Star Trek

Season 1 Episode 28

The City on the Edge of Forever

Aired Unknown Apr 06, 1967 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (20)

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  • Kirk and Spock travel to 1930s Earth to save Dr. McCoy and the timeline.

    The Citizen Kane of the Star Trek universe, this deeply personal episode is almost universally accepted as the greatest of the Original Series and is often cited as the best installment of any Star Trek series. It's a reputation that's well earned.

    Like the fifth Star Trek feature film, the roots of the episode lie in a story that is compelling in its own right but has budget issues and doesn't quite fit into Star Trek. For "City on the Edge", however, several of the show's best "in house" writers, including Roddenberry, Coon, and Fontana, all took turns banging the teleplay into shape, dispelling the notion (along with TNG's "Yesterday's Enterprise") that too many cooks spoil the broth. (They even work in a scene that parallels their battles with the original writer, with Spock, like Ellison, coming up with expensive items he thinks could help, and Kirk, like the show's producers, trying to explain the concept of budget. "Mr. Spock, this bag does not contain platinum, silver, or gold, nor is it likely to in the near future").

    In the end, the part of the episode that suffers the most from cost and time saving measures is the beginning. A time traveling device known as the Guardian of Forever, originally meant to be part of a much more complex society, is reduced to a "magic gateway" the like of which is seen more often in juvenile fantasy. Coming out of left field, it seems contrived (which, of course, it is) and a bit superfluous. While it might be sacrilegious (and is certainly useless) to suggest improvements in the teleplay, it probably would be better if the Guardian was mute, taking away some of its "great and powerful" Oz like silliness and giving it more of a surreal feel shrouded in mystery. Mr. Spock could figure out what the entity is without help, and he and the Captain, after McCoy has entered, could deduce that the doctor has changed history and erased their present, thanks to a new "history" shown by the Guardian and a lack of communication with the Enterprise. (It might even be fun to see Kirk an company figure it all out for themselves).

    But the Guardian is only a means into the story. And with its beautiful design (thanks to Desilu's Roland Brooks, filling in for Star Trek designer Matt Jeffries, who had the flu) and a voice supplied by Bart LaRue (previously the voice of Trelane's father), it does the job, getting the "big three" to the streets of 1930s New York (a redress of the streets of Star Trek's sister show, The Andy Griffith Show).

    Seeing the Enterprise crew in the 20th Century is always a treat, with the fun of seeing them wearing period clothing, rubbing shoulders with the regular folk, and dealing with the local authority figures never getting old. Here, the core of the episode features Kirk and Spock, with Shatner and Nimoy having worked together just long enough to have their chemistry fine tuned. McCoy comes along in time (pardon the pun), but more important is a character the like of which few of Star Trek's time travel stories have had: a character from the past who is not only as kind, intelligent and forward thinking as our beloved Enterprise heroes, but in some ways surpasses them. Playing 20th Century social worker Edith Keeler, Joan Collins's first appearance in the episode instantly gives the story an added spark, elevating the drama and the performances of the regulars, making every scene that follows must see TV. It's uncanny to see how Keeler handles Kirk and Spock, with this 1930s woman so easily putting both men in their places. Her comments about Spock belonging at Kirk's side, "as if you've always been there and always will" reverberated throughout the 1970s and 1980s as Star Trek played in an endless loop of syndication and the feature films began coming out, turning Keeler into more of a visionary than the writer intended when the line was written in 1967.

    Meanwhile, William Shatner, who is always at his best when he's force to play up to the level of a woman rather than down to one, gets a rare chance to do just such. Normally, Kirk's way of handling a lady is to get a silly grin on his face, tell a few white lies, and try to get in her pants. But when Keeler catches him in a lie the instant they meet, his attitude suddenly changes. He tells the truth, he allows himself to be vulnerable, and he treats her with respect. As the scenes progress (including a night stroll where they walk by Floyd's Barbershop, familiar to any fan of Mayberry) we really do believe Kirk might be falling in love, setting up the focal point of the episode's drama: he can't have his cake and Edith too. It's all tied together by arguably Star Trek's finest combination of new and old music, with nostalgic cues from the past (most notably the romantic music from "Conscience of the King") mixed with new cues by Fred Steiner, including 1930s style music that blends with the 1931 song, "Goodnight, Sweetheart".

