Star Trek: The Original Series
"The City on the Edge of Forever"
Air date: 4/6/1967
Written by Harlan Ellison
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
What hasn't been said about "The City on the Edge of Forever"—considered by many as the all-time best episode of Trek? It's a true classic, with a poignant, tragic story and brilliant performances. The crew makes the great discovery of a time portal (the Guardian of Forever), but a demented McCoy—suffering from an inadvertent maddening-inducing medicinal-drug overdose—jumps into Earth of the 1930s and somehow radically alters history for the worse. Kirk and Spock follow McCoy through the portal to undo the damage.
In the past, Kirk and Spock are taken in by Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), whom Spock learns is destined to lead a pacifist movement delaying the United States' entry into WWII, thus allowing Germany to conquer the globe. The tragedy, as everyone knows, is that Kirk must let this warm, generous woman die in order to preserve history—even as he begins to fall in love with her.
Harlan Ellison's story, despite the controversy surrounding Roddenberry's alterations to it, makes a great hour of television with a social relevance and an emotional core that resonates. Shatner delivers one of his best performances, and Nimoy is terrific as the voice of reason while Kelley's manic raving is downright frightening. It's almost surprising that such a fully textured story fits within the confines of a single hour.
Previous episode: The Alternative Factor
Next episode: Operation—Annihilate!
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142 comments on this post
Thu, Dec 27, 2007, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
However, the one thing about the episode that's always bothered me is that Kirk and Spock, once they find out that Kirk can't have his cake and Edith, too, simply didn't take Edith back to the future with them, thereby saving the world from Nazi rule and saving Kirk a lot of heartache.
After all, Kirk would later do this with Gillian Taylor in Star Trek IV as would Doc Brown with Mary Steenburgen in Back to the Future Part III.
I've heard some give the excuse that the Guardian wouldn't have permitted such action, but no where in the episode does it state that the Guardian would forbid this. Just one line of dialogue saying why Kirk couldn't take Edith back with him would've been enough to satisfy me.
Fri, Dec 28, 2007, 10:50am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 29, 2007, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 31, 2007, 8:56am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 19, 2008, 7:08pm (UTC -5)
Thu, May 28, 2009, 7:27pm (UTC -5)
Arena was one of my faves as a kid also... chuckle chuckle.
Mon, Jun 8, 2009, 10:20am (UTC -5)
Wouldn't Edith dying also potentially cause a stir to begin a pacifist movement among any followers she may have had?
Wed, Jun 10, 2009, 11:30am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 3, 2009, 2:17am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 20, 2009, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
And without getting into the logic of "we can't alter anything that happened in the past" that the episode is based on, City without Edith's death would take almost all of the punch out of the show. The scene of her death and the "let's get the hell out of here" are 2 of the pinnacle moments of the series.
It has always intrigued me to think that there is a Guardian of Forever out there somewhere, just waiting for someone to come along.
Tue, Jul 21, 2009, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 12, 2009, 1:16am (UTC -5)
One thing that always bugged me. In the film "Generations", Kirk enters the Nexus, and according to the movie and novelization, the nexus takes the individual to a time and place they most desire, where they were the happiest. I feel the movie would have packed more of a punch, had Picard entered the nexus to find Kirk living with his "soul mate" Edith Keeler, rather than someone named Antonia that we had never heard of.Having to leave her again...that would have added some weight to Kirk's decision to leave the nexus.
Wed, Aug 12, 2009, 11:01am (UTC -5)
I guess "Yesterday's Enterprise" just did a slightly better job at showing how time can be difficult.
Tue, Mar 9, 2010, 7:48am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 24, 2010, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Why couldn't there at least have been one line of dialogue saying why Kirk couldn't take Edith back with him?
I certainly would've asked such a question if such an option hadn't been already addressed.
Whether she dies or goes to the future BEFORE she starts this movement, the US's involvement in WWII would've still occurred & history as Kirk knows it would've been unaltered. I would think the more humane thing to do was to see if history could be the way it was without the need to kill off a kind soul.
Fri, May 21, 2010, 9:53pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 25, 2010, 8:18am (UTC -5)
Although I enjoyed "City on the Edge" from an emotional point of view, there are things about the ending I find positively disturbing. I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but basically what this episode is saying is that:
- The influence of a single pacifist woman could have prevented the United States from entering the War.
- If the U.S. hadn't entered the war and BOMBED HIROSHIMA, the Nazis would have CONQUERED THE WORLD!
This has to be the most pro-war episode of any Star Trek series (except Enterprise) ever filmed.
Wed, Jun 2, 2010, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 20, 2010, 9:50am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 22, 2011, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 4, 2011, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
I don't see how Kirk could have trouble taking Edith back with him. For that matter, how were he, Spock, & Bones supposed to go back to their time. Was there an 'invisible portal' where they materialized in 1930? (a la "All Our Yesterdays")
Mon, Feb 14, 2011, 7:21pm (UTC -5)
Your reviews are very well written and spot on. I read every single one and agreed with all except City on the Edge of Forever being the best.
Thu, Apr 21, 2011, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 8, 2011, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
However, I totally agree with Jayson, Sci Fi Nerd and others about Balance of Terror. That was a great show that has held up well with time. And the criticism of the cheap set design of the Romulan ship and the helmets worn by the crew was really weak. Star Trek was running on a shoe string budget and I think it was very well done considering what they had to work with.
And I think too much has been made here of The City on the Edge of Forever. The Guardian even tells Kirk and Spock that when they repair what was changed by Doctor McCoy in the past then they will be returned to the future. And not before. Kirk could not bring Edith to the future. That was never a choice for Kirk. If Kirk wanted to save Edith and live in the past with her, then that would have been an option for him.
However, Flask’s criticism of Edith mentioning Clark Gable is right on. Even though Clark Gable did make a few early silent films in 1925. Gable was an extra in those films and not the big name star he later became. Much is made in the ST episode of Edith being surprised that McCoy and Kirk both had never heard of Clark Gable, the fact is in 1930 most of the general public had never heard of him either.
In addition, I would have given Miri three stars. That was always one of my favorite episodes of the first year. I agree it has flaws, but it still holds my interest even after all this time.
All in all the reviews are spot on and I have enjoyed reading them over and over again.
Fri, Aug 12, 2011, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
I just love how people like you bend over backwards insisting that Kirk taking Edith to the future with him just wasn't an option, even though NOTHING in the episode indicates that it wasn't. It's just like those people making excuses for why Janeway just didn't set a timer on the Caretaker and going home.
Fri, Aug 12, 2011, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
I guess we just have a difference of opinion on this issue tony. Because I think it is very clear from the episode, "The City On The Edge Of Forever," that the Guardian WOULD NOT return Kirk, Spock ( and McCoy )UNTIL they prevented McCoy from changing all of history the way he did. Before McCoy arrived in the past, Edith died in a car accident. So Kirk HAD to make sure that McCoy did not prevent that from happening.
Tony you are absolutely correct in that in the episode this fact is not stated "word for word" by any indivial.
However, I must point out that when Captain Kirk asked the Guardian if he and Spock were successful in stopping McCoy from changing history what would happen? The Guardian clearly says, "Then you will be returned. It will be as though none of you had gone."
Also, the portal for the Guardian is in the PRESENT time. There is no portal in earth's past. So now the question becomes how could Edith, or anyone in the past for that matter, travel to the future without a portal? I don't think it is possible.
If I am bending over backwards to prove that the 'City' story DOES make sense to me, then all I can say is forgive me for living. I think it is one of the finest Si-Fi Stories ever written.
I am not familiar with the Voyager series, so I can't speak on that matter.
Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 8, 2011, 10:10am (UTC -5)
But it also makes me wonder how liberal Gene Roddenberry actually was? Socially, he is obviously quite liberal, but these days, who is going to argue against equal prtoections, etc.. but as for war and what not, I always wonder if he sold himself more than what was actually there?
