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The City on the Edge of Forever [reference]

by Harlan Ellison

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4881339,788 (3.59)8
The original teleplay that became the classic Star Trek episode, with an expanded introductory essay by Harlan Ellison, The City on the Edge of Forever has been surrounded by controversy since the airing of an "eviscerated" version-which subsequently has been voted the most beloved episode in the series' history. In its original form, The City on the Edge of Forever won the 1966-67 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Teleplay. As aired, it won the 1967 Hugo Award. The City on the Edge of Forever is, at its most basic, a poignant love story. Ellison takes the listener on a breathtaking trip through space and time, from the future, all the way back to 1930s America. In this harrowing journey, Kirk and Spock race to apprehend a renegade criminal and restore the order of the universe. It is here that Kirk faces his ultimate dilemma: a choice between the universe-or his one true love. This edition makes available the astonishing teleplay as Ellison intended it to be aired. The author's introductory essay reveals all of the details of what Ellison describes as a "fatally inept treatment" of his creative work. Was he unjustly edited, unjustly accused, and unjustly treated? For a full cast/character list and table of contents, please visit www.SkyboatMedia.com… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I love Harlan Ellison. The more ranty he gets, the better I like him. I love the original Star Trek, too.

So, hell, this is a match made in heaven, right? Well, I think it's more accurate to say City on the Edge of Forever was the match that launched a three-decade flame war between Ellison and Roddenberry.

As with all arguments, I firmly believe the truth is somewhere between what Roddenberry says and what Ellison says, but I gotta say, knowing what a putz Roddenberry could be, I do angle more toward Ellison's version of things.

That said, there is also a point where you let things go...but that ain't Ellison's style. I firmly believe the man might have died years ago, but the fury burning inside him keeps him going. And like I said, when he rants, his outbursts are wonderfully terrible to behold. It's even better when he reads them himself.

As for his version of the scripts, yes, they're much more Ellison than what made it to the screen. Was it Trek? Maybe not as much as it became in the end. Is it good? Yup. Would it have worked better than what we got? Who the hell knows?

Ellison isn't the first to bitch about what they did to his words, nor will he be the last (Stephen King and Kubrick's The Shining anyone?). What Ellison's always railed against is those that come after and edit his work. My initial thought is, then why the hell do you deal with any television?

I honestly think he likes the pain. It gives him years of rants to feed off.

For all that, this is an interesting volume. If you love Ellison, then you really should read it. If you love Roddenberry and all his bullshit "Great Bird of the Galaxy" crap, stay away. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
A must-hear for every Star Trek fan.

The “City on the Edge of Forever” episode that was broadcast on the television show “Star Trek” was not the version that Ellison had initially written. Both are award-winning stories – Ellison won The Writer’s Guild Award in 1967 for Best Episodic Drama on Television for his teleplay, and Roddenberry’s version won the 1967 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation – but I was always curious about Ellison’s original story as compared to the fan favorite that actually aired.

The epic animosity between Harlan Ellison and Gene Roddenberry as a result of their disagreement over “City’s” rewrites lasted decades until Roddenberry’s death in 1991. This book begins with an essay read by Ellison giving his side of the story. It’s a fascinating tale complete with creative insults as only Ellison can do. (If you ever saw him on the Scifi – now SyFy – Channel providing commentary to anything that struck his fancy you’ll know what I mean.)

Then we hear two re-written versions of his story by Ellison, and are treated to a play production of his story that won the Writer’s Guild award, including Ellison voicing “Trooper,” the character he’d written for himself to play in the TV episode (Trooper was cut in the Roddenberry version). Several “Star Trek” actors give voice to the characters.

Other writers provide commentary including David Gerrold (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” “The Martian Child,” “When H.A.R.L.I.E. was One”) and D.C. Fontana (“The Enterprise Incident” and “Journey to Babel” along with eight other episodes for the original series).

This audio book was originally a Kickstarter-funded project for Skyboat Media in March, 2016 (Kickstarter is an online fundraising website). Be aware that Ellison recorded his parts after his stroke and a few of his words and phrases are difficult to understand, but for the most part he is comprehensible. Overall, a very enjoyable audio book for Trekkies.
  Chark | Jun 9, 2021 |
Harlan Ellison is well known for his tantrums, so if you want to preserve your blood pressure, skip the long rant that opens this book and go right to the story treatments and script. I'm old enough to have seen City first run as a child, not to mention many times in re-runs since, but I still went back and watched the DVD after I'd finished this book, just to make a fresh comparison. Perhaps 50 years of stories had built up too many expectations, but I really don't see how the original was so wonderful compared to the aired result. I must have been channeling D.C. Fontana while I read it, because I found her afterword to exactly express my thoughts while I was reading - this is very well written but it just wouldn't work in a 60s TV series. Later season TNG or DS9 could have made it, as could any SF show from the 21st century, but in the sixties episodes were required to be stand-alone, to be shown in random order in syndication. Characters had to be put back the way you found them at the end of each story, with no time for reaction to traumatic events the next week.

The original story treatments especially gave away far too much, with the Guardians telling Kirk and Spock exactly what they had to do to fix the timestream in the first treatment and then just dropping very specific hints in later drafts. Some of the best parts of the episode are in how they have to work out where/who the focal point is and how the change happens.