    The period touches enhance the feeling of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy being fish out of water, but with the Keeler issue none finds himself in a more unique situation than the captain. There is no opportunity to outwit a computer. No chance to do an end run around an authority figure. No battles with aliens. It's the Kobayashi Maru fifteen years before Star Trek II.

    Of course, if this type of episode had come along later in Star Trek's life, it likely would have been a two parter to allow it to dig deeper into the story and spread the out expense (which, at $245,000, was well above the normal $190,000). In fact, with the story seemingly only getting richer going into the last act, a first time viewer might expect to see "to be continued" as the ending approaches, only to be blindsided by the sudden climax; making it all the more dramatic.

    But the truth is that "City", directed by prolific television and film director Joe Pevney (who gives the episode a cinematic quality) brings together so many unique elements in an alchemy of near perfection, the episode essentially divides the original series in two: there's this episode and there's the other 78.

    Sadly, Keeler never appears in Star Trek again, despite the seventh Star Trek movie having the perfect spot for her. (They instead use the engimatic "Antonia" as Kirk's lost love). The Guardian, however, does return for the best Animated Series episode, "Yesteryear", where Spock goes back in time to help his younger self.

    Remastered: As Star Trek's signature episode, you can bet that CBS Digital was pouring over this one looking for anything they could improve. The truth, however, is that the episode is nearly as flawless technically as it is artistically. Taking place mostly in the past, there are few shots of the ship in orbit, and yet even these are rather good to begin with. CBS Digital replaces them, of course, with upgraded shots and fixes a "Twilight Zone ish" panning shot of Kirk looking up into the stars, originally a complicated bit of compositing that didn't come off quite right. (In the original, the live set bleeds into the Beyond these, there aren't any noticeable changes, at least for non eagle eyed viewers. They do re-matte in the newspaper clippings Spock looks at on his tricorder (enlarging them slightly in the process) so there are no black matte lines on the device's screen; the lines, however, always looked like part of the tricorder anyway and were never a real problem. CBS also redoes static lines Spock keeps getting in his equipment, changing the last bit of static (when the circuits burn out) to a more colorful effect. (I only wish I could have taken the money they spent on these effects and moved it into "Errand of Mercy" for a needed matte The moment where a stranger accidently eliminates himself with McCoy's phaser has also been subtly tweaked to improve the effect.

    But the best work in the episode might be the end: as the crew beams out, the scene lingers on a shot of the Guardian to allow some credits to appear. The problem for the original team is that the Guardian has some fog around it, and having something moving for a beam out shot and a credit sequence was tricky for them in 1967. As such, in the original, the fog periodically freezes. Fortunately, CBS Digital is all over it like Scotty at an all you can eat buffet. The new version features perfectly rolling fog all the way to the fade to black.

  • Shot on same backlot Set used as Mayberry

    If you watch closely when Kirk and the lady are walking down the street at night they pass in front of "Floyd's Barbershop" and it IS THE "Floyd's Barber Shop" from "The Andy Griffith Show" since they used part of the same set.
  • The best

    This is, in my opinion, THE best Star Trek TOS episode, and my favorite. This is one of four episodes (three if you don't count "The Naked Time") which feature time-travel, and the one which does it the best. Kirk and Spock go back in time via The Guardian Of Forever, after a very ill and very paranoid McCoy, who has somehow changed history, and attempt to fix it. Once in the 30s, Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler, their "focal point in time".

    This episode is one of the best balanced episodes, as a perfect mixture of suspense, drama, romance and humor. The story is unforgettable and well-written, the acting spot-on, and Shatner's last line ("Let's get the hell out of here") is my single favorite line of the Original Series. Love it.
  • The Star Trek franchise's greatest episode, bar none!

    There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best episode of the Star Trek franchise - that includes the other Star Trek series that followed in the 80s and beyond.

    "City on the Edge of Forever" combines so many wonderful and riveting elements - time travel; the fate of not only Earth on the line - but the universe; and a heart-wrenching love story involving a choice that no one should ever have to make, that between saving someone you love versus saving billions and billions of people.