Tue, Nov 29, 2011, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 11, 2012, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Of course, you could always argue that the Star Trek timeline branched off from ours sometime before 1941.
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
I suppose one could argue that Keeler's movement had some effect on the US government which resulted in no 1941 oil embargo on Japan (or something of the sort.) Presumably, the Japanese would not have been in such a rush to attack the US under those differing conditions.
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 5:23pm (UTC -5)
Good idea. That certainly seems plausible. The Germans never really made much progress in developing atomic weapons during the war. The Keeler-influenced US policy towards Japan might have convinced the Japanese to attack the Soviet Union instead of the US first. In that case, the Russians might have been knocked out of the war, and the Germans then would be free to put more effort into preparing for war with the US, perhaps with a better-resourced and more effective atomic weapons program. Apparently the Japanese had a small research program going. Maybe!
Wed, Nov 28, 2012, 7:10am (UTC -5)
FDR wanted into the war much earlier, but there was considerable public resistance. There's evidence that our blockade and other activities in the Pacific were intended to provoke an attack by the Japanese. Some conspiracy theorists think FDR was even forewarned of the attack on Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen to ensure public support for retaliation. Even if that's not true, it's clear from communications of the time that FDR wanted the USA to get into the war, and despite his strong popularity was unable to get public support for it until Pearl Harbor. (Back then presidents had to get Congress to declare war before attacking other countries, because we still had that pesky Constitution thing.)
Sat, Jun 29, 2013, 2:53am (UTC -5)
Anyway, great to see that this fantastic episode has so many fans. It is truly one of the finest hours of Trek, long with TNG's "The Inner Light" and DS9's "The Visitor". All three pack an emotional punch.
Now for those of you who would like to read more in depth into this story, I heartily recommend the ST novel "Provenance of Shadows" by David R. George III. In this wonderful story, the author explores the alternate timeline where Kirk and Spock do not stop McCoy, and he saves Edith, leading to a heartbreaking tale of the doctor's lonely life trapped in Earth's past, trying to find a way to contact his friends while not tampering even more with the timeline. The story captured my imagination with it's tale of what might have happened had the US not entered the war until it was too late. You really feel for what McCoy has lost. I cannot say enough about what has become one of my favorite Star Trek novels. Read it today!
Sun, Jul 7, 2013, 12:56am (UTC -5)
I must admit I don't get what all the fuss is about, although this is a pretty good episode and there are several episodes from TOS that are really good as well, there is just too much of a fantasy/magical nature to most the TOS episodes that rubs me the wrong way and causes me to loose interest in a lot of the episodes. Not that TNG is the pinnacle for "hard" science fiction, it does however provide much better explanations for certain phenomena in the universe, such as time travel, with better science/physics (can anyone on here explain what the hell happened at the end of "tomorrow is yesterday?"). also I know its unfair to say because of TNG being newer having the better special effects but TNG just feels more real and provides an immersive quality unmatched by any TOS episode i'v seen thus far.
I don't think this episode(city on the edge of forever) can be considered the best trek episode ever if only because thw beginning of this episode was really slow and boring with the talking-timewarp-computer-portal-thing. I feel "yesterday's enterprise" is the superior time travel episode. It had me engaged the whole ride, with also a vastly superior ending.
One more complaint, i realy dislike TOS 50 minute episode format. it's weird me saying this i know, but i feel as if a lot of these episodes should be edited down a bit. I mean the really good episodes don't need it because they have great stories with exceptional pacing, but most of them feel like their dragging a lot and repeatedly banging that particular episode's ideas with rock to the point of powder.
Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 12:02am (UTC -5)
When I first watched this episode I thought that Kirk would find a way to save Edith & prevent a change in the timeline too. He is Kirk after all. So I was surprised (and sad) when she dies at the end.
Thinking about it though, there have been many "love" interests for Kirk yet above all his true love is the Enterprise. How can you have a mere woman messing with that?
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 8:14am (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 21, 2013, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 13, 2013, 7:23am (UTC -5)
Sun, Oct 13, 2013, 7:44am (UTC -5)
"You? - At his side, as if you've always been there, and always will."
Wed, Jan 1, 2014, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
One often overlooked scene which is by far one of the funniest in all of TOS, and my personal favorite scene, was when Kirk tried to explain Spock's ears away to a cop by saying "My friend here is obviously Chinese...he got his ears caught in a mechanical...rice picker". Classic, that scene.
As far as people asking why Kirk couldn't bring Keeler back with him, or why that bum vaporizing himself with McCoy's phaser didn't alter history on its own, I'll just quote a certain someone from DS9: "It's best not to dwell on such minutiae."
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
I don't think this is a good introductory episode to "Star Trek" unless the person is already a big sci-fi fan or "Trek" and just happened to have missed this series.
The show is too complicated for someone not drawn to sci-fi to begin with. Time travel screws with people who love this kind of thing.
I think "Balance of Terror" or "Galileo Seven" or "The Doomesday Machine" would work better as an introductory episode -- something very good but more straightforward. I think someone needs a few Treks under his or her belt before fully appreciating "City."
Wed, Sep 24, 2014, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
I also have always found it hard to buy the central premise of the episode - that somehow the death of a pacifist could prevent America from joining WWII, and that would somehow give the Nazis time to construct an Atom Bomb. Pearl Harbour aside, I don't get the impression that the Nazis were even *close* to constructing a functional atomic bomb by 1941, or even 1944. That said, even if they were close (indeed, even they had been testing atomic weapons, which some eye witnesses claim had happened), did they really have the capability to bomb the heck out of ALL their enemies? Britain maybe, but how about Russia and the U.S.? That might have pushed the U.S. to enter the war then, and the Russians to develop that A-Bomb A.S.A.P. In any case, Japan can't really be taken out of the picture. Even if Pearl Harbour hadn't happened (though I don't know how it would not have), they might have done something to trigger kick-back offensives on the U.S.'s part, or Russia's.
Anyhoo, good episode. 4 stars for sure.
Wed, Dec 10, 2014, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 3:29am (UTC -5)
Sun, Apr 12, 2015, 11:54am (UTC -5)
- The writer of this episode, Harlan Ellison had to submit multiple versions of his story as it's original intend involved drug abuse (turned into the Cordrazine arc), 100's of crewmen running amuck and a large multi-scene planet.
- Robert Justman the associate producer from the 1st pilot on, states they put Harlan in an office on the Desilu lot, locked the door and occasional stood on his desk to get a finished version for review.
- Finally, they took the last re-write of Harlan's story and "Star-Trekked" it to address making the a story fit the budget and time allowed on screen and the characters personalities. Both Gene Roddeneberry and Gene Coon did that part.
- The only episode to win a Hugo award. When Harlan was called up to accept it, he was very angry that the Star Trek writers "butchered" his original story and he let everyone in the room know it. (This was the same Sci-Fi writer to spearhead getting support from his fellow writers to get Star Trek renewed for the 2nd season).
- The last line spoken in the episode, "Let's get the hell out of here" was not written that way. They tried it several ways but it just did not feel right. They brought in an NBC official to finally allow that line to be filmed. It was the 1st time "hell" was spoken as a verb on TV.
- De Forest Kelly (McCoy) thought his reaction in getting injected to with Cordrazine was over the top. However on re-watching the episode 25 years later, thought it was very weak and did not really show the shock he wanted to portray.
Tue, Apr 14, 2015, 9:40pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 15, 2015, 10:48am (UTC -5)
IIRC, it was implied, if not stated outright, that the Guardian was protecting them from the paradox. Just as Ent-E was protected by the "temporal wake" in First Contact long enough to see the Borg's tampering with history, and Defiant was protected by its plot shields in "Past Tense."
