The City On The Edge Of Forever

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by JimZipCode, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Here, let's try a new City thread, with a couple of actual topics.


    1.
    I'm a fan of Harlan Ellison, have a few collections of his short stories. But he's dead wrong about his script. I mean, Roddenberry may have screwed him; but the episode that aired is stronger than his original script. Tighter and more dramatic.


    2.
    I wrote elsewhere, in the Tribbles thread, that I don't get fans who think that comedy is the "soul of Star Trek." The first season is steeped in tragedy. It starts with the two pilots: Vina has to stay on Talos IV with no human contact; Kirk has to kill Gary Mitchell. It continues with most of the first ~dozen episodes: the salt vampire goes extinct, and Nancy was never there; Charlie can't stay with his own kind; Roger Corman is dead and gone; Lenore accidentally kills her dad; the bridegroom dies.

    We think of City as an exceptional episode, with much stronger emotional overtones than most episodes. But I think maybe that's not the case. I think Ellison homed in on something central to the roots of the series. City falls right in line with the "tragedy" aspects of the pilots and other early episodes. It's powerfully done, but not really a departure. Instead it heightens elements already strongly present in the series.

    Basically, City is just like Where No Man. With Edith, Kirk has to do pretty much exactly what he had to do with Gary Mitchell.

    I never noticed that before. What I'm saying is, City is so good not because it ventured into such new territory, but instead because it hewed so closely to the show's roots – dug more deeply into them.



    Thoughts? :)
     
  2. Dennis

    Dennis The Man Premium Member

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    I agree, more or less. There are moments in Ellison's script that go deeper and are more touching than the improvised final version - and not just those involving the main story. It was a shame to lose the character of the WWI veteran - Trooper? Some of the best moments. Was there time in that hour for it all? Guess not. It goes back to the "why is television called a medium?" joke.
     
  3. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Why is television called a medium?
     
  4. TheAdmiralty

    TheAdmiralty Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Building off of the OP, I've always thought of Kirk as a tragic hero. All of his big character moments revolve around him losing something- Gary Mitchell, Edith, his brother, command in TMP, Spock in WoK, David and the Enterprise in Search for Spock. Early TOS is definitely full of tragic endings too, as you said. One you didn't mention is The Alternative Factor, while being a so-so episode, is one of the saddest .
     
  5. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Television is called a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.”
    [RIGHT][/RIGHT]Fred Allen, on his radio program “The Big Show” in November 1950​

    I think the problem with comparing the Ellison "City" to the aired version is all we have access to is his first draft (at least, that's all I've ever seen), and most first drafts are a mess.

    I have to put at least a little blame on the Trek writing staff here. They had detailed treatments from Ellison and they could have fixed a lot of the structural issues before he even went to first draft if they'd simply pointed out things like "you cannot introduce Edith interest in act 3 because there will not be enough time for Kirk, and the audience, to grow fond of her...suggest she be one of the first people they meet, which goes along with the idea that they and Beckwith will be drawn straight to her."

    Trooper was a loss because he was such a counterpoint to Edith and Beckwith. He was a "Bo" who would go out on a limb for you just because you treated him with respect, but his death (and his sacrifices in the war) meant and changed nothing. He didn't matter to history, but he mattered in that he saved Kirk and thus helped save history. Humbling stuff.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2014
  6. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I guess I should read Ellison's version of the story at some point.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ I have. Thank God the story was heavily re-written, in it's original version it was crap, and couldn't possible have been fit into a single episode.

    In it's improved form it was great, while not my favorite TOS episode (that's Balance of Terror) it is in the top ten. The chaste relationship between Kirk and Keeler was refreshing, it added significance to the romance.

    And sure I have some nitpicks.

    :)
     
  8. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    We have very different definitions of "crap". Also, as I recall, Bob Justman felt the first draft might run short because Ellison's descriptions were so lengthy.

    And, again, first draft.
     
  9. Dennis

    Dennis The Man Premium Member

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    Nope.

    I just now went to Amazon and bought a copy of "Six Science Fiction Plays," an anthology published in 1975 that includes Ellison's script for the episode - that book is where I first read it, over thirty years ago. I don't know if it's the same draft that Ellison published more recently.
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I believe it is.
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Well, there's another draft at UCLA.

    I'll wait patiently for donations to the "let Harvey transcribe Ellison's 71 page teleplay fund." :p
     
  12. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Where's my checkbook? ;)
     
  13. Kamdan

    Kamdan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    They need to digitize all of that stuff to give others more easy access. What if all of that stuff goes up in a fire?
     
  14. urbandefault

    urbandefault Commodore Commodore

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    I think Roger Corman will be surprised to find out that he's dead. :guffaw:
     
  15. Green Shirt

    Green Shirt Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Kirk did say he needs his pain. It makes him who he is.
     
  16. feek61

    feek61 Captain Captain

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    ^^^^
    This


    Preserving, digitizing and making the info available online would be a great cause for a Kickstarter campaign!!
     
  17. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I would definitely be up for donating. I would love to see the documentation behind the series.
     
  18. JimZipCode

    JimZipCode Commander Red Shirt

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    Excuse me: Korby.
     
  19. Sir Rhosis

    Sir Rhosis Commodore Commodore

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    The version printed in Ellison's book in the mid-90s is slightly different than the version printed in '76. Small cosmetic changes -- in Beckwith's cabin in the version printed in '76, there's a description of tape cartridges (or cassettes, perhaps); in the 90s printing this is changed to disks in jewel cases.

    The biggest difference is in the "tight shoes" dialog between Kirk and Spock. In the 76 (and I assume this version is the one off Ellison's typewriter from 1966) version Kirk tells this story to Spock. In the 95 version, Kirk starts the story and we cut to the scene as it played out between Kirk and Edith.

    Those are the only two that jumped out at me as I read the latter version.

    Sir Rhosis
     
  20. Kamdan

    Kamdan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah, but even if you did raise the money, the library would shoot you down, citing copyright infringement and not being willing to let someone scan every single one of those papers. I'm trying to get something worked out with another library to have some of their special collections material read to me over the phone, but I doubt they'll even do that.