Gimme That Star Trek Ep.20: The Other City on the Edge of Forever

Siskoid welcomes Scott X into the fold to compare and contrast the classic episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" as write Harlan Ellison wrote it, and how it eventually aired, using IDW's excellent comic book adaptation as a guide! Which is better? We already know Ellison's opinion, but y'know, objectively speaking!

Listen to Episode 20 below!

Relevant images and further credits at: Gimme That Star Trek ep.20 Supplemental

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22 responses to “Gimme That Star Trek Ep.20: The Other City on the Edge of Forever

  1. Fantastic episode fellas. “City” is my all-time favorite Trek episode, and I came to that conclusion long before I knew it was held in such high regard by hardcore Trekkers and casual fans alike. It doesn’t hurt that its my Dad’s favorite episode as well, and one of the few he still recalls almost beat for beat.

    I read Ellison’s script in that original edition Scott mentioned published back in 96 or so. I agree with all of your comments on the story vs. the actual aired episode. The changes made were mostly necessary to make the story fit into the evolved format of the show, and to better serve the characters, particularly Kirk, who would have seemed neutered as the lead hero if he had chosen love over countless billions of lives, especially by 1960s standards. Picard could have probably gotten away with it more by TNG’s production time.

    And of course, Kirk making the sacrifice fits right in with “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one” angle that defined the kind of sacrifices the characters were willing to make by the time of the feature films, and of course the reverse of that to save their friend later.

    The end of “City” as filmed has some of the best acting of all the three leads for certain. From the street scene to Shatner’s voice cracking as he says that last immortal line…the show was never better.

    We do see the remnant of Trooper (I believe he’s called “Rodent” in the credits) earlier in the mission. He’s the one Kirk shuts up when he’s about to make lewd comments about Edith, so he’s not completely out of left field.

    And since Scott brought up the Mayberry set, have you seen the hilarious ads combining Trek and The Andy Griffith Show that run on MeTV?

    Again, great discussion guys. I could hear you too talk Trek all day long. So get onto Space Lincoln!!!


    1. Hey Chris!

      Glad you enjoyed the episode.

      Though I don’t think he was actually referred to as such, you are correct, Rodent was the name given in the credits to the character in the televised episode who Kirk told to shut up when they were listening to Edith speak in the shelter. I think he was here and there in some of the shelter scenes and then of course he phasered himself later on. He could be considered an analogue of sorts to Trooper in Ellison’s script but he really was an entirely different character – he just suffered a similar fate.

      Yes, I have seen that MeTv Andy Griffith Show/Star Trek mash up ad – it makes me smile every time!

      Hmm…Siskoid and I may yet find a way to talk about Space Lincoln in an episode. But we won’t reveal, when, where, or how. Have to keep that Space Lincoln suspense building you know!! 😉

      Thanks again for listening!

  2. Scott X, the podcast find of 2017!

    I’ve never been persuaded by Harlan Ellison’s belief that his story was gravely injured by the show’s revisions. From the stuff I’ve heard, both on this show and other places, his ideas were brilliant but the mechanics made it unshootable. And you guys highlighted some ways that they actually made things BETTER on a thematic and plot level. Just hearing the audio clips from this episode made me want to watch some classic Treks again.

    And I agree, there was no good reason Joan Collins wasn’t tapped to appear in Generations. They could have made a forgettable moment (“Antonia”? Who the hell is that?) into one of the greatest Trek movie scenes ever. What a wasted opportunity (as was most of that movie, so maybe it was inevitable).

    Highly entertaining episode, and thanks to ScottX for plugging his upcoming MASHCast appearance!

  3. That was terrific! Now I need to seek out this collection.

    Ellison is well known to be a little prickly, so it’s not surprising he would dismiss production realities. Sad, really.

  4. A few years before Ellison’s book, I ran across the script in an older anthology: “Six Science Fiction Plays”.

    One scene I remember is Kirk and Spock bringing down one of their uniform shirts in a bag to give Trooper an idea of what to look for. Ellison wrote that it should still be clean and bright, a symbol of the future in contrast to the Depression around it; I could almost hear the Star Trek theme playing on muted trumpets while I read it.