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 3:30am (UTC -5)
... and I pretty much stand by my original *opinion*. I emphasize that word because I'm not trying to bash those who like TOS, but as a passionate Sci Fi/Space opera fan I just can't enjoy it, to my unpleasant surprise. I agree with my dad's assessment of it when we used to watch it here and there when nothing else was on: it seems like much of it was put together by and acted by a high school drama team. I don't really get it; the actors COULD act, as proven by Star Trek II-VI, but they don't in this show. Kirk is excruciatingly glib most of the time; any amateur actor could play that part where all you have to do is act "unflapable" and keep a neutral facial expression. I think the problem is that this is what we get, like in TNG seasons 1-2, when Rodenberry is allowed too much control. I give him great props for his imagination of the Star Trek setting, but not as a script or story writer or as a producer. His tryranical/misguided input in TNG seasons 1 and 2 almost ruined the show, and gave the show the feel of a bad 80's B movie (like how TOS seems like a bad 60's B movie) and put the writers in a straight jacket. It wasn't until Michael Piler was hired and allowed to overrule Gene that TNG took off (along with other changes made when the studio realized Rodenberry was killing the show). Then poof; Season 3 is one of TNG's best once the coup against Rodenberry was successful (I know he still had some input but from interviews it's been made clear that Piler and Berman could override his protests). Same with the classic ST films; he had little real control and was more of a consultant who was often pisses off when his advice was ignored).
That is the main reason I can think of, other than the general characteristic of 60's TV
offending my sensibilities. But, before you call me a philistine, I like many classic films that are as old or older than TOS. I am fine watching low budget productions; I love Babylon 5. And, in liking Babylon 5 that shows that I can tolerate a little cheese in my space opera (though it was one of the downsides of B5), just not to the extent of TOS. I also like Farscape so I can handle "weirdness" and I really liked Firefly.... but I find TOS almost unwatchable. I have read in an article by a science fiction critic that TOS' strength was its "messages", but aside from that it is nowhere near the quality of the later Treks in terms of story, scripting, acting, or (of course) production. He also said that from his observation those who grew up on TNG often just can't accept TOS. I guess that is me. Again, the classic films showed us that with good scripting and direction Shatner can act, but he doesn't here. This may be partially due to Rodenberry's stated desire (in an argument about a show idea that had Picard learning that his true fear was being tied to a desk and deprived of adventure, he yelled "Picard isn't afraid of anything! Picard is John Wayne! If he was made an admiral he would just be an admiral...".... stated desire to have his captain be like, well, John Wayne in his classic westerns and what not; ie. A boring two dimensional character that would only intrigue the lowest common denominator of male action fans. With no one to veto Rodenberry here in TOS, we got the unflappably (boring) and glib Captain Kirk.
As for this specific episode, my finding it mediocre at best is why for now I agree with Chris and others above on their comments of TOS. I've read about Harlan Ellison's original and I hardly think it is better (having Enterprise crew members selling and doing drugs? I'm sorry dude but you're writing for the wrong Scifi franchise if that's what you want). Also for those who were debating its allegory to wars in real life, I've read that creators of this episode when asked if they were trying to comment on the Vietnam War said "Of course we were." So take that for what it is (it doesn't help raise my opinion of the people involved in making it I'll tell you that much). Also like others I found the stuff about Rosevelt being so easily swayed due to interaction with one pacifist complete rubbish. I have a BA in history/poli sci (double major) and am a big WWII history buff and I have to say if Ellison or Rodenberry had done their homework they would have made some other scenario for this episode. Roosevelt was a wise man who was looking at the big picture from before WWII began; he knew he had to respect the popular sentiment of isolationism to a degree but behind the scenes he tried to work around it and cooperated with British intelligence efforts to sway US popular opinion away from isolationism to favor aiding Britain. He got furious with "yellow" Ambassador Joe Kennedy's defeatist attitudes while serving in England and effectually he was replaced. I could go on and on but point being Rosevelt was secretly in favor of intervention from the start and eventually events forced the public to accept it (*ahem Pear Harbor anyone?), and there was nothing some upstart pacifist could have done to sway him after Pear Harbor (or before really). I only emphasize this to show how even the story in this supposedly excellent TOS episode feels like it was clumsily hashed together by amateurs who weren't all that intelligent or well informed. The cheese factor was also too much ("I AM THE GUARDIAN OF FOREVER..." Give me a break that sounds like something my 8 year old cousin would say while pretending with his friends). I can kind of forgive that due to the general cheesy state of TV and TV Scifi in that era but it adds up with everything else. Note: I admit that that is only my general impression of TV Scifi in that era but have not done much research so I could be wrong; in which case TOS's flaws would be even less forgivable.
Finally in line with what I said at the start despite my sometimes harsh tone I mean no disrespect to fans of TOS; my comments were my reaction to watching it and the viewing experience along with background info on the show, and we're not intended to bash those who do like it. I know "what you grow up with" watching on TV can have great effect on one's norms and sensibilities so I can totally understand how those who grew up watching TOS at a young age may have an ineffable fondness for the show that people like me can not share in. I can relate somewhat in how TNG has a certain magic for me that makes me more tolerant of even its less popular episodes (except in season one and the bad ones in season two). To each his own, I suppose.
Mon, Sep 28, 2015, 10:41pm (UTC -5)
This episode was satisfying to me on several levels. As a student of history I find it intriguing to speculate that if America had delayed entry into the war it might have allowed Nazi Germany to develop the bomb and conquer the world. I can certainly understand Brian's objection that a single person could hardly be able to do this. But as an answer to that I will simply remind him that a person's actions can act as a vector. And a vector has both magnitude and direction. A little push at the correct moment, when allowed to act over time, can have a huge future impact. Hitler had the V2 and was working on a "New York" rocket. If America had not acted in time he may well have developed the first atomic inter-continental ballistic missile and used it to take the world. You have to wonder if America may have capitulated if several of our East coast cities got destroyed by fission bombs. 20 kilotons in the middle of Manhattan would have made quite a mess. And the shock of it being done with just one bomb may have been enough to make America roll over. All one has to do is to look at how the war really ended to realize what atomic weapons could do to the will of a nation.
Another interesting thing about this story is that it shows that McCoy was responsible for two deaths, not just one. The writer is pointing out that some lives have a huge impact on history. And some have none. The death of the bum changed nothing. But if Edith Keeler had not died all of history changes. And not for the better.
It also shows that the best of intentions can lead to disaster. Edith had the right intent. But at the wrong time.
As a little thought experiment ask your self if you had a time machine and could go back and kill Hitler before the start of WWII would you. I suspect most people would say "Yes" because Hitler killed millions and, with the hindsight of history, it seems the right thing to do. But killing Hitler may have lead to a worse world that the one we have now. For all we know one of the innocent children that Hitler killed, if allowed to grow up might have become a greater monster than Hitler. If that innocent child had not died he might have precipitated WWIII and our planet could even now be a lifeless radioactive ball. So all actions can have unintended consequences. And the most moral act can lead to disaster. Illustrating this was also the intent of the author, I think.
And also for Brian I can certainly sympathize if you don't really like TOS.But my guess is you are quite a bit younger than I. Star Trek was in some ways a product of its time. I was 7 in 66 and Star Trek was magic. As a child I saw the alien worlds and the space ship...and little else. As I aged I begin to see the morals in some of the stories and as I became older still I began to put Star Trek in some context. It was ground breaking in many ways. It had the first competent black woman on tv. And I suspect Sulu might have been the first sympathetically portrayed Japanese character on tv. Remember it was only 21 years after WWII.
And yes, Brian the sets are pretty cheesy by modern standards. And the acting and writing was not always great. But at the time Star Trek debuted almost all we had on tv was Westerns and cop shows. Twilight Zone was the closest to really good sci-fi. Star Trek was something new and truly groundbreaking. And for me Star Trek was like your first love. Sure, in years to come you found better. But you never forget your first love. Star trek was mine.
Brian I hope you don't feel I was criticizing your viewpoint or worse pontificating to you. I can certainly understand a history major's objection to this episode. Perhaps I should say at worse all drama requires a suspension of disbelief as I'm sure you well know. And I do acknowledge that some of the later Trek is quite good and perhaps makes TOS look a bit amateurish by comparison. But TOS was the first. And it kindled in me a love of the genre that continues to this day. For that reason it will always remain the "best" for me.