    "City" is crackerjack from the start, with the first quarter of the episode on the ship and a planet having a strange ancient, abandoned civilization - as well as the mysterious time portal called the Guardian of Forever.

    It has a terrifying and unique "Captain's Log" entry from Kirk, i.e., "Captain's log - NO star date - for us, time does not exist". All history has been changed by Dr McCoy, who has gone back in time to 1930s Earth.

    By the time Kirk and Spock miraculously track him down in the past, Kirk has fallen head over heels for a woman, Edith Keeler, and is ready to live his life in the past, with her, until Spock finds out that Edith must die to set the "future" straight.

    It all leads to a horrific traffic accident in which she dies - an accident that Kirk could have prevented if not for Spock's haunting words, earlier in the episode, "Do as your heart says, and millions of people..." who were never meant to die, will do so.

    Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley are top-notch, as is Joan Collins. Yes, THAT Joan Collins, from "Dynasty" and an assortment of B-movies. She's utterly wonderful, despite her British accent being out of place in 1930s New York City.

    Some Trek episodes come close to the greatness of "City", but fans of the original Trek know that "City" is an episode that they can watch and cry over, over and over.

    As Kirk says at the end of the episode, once "all time is restored" ... "let's get the hell out of here...".
  • After being accidentally overdosed with a medical treatment, a hysterical Dr. McCoy beams down to a strange planet and leaps through a time portal. While back in time he inadvertently changes the course of history. Can Kirk and Spock set things right?


    "The City on the Edge of Forever" is in my opinion the best episode of Star Trek. The story of Kirk, Spock and McCoy's journey to 20th century Earth is fascinating from the very beginning and keeps the viewer's interest hooked throughout. What's also very good in this episode is how it is shown how man's actions can effect the course of time and what events occur. Edith Keeler's hopes and dreams for peace are noble, but what impact will they have on the world? This is one of the fascinating ideas this episode presents. There are many great episodes of Star Trek but you will not find another better than this.

  • A time-traveling Trek....

    "The City On The Edge Of Forever" is one of the most well written and well handled time-travel stories in Star Trek history - far better than any of the original Star Trek series episodes and especially better than the original Star Trek films. There is real warmth, sadness, humor, suspense, and everything in-between in this episode - a well-rounded, character centered, thought-provoking Trek best. The acting is great: Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly are up to their usual high standards, guest star Joan Collins is sublime, and William Shatner is especially at an acting level that hasn't been seen since. It is episodes like this one that makes the Star Trek franchise such a cut above most other TV shows.
  • Time Travel Episode that doesn't quite make sense at the end.

    This is a good Star Trek episode in that there are solid performances. Films such as Back To The Future and 12 Monkeys have addressed logical time travel issues so todays viewer understands the impact time travel has on future events. Viewing this episode today the episode resolution doesn't make sense. Star Trek episodes are not too "logical" as Spock would put it when it comes to time travel. Without trying to confuse the plot I'll try and explain. In the original time line, Edith Keeler is killed in a traffic accident. Kirk&Spock know the date by Spock's Tri-corder. However, it is Kirk that is the cause of her death as he takes her to the cinema at that point in time. But Kirk does not exist in that original time line so she would not have been killed in the traffic accident because he would not have been there and McCoy would not have shouted Jim for her to run across the road after him! I think a better solution and a 10 rating for me would have been that she had fallen for Kirk and not the man who was supposed to have taken her to the cinema at the point in time and to make things more logical McCoy had be-friended him in some way so he shouts his name instead of calling Kirk.
  • After accidentally injecting himself with a serum, McCoy becomes violently paranoid. Heading to the planet below, he enters a time portal, altering history. Kirk and Spock must follow him, and end up in 1920s America. One of the series' very best episodes

    So this is it, "The City on the Edge of Forever" – often cited as not only the best episode of Original 'Star Trek', but quite possibly of the entire franchise. And with good reason; it is a very good story, and deserves its place as one of 'Trek's most celebrated instalments.

