Back in the spring of 1967, at the tail end of the first season of Star Trek, NBC broadcast what would widely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest episode of the science fiction series. Titled “The City on the Edge of Forever”, and staring Joan Collins alongside William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, it detailed Kirk, Spock and McCoy jumping into the earth’s past in order to fix an inadvertent time-change that would have far-reaching effects in their 23rd century present.
Famed science fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, wrote that episode, which went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. But his script would get embroiled in long-standing controversy as it was doctored by a host of production writers.
Today, IDW, long-time publisher of Star Trek comic books, presents Ellison’s original script, unaltered, unabridged and undoctored, in a brand new five-issue mini series.
Ladies and gentlemen, Trekkies of all ages, at long last, I present to you: Start Trek: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay!
Written by: Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton & David Tipton
Illustrated by: J.K. Woodward
Published by: IDW
When Harlan Ellison was commissioned to write a Star Trek script (a television series that attracted a great many science and speculative fiction writers who had, at their disposal, great characters in a setting that accommodated a wealth of political and philosophical ideas hidden under the guise of sci-fi), he produced a teleplay that was deemed unfilmable.
Show runners, including Gene Roddenberry, felt it was too long for a one-hour weekly show and that filming it would put the episode well over budget due to sets and special effects that would be required. It was also thought that characterization was off the mark. The script was re-written internally by a number of editors including, it’s said, Gene L. Coon, D.C. Fontana and Roddenberry himself – all great writers in their own right.
Of course, this caused controversy and consternation from Ellison, to the point where he almost took his name off the project in protestation.
The episode went on to win the previously mentioned Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and has been hailed as a high watermark of televised science fiction. It’s a favourite of fans, critics and the actors involved in the series.
None of that placated Ellison, however. There was actually a recent legal battle where Ellison demanded upwards of twenty-five per cent revenue from the episode (merchandising, publishing and other income) that he felt he was owed. The lawsuit was eventually settled to Ellison’s satisfaction.
Now, IDW is showcasing Ellison’s original script. Finally, this is the way it was meant to be seen!
We’ll always have that beloved episode to watch. But as Spock would often remark, it will be fascinating to see the story that could have been. It’s almost as if, nearly fifty years later, real life has aped fiction – where today we get to witness a moment in the time steam that finally gets fixed.
You can check out a free preview of the comic here.
Make the run to you local comic book shop and pick up Start Trek: Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay. Find out what the past could have been!