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 11:03am (UTC -5)
With today's eyes TOS is still sexsistic, in those day very modern. One may wonder which approach Gene Roddenberry would have had to the world like it looks today.
This is also one of my favourites, containing very much of the best of Star Trek.
Sat, Dec 26, 2015, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Also, instead of just getting the hell out of there, shouldn't they have posted guards to keep others from wandering into the portal?
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 5:44pm (UTC -5)
It's critical to put TOS in it's time and place, both technologically, artistically, socially and within the 'sci-fi' genre. This is a show being made at the same time as Adam West's Batman. Most Sci-Fi consumed by the public was kids stuff, or involved over-the-top 'ray gun and rubber suit' shenanigans. The Hippie movement and it's purportedly 'enlightened' approach to social/civil issues was still the thing of young adults. Television was in the iron grip of the 'Establishment' industry suits, with their Establishment ideas of what 'the TV viewing audience' wanted to see...or more importantly was capable of appreciating. Sci-Fi was not high on their list of serious considerations.
Star Trek, at least Seasons 1 & 2, at least tried to bring us something akin to serious sci-fi storytelling. Again, if you remember a time when all there was, was Capt. Kirk, Bones, Spock, Klingons were irredemably evil, and women in short skirts is what passed for Feminism...Star Trek strayed into some relatively uncharted waters both thematically and socially. You can tell many of those involved behind the scenes must have been some of the few, scattered 'underground' genre fans, growing up on classic Golden Age sci-fi of the 30's, 40's and into the 50's. To try and put topics that only the pulp magazines would normally address onto national TV was gutsy. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes 'the Suits' and Ray Guns won out.
As a youth the bumpy, sometimes noble, sometimes comic or juvenile adventures of the Enterprise offered a steady diet of a wonderful future world to sink my imagination in to. Even as a 'young' 43 year old -- meaning I came to TOS through syndication in the late 70s and early 80's -- I cannot remember seeing anything else like it regularly on TV. Not until 1987 of course.
So TOS, it's crew, it's monsters of the week, matte backgrounds and wonky science, is still very my 'my' Trek. I did eventually adopt TNG as it's upstart sibling, once it got over it's teething issues. (I still remember the wonder and chills I got hearing their new-and-improved Transporter sound effects. So modern sounding!). The stories could be bolder, more clearly drawn, more aware of modern audience education, age range, and so forth (although Rodenberry's 'philosophy' of future world perfection, clearly drawn morality tales, etc was still present, and was still both a boon and a curse at times).
But like so many others, Bones, Spock and Kirk remain the 'holy trinity' of Trekdom or whatever you want to call it. And whatever misadventures they got up to back in the 60's are always going to be all right with me. So yes, chalk a lot of my love up to nostalgia. So be it.
Oh, and City on the Edge of Forever was a pretty darn amazing episode. It had good characterization, dialogue, and a real hum dinger of a climax on what's usually a 'happy ending' style show. If any episode of TOS deserves 4 stars it's this one.
It's one of those episodes where it's really fruitless to bother with the nuts and bolts of how the Guardian works, time paradoxes and so forth. The thrill is all down to the human dilemmas presented. The Guardian itself is as much a force of nature as a constructed piece of technology can get. It's an idea. A presence lurking everywhere in both past, present and future. One of the greatest Monsters of the Week Trek ever came up with, in it's own way.
I love how they leave the planet, but the Guardian is still there, waiting. In a very oblique way they leave this powerful entity/machine the same way Picard and Co. would leave Kevin on the planet of 'The Survirors'. Sometimes there's simply no other choice but to just 'get the hell out of there', and leave 'new life and new civilizations' very much alone.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 8:44am (UTC -5)
I watched Star Trek weekly for 15 years, ending with Enterprise S1. I didn't really come back for S2, I didn't hate it at all, but it just wasn't doing anything for me and my time was limited. I've since gone back and rewatched much of it, but not all. Mostly just because I miss having Trek around.
I own TNG/DS9 on DVDs and as a 34 year old those 15+ years mean that Star Trek has pretty much been a staple of my weekly rituals for half my life. The first time I really watched TOS was on a 4th of July marathon. I wasn't really impressed. Kirk/Spock/Bones just really couldn't compare to the TNG guys for me. I DID enjoy the movies (well 2-4 and 6 anyway).
As an older teen I tried some of TOS again with more knowledge of the history/more forgiveness of the time period. Most of it is better than TNG S1/S2 to be honest. And I'd say there's a good 20 episodes that rank up there with Trek's best if you can look past the 60s worldview and the clunky production values. In some ways the look at what the 60s thought the future would be like is fascinating as Spock would say all on it's own.
I can really see how the average person growing up with things like Game of Thrones and whatnot might not even give it a chance though. And that's sad. Because this episode is as good as anything TNG ever made. Really. And there's really NOTHING on TV that's as revolutionary as having our WW2 enemy, our cold war enemy, and black woman all on the bridge together in 1966. Seriously, that's crazy.
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 18, 2016, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
Obviously the climax (the death of Edith) is the crux of the episode, intending to hit with about as much weight as possible. It succeeds in that, without a doubt. And yet, there were two flaws in the episode leading up to the climax which, well, I don't want to say it HURT the emotional impact of the climax (since it didn't), but perhaps makes it harder to rate the overall episode as perfect.
The first is, unfortunately, Shatner's acting. Now, admittedly I've seen the episode several times before, but several moments in the episode seemed to be hurt by the stereotypical Shatner Speech. You know, stilted delivery, emphasizing the wrong syllables, etc. Given the seriousness of the episode, it jerked me out of the immersiveness each time, as it was almost a parody of him. It's unfortunate that he didn't give his best effort throughout the entirety of the episode, because his acting was perfect in the end. Everything, from his elation to finding Bones, to the realization of what was happening, to his reaction afterwards, to his empty line at the end after going back to the future, was perfect. Maybe he played the rest of the episode too light-hearted (there were several jokes earlier at Spock's expense, for example) to highlight the mood swing at the end, but if so it didn't work. We need to be invested in Kirk's emotions in the episode, which means we need to, at all times, see Kirk and not Shatner. Perhaps it's not the episode's fault that Shatnertalk became a parody over time, but it still knocked me out of the loop.
More importantly, though, is the fact that Edith was less of a person and more of a caricature. When she was serving soup or taking care of Bones or interacting with Kirk, she was fine. But what's with making her the perfect prophet of the Roddenberry future? By making her so on-target about what the future holds, she comes off feeling artificial, and you can see the voice of the writers speaking through her. And again, this is important, because the whole point of the episode is to, like Kirk, get an emotional attachment to her so we can be a part of Kirk's sacrifice. But when she gave her speech in the soup kitchen, and a few of her other moments, she just comes off as a prop. And no one has an emotional attachment to a prop.
You can say that it was necessary for her to be a prophet of the future, whether it be in order to make Kirk fall in love with her, or to show off the irony that she had to die to (eventually) bring about the future she believed in. But I don't think it had to be that blatant. Her kind-heartedness and eternal optimism would have been good enough to get Kirk to fall in love with her without throwing me out of the episode by how artificial she sounded.
Fortunately, when it mattered, when we needed to see the emotional weight, the episode played it well.
Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 4:27am (UTC -5)
One of the few Eps of TOS that still stands up watching today and will continue to do so. Haven't seen them all yet but am not surprised that other fans rate this as one of the high water marks of TOS and you can honestly say that this episode is a very strong piece of TV considering it was made in 1967
Thu, Feb 16, 2017, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
What's great about the episode is that it transcends sci-fi and I believe non-Trek fans can appreciate it. The developing romance between Keeler and Kirk works really well, and I think Kirk delivers one of his best performances especially the last 5 mins. when Keeler dies, he grieves and his classic line at the end "Let's get the hell out of here." It's a poignant ending and not the sometimes predictable TOS ending.
