written by Harlan Ellison
FIRST DRAFT, dated June 13, 1966
report & analysis by David Eversole
Ellison wrote at least two treatments, one
dated March 21, 1966, the other, May 13, 1966, that are very similar, and true to the plot
of his teleplay, although there are a few differences. Originally the Slum Angel was named
Sister Edith Koestler, and the city where the action took place was Chicago. Also, in the
first treatment, Beckwith is captured in the teaser, court-martialed and sentenced to
death by firing squad. In their quest to find an uninhabited planet on which to execute
Beckwith, they stumble upon the Planet of the Guardians. Kirk beams down with Beckwith,
Spock, Rand and the firing squad. They discovet the Guardians, and Beckwith escapes,
diving into the Vortex. This review will be taken from the
plot of Ellison's published teleplay.
We open deep in space. Kirk, via his Captain's Log, informs us that the Enterprise's chronometers are running backward, and they have followed a radiation trail to the source of the disturbance, a strange silvery planet hanging before a wan dying sun. Kirk goes on to voice his concerns that some of his crew have gone bad. Though all undergo psych-probes from time to time, they've been out in space for two years now, under too much strain, and a few may have gone sour.
Onboard the Enterprise, in Lieutenant Richard Beckwith's cabin, young Lieutenant LeBeque is sweating bullets. We soon learn that Beckwith is a drug dealer, specifically of a banned substance known as The Jewels of Sound. LeBeque is desperate for a fix of the Jewels, but Beckwith is holding out. LeBeque can do him certain favors, specifically, LeBeque can arrange for Beckwith to go on the landing party to the planet they are currently orbiting. Beckwith foresees a future for himself in which he can hook entire populations of planets on the Jewels and become rich and powerful beyond imagination.
Beckwith finally gives the trembling LeBeque a Jewel of Sound. LeBeque gulps it.
Two hours later, LeBeque comes down off his high. He is on the bridge and Spock is yelling at him to damp a starboard unit that he was allowing to run in the red. Spock dismisses him from the bridge, tells him to put himself on relief.
LeBeque has had enough. He knows he nearly destroyed the ship through his drug use. He goes to Beckwith's cabin, and declares he is through. He is going to get off the drugs, and Beckwith will be turned in. He leaves.
Beckwith grabs a large piece of faceted jade stone he has used as a paperweight, follows LeBeque into the corridor, and in front of multiples witnesses, crushes LeBeque's skull, killing him instantly. Beckwith panics as a crewwoman scream bloody murder. He runs away as calls go out for security.
Beckwith dashes to the Transporter Chamber, overpowers
the guard on duty, takes his phaser rifle, enters, knocks out the Transporter Chief, and
beams himself down to the planet below. Kirk and Spock enter right behind him, see what he
"Fit out a patrol! Jump!" Kirk orders.
Kirk, Spock, Yeoman Rand and six security guards beam down the planet's surface in search of Beckwith. It is a dying cinder of a world, barren (no ruins), but strangely, despite the almost completely burned out sun, the planet is not frigid, not frozen, it is warm and comfortable. Janice wears a backpack electronic unit. They discover Beckwith's footprints and begin tracking him. Kirk suddenly stops as a glitter of sunlight off something on a far plateau catches his eye.
Mr. Spock: do you see the city up there?
Do you see it, too?
SPOCK'S VOICE O. S.
It is there, Captain. It is illogical,
but it is apparently real.
Like a city on the edge of forever.
Kirk and crew climb the mountain, but
before they reach the city, on a lower plateau, they discover the Guardians of Forever.
Described as nine-feet tall, ancient-looking, gray-silver in tone, with mitered white hair
that rises up, long beards that hang down, dressed in shapeless robes, and still, never
Much as in the aired episode, Kirk and Spock question the Guardians, who have been here since before our sun burned bright. They live in the ancient city above, and guard the Time Vortex of The Ancients. The Vortex is set between two cliffs, in a defile, is fifty feet tall, half as wide, and shimmers with a red fiery effect across its entire surface. The Guardians show the Enterprise crew some examples of the time periods on Earth they could visit. One such series of scenes shows Depression Era New York City. If they can control and show the flow of time, how easy it would be for them to control a simple thing like atmosphere and temperature, Spock says.
