by Rick Norwood
Paramount Home Video has shot itself in the foot, and it looks like it is up to me to remove the bullet. Their recent Star Trek DVD release of "The City on the Edge of Forever" does, repeat does, have the original music. Thank God! Finally!
"The City on the Edge of Forever" (****), by Harlan Ellison, is one of the best television programs of all time in any genre. And the music written specially for that episode and only that episode is one of its many pleasures. I wish I knew the name of the composer. No music credit is given.
The very first video release, which I have in Beta format, used that music. But all subsequent video releases were unwilling to pay whatever music royalties the composer wanted and had different and much inferior music. So when I opened the package from amazon.com, I looked at the back and felt almost sick as I read the dreaded words, "some music has been changed for this DVD". This is art, dammit! You have no right.
Then I played the DVD and the beautiful, haunting music was all there. The people who produced the DVD did a letter-perfect job of bringing back the original version. It was the idiots who wrote the copy on the back of the package who got it wrong. Or maybe the negotiations for the music rights were completed after the box was already printed. In any case, here is "The City on the Edge of Forever", in the very best version you have ever seen or heard.
I've also been watching The Avengers (**) on DVD, and I'm sorry to report that even the black and white episodes, which are much better than the color episodes, are not as good as I remembered them. I've watched a lot of "classic" television, and I've been bored most of the time, waiting for the next clever bit. Out of all of old time television, the only shows that I've found that are not boring are Perry Mason, Have Gun - Will Travel, and Star Trek. The rest -- The Adventures of Superman, The Hulk, Battlestar Galactica, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Lost in Space, The Wild Wild West, The Avengers, The Prisoner -- all the shows I loved as a kid -- they have their moments, but with long boring stretches in between, where people walk around or drive cars and music plays and nothing happens.
Before The Beatles, a record album would have one or two hits and the rest filler. The Beatles created the concept album, the album that was a stand-alone work of art, the album that was good throughout. Before Roddenberry, television shows were mostly like those old record albums: a lot of filler with a few good bits. Roddenberry, starting in his Have Gun - Will Travel days, packed enough good stuff into the shows he wrote that they hold your interest from beginning to end.
Incidently, I got my DVDs of The Avengers from Columbia House Video, and three out of four were defective -- they broke up into pixels about half way through. So, if you buy them, be sure to check them for defects.
Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.
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