“Space, The final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”
The City on the Edge of Forever
Season 1, Episode 25
Original air date: April 6, 1967
Stardate: None Given – Script originally said 3131.6
The show opens in the middle of a red alert. The Enterprise is orbiting a planet that is causing ripples in time, they detected them from millions of miles away and came to investigate. The bridge crew is being thrown around by the turbulence and the helm control explodes in fire, injuring Sulu. McCoy is called to the Bridge and gives Sulu Cordrazine which immediately revives him. Just then another time wave hits and McCoy accidentally injects himself with the rest of the Cordrazine, he goes immediately crazy and fights his way off the bridge and into the turbolift. As they search for him Spock confirms that high doses of Cordrazine have been known to induce extreme paranoia and the need to escape. McCoy makes his way to the Transporter room and knocking out the chief manages to beam himself to the planet’s surface. Kirk is alerted and an away team head down to look for him consisting of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura and two red shirts (who live!) They find themselves in the middle of a city in ruins miles across in size that Spock says must be at least a million years old. All that is standing is an archway that is discovered to be the source of the time distortions. Kirk asks Spock what the arch is, but the Archway itself answers. It tells them it is billions of years old and is the Guardian of Forever, a time portal. It then begins showing them scenes from Earth’s history although they move very quickly. McCoy is found and rendered unconscious by Spock, who along with the rest of the party become distracted by the Guardian, McCoy gains consciousness and jumps through the portal. Suddenly Uhura loses contact with the Enterprise, the Guardian informs them that history has been changed and there is no star ship any longer, nor earth as they knew it.
Kirk and Spock decide to use the tricorder’s recording of the time passage to jump back into time just before McCoy, although they can’t time it exactly, they may be weeks or months behind him. Kirk leaves Scotty instructions to try the same thing as he and Spock if they aren’t back soon as the Guardian assures them they’ll be returned as soon as they correct the time stream. Kirk and Spock jump through and find themselves in 1930 New York City, in the midst of the depression. They need clothes to disguise themselves and something to cover Spock’s ears. Kirk climbs a fire escape and grabs clothing hanging there to dry and they are confronted by a policeman. Kirk tries to explain away Spock’s ears but the policeman doesn’t buy it and tries to arrest them, Spock incapacitates him and they run away ending up in a basement. Seemingly safe, they discuss the odds of finding McCoy as he could end up anywhere on the planet – but Spock feels the “rivers of time” will bring them together. Spock laments the need for a computer to analyze the tricorder data, Kirk suggests he build one. Just then a young woman comes down the stairs and asks who they are. Kirk tells the truth up to a point, telling her they stole clothes and were running from the police as they have no money. She says her name is Edith Keeler and she offers them fifteen Cents an hour to work at her 21st Street Mission where they are currently in the basement, an offer they accept.
Later, sitting down to eat from the mission, Keeler stands up to give I guess a “devotional” to the patrons. She says they all have a lot to live for, she sees a world in the future where men travel the stars and there is no hunger or disease. Kirk is taken with her. After dinner, she helps Kirk and Spock find a place to stay in her building for $2/ Wk. (That’s only $8 /Mo. For a Manhattan Apartment!) Some time passes and Spock has the room rigged up like Frankenstein’s laboratory, he mentions needing some Platinum which Kirk points out is impossible as they’re already spending 95% of their income on the parts for his computer. Back at the mission, Spock sees men fixing a clock and points out that he needs those detailed tools. After dark they break into the Mission’s toolbox and are caught by Keeler. She is charmed by Kirk and is apparently the most understanding person in the world. She requests that Kirk walk her home as she knows something is off about them both. She asks him why Spock calls him Captain and Kirk mentions a novel written two hundred years in the future in a far-off star system.
Back in their apartment, Spock has gotten the computer working and has analyzed some of the tricorder data. He tells Kirk that in one time line Edith Keeler dies in a traffic accident, in the other she is meeting with F.D.R. in 1936 but the machine shorts out before they can determine which time stream is the correct one. We cut to a man stealing a bottle of milk from a doorway, as he turns around McCoy appears in front of him still ranting like a crazy man, he drops and breaks the bottle. McCoy thinks this is all an illusion and questions the man who dropped the bottle before passing out in the street. The man tries to pick his pockets and finds a phaser, which he uses to accidentally vaporize himself. In the apartment Spock claims he needs at least two more days to fix the computer.
McCoy shows up at the mission asking for coffee. Edith helps him to a cot in a back room, just missing Spock coming in another door. Back in their apartment Spock gets the computer working and finds out the truth. If Keeler lives, she becomes the champion of a peace movement in the United States, which delays their entry into WWII. This gives Nazi Germany enough time to develop the A-Bomb, which they then use to win the war. Keeler has to die. Kirk admits to falling in love with her. Edith visits McCoy in the back room and he seems better but is skeptical about being in Earth’s past. Later after keeping her from falling down the stairs, Kirk and Keeler kiss. Spock witnesses Kirk saving her and wonders if he can let her die.