When Spock mentions that travel in time could possibly alter the present the Guardians explain that time is elastic and will revert to its proper shape if the changes are small and insignificant. Only death, or the altering of the sum of intelligence, will permanently distort and change time.
Beckwith, has been hiding, observing everything that has transpired. He dashes out, roughhouses his way past everyone, but Spock knocks the phaser rifle out of his hands. Beckwith grabs Rand to use as a shield, but she twists away. Before the others can reach him, he dives into the Vortex, and with a LOUD WHOOSH is gone.
He has passed into what was, the Guardians say. They suddenly go alert, something is wrong! The entire universe has been altered due to a great disturbance in time. Although they control the planet and those on it, from here outward the universe is different. The Guardians receive telepathic calls from their city, they explain that they must go there to investigate these "traumas" to the timeline, and vanish.
Kirk is worried, it is obvious to him. Beckwith has changed time by killing again. He orders Rand to activate the beam-up signal. The six guards beam up first, then Kirk, Spock and Rand follow.
As they materialize, Kirk reacts in shock. It is not the Enterprise, the people who stand before him, holding his six guards at phaser point, are not his people, but rather vicious-looking free-booters dressed in motley-garb. They are RENEGADES.
From the script:
In the forefront of the group stands the RENEGADE CAPTAIN whose evil nature is so evident on his face that no one could doubt for a moment that this man is the vilest scum of a million worlds. He has a weapon of extreme ugliness pointed at Kirk and Spock and Rand. His smile is the smile of an animal.
(with chill warmth)
Welcome to the Condor.
HARD CUT TO
CLOSE ON KIRK
his expression of--yes, possibly--fear and bewilderment and then dawning realization that he has, indeed, wandered helpless into a world he never made.
HOLD ON THAT thought as we FADE OUT.
END ACT ONE
We fade in as we left, with Kirk, Spock and Rand on the transporter platform of the Condor, facing the evil Renegade Captain and his motley crew of thugs. Thinking quickly, Kirk whispers to Rand, orders her to use her backpack unit to send a feedback overload into the transporter console. She cranks a knob, and the console explodes in a shower of smoke and sparks. Kirk and crew engage in a furious fistfight with the Renegades which resolves itself in the Renegades all being forced into the corridor, leaving them holed up in the transporter room with the hatch sealed.
The transporter is nearly destroyed but they are able to jerry-rig it so that perhaps two, but no more, people can use it. Kirk decides that he and Spock will beam back down, and attempt to travel back through time to stop Beckwith from changing history. Janice and the six guards will stay here, hold off the Renegades as long as possible.
On the Plateau of The Guardians, the ancient Guardians of Time are reluctant to let Kirk and Spock go back.
The rope of the time stream knots, and
knots again. It is far more dangerous
attempting to unsnarl the past than it is
to let Time flow on. Let it go.
Not that easy for us! Everything we
knew, everyone we care about...
they're gone... or changed...
You are children, believing you can put
smoke back in its bottle.
But finally the Guardians relent. They will
send Kirk and Spock back, but cannot send them to the exact moment Beckwith arrived. Kirk
asks that they be sent to a time before he arrived so that they can settle in and wait for
The Guardians explain that in each time period there is a focal point, an object, a person that is indispensable, a catalyst. Obviously Beckwith has tampered with this focal point, because even if he doesn't know what it is, the
stresses of the time flow will draw him to it.
Bring him back. He will seek that which
must die, and give it life. Stop him.
When Kirk asks for more information on who or what the catalyst is, the enigmatic guardians will not answer directly.
Blue it will be. Blue as the sky of Old
Earth and clear as truth. And the sun
will burn on it, and there is the key.
And that is all they will say. Kirk and Spock step into the Vortex as the Guardians watch.
