Fans cried during the airing of the “Star Trek” episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” This particular program would be proclaimed by many as the “greatest episode” in the franchise’s history. Written originally by science fiction scribe Harlan Ellison, “City” featured a story that taught the cruel lessons of time travel.
Captain Kirk (William Shatner) fell in love with a female social worker (played by Joan Collins) in the United States of the 1930s. Kirk could save her life and trigger a series of events that would end with Adolph Hitler and the Axis Powers defeating the Allies. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) reminded Kirk of her fate, and tragically, Kirk let her die.
The City on the Edge of Forever
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (DeForest Kelley) were able to travel into the past with the help of a living machine known as the Guardian of Forever. The voice from the Guardian was supplied by Bartell La Rue, who also provided the voice for other strange beings on the series.
This story was groundbreaking for its time and has been praised unceasingly for decades. An article in Trek Report pointed out that many of the ideas from the episode have been recycled into blockbuster films like “Avengers Endgame” and “Back to the Future,” making the impact of “City” not so monumental.
According to SyFy, Ellison was not happy with how the writers on the show rewrote portions of his story. Eventually, his version of “City” was released in comic book format, and the original script is also available for sale.
The First ‘City’ Sequel
The story’s impact on “The Original Series” cannot be understated. So it stands to reason that writers would eventually try to go back to the Guardian and send other characters back in time. This is precisely what happened in an episode of “The Animated Series,” written by D.C. Fontana.
Fontana sent Spock back to his childhood in her story, “Yesteryear.” Spock met his younger self and his father, Sarek (Mark Lenard). Many aspects of “Yesteryear” made their way into J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek (2009),” including Young Spock’s run-in with Vulcan bullies.
This must be categorized as an unofficial sequel because, in 1988, Gene Roddenberry asked Paramount to take all episodes of “The Animated Series” out of canon or the official story of “Star Trek.” According to Screen Rant, Roddenberry “was in the middle of losing most of his power over the franchise he built.”
The Guardian on ‘The Next Generation’
Because “Yesteryear” was not considered a legitimate Trek story, the Guardian hadn’t been revisited on-screen since 1966. Writer Tracy Tormé attempted to change all of that with his tale, which would have aired in the second season of TNG. In an interview with Cinefantastique magazine in 1994, Tormé detailed his idea:
“What I had going was that a small research team was allowed to work with this thing [the Guardian] and were all found dead and Spock ended up coming through from the past,” said Tormé.
“There was a circular story where I had two Spocks on the ship at the same time, one was in a coma, and the one from the present was still alive,” said Tormé. “The reason the Spock from the past came through was all tied into the one in the present, yet the one in the present didn’t have any memory of this.”
“Then at the end, the present Spock puts his hands against the past Spock and tells him to forget, so he goes back in time not remembering that he will meet himself,” Tormé said.
This story never got past the “outlining” stage because, according to Tormé, “something fell out with Nimoy.”
When Fans Saw the Guardian Again
Though Tormé didn’t get that script made into a show, he did see many others of his ideas go into production, including “Conspiracy,” which SyFy called “bizarre,” and stands out among the other episodes from the first season of TNG.
The Guardian of Forever finally did return to “Star Trek.” In the third season of “Star Trek: Discovery,” Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) used the Guardian to jump back in time and into the Mirror Universe.