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Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever

This is about a time-traveling episode of Star Trek, but before we get into that, let's review the current state of physics. The lithium atom has been split. Neutrons have been discovered. Anti-matter has been detected in cosmic rays! There is an open secret amongst scientists that a process to release the power of the atom MIGHT be possible. The German-Jewish scientist, Albert Einstein is touring the USA, and decides to stay. Violence is escalating as Adolf Hitler becomes Führer, and a loyal Nazi scientist named Kurt Diebner joins Army Ordnance Research in Berlin. He suggests that splitting the atom could release vast amounts of energy, but there is not enough experimental evidence to confirm it. In 4 more years there will be. On the eve of World War 2, Diebner will assemble a team to develop an atomic bomb. Albert Einstein will send his famous letter to FDR, warning that the Nazis are developing such a bomb. FDR's Manhattan Project will be a race against the Nazis (and to some extent against the Japanese) to develop an atomic bomb. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
With that background, Harlin Ellison writes an off-the-wall script for Star Trek, but after some disagreements, Ellison is replaced along with a number of script elements including the reason why the episode is called "The City on the Edge of Forever." (The script originally called for a fully occupied city with a time portal, but costs in production... well... you know how it goes.) In the final script, a drugged-crazed Dr. McCoy leaps through the time portal and alters the past which, in turn, alters the future. What happened? Dr. McCoy saves the life of Edith Keeler, good and true. Because she lives, she leads a peace movement in 1936 that delays the US entrance into World War 2. That gives the Nazis time to develop the atomic bomb. In order to save the world as we know it, Edith Keeler, good and true, must die. After a comical interlude and several leaps in logic, we stare in horror as Captain Kirk holds back Dr. McCoy from saving Edith's life. She walks into traffic to meet her fate... the first fate... not the second fate.... wait.... which one was real? Ellison won the Writer's Guild Award for Best Episodic Drama on TV even though the script he submitted was the original one that never aired. [5]

The Daily Mail says 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts!'

Although we haven't said much about Benito Mussolini, and his fascist uprising in Italy, in fact, he has been an inspiration to Adolf Hitler. The Italian fascist movement is where Hitler got the idea for the "Brownshirt" arm of the Nazi Party. The Voluntary Militia for National Security in Italy is nicknamed "The Blackshirts" due to its uniform, patterned after the elite Italian troops of World War 1. Mussolini uses strong-arm tactics by sending out his Blackshirts to intimidate opponents. It is a youth movement, and as such, engenders all the energy and vitality that youth can provide. Fascism is a nationalistic reaction to international socialism though they are two sides of the same coin. In Great Britain, fascist supporters also wear black shirts as they march through the streets. The owner of the UK's Daily Mail is a fanboy. This year Viscount Rothermere writes a three-column opinion piece for the paper entitled 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts!' He explains that fascism is not really a dark, southern Italian movement. No. No. They are a good, white NORTHERN Italian movement! (Remember your temper, Alex.) "Discipline and organization" are the keys to good government. Blah, blah, blah. And any "minor misdeeds" by the fascists can be forgiven in favor of the benefits they provide. (By "minor misdeeds" he means the persecution of Jews and other undesirables.) The Daily Mail will soon regret its editorial support for fascism as World War 2 approaches. Oh yeah. [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
You’re the top!
You’re a Coolidge dollar.
You’re the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You’re Mussolini,
You’re Mrs. Sweeney.

-- From the Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes, 1934. [7]

Cole Porter never wrote those words, but the song was sometimes tailored to the audience. The lyrics are obviously controversial today, but in 1934 a list of "top things" would certainly include Mussolini. My poor memory tells me that Barbara Streisand sang a modern version of the song that included Mussolini as a joke. Nowadays it would be like including an especially smelly brand of cheese in a list of favorite foods. It might be someone's favorite, but mostly not. In the 1930's Mussolini was considered handsome but as I stare at his blank-and-white photo all I see are the stark features of a vicious killer, and nothing handsome about him at all.