As night falls, they run like hunters, and
for all our wisdom, we are helpless.
New York, 1930. A CCC Camp Soup Line is
serving homeless people. An Orator is delivering a rabid hate-filled speech about how all
the damn foreigners are the cause of the country's problems.
Kirk and Spock suddenly materialize at the rear of the crowd listening to the Orator. Spock asks Kirk if this heritage, this sickness, is the one Earthmen brag of. Kirk is equally disgusted, tells him this is what it has taken his planet five hundred years to crawl up from.
The Orator spots Spock, yells that there is one of the foreign trouble-makers. After a bit more baiting, the crowd turns en masse and chase after Kirk and Spock. A wild run for their lives through the streets and back alleys of New York ensues. As in the aired version, they hide in a basement, this one of a tenement apartment building. Kirk mentions that they will have to disguise Spock, says he saw a line of clothes hung out to dry a little ways back. Spock sarcastically asks that Kirk also find a ring for his nose.
A bit later, they are back in the basement, dressed in ill-fitting clothes of the period. A kind Janitor finds them, takes pity and offers them work sweeping up, keeping the alleys around the building cleaned. He can't pay much
but will allow them to bunk out down in the basement. Kirk and Spock agree, and the janitor departs. When Spock further teases Kirk about the heritage of Earth, Kirk retorts that at least Earth made it into space two hundred years before Vulcan!
A few days pass. They use the tricorder to attempt to correlate data and determine who or what might be the focal point. Kirk picks up slang ("Twenty-three skidoo, kiddo," he says to Spock at one point). The preliminary readings from the tricorder indicate there are six hundred and sixteen thousand five hundred and ninety possible focal points. When Kirk tries to eliminate all but those within a ten kilometer radius, the tricorder is unable to comply as it has damage to some of its seventh level circuits. When Kirk integrates some more data into the tricorder, it sputters and dies. With the transistor not even invented yet, Spock will have his work cut out for him trying to repair the tricorder.
The kindly Janitor arranges for Spock to get a second, better-paying job as a dish-washer. Spock works evenings there for a few days, has a run in with the owner who calls him "Chinee," and attempts to shortchange him on pay. As Spock wearily walks back home one night, he hears the voice of a female orator, a powerful uplifting voice. Spock, who does not yet see her, stops to listen, nods in agreement with some of her points, starts to continue on his way, suddenly stops as he comes face-to-face with her on her small platform. Edith is a "young woman, possibly middle-twenties, but with a voice that is instantly arresting.... quite lovely. Not beautiful, but fresh and vibrant, truly alive."
And she wears a blue cape, fastened with a sunburst scatter pin. Spock remembers what the Guardian said:
VOICE OF GUARDIAN
Blue it will be. Blue as the
sky of Old Earth...
Edith's VOICE UNDER runs concurrently with this phantom sound.
Love is only the absence of hate.
CAMERA MOVES UP to her FACE as she says the preceding line while VOICE of GUARDIAN OVER continues.
VOICE OF GUARDIAN
... and clear as truth. And the sun will
burn on it...
as CAMERA MOVES DOWN OVER CAPE to the sunburst scatter pin.
CLOSE ON SPOCK
as his eyes widen with recognition of the focus point in this time era. And as we HOLD on Spock, he MOVES TOWARD HER in FRAME and we see revealed a placard that was obscured before, while the VOICE of the GUARDIAN ends its phantom reminder.
VOICE OF GUARDIAN
... and there is the key.
And we HOLD on the edge of the crowd with SPOCK prominent and the placard whose message is simply:
Hear SISTER EDITH KEELER Speak.
SLOW FADE TO
SOFT-FOCUS IRIS ON WORD "KEELER"
END ACT TWO.
Spock takes Kirk to the apartment building where Edith lives. Both are convinced she is the focal point. Kirk decides to rent a room in the building. Spock is wary about living in such a place openly, but Kirk tells him to keep out of sight, work on the tricorder.
They take turns watching Edith, usually spying on her apartment and movements from the roof of a nearby building. Kirk mentions that she is quite lovely.