    William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy give great performances, and near the end of this first, classic season, it is a great showcase of just how well they have fitted into the roles of Kirk and Spock respectively.

    With the time travel element that is the bulk of the plot, it is maybe easy to overlook the 'Guardian of Forever' section of things. The moments after McCoy leaps through the portal (did no-one think to keep a closer guard on him?!), resulting in the Enterprise ceasing to exist, are very bleak, and have a real feel of urgency to them.

    Although essentially being a drama, as with all great 'Trek' stories there are some nice moments of comedy, such as Kirk and Spock duping the policeman, and the attempts to cover up Spock's obviously alien features.

    Although I'm not generally one of Joan Collins' biggest fans, she puts in a great performance as the doomed Edith Keeler, making her a very likable and believable character; and is one of the best guest star performances of the series.

    If I had to pick one thing wrong with the episode, as key as it is to the storyline, it is the whole McCoy thread. The way in which he is accidentally injected with the serum is a bit contrived and convenient; and I couldn't really get my teeth into how he suddenly 'went insane' and leapt through the portal. As much as I liked the late DeForest Kelley, the McCoy scenes are the weakest of the episode. I would have much preferred an enemy, trying to escape, that Kirk and Spock had to track down. But that is my only niggle with the story.

    I have read that there was some controversy over the rewriting of the script. It's a shame that there is a sour note on such a popular episode, but whatever the difference of opinions, the final filmed script is still a great one.

    This episode is rightly celebrated as one of 'Trek's greatest episodes. Is it the best? Some may say so, though others may point to the likes of "The Trouble with Tribbles" or maybe "Mirror, Mirror", the latter of which is possibly my personal favourite 'Star Trek' episode. But 'The City on the Edge of Forever' is undoubtedly a classic, and definitely in my Top 10.

    (As a side note, regarding the DVD releases, I was very surprised and disappointed that this episode did not feature text commentary; especially when a lesser episode such as "The Conscience of the King" did. Actually, for a groundbreaking series such as 'Star Trek', Id've quite expected text commentary for every episode).
  • A Tale of Two Cities, The Passion of the Christ, and City on the Edge of Forever...It's all about Love!

    This has been my favorite ST episode since I was a kid. It goes beyond Sci-Fi and looks at man...his soul. You feel Kirk's grief and pain at the end and contemplate "what would I do in the same situation?" Nimoy's acting was all Spock. His line to Edit Keeler, "I am endevoring to construct a mnemomic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins." exemplified the Kirk/Spock relationship. Though he is not suppose to be emotional, here is a clear case of cynicism. If you like this episode, see if you can find (1) Harlan Ellison's original story line (quite different than the episode) and (2) James Blish's adaption, which combined elements of both the original script and the final version.
  • Bones gets a dose of his own medicine, beams down to a planet, goes through a time portal and changes history. For the worse. Nazis won WW2. Not good.

    There's really no reason to write a review of this episode. I mean all Trekkers have seen this. If not, then you are either not a real Trekker, your local stations won't run Star Trek or you don't have a DVD player.
    But I will anyway. In brief, Enterprise is investigating disturbances in time and space. When Enterprise is hit by a time wave McCoy is accidently injected with some very potent medicine and beams down to the planet. Kirk and company follow him and before they can contain him McCoy runs through a time portal (The Guardian of Forever or something like that)and changes history. The Enterprise is now gone, was never built and they are alone on the planet. Uhura is frightened. Of course. Kirk and Spock talk the Guardian into going through and find McCoy and cure history. They arrive in the 1930's before McCoy does. Using spare parts of that time period Spock takes a look at history. Turns out McCoy saved Edith Keeler from being run down by a car and killed. Edith was an extreme pacifist and having lived she was instrumental in keeping the US out of WW2. Not good. So Edith must die. Problem is Kirk has fallen in love with her. Well, suprise, surprise! McCoy shows up eventually and when he, Kirk and Spock are talking about old times, Edith shows up on the other side of the street. She sees Kirk and starts to cross the street. In front of an oncoming car. McCoy starts to rush out to save her but Kirk stops him. Edith is hit by car and dies. "Jim, do you know what you did? I could have saved her," McCoy says to Kirk.
    "He knows, Doctor. He knows," Spock informs him.
    History is restored and they return to their own time period.
    This episode, with Space Seed, Amok Time and a couple of others ranks right at the top. A classic episode. Fine acting on everyone's part. And I mean everyone. Written by Harlan Ellison. A must see.
  • bones gets an overdose of the stuff he puts in those shots he goes crazy he goes to the surface a party folows him to the suface they a time travel device was there he went in it and made germany take over kirk and spock follow him to fix the past...