I should also mention that I think it is inconsistent to suggest Kirk bring Keeler back to the future - I think it should be pretty clear that that can't happen and that the Guardian is controling the situations of the time travelers but not those who are already in the past.
The episode really had everything - the humor between Kirk/Spock and the police officer is terrific, the Kirk/Spock interaction when determining Keeler must die and also McCoy's performance as a crazy man encountering the hobo (prior to him passing out).
I enjoyed reading all the reviews here - really agree with @PZ in particular.
I can see how this episode is regarded as the best Trek episode - have seen it ranked as such on a number of lists. It does have a certain charm that a lot of episodes simply don't. It helps to have a supporting actress like Joan Collins.
No question 4/4 stars for me - an episode that is clearly standing the test of time.
Fri, Apr 21, 2017, 12:59pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Apr 21, 2017, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jun 25, 2017, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
It was at that point I stopped reading. I'd finally realized, and similar to Louis CK's observations about the value of the opinions of those under 20, that you are only a child. Because only a child who hasn't actually lived a life yet would think that "NOT doing something" in the choices adults sometimes must make is "pathetic."
Only a child could think that.
However, true to the spirit of Star Trek (although not to trolling, sorry, son), I still do wish you well dealing with your Aspergers. I know enough about life to predict that I won't have to be there to witness when the inexorable progression of time teaches you just how wrong both your opinions and approach to people are today.
It's inevitable. So, good luck, youngster! And yes, I mean it.
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Well, at least the script utilized paragraphs.
Thu, Aug 24, 2017, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
Roddenberry was able to put together the finest cast and guest stars in to get the absolute most out of his actors in that first season.
Could Kirk have returned to retrieve Edith Keeler? When would think if there was any possibility of that he would have done so. And why not go back in time to retrieve Spock's girlfriend left in the icy wasteland of 5000 years ago while he's at it? Perhaps by bringing them forward in time they would damage the future in some unknown way. Maybe they wouldn't prevent some cosmic catastrophe from happening because they were busy with their lovers instead. We can only speculate.
Wed, Oct 11, 2017, 8:57pm (UTC -5)
But that's part of its brilliance: Like much of first season TOS, "City" turns the conventions of TV and movie storytelling on their heads: Threatening aliens turn out to be misunderstood, good and evil are not always clear-cut, and our heroes are not always in the right -- and they admit it (see McCoy in "Arena") when they've made a mistake. And "City on the Edge of Forever" gives us the idea that sometimes we must sacrifice what we care about the most for the good of the universe. Pretty shocking and riveting stuff here, even today, and the story wouldn't have been nearly as memorable had the episode sought a magical Sci-FI compromise ending.
So yes, I think "City" deserves its reputation as one of the best Treks of all time, even if it's unpleasant for some girlfriends/wives to watch the hero fall in love and then let the woman of his dreams die rather than change history for her -- the latter being the more conventional resolution to romcom plots even today. It's not just the time travel gimmick trapping the crew in non-existence here, or the cool Guardian of Forever, but the great chemistry of Shatner with Joan Collins as well as the regulars (McCoy is particularly uncomfortable and deranged in his drug-addled state; Spock is gently logical; the others like Uhura and Scotty are all on-point in brief bits) really sell this episode as one of the best. Harlan Ellison's story and dialogue, even polished by the production team, are especially great in showing our heroes navigate the Great Depression in 1930s NYC. I give it 4 stars.
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
his tricorder (couldn't he have hit the slow play
Button) but the Jacobs ladder was a bit much.
Come on -- this isn't Frankenstein.
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
I really enjoy reading the comments section of this brilliant website, and it's refreshing to read people's opinions that differ so much from my own, as was the case with Dave C's comment. I was sad to read your vile comment though.
Although I did enjoy the irony of you accusing Dave of having the mind of a child and having Asperger's Syndrome due to his opinion being 'wrong' in a paragraph that is in it's self probably the most childish comment on the entire thread.
I don't think that any of what you said was true to the spirit of Star Trek, and I would urge Dave C not to take advice from you about how his approach to people should be.
Thu, Jan 11, 2018, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
Dave's silliness was most likely trolling, particularly as we are all aware that such creatures target discussions where people like us are passionate, and so take an extreme opposite position--an all too common testing of adulthood for the minds of developing 12-year old boys (or grown men who still act that age).
But you thought Dave's was just another opinion, eh? I'd recommend that you both read Robert Bolton's "People Skills" which, although written in the 1970's, still finds reality among its principles today. Perhaps moreso in this era of anonymous posting. The reality is that I accurately identified one or both of Dave's habits in posting NOTHING REDEEMING (repeat that to yourself until it sinks in, in case you don't grasp "trolling") in this episode.
Nothing redeeming in this episode. Nothing. Uh huh.
Sorry, Wakeman, but as McCoy might exclaim, "A blind man could see it with a cane!"
I'd typically say we'll have to agree to disagree, but I won't waste more of my time. I will do you a favor by saying straight up I won't be replying to you again. I've known people like Dave (and enablers like you) for decades. I also know there's a way out of his particular madness (and yours), so my comments will stand on their face without further defense--to be judged, or not, by Jammer.
You've a lot to learn. But then we all do. Good luck in your journey, Dave. ;)
Mon, Jan 22, 2018, 2:54am (UTC -5)
It's probably a good thing that you aren't going to respond further about this. I think agreeing to disagree on something is a worthwhile outcome. A better one than prolonged bickering I think.
I just want to tell you that I read the book that you suggested. It's really good. I would say that it might well help me somewhat in the future. Thank you for the recommendation. I managed to pick up a copy from Abe Books for less than £3 which is great!
I think it is an important book on the subject of behavioural interactions and more people should read it because I think that it could help most people out in every day life. It has some really useful insights in the topic of emotional communication amongst many other facets of the psyche.
I am certainly not learned of it's wisdom yet, and Dr. Bolton knows his stuff, that's for sure. I will probably go back to the start and study it in more detail, because I missed the part that says - When you have a disagreement, talk to people with the attitude that 'you've been alive for quite a while, so that automatically means that you know better than them'; make snide, underhand comments about their mental state; and/or acuse them of having a developmental disorder.
I'm glad that you agree that you also have a lot to learn.
You, too, should re-read your recommendation, Richard.
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
All Kirk and Spok remembered was jumping to try and land in the1930’s to stop Macoy and landing back where they started. In this way, in the words of the Guardian, “Time has regained its shape. Everything is as it was before”. This would include the memories held by Kirk, Spok and Macoy.
Fri, Apr 13, 2018, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
The developing relationship between Kirk and Edith was beautifully done. When Edith first encountered Kirk and Spock she could easily have dismissed them as common thieves. But she seemed to instinctively recognize that they were much more than that, and to understand their closeness, even though there were things about them that puzzled her,
There is one thing I wonder about. The whole premise behind Kirk's dilemma is the idea that Edith's pacifist movement would delay the entrance of the United States into WWII, allowing Germany to win and conquer the world. But the entrance of the U. S. into the war was directly triggered by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the original declaration of war was against Japan. The alliance that Japan had with Germany and Italy then quickly brought them in against the U.S. Given the devastating direct attack by Japan, I doubt that any pacifist movement could have kept the U. S. from responding and being drawn into the war both in the Pacific and in Europe. The premise has to be accepted for the story to work, but it does seem questionable in light of the actual history.
Wed, Apr 18, 2018, 9:46pm (UTC -5)
Then the premise. One woman's pacifist movement delays (not prevents) US entering the war and saving the day. There is so much wrong here. Pearl Harbor was already mentioned, but no one said anything about the little detail that the war was basically already won when the US opened the second front. Any delay would mean the war was over. At least the war between Germany/Italy and the allies. Any action Japan might have undertaken unilaterally is a wildcard, but it certainly wouldn't be Hitler's nuclear bombs attacking the US. And Japan alone would not under any circumstances outright win a war with the US. I mean Enterprise's horrible Nazi episode provided a more plausible reason for Germans to win, doing something in Russia (assassinating Lenin in Enterprise's case).
