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The City on the Edge of Forever Hardcover – Dec 1995

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Borderlands Pr (December 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880325020
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880325025
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,056,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

Ellison has had it--up to here! He wrote the original teleplay for the first Star Trek TV series' most popular episode (in which Kirk and Spock leap through a time gate into 1930s Chicago in order to prevent history being changed) and then watched, patiently fuming, for 30 years as Gene Roddenberry, that blankity-blank-blank, told everyone what an incompetent job Ellison had done and how much he had to labor to realize the script that was finally filmed. Yet since Ellison's original won a Writers Guild Award, the highest honor TV dramatists bestow, how incompetent could it have been? The answer, verified by the script's reappearance here alongside two prefatory treatments and two scenes Ellison added at Roddenberry's request, is "not at all." Seconding that assessment, four other ST writers and four original cast members weigh in. But what makes this the ST book of the year (maybe all time) is Ellison's sputtering, raging, fuming introduction in which he sets the record straight, by God! Invective doesn't come any better these days. Both ears and the tail, Harl! Ray Olson

About the Author

Harlan Ellison has been called “one of the great living American short story writers” by the Washington Post. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he has won more awards than any other living fantasist. Ellison has written or edited one hundred fourteen books; more than seventeen hundred stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns; two dozen teleplays; and a dozen motion pictures. He has won the Hugo Award eight and a half times (shared once); the Nebula Award three times; the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, five times (including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996); the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America twice; the Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award twice; and two Audie Awards (for the best in audio recordings); and he was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by PEN, the international writers’ union. He was presented with the first Living Legend Award by the International Horror Critics at the 1995 World Horror Convention. Ellison is the only author in Hollywood ever to win the Writers Guild of America award for Outstanding Teleplay (solo work) four times, most recently for “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” his Twilight Zone episode that was Danny Kaye’s final role, in 1987. In 2006, Ellison was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Dreams With Sharp Teeth, the documentary chronicling his life and works, was released on DVD in May 2009.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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By Bootsy Bass TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 28 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not just his script and re-writes for city On The Edge of Forever. They take up maybe a third of the book. The rest is his writing about the TRUE story of his script and Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry ( who does not come out looking good at all.....I never did trust his image). Very interesting. Their are also short pieces by other "players" in the Star Trek universe at the time explaining their version and or involvement in the whole sordid mess.

If you are expecting straight fiction....not another book. If you are interested in the being that is Harlan Ellison this is a MUST buy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The legend explained. Aug. 24 2012
By D - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For most of my life there has been the legend of the original script. Of course, everyone heard Roddenberry's explanation that the script just wasn't Star Trek, Scotty was selling drugs and so on, and most Trekkers bought into it. Why not? Gene said it. It must be true.
But in that story there was always the knowledge that Harlan is not a fool and had worked with Gene on Star Trek and helped gather top flight writers to submit scripts for the show. Surely he knew what Star Trek 'was'.
Here is Harlan's story of the creation of the script, and also a couple drafts of his script. What became an award winning script. A legendary script. And a true masterpiece.


I actually do have a problem with it. It's not Star Trek. Not the Trek I know.

Let me explain.

No, Scotty doesn't sell drugs. But someone on the ship does, sort of. A low ranking member of the crew, never before seen is the macguffin in the script. He goes into the past and changes it. Kirk and Spock chase after him through time.
Is this Star Trek? Sure. Why not? Not as good as chasing a character we know well through time, but...okay.

We are not done yet.

(we are skipping over the space pirates crap, Harlan didn't really want it in his script, he wrote it because he was asked to show what was happening on the Enterprise while the heroes are down on the planet, thankfully that bit was tossed)

Kirk spends most of the script knowing full well Edith Keeler must die. It's not found out in act three, it's not a blindside that the woman he loves must die, he falls in love with her knowing she should die.
And then fails to let her die.

There it is. Kirk is fallible. He is going to let her live and change everything he has ever known so she may live. Kirk fails and Spock has to fix it. Kirk is not just fallible. Hell, he needs to turn in his hero card.
How are you ever supposed to root for Kirk after that? Sure, a normal person, perhaps you, perhaps me, may make the decision to let the world we know cease to exist for the love of a woman, but Kirk is bigger than that. Plus, he has to be back next week saving the galaxy once again. That hero card has to stay in the wallet.

He has to act. Or in this case stop someone else from acting. He has to make this tremendous sacrifice knowing how much it is going to hurt. That is the heroic act Kirk needs to give the viewers for them to believe in him next week when an angry styrofoam creature threatens the ship and Kirk pulls out the hero card once again.
As beautifully written as Harlan's script is, it is not quite Star Trek. McCoy as the Mcguffin is better. Sure, the method of getting him hopped up was clumsy but the payoff when Kirk stops him from saving Edith allows us to experience what we know as the Kirk/Spock/McCoy dymanic at its finest.

Again, we should find out Edith needs to die AFTER Kirk falls for her, not before.