    this episode is one of the best ever made in any series of star trek bones looks completely halarious when he gets shot with that stuff ten he goes to the planet and changes the outcome of world war two now germany and the nazis take over the world kirk and spock go back and kirk falls in love with the girl that bones either saved or killed it is interesting to watch spock building that machine to try to find out what he did so kirk needs to be able to stop bones from saving her if he needs to in the end he is able to stop him and the past is fixed.
  • Kirk and Spock visit a strange planet where Joan Collins isn't a conniving wench

    You really need a review on this one? Come on. It\'s second only to \"All our Yesterdays\" for me, and I like that one for special reasons personally to me. I thought the writing was brilliant. And the only souring note to this episode is the carrying on Harlon Ellison did in pouting about the rewrite of the script. I don\'t like it when someone redoes my work (I\'m a video editor) but if the end result is \"The City on the Edge of Forever\" I\'d just sit there and keep my mouth closed. Here again I compare my viewing this show from the 1970s to the 2000s. I adored it both times. Here in the present, as I am married now, and imagine someone I care for so much walking toward me and realize I have to watch her die brings tears to my eyes faster than anything you could imagine. Bravo, Shatner, bravo.
  • One of the Best Trek Episodes

    Best Star Trek series is the series from 1966-1969. "The City on the Edge of Forever," is classic Trek at it's best. Kirk and Spock went back in time to the Great Depression to stop Bones from changing the future and Kirk falls in with a woman who is about to die. This is great episode that connects the future to the past. We see the Great Depression though the eyes of the Trek crew, especially though the point of view of Mr. Spock. We see what the future was like if Bones succeed to change the future. Very intresting from someone who isn't a trekkie.
  • It is very likely that this single instalment is the best of the whole Star Trek franchise, and perhaps one of the best episodes in all of series television history.

    While Harlan Ellison has never forgiven Gene Roddenberry for rewriting his fine original script, the simple fact is this episode as filmed is 60s TV at its absolute best. It is an amazing accomplishment on one level: it is a purely science fiction story told in very human terms. Presented with humour and compassion, and with wonderful performances by Shatner, Nimoy, Collins and especially by De Kelly, City is simply great storytelling. The final frames, as Kirk and company return from the time portal and prepare to reboard the Enterprise, are powerful and perfect.
  • One of the best ever in Trek lore.

    It is really hard to beat the story of City on the Edge of Forever. Everything was pumping through this story. Heck, Kirk even legitimitely came through with a fantastic acting performance. You know the background of the story and the resolution. To me the highlights of the episode are two things. First, the look on Kirks face when he holds McCoy back from saving Joan Collins, and secondly the look on his face when he gets back through the portal and I believe it is Uhura who asks Kirk for orders, and he just says, lets get the hell out of here. Trek won't get better than this ever.
  • As good as it ever gets …

    I think there’s few that would dispute that “City on the Edge of Forever” is the best STAR TREK episode of the Original Series, if not ever. But why is is so good? Simply because is showcases the very essence of dramatic storytelling.

    Kirk is forced to choose between the life of the woman he loves and the very existence of his own reality. Whew, big enough concept for you?

    There’s other factors that make this episode fun – that the action is propelled by McCoy, which is a nice change: that we get time travel: plus Spock in 1930s New York, explaining his ears and Kirk falling in love (not just womanising, but actually falling in love).