But I guess none of it matters if the drama made up for it and... I wasn't impressed. It just didn't move me for whatever reason.
Wed, May 16, 2018, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
The way Kirk and the crew so easily fell in love with aliens, I'm surprised they stayed together for the five year mission to explore strange new worlds and civilizations. The thing I loved about Kirk was how he had sex with a blue or green alien, then told them goodby as he went to the next planet, and new women to bed. Otherwise he would have an entire deck full of women aboard ship that he couldn't live without. Of course having a green slave girl and Edith wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Sun, Jun 10, 2018, 4:30am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 20, 2018, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
"The developing relationship between Kirk and Edith was beautifully done. When Edith first encountered Kirk and Spock she could easily have dismissed them as common thieves. But she seemed to instinctively recognize that they were much more than that, and to understand their closeness, even though there were things about them that puzzled her."
One of my favorite scenes in this episode is where Edith, asked by Spock where she would estimate they belonged, said to Kirk something like, "And you -- you belong to a different place. I don't know where or how . . . I'll figure it out eventually." As she says this, Kirk has a half-smile and a look on his face, and then we see Edith with the same half-smile and look on her face. This was when I first understood the concept of "chemistry" between performers (even though the actors were not necessarily looking at each other or were even in the same room at the time). The deep intellectual and emotional connection between Kirk and Edith -- Shatner and Collins really sold it.
Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
The one big flaw that I don't have an answer for is how Spock was able to tie into the ships computers with his tri-corder and pneumonic memory circuit to learn of future events. The Enterprise was centuries from being created.
Mon, Apr 8, 2019, 7:30pm (UTC -5)
@LouBotts: maybe I've misunderstood you here, but I don't think Spock was ever tying into the ships computers. He had recorded everything showing on the gateway, and was sifting through his recording.
ALL THE COMMENTS ABOUT WHY KIRK DIDN'T TAKE EDITH BACK WITH HIM: First, they couldn't be sure things would happen the same way if she didn't die as just as she was meant to. Second, Edith is an autonomous individual. Kirk can't just take her back as if she were a pretty rock he found. I doubt very much she'd Jane wanted to go back with him.
Nicely done and while I don't think it's the best of the franchise, it's certainly the best ep of TOS so far.
Good performances, especially from Kelley. Joan Collins is great in it also.
Tue, Apr 16, 2019, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
EDITH: You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will. And you? You belong in another place. I don't know where or how. I'll figure it out eventually.
SPOCK: I'll finish with the furnace.
EDITH: Captain. Even when he doesn't say it, he does.
Mon, May 13, 2019, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
In my opinion, Harlan Ellison is the best science fiction author in terms of being an author. Whatever your thoughts on the man, his prose is dynamic, his dialogue smacks you in the jaw, his brain ticks like no one elses, and he wraps it all up in a well crafted story every time.
Wed, May 15, 2019, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
I'll always think of Edith Keeler as Kirk's greatest love. Here's an aspect I haven't seen any comments on:
Joan Collins and William Shatner were two over-the-top, hammy actors. But they both toned it way down for this, and it was pure magic.
I usually roll my eyes at Kirk's "loves," but I totally buy in to why Kirk fell so hard, so fast for Edith Keeler, thanks for Joan Collins' on-spot performance.
My favorite part in an episode that was excellent from first to last minute was indeed that last minute back on the Guardian planet. I'm so glad they didn't do the usual yucking it up on the bridge at Spock's expense.
The ending leaves you with such as strong sense of Kirk's loss.
Fri, Dec 13, 2019, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Off the top of my head I can count at least 5 if not 10 episodes from season 1 alone, that are better than this. Perhaps I'm too allergic to time travel episodes, because this simply didn't do it for me.
II / IV
Fri, Dec 13, 2019, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
With respect, I think you're missing out on the big picture of this one. There's two huge unintuitive, or anti-heroic, conflicts in the episode. The first is that saving the sweet intelligent woman does not save the day. The second is that peace is not the correct path towards freedom. Kirk is left with making two horrible decisions that he clearly doesn't wish to make and his struggle with that conflict is what makes the episode good. It takes the idea that "if only we could've prevented these bad things in the past things would've been better" and flips it on its head. The ending is also bittersweet, as Kirk leaves the planet feeling disgusted despite doing the most logical thing he could.
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 7:20am (UTC -5)
"The second is that peace is not the correct path towards freedom. "
Sure I get it, I just don't find the representation of the idea intellectually stimulating nor convincing. But then I also find the idea rather lackluster from a philosophical point of view.
Nowhere in the story, does one get the feeling that Kirk has a choice, because in the end, he is "forced" to do a sacrifice that has already been made. There's no real alternative to consider. Also the amount of time Kirk spends with Edith is too short for them to form a deep emotional bond with each other.
In short: I don't like time travel episodes, I don't care too much about the shallow premise and I don't find the relationship convincing; and the sacrifice the least bit surprising. Plus I'm not too fond of the aesthetics.
Therefore my II ouf of IV remains. Scratch your head if you want, I'm doing the same to all the top ratings out there.
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Kirk saves Edith from death once and Spock has to slap him on the wrist for it. Kirk is conflicted. Feel free to not like the episode, but your prior comment saying this “glorified the atom bomb” is way off. It’s a historical fact all major nations in WW2 were racing towards completion of the atom bomb, including Japan. It would be a greater travesty to ignore this.
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
None of the major powers had a serious program that was close to completion by the end of WW2. Of course the Americans assumed others were on the path, especially Germany, but post war it was determined that said programs were basically mothballed.
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 6:02pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 3, 2020, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
"The Japanese program to develop nuclear weapons was conducted during World War II. Like the German nuclear weapons program, it suffered from an array of problems, and was ultimately unable to progress beyond the laboratory stage before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender in August 1945."
Maybe it wasn't "mothballed" but ultimately there was no serious "race" as no one but the USA had made serious progress on building an actual bomb.
Sat, Jan 4, 2020, 8:06am (UTC -5)
As Patrick D points out, there’s no telling what could’ve happened if the U.S. didn’t enter the war until years later. One might argue it would be weird for Pearl Harbor to happen and the U.S. to not mount some sort of military counter, regardless of some peace movement, but I suppose that’s just a conceit of the plot. It’s really pretty interesting that TOS has a focus on military force used for the right reasons.
Sun, Jan 5, 2020, 1:05pm (UTC -5)
I didn't say glorify, I said justify. There's a huge difference, and my point still stands; the main premise of the story is that a peace movement must not be allowed to happen, so that America can get involved in WW2 etc..
One can argue endlessly about Americas role in WW2, but no one can deny the absolute atrocity of detonating a nuclear bomb over a civilian city, not once, but twice.
P.S. There's no way to know if Kirk actually saved Edith from death the first time. Either he didn't, and the choice of saving her was more a feeling than anything else, or he did, which implies she would've died in an accident sooner or later anyway.
Sun, Jan 5, 2020, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 2:03am (UTC -5)
If you actually read through all my comments on this episode, my arguments are quite clear. However, I regret that there's nothing I can do to keep someone from falsely interpret them into being specifically about, for example, the H-Bomb.
Have a good one, Chrome =]
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 8:46am (UTC -5)
How nice! :-)
Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 7:08am (UTC -5)
(Curious, Edith starts to walk across the street unaware of car bearing down on her. Kirk starts to move towards her ...)
Spock: No Jim!!!
(Kirk stops and hold McCoy back....)
McCoy: I could have saved her. Do you know what you just did?!!!
Spock: He knows Doctor. He knows .... oh, it looks like she's still alive....
Kirk: Really? Well shit. (pulls out phaser ...)
