City on the Edge of Forever

If you are an original Star Trek fan, you will recognize “City on the Edge of Forever” as arguably the finest episode. This award winning episode was written by Harlan Ellison and co-starred a newcomer actress named Joan Collins, who would become a TV star and appear in several movies.

Per the vision of creator Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek was steeped in existential questions posed by some very good scriptwriters. Questions regarding prejudice, hatred, good vs. evil, the Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods who visited earth being aliens, doing no harm when visiting a civilization, etc. The “City on the Edge of Forever” dealt with someone altering a small event in time, that changed the world and future.

I will avoid spoiler alerts, but the gist of this episode is a very drugged Dr. McCoy, played by DeForest Kelly, goes back in time through a previously unknown portal. He winds up on earth in New York City right before World War II where he meets a pacifist advocate played by Collins. For some reason, McCoy alters the course of history and the Enterprise no longer exists., fortunately after Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) have beamed down to the location of the portal.

In essence, they go back in time to when McCoy did, to figure out what happened. While here Kirk meets Collins’ character and they become mutually smitten. Spock discovers the two paths forward, the one that McCoy altered vs. the one which occurred. The story boils down to should something you detest happening, be allowed to happen, so as not to impact millions of lives in not a good way. I will leave it at that.

Setting aside the science fiction aspect, the story is well crafted and well acted. Most of the stories were, although a few were kind of cheesy. The original series was short-lived, but its reruns built a huge audience.

One of the more powerful sidebars comes from Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, the communications officer. She met Martin Luther King at an event. King was a fan of the show, and when he learned Nichols was considering leaving it, he encouraged her to stay. King said seeing a Black woman on the show made a huge statement as to what the future might look like.

So, I feel I stand in good company if MLK liked the show. Check this episode out if you can. For those who have not seen it and plan to do so, you may want to avoid the comments.

19 thoughts on “City on the Edge of Forever

    • David, I did not want to give too much away. It is worth the watch. My other favorite is when they used footage of the pilot with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike and Spock is put on trial for contacting aliens on a planet that is forbidden due to their mind capabilities. I think it is called “The Forbidden Planet.” Keith

    • True, we have made many strides, but seem to have digressed with too many. This binary focus on issues to win elections (which paints issues in win/ lose frames) causes greater tensions. A good example is 90% plus of BLM protests were peaceful and multicultural. But, the president and some of his favorite sources focused on the small few causing violence. So, too many went along with his fear mongering. The president does know one thing – fear sells. Keith

      • Well, you are espousing the progressive narrative here… but is it true? If it were, then why this?

        As someone who has the ‘lived experience’ of the 1969 Montreal police strike, I can assure you that law and order is not just a political tactic or rhetoric to win elections but a daily grind by other citizens wearing the blue uniform to try their best to create a level play field – by making calls and enforcing the rules that must be imposed – for everyone to play well together. Sometimes, bad calls are made but throwing out the refs is hardly the solution. Those rules are what is under attack by those who think well of themselves, those who march and believe BLM is a progressive movement (when it is, in fact and philosophy, a unabashed Marxist social movement aiming at racializing all of society and the rules by which it operates) and believing in spite of significant contrary evidence from reality that they are helping those who have the field stacked against them.

        The problem with supporting such a movement is that groups are then formed based on trivial differences – selected differences, group-based differences – to intentionally divide people into Us and Them (this is the basis of BLM), and so I thought the Star Trek episode that revealed what happens when we empower this divisive narrative – this binary focus, as you say – looks like when played out to its natural conclusion.

        Although we may be tempted to dismiss Star Trek’s episodes like these as ‘science fiction’ the article I’ve linked to shows that how we think about these problems translates into real world effects… some of which we may not want to believe is real because it shows us what happens beyond the feel-good narrative of progressive movements (and even access to these real world effects is often ‘edited’ by platforms including mass media appealing to their base consumers). My concern, as always, is whether or not our support for certain narratives helps or harms real people in real life. And the sustained attack against police as ‘bad guys’ is just one such belief that helps to harm a vast number of vulnerable people in real life. The BLM narrative is factually wrong.

      • You have read way too much into my comments and leapt into an unneeded argument. I am independent voter who has been a member of both parties, mostly as a Republican, but I left that party about twelve years ago.

        I stand by what I said about too many issues are made binary and my example of the BLM movement. I also felt at that time the Democrats used a horrible slogan of defund the police. My presumption is the speakers meant redirecting funding to more licensed social workers and police training, but was sold to voters by Republicans as take all the money away, which would have been an asinine thing to do.

        Our issues are complex and problems and solutions do not easily fit on bumper stickers. We need far more thoughtful discussion around issues from both parties. From where I sit, neither party has all of the good ideas and both parties have bad ones. But, my former GOP party truly does not exist anymore and they did not even elect a platform at the convention. Thanks for opining. Keith

      • Well, you said, “This binary focus on issues to win elections (which paints issues in win/ lose frames) causes greater tensions. A good example is 90% plus of BLM protests were peaceful and multicultural. But, the president and some of his favorite sources focused on the small few causing violence.

        A good example that has created tension is the BLM movement itself and the blind support so many people grant it. And MANY of these demonstrations caused not only (ongoing) violence but widespread looting and rioting to those people from the very racialized communities supposedly being supported by these clueless and naïve and gullible demonstrators… to the point of the article: that ONGOING public antipathy towards police in general, the law they are trying to enforce, and this belief in unaddressed systemic racism, is causing even MORE violence. This fact is diametrically opposed to your assertion about making strides (which we did far better and longer prior to this ‘progressive’ movement): we are in fact regressing from the ideal of e pluribus unum and far, far too many of us are willingly going along with a ‘progressive’ narrative that is intentionally and by purpose creating an Us versus Them social arena… the exact opposite of what Star Trek’s episode tried to get us to see, that elevating such trivial differences as race (whether one is white/black on the left side or the right side – get the political reference?) to create groups of hierarchical power players will lead to more violence, not less. Don’t blame Trump, in other words (who used this idiocy to great political effect), or elections; blame those who continue to promote this factually incorrect and reality-denying narrative about groups and downplay and excuse the vast damage done to the country by those very demonstrators from this ‘awakened’ social justice movement.

  1. I likely saw this episode many, many moons ago, but have long since forgotten, so if I can find it captioned, I’ll watch it soon … thanks! I did look it up on Wikipedia and saw that this episode received widespread acclaim and won several awards.

  2. I watched the series in the 70s. I loved it as a child. I still love the series when even the special effects and studio records are… uhm… however, I loved it! I have not seen the movies. But the one you are introducing here sounds like I need to put it on my to-watch list!

    • Erika, as a I mentioned to Jill, you may have seen it, but don’t recognize it from the title or my description so as to not give away the plot. You are right about some of the old special effects. Even in the first Star Wars movie, there was some tedious special effects, but it was ahead of Star Trek in that regard. Keith

      • Yes, maybe I even have. I really want to check if I can find the series on Netflix. It is basically funny to watch older movies which appeared so amazing to me in their effects but watching them today it makes me rather giggle and the fun part is to see how bad they are compared to modern technology.

  3. My own favorite from Star Trek TOS was “The Doomsday Machine”, but “City” was indeed very impressive. It dealt with ideas, as the best science fiction does, as opposed to just being a wasteland of explosions and fights and special effects.

    I’m sure having a real writer like Harlan Ellison made the difference.

    Your tolerance for off-topic comments is remarkable.

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