Finding the Cure for Alcoholism

Long before President John Adam's son succumbed to alcoholism and a miserable death, people have been searching for some sort of cure. American psychologist William James mentioned a spiritual cure in his lectures on religious practices (circa the 1910s). He describes the cure without explanation. Apparently, God simply releases a few lucky souls from the torment of alcoholism. Psychiatrist Carl Jung (YOUNG) has also been working on the problem, slowly guiding a patient though a process of spiritual awakening. Remember Bill the stockbroker? During the stock market crash he chose the bar over a quick trip out the window? Now he is at his end. His wife has been told that he will eventually meet his fate in an accident, suicide or spend his last days in an asylum with a "wet brain". Then Bill receives a phone call. His old drinking buddy, Ebby, is coming for a visit. Bill is delighted. He can drink openly with his old friend, but Ebby pushes the drink away. He's had "the cure". Yep. Ebby is on fire. "But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin (will) last longer than his preaching," Bill says to himself. But Ebby isn't ranting. He suggests a practical approach: "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?" That statement changes everything for Bill. He undergoes a spiritual awakening, but he needs a way to STAY sober. He will find that way soon. [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
From that meeting with Ebby, Bill developed a method of recovering from alcoholism that has become Alcoholics Anonymous. That meeting is not considered the founding of AA, but it was a beginning. Ebby returned to drink, and through the years he put together a couple of years of sobriety here and there. Bill was an exceptionally bright man. Ebby had taught him how to become sober through the help of a Higher Power of his own conception, but Bill needed to find a way to STAY sober... a way to "pass it on". He found that way in Akron, Ohio a year later when he met Bob, a doctor with a bad case of alcoholism... his own alcoholism. [10]

Notable Births

  • Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.: Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM during Operation Desert Storm. [11]
  • Carl Sagan: Best known for the science program "Cosmos" and the novel "Contact". [12]
  • Ralph Nader (Living): Author of "Unsafe at Any Speed" and Presidential candidate. [13] [14]
  • Jane Goodall (Living): Best known for her personal approach to studying chimpanzees. [15]
  • And in Entertainment...
  • -- Tom Baker (Living): The 4th "Dr. Who". Everyone has their favorite, but Tom has been the longest serving. [16]
  • -- Tina Louise (Living): Best known as Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island. [17]
  • -- Marty Feldman: Comedic actor. "Damn your eyes!" shouted Young Frankenstein. "Too late," replied I-gor (Marty Feldman). [18]
  • -- Maggie Smith (Living): Best known as Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies. [19]
  • -- Harlan Ellison (Living): Screenwriter of the controversial Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever". [20]

