Thursday, November 25, 2010

The City on the Edge of Forever

There's good reason for the "legendary" status of this one too...

This is a pitch-perfect episode of Star Trek - the original series, and a great example of sci-fi storytelling at it's best ...of storytelling at it's best.

If you're one of the ten or so people who've never seen this episode - go rent it or buy it or download it ...then tell me it's not one of the most touching hours of TV you've ever seen. If you like to discount stories because Tom Cruise is in them or they have Star Trek attached then please stop reading people who'd rather close doors are of no interest to me. "I don't watch so-and-so..." Fuck off.

*Wiki: "The City on the Edge of Forever" is the penultimate episode of the first season of the television series Star Trek. It is episode #28, production #28, first broadcast on April 6, 1967. It was repeated on August 31, 1967 and marked the last time that NBC telecast an episode of the series on Thursday nights. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, but was also largely rewritten by several authors before filming. The filming was directed by Joseph Pevney. Joan Collins guest starred as Edith Keeler.

This episode involves the crew of the starship USS Enterprise discovering a portal through space and time, which leads to Dr. McCoy's accidentally altering history.*

The reason there's an enormous franchise called Star Trek is because of the original series. People's love for it(mine) comes out of the connection with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy ...and they do shine here. All three actors have the characters on a different level in this tale ...complex men playing complex men.

Joan Collin's Edith Keeler is one of the smartest characters ever written on the show. She's as bold and challenging as our intrepid explorers from the 23rd century without even a dash of misogyny present - this was 1966. Her assessment of Spock in relationship to Kirk " your side, as if he's always been there and always will.." is great writing as is her observation/feeling that the great Captain Kirk belongs somewhere else ...bigger ..grander - all delivered with those big beautiful Joan Collins eyes (..madly in love with her since way back). The screen chemistry between her and William Shatner is "big-screen" quality as is the sublety of his "Kirk" ...completely invested portrayal in this one. Again, all 3 actors are just a bit above the usual portrayals ...was it the script? ...the Director? ...or was it Joan Collins that "matured" the boys into their "A" game??

In the minutes between the Captain finding out Edith Keeler must die, his admission to his best friend that he's in love with her, her accident, then Spock's "He knows, Doctor ...he knows.." my palms get sweaty, just like watching it as a boy, but I know what's coming - another mark of great storytelling. Interstingly, the "emotionless" character provides just the right level for the whole scene to work perfectly. The look on Spock's face as she dies - then the acknowledgment, the mechanics of film at work here are as powerful as any of the great big-screen films that use the same tools. Perhaps even more so ...this screen is much more intimate when it's at it's rare finest.

The Shakespearean drama that unfolds is great entertainment, but like all really great stories - there's a lesson inside ...a hard adult's lesson. What a story - love - friendship - pain - and continuance. The tone of it ...the feeling as it wraps up ... like a cold night in the sixties, after 2 friends have had to bury another - it feels like the sadnesses of life that we'll all have to feel - the lonely pain of everyone.

William Shatner's expression, back on the planet, is pained and honest. I think his performance in this episode is as strong as the writing itself, which definitely borders on genius. Again, Star Trek at it's best, with the rest of the crew locked in the Terminator-esque "No future" storyline ...that parenthesizes the whole episode - smart.

I love that the crew has encountered one of the most impressive entities of science-fiction and the last line uttered ...perfectly and painfully is Captain Kirk's "Let's get the Hell out of here." I love love love his delivery on that line. I've had my own dark experiences that I didn't want to speak of (I think we all have)...that talking about wouldn't change. I feel that line.

Rumors abound regarding Harlan Ellison's legendarily big ego, but love him or hate him - he understands how hard it is to be a good man ...a good person in a hard world.

This is one of my all time favorite stories. It always will be.


Patrick said...

I barely remember this episode, I'll have to dig it up online this weekend. I agree that people's love for Star Trek, the whole franchise - is rooted in the characters, but I think also the sheer imaginativeness of it, the show about pioneers was made by pioneers.

arthurmacarthur said...

Good point, boyo..

Patrick said...

Wow, I just finished it. Poignant is an understatement - what a great show. Don't tell anyone - but I cried a bit at the end.

arthurmacarthur said...

Me too.
"He knows, Doctor ..he knows."

arthurmacarthur said...

I forgot about the scene where he tells the crass older guy to "shut-up" ...awesome.