It’s time for Star Trek Saturdays #28!!!
This week’s episode is “The City on the Edge of Forever” and it’s rightfully acclaimed as the best episode of The Original Series.
We open with the Enterprise being rocked by time distortions as they orbit around an unidentified planet. A distortion causes the center bridge console to spark and injure Sulu. McCoy, called to the bridge for aid, successfully injects Sulu with a hypospray of a few drops of cordrazine–which Kirk notes is “tricky stuff”–and he is revived. Just then, another distortion rocks the bridge, and McCoy falls on his hypo, injecting himself with a massive dose of cordrazine. This causes him to freak out and, in a burst of paranoia, escape from the bridge.
Security teams try tracking him down, but he overpowers a transporter crew member and beams down to the planet. A landing party of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and two redshirts go down to find him, where they encounter this:
The stone-age Stargate thing here is actually an intelligent being which calls itself the “Guardian of Forever” and proceeds to show the crew images from Earth’s history. While that’s going on, they find McCoy and Spock subdues him with a nerve pinch. However, Kirk and Spock both start looking at the portal, with Spock, frustrated that he’s not recording all this, beginning to do so. McCoy regains consciousness and, delirious and now looking like a plague victim, jumps through the portal and disappears.
Uhura tries to contact the Enterprise, but gets nothing. The Guardian explains that McCoy has altered history in such a way that the Federation doesn’t exist anymore, thus no Enterprise. Kirk realizes that he and Spock will have to go back and prevent McCoy from doing whatever he did. Kirk orders Scotty that, if they don’t succeed, the others will go through the portal into the past so they’ll still be alive.
The Guardian begins playing its footage of Earth events and, with the help of Spock’s tricorder, he and Kirk locate the right time, jump through and land in 1930 New York City. After an altercation with a policeman and some bums, they wind up in the basement of a street mission, where they meet Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), who runs the mission.
Allowing them to work for the Mission for pay and helping them find a vacant room in the same apartment as her, Edith–a kind, optimistic woman who speaks of world peace and humanity traveling the stars–begins falling for Kirk and he likewise while they wait for McCoy to show up. Spock, meanwhile–whose appearance Kirk awkwardly, awkwardly explains as because he’s Chinese whose ears were caught in a mechanical “rice picker” (eghhh)–spends all his free time working on procuring radio tubes and such to allow him to alter the tricorder’s rate of playback to accurately determine when McCoy shows up.
After several setbacks, Spock succeeds in getting an image of a newspaper headline about Edith dying and then another headline about her successfully meeting with President Roosevelt in 1936 about a peace plan. After this, the tricorder sparks out with feedback. Telling Kirk he’s found the discrepency where McCoy alters the past, Spock asks Kirk the ominous question, “What if Edith Keeler must die?”
Hands down, this is a terrific episode. Joseph Pevney is back again as director and he’s just as good as he ever was, treading the sci-fi and human stuff with equal importance. The script iss by Harlan Ellison who…well, okay, this is gonna be a little hard to explain.
Ellison–pictured above–has a reputation for being the most contentious and litigious creator alive; he’s taken out a rash of lawsuits against literally anyone who changes work he does for them in any way and, in recent years, he’s even trademarked his own name.
So when his original script for this episode–which involved an Enterprise crewman dealing drugs among the crew murdering someone to prevent him from snitching and going through the portal instead of McCoy–was deemed as unsuitable by Roddenberry and rewritten by D.C. Fontana, Ellison was characteristically miffed. In 2009, he even filed suit against Paramount claiming they owe him all sorts of residuals for the finished episode as well as all the merchandise–spin-off novels, etc.–that’s derived from it (the case is still pending at this time).
Regardless, the finished script is terrific, presenting an impossible dilemma and the agonizing choices that must be made. It also allows for terrific performances–Shatner and Nimoy are at the top of their game, DeForest Kelley is terrific as a paranoid, dangerous McCoy and Collins makes Keeler sympathetic and understandable.
A whole mess of places and people have said this is the best Trek episode ever and while I wouldn’t say that, it’s hard to disagree. Check it out.
Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next Saturday and until then, live long and prosper.