From the script:
There's that EXPRESSION of concern again. SPOCK in b. g. of FRAME with KIRK
in f. g. watching that lit window.
This is not an easy pursuit to begin
with, Captain. Complications could
make it impossible.
(as if hearing him
for the first time)
I have a theory, Captain, that the easiest
world for a spaceman to "go native"
on--is his own world.
Don't be ridiculous.
The stakes are too high here.
That was precisely my point.
In a stairwell of their building, Kirk finally gets up
the nerve to say hello to Edith. They hit it off marvelously, she says she has seen him
around, wondered when he would get around to saying hello.
The next few scenes show Kirk and Edith talking, smiling, laughing. They are getting to know each other, and both are smitten. As in the aired version, she knows Kirk is not what he says he is. She describes him as like one "in from the country." Right, Kirk, says, I am from Iowa. But this does not totally satisfy Edith, but she lets it go.
Spock sees what is happening and has a long talk with Kirk, during which we learn that Kirk has indeed fallen for her, and Spock is concerned that Kirk will hamper their efforts to put time straight. Kirk says that he has been on
the move ever since he was old enough to ship on as a wiper in the old chemical fuel rockets, only had time for loose women in the space ports. This time it is real. It is true love. In the end, Spock is blunt. "She is going die!"
I don't want to think about it.
Leave me alone.
I will leave you alone, Captain --
but time will not.
One day as Kirk and Edith descend stairs to a
below-street level music store, Edith falls. Kirk reaches to grab her, suddenly remembers
the reason he is there, draws his hand back, closes it on empty air, allows Edith to
tumble down the steps. She knows he let her fall, but cannot fathom why. She stares up at
him, hurt and confused by his inaction.
Spock gets the tricorder to work and pinpoints where he thinks Beckwith will appear. Kirk hardly seems concerned anymore.
Spock continues in his "fish out of water" role. When Kirk points out a truck hauling bootleg beer, and mentions "Prohibition," Spock says trucks are surely not prohibited as he has seen trucks every day.
At the appointed time specified by the repaired tricorder, Kirk and Spock, concealed in an alley, watch the street where Beckwith will arrive (it is the same spot where Kirk and Spock first materialized). Beckwith appears, Kirk and Spock start toward him, but Beckwith sees them, eludes them. Kirk rushes back to Edith's apartment, tells her to stay inside. When she wants to know what is going on, Kirk tells her to get inside and stay inside! She is confused by his sudden short-tempered demeanor, but reluctantly does as he says.
Later that day, Kirk spots Spock hurriedly walking down the street, carrying a burlap package. When he stops Spock to see what he is carrying, he discovers that Spock is concealing the phaser rifle. Kirk warns Spock that they must take Beckwith alive. When Spock answers that he is well aware of this, Kirk suddenly realizes that Spock intends, if necessary, to use the weapon to kill Edith Keeler. Spock then pulls away from Kirk, walks on down the street.
Night. A darkened alley. Spock has cornered Beckwith here, stalks him. But the wily Beckwith gets the jump on Spock, knocks him down, steals the phaser rifle and gets away.
Spock knows that time is getting short.
Kirk makes contact with Trooper, a homeless, legless World War I veteran who makes his way about on a little board with wheels. Trooper is a fount of information about the goings-on in the streets. Kirk shows him his uniform shirt, asks Trooper if there is any talk of a man about dressed in clothes like that. Trooper promises to get back with him.
Edith is beginning to lose her hope, lose her optimism, beginning to think she is going to lose Jim Kirk.
From the script:
All my life I've belonged to other
people. I know things will be cleaner,
happier, I try to tell them, so they'll
wait, so they'll hope. But now I don't
belong to anyone. And I'm losing my
own hope... Jim...
He holds her away for a moment, speaks earnestly.
You're right. There are a million
tomorrows. The one you believe in is
the best one. I know.
How do you know, Jim?
Because I love you... and I know.