  5. Great episode! Enjoyed hearing Scott X! While I’ve seen this episode, it’s only been once or twice. I understand it’s significance in Trek culture, but hearing you talk left me with a thought. Everyone knows Harlan Ellison is a pompous jerk. It’s just accepted as fact, and it seems to be easily excused. Like when he’s rude or controversial, people simply say, “well, he’s just being Harlan”. Really?!??! Why does he get off that easy? Modern writers have been known to torpedo their careers if they tread into insulting other creators (or anyone else for that matter). Why does he get a pass? This episode.. fantastic! However, this episode shows it’s fantastic for the script, but also the changes that Harlan hates. Forgive my ignorance, but I really don’t know much of his other work. I know he’s prolific and has lots of awards, but can anyone else name a long string of critically acclaimed works (without looking them up online) that merits giving him a pass? Even so, do other critically acclaimed writers get the same “pass” as Harlan? Food for thought.

    Again, great episode. You got me thinking, which is always a good (and potentially dangerous) thing. Thanks!

    1. I am pretty much with Shag on the whole Ellison thing. He always comes off as cantankerous at best, even if I end up agreeing with what he’s saying, but he seems to get to be a jerk way more often than most people get to take a run at it. As for this episode of Star Trek, the televised version is better in just about every way than Ellison’s, in my opinion, just in general, but especially in regard to it actually being able to be used as part of the series that it was commissioned for. Maybe Harlan didn’t know much about the show when he got the job, but a lot of his complaints seem to be about how he would have done the whole series differently, and not just this one show. In that case, he could, I don’t know, just go write his own series, yeah?

  6. Terrific episode as always. I finally got the chance to read the comic adaptation of Ellison’s script last year and enjoyed it a great deal (apparently Ellison did too—he was quite glowing in the forward to the trade). You lads did a fine job interweaving the Ellison script with the TV episode.

    I was also dismayed that Joan Collins did not appear in Generations, but I suspect it was a decision based on Kirk moving on with other women during the rest of the series. Have either of you read Final Frontier by Diane Carey? The framing story is Kirk contemplating his resignation after Edith’s death. It’s a decent book and a quick read.

    I’ll end this comment with a couple of links to “Harlan being Harlan”:

    Harlan sues over novels using the premise of “City on the Edge of Forever” as a jumping board for a three-part adventure:

    Harlan settles the suit out of court:

    1. I’d be surprised if the producers of Star Trek: Generations so much as THOUGHT about the idea that Edith Keeler/Joan Collins might be an available option for the Kirk’s Nexus mate.

      A missed opportunity, to be sure, but I simply can’t believe that the idea was considered, and then rejected. It was almost certainly never so much as a passing thought.

        1. If Ron Moore is to be believed, an Edith Keeler appearance in Generations had been discussed.

          In “The Fifty Year Mission: The Next 25 Years”, the Star Trek oral history, Moore said:

          “We talked about having it be Edith Keeler, but, again, that got into the fact that the studio was so worried about continuity with the TV show. They didn’t want it to be a “fan movie,” whatever that meant. Things have changed since then. At that point in time, on the television level there was still a great fear of any kind of continuity or serialization and a worry that the audience would be lost. They had the same fear about feature films. “People would be lost. They won’t know who Edith Keeler is or care. They barely know who Kirk and Spock are.”

          1. Thanks for that nugget, Greg.

            Of course I would have told those people we didn’t know who Antonia was either. So instead of giving something to at least part of the audience, they gave nothing to all of the audience. I guess it saved them the cost of giving Joan Collins a paycheck. I dunno.

            The studio was perhaps more afraid of continuity with the original series than TNG (who got a film because they were popular in the moment), but Generations sure isn’t free of continuity!

            Sulu’s daughter!
            Guinan’s people, refugees from the Borg!
            Data/Lore’s emotion chip!
            The joke from Encounter at Farpoint!
            Picard’s family!
            The Duras sisters!

  7. Great episode about a great episode of TOS. I had no idea Ellison’s original script had been adapted into a comic series. While it was interesting to see his darker take on the Star Trek universe, I think this is a case where the limitations of producing a television series led to a tighter, more compelling story.

    Ellison’s version does make me wonder how The City on the Edge of Forever adventure played out in the mirror universe. Has has the mirror universe equivalent of this story ever been mentioned or depicted in other Star Trek media?

    1. I don’t think so, but if I were to write it, Kirk would have to save her life even though he hated her and wanted to kill her… and so the Mirror universe is “born” (Germany wins WWII etc.)

      1. I was thinking along the same lines. That these events would be a perfect point for the mirror universe to “split off” from the classic Trek universe.

          1. I’d forgotten about opening to the Enterprise mirror universe episode. The more I think about this, the more surprised I am that this hasn’t already been done in a novel or comic book, given the popularity of this episode.

            Someone does need to write this story.

  8. Big thumbs-up for this episode. Frankly, getting “runes” and “ruins” confused alone could have soured Ellison on the TV version! Great stuff!

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