“The City on the Edge of Forever” is the celebrated episode credited to Harlan Ellison, who spent the next forty years complaining about what those Hollywood finks did to his beautiful screenplay. It guest stars Joan Collins, and I enjoyed her performance more than anything that was in the script, whoever wrote the final draft. Our son liked it because there was time travel, but says that he liked “The Devil in the Dark” more. The grownups agree. Fifty minutes of Ellison ranting about what they did wrong would have been more entertaining.
Credit the Federation for at least being more civilized than Stargate Command and quietly leaving the planet after their mission to New York, 1930. If word got back to Cheyenne Mountain about what was living on that planet, Colonel Maybourne’s goons would have put the Guardian of Forever in a crate and shipped it to Area 51.
There’s a lovely throwaway gag in this episode that shows that the wall safe in the Wayne Foundation’s private office is hidden behind a painting of a wall safe, and there’s a great line about how soft drinks might make our heroes too relaxed, and there’s Joan Collins, looking amazing in a silver mini-dress. So it has its moments. I do like the more frantic pace, but if any character ever needed a second half-hour to develop, it’s the Siren. This isn’t Stanley Ralph Ross’s finest script, but it’s not bad.
Also this week, albeit a little less interesting, it’s the debut of Batgirl’s theme song, which isn’t very good, but at least it contains the wonderful line “What is your scene, baby, we just gotta know.”
We think of Batman as a very old-fashioned program, very much of its time, but look what they did with season three: start the season with the new format and new character, and, in week two, bring out the big gun: Frank Gorshin, the villain who made the show so watchable and popular in season one, and heavily link him with the new villain who will take the lead in week three: the Siren, played by Joan Collins, with a big cliffhanger ending to get people to tune in next time. That’s pretty much what modern TV people would be doing to start the new season with a bang, isn’t it?
This was Gorshin’s final appearance in the series. I’m not sure how they persuaded him to come back, when he balked at returning for season two because he wanted more money per hour and this is only thirty minutes. Daniel said that this was pretty good and he enjoyed it, but it feels like the writer was really struggling to make the thirty minute format work. Batman has to act really out of character to get into the ring for a fixed fight against Riddler, and that’s done, bizarrely, with our hero wearing boxing trunks over his costume. The scene isn’t funny at all; it’s just silly.
Not much of this is worth mentioning at even this much length, but perhaps I should also point out that James Brolin made his third and final appearance on this show in this episode as a boxer named Kid Gulliver. It was nice to see Gorshin do his unhinged shtick again for a little while. We won’t see him don those green tights again for another eleven years…