they could and I, like many others, didn't think it was pathetic. Film f/x is all about creativity and imagination and using the tools you have at hand. I've seen a lot of older films and TV shows were I was impressed with what they accomplished considering what little they had to work with.
     
  9. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Bingo. That is why part of my definition of "art" is the choices made by the creator based on time, materials and other resources. Everything about TOS has a theatrical, metaphorical atmosphere to it. So glitzy or ├╝ber-realistic effects are not part of that picture. In fact, TOS is almost a radio show. Seriously, run any episode with your eyes closed and you will find that most action sequences can be followed because someone will fill you in verbally. "Direct hit amidships by photon torpedo. He's veering away."

    The simple costume in "The Enemy Within" was enough to tell me "dog-like alien critter."
     
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    The parts where Justman is talking about how much certain pages would cost to film remind me of two other STAR TREK figures. In his STARLOG column, David Gerrold famously disrespected Fred Freiberger, but he had to admit that Freiberger was a master of figuring out things like that and having a command of the details that Gerrold couldn't hope to achieve.
     
  11. Anji

    Anji Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Commodore Commodore

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    Having read the first draft script, I can honestly say that Timewalker is correct. The characters are off, and the story is too mystical and "sense of wonder" to be good Star Trek.

    I keep saying this about STV, and I'll say it about Harlan Ellison's first draft of COTEOF: it's good science fiction, and a good story, but it's terrible Star Trek.

    And of course, STV was also poorly executed.
     
  13. mos6507

    mos6507 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Gene used to rewrite scripts himself, you know. I don't know what his bedside manner was in doing this, though.
     
  14. diankra

    diankra Commodore Commodore

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    That seems to be the memo that Justman quotes himself in his Inside Star Trek book. Certainly, the 'Scene 45 caused me to be very cruel to my wife and children' line is one he quotes there. (Ditto the 12/300 extras bits).
     
  15. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There is one portion of the memo that reminded me of one of my favorite nit-picks from this episode. " "...nobody is doing anything about tracking down poor Dr. McCoy. Whose two hours have by now about run out."

    This is (the two hours) from something that obvious changed later. Is there a actual reason that McCoy (after being rendered unconscious) wasn't immediately beamed back to the ship? Even if the rest of the landing party remained behind to explore?

    In universe reason I mean.

    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.

    Justman seeming avocation of Kirk verbalizing his inability to "keep his mitts" off of Keeler I feel would have damage one of the finer aspect of the episode. Kirk (and Spock) would seem to have been in Earth's past for some time, perhaps months. The relationship between Kirk and Keeler would appear (imho) to have been chaste, it added significance to the romance. For Kirk to speak/act like Keeler was just another alien princess hookup I feel would have reduced the importance of the relationship.


    :)
     
  16. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    And clearly some of his suggestions here were acted upon (notably the way the staircase scene is played out).

    Roddenberry must have had a lot of confidence in his judgment.

    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.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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?
     
  18. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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."
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    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.