Really, I think the point of that scene is the screenwriters telling the audience this is serious and dangerous stuff, get ready for it. If the bum dies basically just because McCoy showed up, then what are the stakes for all three of them showing up and actually trying to meddle?
I don’t really want to beat a dead horse here but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I doubt anyone even at the time seriously thought any of the crew, especially Kirk, Spock or McCoy, was really in serious danger of dying.
WhatI could more easily buy is if the bum, had he played a bigger part or maybe mumbled something like, ‘I gotta tell my buddy the reporter about this! And maybe I’ll show him this crazy device one of the had!’, then it could have just been removing a piece off the board. Maybe even seemed like just desserts, don’t meddle in affairs you don’t understand, kind of thing. But as it is, it feels kind of random.
I’ve just read the first draft, really more like a treatment or summary of events in the episode as much as anything else. It’s really fascinating reading. There are some changes as others have recounted, but all the relevant details are present. What’s different though:
The start of the episode would have introduced us to two previously unseen crewmen, Beckwith and LeBeque. Beckwith is an opportunist, using visits to alien worlds as chances to exploit the often primitive native population. He uses a form of narcotic called Jewels of Sound, and he’s used its addictive qualities to lure LeBeque into helping him out with information. LeBeque though has had enough and tells him he’s going to turn both in to Kirk. Beckwith panics and murders LeBeque.
Kirk and a landing party take Beckwith down to an unoccupied planet for the purpose of executing Beckwith (I can imagine Roddenberry had fits about this, not to mention a crewman getting another crewmember addicted, then murdering them). They come across a city with an ancient, bearded alien men. They are the Guardians of Forever, who keep watch over their “time machine”, which they demonstrate for Kirk. Beckwith escapes and leaps into the device. At this point, Kirk and crew beam back to the Enterprise but discover that it’s changed - the ship is now called the Condor and manned by pirates! The Federation does not exist in this changed universe.
Kirk and Spock escape and head back to the planet. The guardians tell them it’s possible to fix all this, they just need to locate Beckwith and bring him back before he effects whatever change he did. They tell Kirk about the currents of time, and how they must find the focal point of those currents. But here the script makes a fairly drastic change - the guardians tell Kirk that Edith Koestler (that’s her name in the first draft) is to be run down by a van at a specific time, and that Beckwith prevents this - and they must stop him!
At this point things mostly happen similarly to the episode. Though they actually do find Beckwith, he eludes them and tries to kill both Kirk and Spock. Kirk realizes through time spent with Edith has caused him to fall for her, and he realizes that when the time comes, he can’t let her die. It’s only because Spock suspected this would happen, and physically restrains Beckwith from saving Edith when he realizes Kirk can’t follow through.
At this point, time resolves itself, and Kirk and Spock are back with the Guardians. They ask for Beckwith to be left with them for punishment - and it’s suitably grisly. They send Beckwith back through the portal only this time he is put into the heart of a sun, with a time phase that snaps him immediately back at the point of death, to burn for eternity.
Back on the Enterprise, Spock visits Jim in his quarters and tries to provide some comfort. Spock says, “No woman was ever loved as much, Jim. Because no woman was ever offered the universe for love.” Fade out on the stars.
Yeah, in script meetings, Ellison suggested using Scotty for Beckwith when Rod and DC balked at introducing two new, in-depth characters for such an expositional plot set up to an episode that needed to fit 50 minutes.
The second draft improves a couple of items that didn’t feel quite right the first time around - first, tying the episode more closely to the final version that aired, it isn’t an execution that brings the Enterprise in orbit of the dead planet but tracking the time distortions. The part with Beckwith otherwise plays out the same, but he escapes by transporting down to the planet, and Kirk and company beam to pursue him where they meet the Guardians.
Second item, the guardians don’t just tell Kirk that Keeler is the focal point, and must die. They cryptically mention that the focal point will be blue, but will burn with the light of the sun. Spock later encounters Keeler on a street corner where she is wearing a blue cape with a starburst brooch.
The rest is much the same as the first draft.
It sounds like the Ellison original draft was typical “intense Ellison” and the final DC Fontana teleplay was a smoother, slightly more subtle TV-ready script. Basically, what I expected.
Still, very interesting to get a look at one of the venerable “inside Trek” questions.
IMO, the final version is near perfect. I agree with:
Even the phaser-selfie scene serves a purpose IMO. One of the best TV scripts ever IMO.
All right, with the third draft, I finally understand. I get why Ellison considers his script the masterpiece that Roddenberry butchered. Whether that’s true or not, we’ll never know. But it is a very good script. It downplays a few of the items that don’t mean much - we don’t see as much Beckwith after he escapes into the “time vortex”, as it’s called in this draft, though he does turn up for a little fisticuffs near the end when Kirk and McCoy finally meet him. And it has way more dialogue - this is probably the version that Ellison considered final, since it’s got way more detailed camera angle info, and lots more dialogue. There’s a lot of discussion between Kirk and Spock, and more interaction between Kirk and Keeler. And it’s pretty good.