It is said that any story should be about the most important event in a person's life. But with episodic tv you have to come back next week and do it again. Not every episode can be THE event of a character's life. Harlan's script is. By far.

Were this script filmed as a movie with a different ship and crew it would probably live forever in the annals of great science fiction films. Yes the script is that good. But for episodic tv with the characters we already know it did need some tweaking. Not much, just some. So yes, essentially it needs watering down. Harlan's beautiful script needs to be changed to fit that little screen that may or may not be in color. In a strange sort of way it was too good for episodic tv.

Gene Roddenberry did Harlan no favors and Harlan has every right to be quite angry. Gene is not the angel some purport him to be, most of us fans know that. (He wrote 'lyrics' to the Star trek theme music to get royalty money, for example, he knew they would never be used but he wanted half the money.) Gene's claims that Harlan's script was horribly flawed are obviously lies. To be honest, a few tweaks were all that was probably necessary. Even rewritten several times over the magic that Harlan created is still there for us to see in what most fans consider the greatest Star Trek episode ever. Harlan tends to believe his script needed no changes at all, every change was sacrilege and how dare they change a word, after all it won an award!. Well, probably not , but he views the filmed version as a rape of his work. Gene felt he had to throw in his usual preachy the future is perfect scene, and then steal the credit for the script when it became the greatest episode ever. As the years and the conventions grew passed Gene's lies got bigger until myth of the original script had taken on a life of it's own.
Which is too bad. Harlan deserves better. Much better. Gene was a hack writer. Harlan is an artist.

Harlan's script is incredible. But the episode as filmed worked better within the framework of what we know is Star Trek. A bit more heavy handed, a bit less intellectual, but more honest to the characters of Kirk and Spock, and also McCoy. And yes, the best episode ever. Thank you Harlan.

And finally. Why did the portal look like a lopsided rock doughnut? He answers this question.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Ellison Rants June 9 2013
By G. L. Hester - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting enough read, if you're into "The City on the Edge of Forever" - arguably the best episode of the original Star Trek television series. This "book" is little more than an essay of Ellison ranting on about the evils of Gene Roddenberry and the production staff of Star Trek essentially taking his idea and re-writing it to the point where it is barely recognizable from Ellison's version. Since it is the "best" episode of the series, then it is Ellison's conjecture that everyone basically threw him under the bus and took credit for his work. The book contains his original final draft of his script, and a couple of revisions.

But that's about it. Ellison is jaded by the experience - he apparently hasn't made as much off his work than everyone else, and they have all been telling "lies" about him all these years. True enough - Hollywood is a horrible place to do business.

Was he shafted? Of course he was - just look at the latest writer's strike and find out how writers are just plain abused in that industry. Does he deserve to be angry? Absolutely! Imagine creating something so powerful as the "best" episode of Star Trek and having everyone not only take credit for it, but acclaim to thousands at conventions that you can't put two words together.

After reading Ellison's script, and being intimately familiar with the aired version, I agree with both sides. Ellison's script is a mess - which he blames on Roddenberry forcing him to put in elements that he did not want. But as a story it just doesn't work. There are characters we haven't seen before and won't see again. There is a drug that's introduced in the teaser but not heard about again (cf. Chekhov's gun.) The antagonist's motivation for escaping into the past is sloppily forced toward the McGuffin. Then there's Spock's speech in the denouement which is more suited for McCoy, but still doesn't fit because the Kirk/Keeler relationship was just not developed during the story.

The aired version is superior to Ellison's, but that doesn't mean he deserved the treatment he received.

I bought the Kindle version - which contains web links to illustrations. Annoying, but I guess it keeps the footprint on the Kindle to a minimum. Check this out if you're into Trek history and can take some real bad attitude.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
If the rant had been put at the end of the script instead of the beginning, maybe another star would be warranted. March 18 2014
By JKFraser - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I read as much of the rant as I could stand, then skipped to the script. I wish I hadn't read a word of the prologue at all, and had simply tried to judge the work on it's own merits, but unfortunately the self regard and bitterness of Ellison may have spoiled all of his writing for me. I am glad I didn't purchase this book, but instead used my local library's digital collection. Many of Ellison's books are in my to read list, but I will not make the mistake of reading his prologues again.

About the script, each word I read was colored by the silly bitterness of someone who considered themselves an artist, but doesn't realize that art has to be accessible and entertaining when put into the public forum of film, and even to a degree in writing. If I hadn't read the prologue, maybe I would have felt differently.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Harlan Ellison to the Rescue! Feb. 13 2015
By Jym Cherry - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For years Star Trek fans have considered the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” the best episode from the original series. Harlan Ellison wrote the episode, and for almost as long as Star Trek fans have loved the aired version of that episode, Ellison has decried the aired episode as a pallid shadow of the episode he wrote. To prove his point, Ellison submitted his original screenplay to the Writers Guild Award and won! Since then Ellison and Star Trek fans (yes, the twain can meet! If you like science fiction you need to read Harlan Ellison!) have wanted to read the Ellison original to decide for themselves whether it was a greater story than the Star Trek aired episode. Now in “The Harlan Ellison Collection ‘City on the Edge of Forever’” finally puts in a volume Ellison’s teleplay plus additional drafts asked for by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

The edition starts with a couple of forewords, one from a previous edition and one that updates events since the previous one. I’ll admit some of the material in the forewords is a bit redundant in the factual information. In the vociferousness of Ellison’s retorts let us not forget that those who have disparaged Ellison and his script over the years, while at not such a high volume, have had their viewpoint attain the reputation and imprimatur (Roddenberry and others in the Star Trek machine) that takes a loud voice to dispatch these now ingrained and oft repeated allegations.