Spock comes to Edith's apartment to tell
Kirk that Trooper has told him he may know where Beckwith is. They go to Trooper who
indicates Beckwith is hiding in an alley. Beckwith sees he is being followed, fires the
phaser rifle at Kirk. Trooper rolls himself into the line of fire, is vaporized. Beckwith
Spock and Kirk realize that time has not been affected by the death of Trooper. Sadly, like so many of us, he simply did not matter.
Night. Edith speaks to a crowd on the street, tells them to keep up their hope, that better times are waiting if they can just hold on. Kirk waits for her across the street. Spock moves over to speak with Kirk, then Edith is finished speaking and waves to Kirk. Kirk waves back, ignores Spock, walks to the sidewalk to wait for her to cross.
SEQUENCE - SELECT BEST ANGLES
(NOTE: this sequence is the heart of the climax. It is imperative that the order of action, and the angles on close-ups, be tight and specific. No camerawork has been indicated here purposely, so the pace and layout of shots can be best developed by on-set choices.)
Spock moves away so Edith will not see him.
Edith comes to the curb with a smile, waving across to Kirk.
Kirk sees Beckwith emerging from a building. Beckwith does not see Kirk. The building is between Kirk and Spock where he has now moved.
A huge beer truck... lumbers around the corner and into the street as Edith steps off the curb. She doesn't see it. Kirk and Beckwith and Spock see the truck as it bears down on Edith.
ANOTHER SEQUENCE - SLOW MOTION - NO SOUND
as though time -- which is our primary subject here -- were being silently stretched to the point of unbearability.
Beckwith starts toward the woman.
Kirk's face twists in anguish as he starts toward Beckwith to stop him from saving Edith's life. He stops, his hand closes on empty air as it did when she fell down the stairs. He cannot stop Beckwith! He will sacrifice everything for her.
Spock sees what is happening. He moves toward Beckwith.
The truck slips slowly, silently toward Edith.
Spock reaches Beckwith and grabs him in a body-lock that immobilizes him.
Kirk's mouth opens to scream. His empty hand reaches.
Edith laughs a word at Kirk
XTREME CLOSEUP KIRK
XTREME CLOSEUP SPOCK
XTREME CLOSEUP EDITH
XTREME CLOSEUP THE TRUCK
CLOSE ON KIRK - NORMAL SPEED
and HOLD HOLD HOLD on his face as we HEAR the SOUND of the TRUCK SCREECHING TO A HALT. As Kirk's face crumbles, we know what has happened.
The scene then fades out, and we cut to an
angle on the Enterprise orbiting the planet of the guardians to show that time has
returned to normal.
On the Plateau of The Guardians, Kirk and Spock drag Beckwith back through the portal. Time has been restored, it is now as it was before.
Suddenly Beckwith twists free, jumps into the Vortex, but the Guardians cause him to appear in the heart of a sun a split second before it goes nova.
Beckwith screams in agony as the sun novas.
Time loops back a few seconds, Beckwith appears in the nova.
Beckwith screams in agony as the sun novas.
Time loops back.
Beckwith screams in agony as the sun novas.
Time loops back...
The Guardians tell Kirk and Spock that Beckwith will live his final moment of agony over and over throughout all of eternity.
In his cabin on the Enterprise Kirk forlornly sits, stares out a port at the stars. Spock comes to visit. Kirk tries to fathom all the tomorrows in the universe, but none for Edith. They talk of how some people are negligible.
Trooper was negligible. But Edith was not negligible.
(simply; groping for
But... I loved her...
No woman was ever loved as much,
Jim. Because no woman was ever
offered the universe for love.
EXT. SPACE - U. S. S. ENTERPRISE (STOCK)
as the ship speeds off into the darkness and we HOLD on the stars once more.
The stars, like Kirk's love -- eternal.
FADE TO BLACK:
written by Harlan Ellison
SECOND REVISED FINAL DRAFT, dated December 1, 1966
We open in sickbay where Dr. McCoy is
taking blood samples from a small alien dog-like creature. McCoy speaks to a nurse,
informs him that the radiation has caused the creature's blood and saliva to be turned to
Kirk's Captain's Log informs us that they have arrived at the planet source of the time radiation which is causing all lifeforms on the Enterprise to slowly age in reverse.