**Note: (Living) means they were alive when I checked.

In Other News

  • The Night of the Long Knives begins. The public accepts Hitler's explanation that he is putting down a rebellion amongst his own troops. ITS A PURGE YOU KNUCKLEHEADS! US Ambassador Dodd is oblivious. [21]
  • Speaking of purges... Stalin begins his purge of the Communist Party. Trotsky's ex-wife is picked up. She is a dead woman. [22] [23] [24]
  • The Chinese begin their "Long March" in retreat. Mao will become an inspiration for all as he escapes encirclement by the Nationalist Chinese which in later years will become the core of the Taiwan government. [25] [26]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1934, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Bascomb, Neal. Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb, The. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Diebner gained his PhD in atomic physics in 1931. In 1934, the year Hitler became the führer of Germany, he joined the Army Ordnance Research Department, where he was tasked with developing hollow-shaped explosives. For years he pushed his boss to allow him to create an atomic research division instead. Such work, he was told, was 'malarkey,' with no practical use. But rapid advances in the field in 1939 made it clear that atomic physics was anything but malarkey, and Diebner was finally given the mandate to form a team.” 
  2. Albert Einstein - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “He was visiting the United States when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and, being Jewish, did not go back to Germany, where he had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences. He settled in the U.S., becoming an American citizen in 1940.”
  3. Positron - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “Carl David Anderson discovered the positron on August 2, 1932, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1936. Anderson did not coin the term positron, but allowed it at the suggestion of the Physical Review journal editor to which he submitted his discovery paper in late 1932. The positron was the first evidence of antimatter and was discovered when Anderson allowed cosmic rays to pass through a cloud chamber and a lead plate.”
  4. Walter Isaacson. Einstein: His Life and Universe. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743264730. “So in April 1934, just six months after his arrival, Einstein announced that he was staying in Princeton indefinitely and assuming full-time status at the Institute. As it turned out, he would never live anywhere else for the remaining twenty-one years of his life. Nevertheless, he made appearances at the 'farewell' parties that had been scheduled that month as fund-raisers for various of his favorite charities.” 
  5. The City on the Edge of Forever - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “Harlan Ellison's original version of the teleplay won the annual Writers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama on Television. Justman later said that the submission of the original unfilmed version was out of spite,[73] and Roddenberry said in response to the victory 'many people would get prizes if they wrote scripts that budgeted out to three times the show's cost.'[74] The WGA rules allow only the credited writers to submit scripts for consideration, who may submit whichever draft of theirs that they may choose.”
  6. Daily Mail - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “Lord Rothermere was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and directed the Mail's editorial stance towards them in the early 1930s. Rothermere's 1933 leader 'Youth Triumphant' praised the new Nazi regime's accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that 'The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany'.”
  7. Barbara Streisand singing 'You're The Top' from What's Up Doc? - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017.
  8. Ebby Thacher - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 August 2016. “He is credited with introducing Wilson to the initial principles that AA would soon develop, such as 'one alcoholic talking to another,' and the Jungian thesis which was passed along to Rowland Hazard and, in turn, to Thacher that alcoholism could be cured by a 'genuine conversion'.”
  9. Carl Jung - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy and religious studies.”
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “After thirty days of working with Wilson, Smith drank his last drink on June 10, 1935, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.”
  11. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. (August 22, 1934 – December 27, 2012) was a United States Army general. While serving as Commander-in-chief, United States Central Command, he led all coalition forces in the Gulf War.”
  12. Carl Sagan - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “co-wrote the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The most widely watched series in the history of American public television, Cosmos has been seen by at least 500 million people across 60 different countries.[2] The book Cosmos was published to accompany the series. He also wrote the science fiction novel Contact, the basis for a 1997 film of the same name.”
  13. Ralph Nader - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney, noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader was educated at Princeton and Harvard and first came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of the bestselling book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers that became known as one of the most important journalistic pieces of the 20th century.”
  14. "50 Years Ago, 'Unsafe at Any Speed’ Shook the Auto World - The New York Times", November 26, 2015. Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “The first chapter was aimed at the 1960-63 Chevrolet Corvair compact. Mr. Nader argued the rear-engine car had a suspension defect that made it easy for the driver to lose control and sometimes roll the car over. To this day, some Corvair enthusiasts dispute that assertion, although G.M. did make significant suspension changes starting with the 1965 model.” 
  15. Jane Goodall - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “Without collegiate training directing her research, Goodall observed things that strict scientific doctrines may have overlooked. Instead of numbering the chimpanzees she observed, she gave them names such as Fifi and David Greybeard, and observed them to have unique and individual personalities, an unconventional idea at the time. She found that, 'it isn't only human beings who have personality, who are capable of rational thought [and] emotions like joy and sorrow.' She also observed behaviours such as hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and even tickling, what we consider 'human' actions.”
  16. Tom Baker - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 January 2017. “He is known for his portrayal of the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the science fiction series Doctor Who from 1974 to 1981,[1][2] a longer tenure than any other actor, and for the narration of the comedy series Little Britain.[1] Baker's voice, which has been described as 'sonorous', was voted the fourth most recognisable in the UK.”
  17. Tina Louise - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “She appeared in a 1962 episode of The Real McCoys, the Walter Brennan sitcom, and in the 1964 beach party film For Those Who Think Young, with Bob Denver, prior to the development of Gilligan's Island.”
  18. Marty Feldman - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “British comedy writer, comedian, and actor, easily identified by his bulbous and crooked eyes. He starred in several British television comedy series, including At Last the 1948 Show and Marty, the latter of which won two BAFTA awards. He was the first Saturn Award winner for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Young Frankenstein.”
  19. Maggie Smith - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “She has had an extensive, varied career in stage, film and television spanning over sixty years. Smith has appeared in over 50 films and is one of Britain's most recognisable actresses.”
  20. The City on the Edge of Forever - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “Harlan Ellison was one of the first writers to be recruited by Gene Roddenberry for Star Trek. Roddenberry was aiming to have the best science fiction writers produce scripts for the show, and had identified Ellison immediately; at the time, Ellison had been nominated for the 1965 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology with his script for The Outer Limits episode 'Demon with a Glass Hand' (he went on to win). Rather than being assigned a pre-written premise, Ellison was allowed to develop his own and propose it in a 10-page outline. Ellison was inspired by reading a biography of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, and thought that it would be an interesting idea to have Kirk travel back in time and fall in love with a similar woman of good intent, but someone who must die in order to preserve the future. Ellison considered that it would have a heartrending effect on Kirk.”
  21. Larson, Erik. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Crown. ISBN 9780307408846. “Dodd continued to hope for some catalyst to cause the end of the regime and believed the imminent death of Hindenburg--whom Dodd called modern Germany's “single distinguished soul”--might provide it, but again he was to be disappointed.” 
  22. Great Purge - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  23. Natalia Sedova - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  24. Joseph Stalin - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  25. Chiang Kai-shek - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “Chiang Kai-shek (October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975), also romanized as Jiang Jieshi and known as Jiang Zhongzheng, was a Chinese political and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975. Chiang was an influential member of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese Nationalist Party, and was a close ally of Sun Yat-sen's. He became the Commandant of the Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy and took Sun's place as leader of the KMT, following the Canton Coup in early 1926.”
  26. Long March - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 19 January 2017. “The Communists, under the eventual command of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, escaped in a circling retreat to the west and north, which reportedly traversed over 9,000 kilometers (5600 miles) over 370 days.[1] The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of western China by traveling west, then north, to Shaanxi.”

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