Included in the text is 3-4 treatments of “City” Ellison wrote between March 21-May 13, 1966, some of which Ellison didn’t have to write (per union contract) but because he was committed to seeing his vision realized. Some problems included Roddenberry disliked that Ellison had an Enterprise officer selling drugs, wanted his crew members to be explorers and bring the best of humanity to the stars (this would imply the aliens encountered are in need of some sort of moral guidance), and Roddenberry disingenuously claimed that Ellison’s script would’ve been grossly over the Star Trek budget.

Television is a collaborative art. Ellison was well aware of that having already written what are now classic episodes of the Outer Limits (“Soldier” and “Demon with the Glass Hand”), so Ellison wasn’t a tyro writer coming in unaware of the process or that he expected his every word to be taken as holy writ. He probably expected some rewriting (and says he was aware of as much) and compromises to make his vision come to life on the TV screen. What he didn’t expect was Roddenberry taking the credit for “fixing” Ellison’s screenplay and the purposeful conflations over the years. It should be noted that every plot point that Ellison has in his original is included in the aired episode and ideas that appear in Ellison’s original treatment do seem to appear in later Star Trek episodes. In later years when Star Trek was moving to feature films, Ellison was consulted for story ideas. While he was never hired to write any of the films, again his ideas did appear in Star Trek films, and again in much more diluted ways.

There are a lot of afterwords. The two I found most enlightening, was one by David Gerrold, who wrote the second most highly regarded Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” He provides some insightful material on the culture behind the scenes of Star Trek. The second is by Dorothy Fontana, who for the first time revealed her input into the “City” screenplay (I’ve always thought there was a female hand in some of the episode’s scenes). The others by Leonard Nimoy, DeForrest Kelley, George Takei, and Walter Koenig are nice, but seem like character witnesses at a trial.

For all the above mentioned excesses in lesser hands these would be detrimental, but don’t forget THIS IS HARLAN ELLISON!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A look at what-might-have-been for the most famous Star Trek episode May 27 2013
By Craig - Published on
Format: Paperback
I can't imagine this book has broad appeal to anyone other than fans of Star Trek or Harlan Ellison, but it's a must-read if you fall into either of those categories.

If nothing else, this book is an interesting study in how TV politics worked in the 1960's.

It's hard to say which is better--Ellison's script which won a Writer's Guild Award, or the altered/rewritten shooting script that actually aired on television and won a Hugo Award.

These rewrites were very contentious, and Ellison feuded with the show's creator Gene Rodenberry for 30 years. After the episode became a cult phenomenon, both parties waged a war of public opinion in the press and at conventions for years. Ellison here provides a 30,000 word essay defending his version and detailing every slight, every lie, every deception from Rodenberry. Ellison comes across as vain and petty. Rodenberry comes across as self-aggrandizing and willing to take credit for others' work. It's all very silly, in the end, considering how similar the two scripts ended up.

But which is better?

Several neat concepts from Ellison's Prologue and First Act were excised due to time, cost, or political correctness including: crew members doing drugs aboard the USS Enterprise; a murder; and the ancient cryptic alien race, the Guardians of Forever.

The Second and Third Acts were similar in both versions. In both, Kirk and Spock travel back to 1930's America to restore the past to its original timeline; Kirk falls in love with a woman but then learns she was supposed to die in order for history to be corrected.

The aired version shored up several weak points in Ellison's script: (1) a temporarily deranged Dr. McCoy replaces the unknown drug-dealing murderer Beckwith, (2) Kirk meets Edith Wheeler earlier, and the audience watches him fall in love before they learn of her importance to the timeline, (3) Spock's shows more ingenuity in investigating the alternate timeline and figuring out how to resolve the future, (4) Several cheesy flashbacks to a alternate "pirate ship Enterprise" are dropped.

The ending is where the two scripts diverge the most. As aired, the ending turned Kirk into a Tragic Hero. He allows Edith, the love of his life, to die in order to save the Enterprise and the universe. It was poignant but predictable.

Ellison's intended ending was richer, more nuanced, and probably also harder to convey on television. Ellison had Kirk freeze at the last second, unable to act, unwilling to sacrifice this woman to save the future. On the other hand, the evil Beckwith acting on split-second instinct actually tries to save her--to do something good for a change--not realizing how it will impact the future. Emotionless Spock steps in to restrain to Beckwith and allow Edith to die.

Both scripts have their strengths, but I'd give a slight edge to Ellison's original.