More importantly, they draw out the central mystery of who or what the “focal point” of the time current is, and don’t encounter Edith Keeler until near the midpoint. They also introduce what was a fairly important plot device in the aired episode, that Spock needs additional computational power in order to work out how everything ties together.
And it may not matter to anyone but me, but they even somewhat address my concern about the bum and the phaser. See, in this version, there’s another character that we haven’t heard about, and doesn’t make it to the final aired show: Trooper. He’s a veteran living on the streets, and he has no legs. But he sees just about everything that goes on out there, and Kirk hires him to keep an eye out for Beckwith. Eventually when they catch up to Beckwith from Trooper’s info, Beckwith has the drop on Kirk and is about to fire a phaser at him, but Trooper blocks the shot and is killed, vaporized. This event troubles them; Spock doesn’t understand why the veteran gave his life for a man he barely knew, to which Kirk responds that he treated him with basic human dignity, paying him cash upfront and trusting Trooper to follow through. But they’re also worried that his death may have consequences for the timeline. In the end, when they return to the Guardians after Edith’s death, this exchange happens:
1ST GUARDIAN: Time has resumed its shape.
SPOCK: What of the death of the cripple?
1ST GUARDIAN: He was negligible.
SPOCK: But he found Beckwith for us. He must have counted.
1ST GUARDIAN: He counted. (beat) But not enough. Not in the eternal flow, the greater river.
Trooper was created as a character who had meaning and consequence, but whose life didn’t create timeline-altering effects. He could die and nobody would care. But Edith’s life and death had such consequence, in a way that affected the future. I like that this is at least addressed.
Now, all of this comes with one pretty tremendous downside - I don’t see any way this script gets crammed into an hour of television. There’s too much going on. Maybe Ellison assumed it would be shaved down and he’d work on the details with the director and Roddenberry. There’s lots of discussion about the writing process, why it took nine months for Ellison to write, all the various arguments through the years between himself and Roddenberry and why Roddenberry was full of shit. You know what you’re getting with Ellison. But one of those things is quality, and the script is good.
Or you could just show that visually, get the point across and drop the exposition, it being a visual medium and all. Ellison…smh…
I think had amazing talent, but was also incredibly pig headed.
Sure, that would have been cool too. Either would probably have been a step up from “whoopsie daisy!” in my opinion.
You’re the only one. :) I think they did that just fine the way they did it, and got exactly that point across without another 10 minute subplot with an extra character and the inherent exposition. You are the 1%.!
This has never caused me any discomfort in the past and I don’t foresee that changing. If you’re good with what you saw with accidentally suicidal bum in the episode, my hat’s off to you.
Ellison was gifted, wildly creative, brilliant… and a huge asshole. Gleeful and unapologetic about it.
Having Harlan write a script was like giving an autistic four-year-old a gun. No matter what comes of it, somebody was going to be shot.
Edge is rightfully the best Trek episode, and it took the hard work of a lot of folks to make it.
Ok, so I did a spit take with my coffee. I hope you’re happy. My favorite Ellison encounter. Battle of the Assholes. Long article, to skip to the Ellison part, go to “ NOW SINATRA SAID A FEW words to the blondes.”
The thing that bums me out about all this is that the part after the ellipsis is blotting outthe part before it. I fear that, especially now that he’s gone, he’ll be remembered as an incredibly vindictive crank with a bottomless capacity for fighting (which he was) and not the prolific and talented writer who won eight Hugo awards.
Ellison makes the point in his foreword (you remember, the one that takes up 28% of the book) that if Roddenberry and Paramount considered him so difficult to work with, why did they keep offering him work? He says they verbally offered him the first three Treks, and he has a fax from Herve Bennett asking to talk to him about Star Trek V.
And that’s really the right answer. Much as Ellison plays the aggrieved artist - and I did enjoy reading the bit where Shatner came to his house to read the script, then after several hours watching him go through it multiple times, realized he was counting Kirk’s and Spock’s lines to be sure Nimoy didn’t have more - it took a lot of people to get this episode over the finish line.
Look at you taking the high road, @scharmers! I’m impressed.
He’s a brilliant short story writer, a master of the form, and that’s how I’ll remember him.
Look what I finally got you guys!
Now I can finally introduce my wife to the original series, the animatied series and the two original cast movies she’s not yet seen! Yay!
We’re just about to wrap up the first season but better late than never, jump on in!
Why is the whole crew in Blackface?
They are Democrats running for state office in Virginia. It may be a Commonwealth requirement, IDK. Shantner, anyway. I think Nimoy was dating Whoopi Goldberg at the time.
THEY’RE SILHOUETTES YOU RACIST.