I was never much of a Star Trek fan. I grew up loving science fiction, but the show always seemed a little weak to me. Yes, there are glimpses of excellence, but they were often mired down in Gene Roddenberry's utopian dreams and the one-hour TV format where every problem is cleanly solved by the time the end credits rolled around.
One good thing about the original Trek series is how the producers used established writers for the teleplays. There were shows written by talents like Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, Jerome Bixby, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson. And, of course, Harlan Ellison penned one episode. Or at least it's his name in the credits.
One of the most memorable and beloved shows from the original series is The City on the Edge of Forever. Even casual viewers remember this one. It's the show where Kirk and Spock go back in time to the Great Depression, and the good Captain falls in love with a visionary woman, who was played by Joan Collins. It's generally considered to be the best show in the entire three-year run of the series.
Die-hard fans will know of the controversy surrounding the City show. Harlan Ellison gets screen credit for writing it, but he disowned the final product, claiming that it was butchered by the producers. Roddenbery and company admited to making changes, and there is where things get muddy. It's been a point of contention between fans and people affiliated with the series for years.
Gene Roddenbery gave his reasons many times in interviews and lectures. Ellison gave his, in intricate detail, in the publication of his original, unaltered screenplay in book form around twenty years ago.
The book has been around for a while, and I highly recommend it. But now the screenplay, and all of the supplementary materials, have been produced as an audiobook by the very good folks at Skyboat Media.
Harlan Ellison has a reputation as having a fiery temper, and there's a lot of truth to it. You'll find plenty of rage and contempt in his blistering, very long essay about the creation of The City on the Edge of Forever. As an added bonus, Harlan reads the piece himself for the audiobook.
Then there is the dramatized teleplay, as Ellison originally envisioned the story. A teleplay which, by the way, won the Screenwriters Guild Award that year. The original teleplay won the honor, not the version that was aired.
You'll also find essays and appreciations by people like Peter David, D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, Melinda Snodgrass and George Takei. In most cases, these are read by the authors.
It may all be a bit too much for those who are not afflicted with Star Trek mania, but fans need this audiobook. Harlan Ellison readers will also treasure it. Not only that, anyone interested in the politics of 1960's-era television will find it fascinating.
Ultimately, with all of this content, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck. At just under fourteen bucks, it'll be the best bargain you've had in quite some time.
And, finally, you may wish to take Ellison's words with a grain of salt. Memory is the greatest trickster, and a lot of moons have come and gone since the mid-1960's. I tend to believe most of it, but then I've always been prejudiced in favor of Harlan.