    And there’s a couple of minor niggles. I really don’t like Edith Keeler’s speech about her vision of the future. Perhaps with a better actress than Joan it might have worked, but whichever way you look at it, it’s a clumsy monologue. I didn’t much care for Uhura saying, “I’m frightened,” either. Out of character and just not the sort of thing you’d expect a professional military-type person to say. And charismatic though Edith is meant to be (if she lives she’ll single-handedly keep the US out of WW2), I just don’t buy that Kirk would fall in love with her in a couple of days. Admire her, fancy her, even … but love? It stretches it a bit.

    BUT … these are MINOR niggles. Over all, this is simply as good as it gets, hence my 9.9 rating. If you have to show your kids why TREK is the dog’s tackle, show ‘em this one!

    "The City on the Edge of Forever" is definitely the classic that it deserves to be called. Even with it's major revisions from it's original form, Harlan Ellison's script is perfectly constructed for the series, even if he still disowns it to this day. While Ellison's original story would still work on it's own, changing it to McCoy propelling the plot, rather than some never-before-seen drug-dealing Lieutenant, makes this more of a character piece that works well as "Star Trek." The only plot hole that has always bothered me is how the hell do Kirk, Spock, and McCoy get back; where is the gateway to the Guardian from 1930, back to where they started? But it's a minor quibble in this suberbly written, directed, and acted Star Trek, and science-fiction masterpiece.
  • Correcting history...

    Another great episode that makes one think...what could have happened. Dr. McCoy, under the delusion of a powerful drug, goes back in time and changes history so that the time period he came from no longer exists. Kirk and Spock go back to find him and end up in the Great Depression of 1930. There they meet Edith Keeler who turns out to be the focal point in time they are looking for. Unfortunately, in order for history to be made right, she must die in a freak car accident in which McCoy orginally saves her from which is what changed history.
  • This is the best Dramatic episode of the show. While many claim The Trouble with Tribbles is the fan favorite. This one is the best in my opinion.

    There were a ton of great episodes from Balance of Terror (with the Romulans) to Mirror, Mirror (with a parallel universe). But "City" is the one episode I would show to non-fans.
    The episode starts when Dr. McCoy (my favorite Star Trek character, DeForest Kelley) accidentally O-D's and goes on a rampage ending up transporting down to a planet with a fancy time machine that talks. He ends up back in the great depression with Edith Keeler (played smart by Joan Collins of Dynasty fame). Only thing is he ends up being part of a chain of events that effects history. Kirk and Spock must follow after and set things right no matter what the emotional cost to the characters. A true credit to Roddenberry and the author of the story Harlan Ellison.
  • Arguably the series' finest outing.

    Most science fiction fans, by now, have been exposed to time travel stories of one sort or another. But in 1967, this type of story was far less common. The time travel "sub-genre" is difficult to write well, but here, Ellison pulled it off. Roddenberry's changes led to a feud with Ellison that lasted decades, but it can be argued that at least some of those changes improved the story.

    In the original, problems arise because of a drug using crewman. Although it seems unlikely that man will abandon this vice any time soon, Roddenberry's vision of the future describes a society in which people strive to excel, and it is the best of these who are put in charge of starships. Even a crewman is unlikely to be a drug addict for long.

    Ellison's distaste for unwanted collaboration aside, the final product is a taut, gripping story. It starts with curiosity, the great motivator of man. From there, we have concern for McCoy's health, which quickly becomes deep concern for the fate of the galaxy. And the only way to correct what McCoy has done is to do what he did -- visit the past -- and thereby expose it to even more chances for alteration.

    Set against the backdrop of the American depression of 1929 and beyond, the sequences in the past offer a nice contrast between the idealistic future of Roddenberry's dreams, and the grim reality which will one day evolve into that future. This setting also ratchets the tension up as we see how difficult it is just to survive, much less obtain the expensive and delicate parts Spock needs to decipher his tricorder's jumbled memory.

    And Kirk, always the womanizer, meets and falls in love with a woman of the past -- a relationship we know is on some level doomed. But we don't realize how doomed until McCoy's alteration becomes apparent. McCoy saves the woman's life, and dooms the future. To put it right, Kirk must allow the woman to die, as she was "meant" to. This personal sacrifice is an exemplar of Roddenberry's idealistic future.

    Overall, this is an episode that catches the viewer, and pulls him along on a thoroughly enjoyable ride.