Tue, Nov 24, 2020, 3:51am (UTC -5)
@Brian, fascinating write up. TOS ain’t everyone’s cup of Earl Grey. Don’t sweat it bro :)
@Eric, I’ve seen this episode so many times I can’t count, and it still gets me every time. The emotional setup for the end is just so perfect. First that insane high at finding McCoy. Then that insane shock when Edith dies, even more shocking because Kirk let it happen. I agree, anything more would just get in the way.
Sun, Dec 20, 2020, 3:05am (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 22, 2021, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 27, 2021, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Why? Well if you rate it "of its time" then it's certainly 4 stars for the mid-60s. However, I believe that it would have made a better movie than a single TOS episode. There are several reasons for this. One. It would have given the romance between Kirk and Keeler time to grow; on that score I think Joan Collins is miscast - better to have someone who was less glamorous but exuded the warmth, optimism, and visionary insights that Kirk would have fallen for anyway, perhaps after initial indifference. Joan Collins running a hostel for down-at-heel bums? I just don't see it. Two. A lot of reviewers above have suggested that Kirk could have rescued Keeler by removing her from that time, instead of letting her die there. Spock could have taken time in a movie to explain why not: "Take her back where, Jim? There's nowhere for her to go, nor us until the proper timeline is restored, and that will only happen if she dies."
A movie could have taken more chances also. I cite "12 Angry Men", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "Look Who's Coming To Dinner?", among many examples of films that could not have been done on TV in their era. And unencumbered by sponsorship, audience ratings, and more stringent budgets, they could have let the story flow with a less compressed plot, and possibly put more dramatic twists in. To give one example: suppose McCoy's actions had not changed history but had created a new timeline at the moment he dived into the portal? In that event, The Enterprise wouldn't have winked out of existence (did anyone else feel deeply uncomfortable at that thought?) but carried on in its own timeline - from their perspective, the away team would have disappeared without explanation. We could then have had scenes where Scotty is desperately trying to work out what had happened / what to do about it. As for Keeler, her death would have merged the timelines again.
Anyhoo. Two more thoughts.
One, I thought the acting was both good and bad. DeForest Kelley overdid the hysterical "ASSASSINS!" outbursts initially but came really good when the drug began to wear off. Shatner gave his usual... hammy quota of... inappropriate pauses... but at other times he downplayed it very effectively.
Two. I just thought: COTEOF was made in 1966/67 - 55 years ago, yet the historical era it was set in was a mere 35 years before it was produced! Not only that, but at one point Keeler says to Kirk that mankind "...could reach for the moon, why not?". Yet COTEOF was made before "One small step for a man..." had even occurred!! So it's not only a classic TOS episode, it's now historical in its own right.
Not perfect, no, but a brilliant story even if Harlan Ellison's original idea was butchered. 3.5 stars
Sat, Mar 27, 2021, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 2:20am (UTC -5)
Point taken, though I stand by the fact that cinema could get away with far more than TV could, until comparatively recently.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 9:58am (UTC -5)
I rewatched the episode last night with my wife and 7-year-old son. My son had seen Trouble with Tribbles before, but was unimpressed. This episode had him riveted throughout. Yes, McCoy was genuinely scary after he accidentally OD'd. Yes, the drama around whether Edith Keeler would live or die was riveting.
I'm more of a Next Gen fan. Next Gen was on first-run during my impressionable teenage years; I suspect Jammer and I are pretty close to each other in age, maybe a year or two apart. But I had seen TOS in syndicated reruns, and I had seen TWOK thru TVH before TNG debuted. I loved TOS, too, and this episode was a big reason why.
As for Harlan Ellison and his scripts? Well, he was a very talented, award-winning writer. But Star Trek was still in its first season, finding its footing, always within a whisker of cancellation. I've read Ellison's scripts and edits for the episode, along with all his "woe is me, Roddenberry screwed me over" bitter commentary. I think the changes made to Ellison's script made it better. I think those changes made this episode the classic that it is. And I'm pretty sure it was Dorothy Fontana who made those changes.
I remember reading a story, I think in Esquire, about Frank Sinatra shooting pool somewhere around his 50th birthday, and Harlan Ellison was there. Somewhere, words were exchanged, Ol' Blue Eyes got pissed off, and his friends had to stop him from stomping a mudhole in Ellison. Not that Sinatra was any kind of angel himself, but Ellison was a jerk in his own right. I kinda wish Frank's friends hadn't stopped him.
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 11, 2021, 6:42am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jul 19, 2021, 3:37pm (UTC -5)
I was age 12-15 when Star Trek first aired. I remember standing outside looking up at a starry night sky and envisioning the enterprise up there, wishing they would beam me up to join that wonderful crew. At a time when Selectric typewriters were the newest technology in my world, the ideas in TOS about the future development of technology and humanity were mind boggling, totally new, and oh so optimistic. The stories deeply touched the emotions of a young girl who loved science, romance, and musing about the human condition. Nothing will ever replace it.
Mon, Jul 19, 2021, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 26, 2021, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 26, 2021, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 27, 2021, 8:40am (UTC -5)
I appreciate your observations. Star Trek did really get a ton of things right (obviously) with an episode that, more than any other, is considered by many to be its GOAT.
I don't think TOS gets enough credit for what it achieved with its sets, like as you say, with the planet the Guardian was on. It really does convey that sense of loneliness, eerie, etc. with everything working together -- lighting, music etc.
I do think some of these TOS sets ("Spectre of the Gun", "Metamorphosis" etc.) really create the desired atmosphere and the direction is key here. It helps to have the perfect soundtracks too.
Something else that comes to mind for TOS is some of the shots to show the depth of the scene -- like at the start of "The Menagerie, Part I" or in "Court Martial" where they show the star base. Hard to put into words but it really conveys a sense of vintage grandeur. There is also a brief shot in "The Man Trap" where they show more of the set (the ancient ruins in the distance) -- pretty cool.
Thu, Nov 25, 2021, 11:07am (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 25, 2021, 11:22am (UTC -5)
"There is also a brief shot in 'The Man Trap' where they show more of the set (the ancient ruins in the distance) -- pretty cool."
Apparently one of the (many) things that pissed off Harlan Ellison was that his script specified "runes" on what was left of the ancient city, but the set people thought he meant "ruins" and built the set accordingly.
Possibly related: Matt Jefferies (art director and production designer) was out sick while the set was being constructed; when he returned and saw the "donut," he exclaimed, "What the hell is this?"
Fri, Nov 26, 2021, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
"And yes, Edith Keeler must die."
My brother and I were kids when we first saw this, and when Spock said to Kirk (paraphrasing), "Suppose we discover that in order to set things right, Edith Keeler must die," my brother exclaimed, "Then we’ll have to Keeler!"
Wed, Dec 1, 2021, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 17, 2022, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 16, 2022, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 4, 2022, 5:51pm (UTC -5)
In City, we noticed a missed opportunity with the 'broken milk bottle dude' in the alley. He fries himself out of existence with McCoy's discarded phaser. This caused no disruption to the limeline. Does anyone know why it doesn't follow the butterfly effect?
Mon, Apr 4, 2022, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Cause hobos don't matter.
Mon, Apr 4, 2022, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 4, 2022, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
"Hobo with a Phasor"
Ah a short by Tarentino!
But if the hobo hadn't died would the movie have been made? :)
Thu, Apr 7, 2022, 5:43am (UTC -5)
"Cause hobos don't matter."
Some do....W.H. Davies
Sat, Apr 23, 2022, 12:25am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 31, 2022, 2:17pm (UTC -5)
Joan Collins is good here, and has decent chemistry with William Shatner. She’s probably better known for all those epic catfights her character in “Dynasty” had to deal with, but we get a very pleasant, warm and low-key performance in this case that really sells how Edith Keeler and Captain Kirk, worlds and centuries apart, can come to fall for each other.