Keeler visits McCoy again, who now seems completely fine. He too is obviously charmed by Edith Keeler and thanks her for saving his life. She mentions going to a Clark Gable movie with her “young man” but McCoy doesn’t know who that is which she finds curious. She leaves and meets Kirk out front, where she almost gets hit by a car – Kirk pulling her out of they way. She mentions to him that she’s looking forward to the Clark Gable picture, Kirk also doesn’t seem to know who that is. She tells him it’s funny as McCoy also didn’t know Clark Gable. Kirk is shocked and surprised to hear the name, he calls for Spock and McCoy and runs back across the street where they all wrap arms around each other. Just at that moment, Edith walks across the street to join them as a car barrels down on her, McCoy tries to push her out of the way but Kirk wraps him up, allowing her to die. McCoy asks Kirk, “Do you know what you did?” to which Spock replies, “He knows exactly what he did, Doctor.”
All three jump back through the Guardian’s portal. Scotty says they only left a moment before. The Guardian announces that they’ve fixed everything and tells them they can see and do much more. Kirk instead decides to beam up, saying “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Known to Fans As:
Kirk falls in love with Depression lady.
Notable Guest Stars:
Joan Collins as Edith Keeler. It’s really hard to overstate what a big star Collins was a decade before and then a decade after this episode. Born to a talent agent father who once represented a fringe pop group called The Beatles, Collins starting acting at a young age. Enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, a few years after Peter O’Toole and before Anthony Hopkins, she began a successful career in British films. Her lead role as Princess Nellifer in Land of the Pharaohs brought her to the attention of Darryl Zanuck at 20th Century Fox who signed her to a studio contract. She became a huge star for the studio in the 1950’s getting equal billing with Bette Davis in The Virgin Queen, Richard Burton in Sea Wife, Gregory Peck in The Bravados and Paul Newman in Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!
That all changed in the early ‘60’s. Demanding to be let out of her contract after being passed over for Elizabeth Taylor to be the star of Cleopatra, Collins found out what happens to those who buck the studio system in the 1960’s. She was forced onto TV, but was such a screen presence that many people consider the episodes she did on Star Trek, Batman and Mission: impossible to be the best episodes of the respective series. With the studio system breaking down in the ‘70’s, Collins found herself back in the movies but mostly in horror films or other B quality pictures while still making TV guest appearances. Even now in her 40s, Collins was still getting leading romantic roles, including two softcore movies based on her Romance Novelist younger sister Jackie’s books. In both The Stud and The Bitch, she appeared semi-nude and in revealing lingerie at the age of 45 and 46 in a world where her contemporaries like Shirley Jones and Florence Henderson were playing mothers of teenage and adult children.
Her second act came back on TV in the huge hit television show, Dynasty. As Alexis Carrington Colby she played the vengeful ex-wife of John Forsythe’s Blake. Her and Linda Evan’s Krystie Carrington’s feuds were the backbone of the show for most of it’s eight seasons and made her once again a household name and one of the most prominent actresses in Hollywood. She has worked consistently ever since in smaller roles on TV and in Movies, most recently appearing in American Horror Story: 1984 and an episode of the Hawaii Five-O reboot just last season. Collins turns 87 this year.
McCoy breaks free of four or five people on the bridge, including the supposedly super strong Mr. Spock.
The Depression as we know it really wasn’t going like this in 1930, it wasn’t until the banks started failing in 1931 that people started to lose their jobs and savings. The unemployment rate was still in the single digits, ballooning up to over 15% in 1931 and then over 25% in 1932. No reason they couldn’t have set the episode a year or two later.
The song played over the radio, Goodnight, Sweetheart didn’t come out until 1931
Last episode Spock calls him Jim and here he has to call him captain?
The Guardian of Forever was never revisited in any live action Star Trek movie or series again. There were scripts for TNG and DSN that used the Guardian but they weren’t filmed. It was returned to once in TAS and it has been consistently used in Star Trek books and graphic novels.
Spock had to build a computer to hook up the tricorder so he could see a video that an iPhone could do, in full color and HD, all by itself.
Some novelizations and graphic novels have suggested that the Guardian’s planet was the original home world of Q – abandoned when they evolved past their corporal form and no longer needed the Guardian to travel through time.
Vulcan Nerve Pinches: Two, first on McCoy then on the police officer
Damn it Jim: “I’m a surgeon not a psychiatrist.”
Kirk’s Shirt Off: No
Aged the Best:
Traveling to the past to set right what was changed, let me see has anyone gotten any hay out of this since? Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, every other Star Trek series, Timeless, The Marvel Universe it’s endless.
The scenes displayed by The Guardian were from old Paramount silent pictures, but it works really well for the Guardian’s ability.
They were there a while, a few weeks at least and Kirk’s relationship with Keeler felt at least possible. Much better than the love struck immediately relationships we usually get.
I had forgotten about Kirk’s order to Scotty to wait a while and if they’re not back to take turns jumping in to try and fix things. I don’t know why but it was a nice little moment showing how big the stakes were and opening the possibility that Kirk and Spock might not be successful.
Aged the Worst:
Kirk explaining to the police officer that Spock looks the way he does because he’s “obviously Chinese.”
Associate Producer Robert Justman has admitted that this episode was a way of speaking out against the anti-war movement.
The clothing they stole was all men’s clothes and fit both Spock and Kirk, who have very different body types, absolutely perfect. (although Spock’s hat was dope.)
A+, Another great one, this gave McCoy some real fun stuff to do.
Tomorrow’s Episode, we’re on to season two: Amok Time