Star Trek (1967): S01E28 – The City on the Edge of Forever


“The City on the Edge of Forever” is the twenty-eighth and penultimate episode of the first season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek.

The episode had several writers contribute to the finished product including Harlan Ellison, Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon. Gene Roddenberry made the final re-write.

In the episode, after a heavily medicated Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) travels back in time and changes history, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) follow him to correct the timeline. In doing so, Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), but realises that in order to save his future, he must allow her to die.

The episode received widespread critical acclaim and has been frequently stated to be the best episode of the entire franchise, with it fondly received by cast, crew, and critics. Elements such as the tragic ending were highlighted by several reviewers. It won several awards, including the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama on Television and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.


Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is treating an injured Lt. Sulu (George Takei) when the Enterprise is rocked by a time distortion and McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose of cordrazine, a dangerous drug. Delusional and paranoid, he flees from the bridge to the transporter room, beaming himself down to a nearby planet. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) leads a landing party to look for McCoy, and they come across an ancient glowing stone ring, which turns out to be the cause of the time distortions. The “Guardian of Forever” (voiced by Bartell LaRue) explains that it is a doorway to any time and place. While Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is recording historic images from the portal, McCoy escapes through it. The landing party suddenly loses contact with the Enterprise, and the Guardian informs them that McCoy has altered the past, and that the Enterprise, and all that they knew, was gone.

The Guardian permits Kirk and Spock to follow McCoy in an effort to repair the timeline. Spock attempts to time their passage so as to arrive ahead of McCoy, and they find themselves in New York City in 1930, during the Great Depression. After stealing clothes from a fire escape in order to blend in, they meet a woman named Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), who runs the 21st Street Mission. They are given a place to sleep, along with doing odd jobs to earn money. Spock works to devise a method of interfacing with his tricorder and analyse its recorded images to determine how McCoy has altered history. While they await his arrival, Kirk and Keeler spend time together, and Kirk begins to fall in love.

McCoy stumbles into the mission, unnoticed by Kirk and Spock, and Keeler nurses him back to health. Spock completes his work and discovers that Keeler was supposed to die that year in a traffic accident. In the altered timeline, Spock learns that Dr. McCoy saved Keeler’s life, and Keeler founded a pacifist movement, causing the United States to delay its entrance into World War II and allowing Nazi Germany time to develop nuclear weapons, with which they will conquer the world. Kirk admits his love for Keeler, and Spock answers that Keeler must die in order to prevent billions of deaths.

On her way with Kirk to see a movie, Keeler mentions McCoy. Kirk, shocked and excited, tells her to stay where she is and calls for Spock to tell him. The Starfleet trio reunite in front of the mission. Curious, Keeler crosses the street to join them, and she steps in front of a fast-moving truck. Kirk turns to save Keeler from the truck, but a shout from Spock freezes him in his tracks. Then Kirk blocks McCoy from saving her, and she is struck and killed. A stunned McCoy can’t believe Kirk knowingly stopped him. With history restored, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy return to the Guardian’s planet where the rest of the landing party is waiting. When the Guardian declares that “more such journeys are possible”, a brokenhearted Kirk simply states “Let’s get the hell out of here,” and the landing party beams back aboard the Enterprise.

Star Trek TV Series

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Joseph Pevney.
  • Production: Desilu Productions (1966-1967) and Paramount Television (1968-1969).
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures (1966-2006), CBS Paramount Television (2006-2007), and CBS Television Distribution (2007-Present).
  • Original Network: NBC.
  • Release Date: 06 April 1967.
  • Running Time: 50 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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