Harlen still has an excellent point that there is no excuse for the misinformation Roddenberry and others continued to repeat for decades. Scotty is never even mentioned in the script, let alone being the drug dealer character. It's also clear that while Gene R. had a final pass at revising the script, most of the rewrite was by Gene Coon and D.C. Fontana and that was only after multiple revisions by Ellison, contrary to the oft-repeated claims of non-cooperation.

I liked that Ellison gave Janice Rand such a significant part in the early drafts. Pity Grace Lee Whitney's contract with the show was up by the time City got made. Uhura's part in the aired episode is much more stereotypical of the time. ( )
  SF_fan_mae | Sep 2, 2017 |
The City on the Edge of Forever is ranked among the top episodes of the original Star Trek series. It was written by renowned science fiction author Harlan Ellison. But what was filmed and aired was not what Ellison wrote. He spent the next thirty years fighting with Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and the legions of fans who held Rodenberry in deity-like devotion to tell the story of what happened to his version.

The audiobook is broken into sections. It includes an introductory essay by Ellison, the two different “treatments” the script went through, the script itself, the revised script and an afterwards written by Peter David, D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, Melinda Snodgrass and George Takei.

Harlan’s introductory essay is filled with vitriol. Since he narrates this section himself, it comes through loud but not clear. I had a hard time understanding everything that was said. Mr. Ellison’s emotion makes his speech unclear. Personally I feel this would have been better handled by a professional narrator.

The treatments of the script are interesting. It is a winding road that takes us through the offices of Roddenberry and the TV executives. Each had their own perspective on what the story should look like. Ellison’s objections to the changes were overruled and ignored. When he tried to publicly discuss his dissatisfaction with the changed script, he was vilified by Roddenberry.

The scripts, teleplays, differ greatly from what was aired. Listening to the teleplays as they were intended to be done is amazing. Several of the concepts/plot points were eliminated because either Rodenberry or the network execs were offended with them. SPOILER ALERT: One of these eliminated concepts shows up in a later episode where the Enterprise in an alternate universe is a pirate ship END SPOILER ALERT. Another concept that the network found offensive shows up in a Star Trek: Voyager episode if I remember correctly. All in all Ellison’s original teleplay was wonderful and elegant. What the public saw was considered one of the best episodes of the series. But if you have only ever had hamburger steak, you do not know how fantastic prime rib can be.

The narration and performance of the audio book is good. The only part I really had issue with was the previously mentioned parts narrated by the author himself. Everything else was clear and easy to understand. There are several narrators, male and female, some with direct connections to the Star Trek franchise. They all do a good job. This is a must for Star Trek fans.

Review first posted at https://audiobookreviewer.com/reviews/the-city-on-the-edge-of-forever-by-harlan-... . I received a free copy of the audio in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  nhalliwell | Nov 13, 2016 |
For those interested in the life of Hollywood screenwriters, or the devoted Star Trek (original series) fan, it is a must-read bucket list book. The details that differ between what was aired in April, 1967 and the original screenplay Ellison wrote are revealed here for the first time ever.

Note: the first section of this book is a rant 30 years in the making that could have been edited. Not a lot, not a little, just edited. Gene Roddenberry making an ass of himself on the convention circuit and painting himself as the only creative person in Star Trek history is pretty well documented. Ellison could have saved himself some blood pressure meds if he had published this book earlier than 1996 to set the record straight about his original script and how he felt Roddenberry's et. al.'s treatment of it was wrong/malicious/unkind/untrue. Oh, and if you are not a fan of bad language or ranting, just skip the first part. Or read the script and its later treatment and come back to the first part later. It could have been 5 pages and gotten the message across jes' fine, thank-ee.

In my own opinion, what Ellison's original teleplay creates in subtlety, the final, aired script creates in depth. A mysterious reference to blue and gold by the Guardians of Forever does nothing to answer the most important question: "Why does Edith Keeler have to die?" Ellison misses that point entirely in trying to create a love interest for Kirk, and the aired episode manages to capture both. ( )
1 vote threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
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Epigraph
"It's not the vision I had." Gully Jimson,  The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary
Dedication
First words
Space: the final frontier.
Quotations
I am endeavoring, Ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.
"Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?"
"You, Spock, at Jim Kirk's side...it's as if you have always been there and always will."
"Let me help." A hundred years from now a famous writer will use those very words and recommend them even over "I love you."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is not the same work as the fotonovel of the episode. Please keep them separate.
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The original teleplay that became the classic Star Trek episode, with an expanded introductory essay by Harlan Ellison, The City on the Edge of Forever has been surrounded by controversy since the airing of an "eviscerated" version-which subsequently has been voted the most beloved episode in the series' history. In its original form, The City on the Edge of Forever won the 1966-67 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Teleplay. As aired, it won the 1967 Hugo Award. The City on the Edge of Forever is, at its most basic, a poignant love story. Ellison takes the listener on a breathtaking trip through space and time, from the future, all the way back to 1930s America. In this harrowing journey, Kirk and Spock race to apprehend a renegade criminal and restore the order of the universe. It is here that Kirk faces his ultimate dilemma: a choice between the universe-or his one true love. This edition makes available the astonishing teleplay as Ellison intended it to be aired. The author's introductory essay reveals all of the details of what Ellison describes as a "fatally inept treatment" of his creative work. Was he unjustly edited, unjustly accused, and unjustly treated? For a full cast/character list and table of contents, please visit www.SkyboatMedia.com

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