As they orbit the planet, the disturbances toss the ship about. In Sickbay, McCoy attempts to safely hold the small creature as they are tossed to and fro, but it panics, sinks its fangs into McCoy's hand. He screams, mutters, "The poison..."
The poison acts quickly, McCoy screams, rages, then rushes from the sickbay in a wild fugue. He dashes down a corridor, runs into the transporter room, followed quickly by Kirk and Spock.
When Kirk and Spock enter, they find the Transporter Chief knocked unconscious, and the transporter controls set for the planet's surface.
He's beamed down...
He'll be dead in two hours.
Kirk, Spock, Yeoman Rand, and two security guards beam down, track Doctor McCoy. They see the sparkling city on the mountaintop, and climb up it, following McCoy's footprints.
On the Plateau of The Guardian, they discover the Guardian of Forever....
The GUARDIAN OF FOREVER is pure thought. Resting in a shallow bowl on a pedestal, he looks like a globe of flickering light... like a shimmering handful of fog... like something totally alien and omnipotent.
Much of the dialogue between Kirk, Spock
and the Guardian is the same as in Ellison's first draft. McCoy is in hiding, sees the
Guardian show them scenes from old Earth on the fiery Vortex, dashes in, dodges past
everyone, dives into the Vortex and with a LOUD WHOOSH is gone.
END ACT ONE
Much ink, blood, sweat, and vituperation has been spilled over this script, and that's just in the opening paragraph of Ellison's foreword to his published version of the script.
I ain't gonna get into that.
I like this script a whole hell of a lot!
I like the aired version a whole hell of a lot!
Each has elements that rise above the other. Each has elements worse than the other.
Ellison's masterful prose-style narrative and stage directions are many times better than Fontana's aired version (though she does lift a line or two of his narrative here and there).
His Guardians are truly alien, his worlds are barren and bone-dry, as windswept and torn as the souls of his characters.
He has claimed he wrote the "Space Pirate" stuff under duress. I'll take him at his word, for those sequences are horrible, grating on the ears, and a waste, and do nothing but slow the drama down.
Still, it takes a full act and a half before they ever get back in time. It is well into the third act before Kirk even meets Edith. Early in Act Two is just about right for getting there, and for meeting her. That said, once they do meet, Ellison's is the superior version of the Kirk/Edith romance. His dialogue between the two sparkles, is witty, sad, lonely. Just right.
I feel sorry for the Edith Keeler who died in the aired version.
I ache to the core of my soul for the Edith Keeler who died in Harlan Ellison's typewriter, and know that Kirk will never be the same.
But, as with most others, if Kirk had frozen and had allowed Edith to live, I would have felt sympathy, but no respect. I would have been human and selfish, I would have let Edith live, probably you would have done so, too, but our heroes need to be better than us.
They are... aren't they?
But I don't know.
HARLAN ELLISON (1934-2018): American writer, best known for his speculative fiction, but has written award-winning fiction in nearly every genre from science fiction to horror to mysteries to westerns. Multiple Hugo, Nebula and Edgar Award winner, he has also appeared in the prestigious Best American Short Stories yearly collections. He has written for television and films since 1963, and won an unprecedented four outstanding teleplay awards from the Writers Guild of America. Series for which he has written include Burke's Law, Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea, The Outer Limits, The Man From U. N. C. L. E., The Flying Nun, The Twilight Zone ('85 version), and Babylon 5 (for which he also served as "Conceptual Consultant"). He created the 1973 television series The Starlost, but substituted his dismissive pseudonym Cordwainer Bird (as in giving it "The Bird") on the credits after his pilot script was eviscerated and "dumbed down." Ellison wanted to give "The City on the Edge of Forever" the "bird" as well, but Gene Roddenberry refused to allow it. In 2006, the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America honored Ellison with their coveted Grandmaster award.
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