There are nice moments with Spock as well, showing how adept he is at balancing his need to solve the mystery with his duties of helping Keeler maintain her own mission. In short, it’s nice to see him gamely serving soup behind the counter during the Great Depression. He also gets some good dialogue with Kirk, as Kirk starts to realize the implications of allowing the woman he loves to die when he could otherwise stop it.
The nonsense with Raging McCoy was a little much, its scenes drawn out and little more than padding for time (Did you care about a bum who vaporized himself? I didn't), but at least it was interesting to see glimpses the good country doctor so completely out of his mind (like his turn in “The Return of Archons,” Kelley proves here that he’s particularly effective in full lunatic mode).
Some of this all just seems needlessly pretentious -- the all-knowing Guardian of Forever, McCoy’s accidental needle-stick leading to full-on dementia in short order (and couldn’t they have just shot him?), and yes, the idea of one woman affecting the outcome of World War II of all things, just reeks of some of the worst conceits of full-on kooky science fiction--but thankfully, the most important story here is Kirk’s. The big scene of Edith’s fatal accident was a bit perfunctory, but Kirk’s bitter last line before beaming back to the ship said everything: “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
The specific way that Keeler will change history if she doesn’t die (she leads a pacifist movement that causes a critical delay in the United States’ entry into World War II, and so the Axis powers win) made me roll my eyes considerably. However, it does fit with one of the most commonly repeated lessons peppered throughout these Star Trek episodes: Peace is the goal, but war is still often necessary.
Best Line --
Keeler: “If you’re a bum, if you can’t break off with the booze, or whatever it is that makes you a bad risk, then get out.”
My Grade: B-
Tue, May 31, 2022, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
I think one risks being a bit over-specific to read the episode is implying that Keeler is so important that she alone makes or breaks history. Yes, technically the chronology works out that way, but if you think of it as the butterfly effect you can write off the particulars and simply note that changing something small can mess up history. But more important than the fact of who it is making a big change if she lives, is the fact that if *Kirk* settles down with a lovely woman history will be wrecked. I don't think it can be discounted that it's specifically Kirk doing so that messes up history.
Seen in that light, we might be able to see it as being "if those two carry on as they were" being the dangerous situation. I put it this way because I think this is one of the major instances illustrating a point that gets made in a stronger way in the motion pictures, that Kirk has a responsibility that precludes him settling down or having real relationships. And we can see an interesting parallel in The Guardian of Forever. After all, it's not called The Guardian of Nice Things. To guard "forever" means to have things set in motion correctly even if that means sacrifices are made. And to the extent that the Guardian can see the repercussions of things going the wrong way, Kirk also needs to take on that role and allow bad things to happen if that means "forever" is protected. In this case it's the timeline, but more broadly it's his ship, his people, the Federation, etc.
What we seem to learn here is that catastrophe will occur if Kirk gets too close to someone who would take him away from his duty. This is his destiny, he is needed for certain purposes and can't spend himself in any old way. That's a tough pill to swallow. I don't know what SNW is making of Captain Pike, but I got the idea in The Cage that he was having a crisis of morale in this vein, that he just wanted the burden away from him.
Wed, Jun 1, 2022, 11:24am (UTC -5)
I like that insight. The Universe won't let Kirk settle down for a nice quiet life.
You mentioned that this is addressed in the movies--I look forward to seeing them when they come up on my list; so far I've only seen the later J.J. Abrams-produced movies, a couple of the movies that were based on The Next Generation (when they were first in the theaters, so it's been a while), and I have a few sparse memories of Star Trek II and IV from my childhood.
I just thought about something else regarding this episode, that I didn't address before -- Unless I missed something, not only was Kirk forced to allow Keeler to die, but he and McCoy actually caused her death, right?! She was wandering across the street because she was curious about the commotion between Kirk and Unhinged McCoy. That's when the truck hit her. They had to go back in time in the first place so that she would die.
While I wasn't won over by the episode entirely, I do think it has a thoughtful story and I'm aware of its legacy--Trey Parker and Matt Stone even named one of their own South Park episodes after it!
Sun, Jun 12, 2022, 12:23am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 16, 2022, 8:01pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 4, 2022, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Another interesting aspect of the episode is the mix of nostalgia and pity at the conditions of the Great Depression. Rather than portraying it as merely being a horror, there's a sort of rough but humble humanity being portrayed, one which even in filth can imagine a great future. It shows the writing skills of Ellison, but perhaps the general bar TOS set, at not only developing a sci-fi adventure story but achieving all of this texture within it, including some comedic moments. Even the contrast of Spock referring to 1930's technology as "stone knives and bearskins" with the Guardian telling Spock his knowledge of science was "primitive", is a detail that was unnecessary but eye-opening. Even just that little addition to the story gives us a glimpse of how far ahead some other people might be compared to the Enterprise crew, as they are compared to the hobo to whom McCoy asks what planet he's on. This kind of story isn't merely sci-fi, it's about sci-fi, and in ways that are more than just "what if", but include "but at what cost". Maybe that's why it won a Hugo award.
That being said I did have to take some pains to explain to my wife why it did win such an award, since I have to admit that certainly on a first viewing it's not as blatantly impressive and even epic as some other episodes. I personally prefer many others, but my awareness of City in the abstract is perhaps even more important than its direct impact. It does seem to be emblematic of something beyond merely what appears on the screen. Hilariously, my wife actually noted that "the one with the crazy harpsichordist was better", and I don't even disagree. I do have a taste for the theatrical, and for that you can't beat a Trelane or a Khan.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 4:45pm (UTC -5)
As Proud Capitalist Pig says, that one paradox in the climactic scene has bothered me for some time. Edith died in a car accident of some kind, McCoy went back and saved her, but in the timeline we see recreated she only wanders across the road because she is distracted by the joyful reunion of K/S/M.
As far as the hobo goes, the Guardian made it clear that when the timeline was restored everything would be as if they had never gone back in time, which I take to mean the hobo goes on living having never met McCoy.
Wed, Sep 21, 2022, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Sep 24, 2022, 12:28pm (UTC -5)
Yes, that’s how I understood it, too... to get back, they had to restore the timeline, and to restore the timeline, Edith had to die. There was no way to bring her to the future.
I wouldn’t call it overrated, but I see what you mean. Although the episode certainly deserves all the praise it gets, it’s not perfect… I always found the opening scene somewhat flawed and the humour of the rice-picker story escaped me, although I admit that it was brilliantly delivered: Kirk knows exactly that nobody is going to believe a single word of it, but he goes on anyway. But for me it always feels like the flaws as well as the good points are somehow eclipsed by one of the most brutal endings I’ve ever seen or read. I agree that this is partly because everything happens so quickly; as viewers, we can barely follow the events and even less realize or deal with them; when the episode is over, we just sit there, devastated and speechless and thunderstruck.
For me, the most horrible thing is to hear the Guardian say: „Everything is as it was before.” It is, but at what price. To restore the timeline, Edith had to die – not only to avoid that her peace movement delays the United States' entry into the Second World War, but also, as you say, to allow the future achievements she dreams of (like peace and space travel) to become reality. Her death still remains an incredible tragedy, but she didn’t die for nothing. I think this knowledge may be the one thing that gives Kirk the strength to do what he must do, even if it breaks his heart. For him, nothing will ever be the same again. It’s written all over his face.
Mon, Dec 26, 2022, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 28, 2022, 4:12pm (UTC -5)
Still, the propaganda of the US winning WW2 is half right.
The way some Brits portray Churchill as winning on both fronts is laughable in the extreme, however.
I will forgive the episode its historical inaccuracy because Kirk doesn't recite the Declaration of Independence and the story is a great twist on the Trolley Problem.
Voyager grappled with similar issues of killing to save others" with Tuvix, but Janeway did nothing wrong (she should have gone further), and I felt no moral queasiness. This episode, however, did stoke moral queasiness, which I want in my sci-fi.
Wed, Dec 28, 2022, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 11, 2023, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 20, 2023, 8:09pm (UTC -5)
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