Tag: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

City on the Edge of Forever

Photo from Memory Alpha

Once upon a time I tried to make a radio play version of the Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever, by science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. The Powers That Be at CBC Radio at the time were in favour of the idea. The Business Rights people contacted Harlan and attempted to negotiate with him. I can’t quite recall how it came about, but I wound up calling him.

I’d been a big fan of his work ever since reading his short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, which blew my mind (I actually wrote a version it for radio, since lost to time). I don’t think I even knew then that he’d written City on the Edge of Forever. Much later I discovered that he is considered by many to be, shall we say, problematic. Anyway, being a fan at the time, I was tickled at the opportunity to talk to him. We had a short conversation which focussed mostly on how much the rights to City on the Edge of Forever would cost. I informed him that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was a public broadcaster and we’d pay what we could. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough for Harlan, so the project never happened.

If you’re wondering how we could ever even have conceived such a thing, here’s my original pitch, which lays it all out. The thing is, as far as I know, it all stills hold true today. You could not produce a version of Gene Roddenberry’s City on the Edge of Forever, but you COULD produce a version of Harlan Ellison’s. If you really wanted to, and if you had enough money to purchase the rights. And maybe changed the characters’ names.

The City on the Edge of Forever Pitch

There was a time when if you were a Star Trek fan then you were a member of a relatively small club.  This is no longer the case.  Now, just about everyone is familiar with Star Trek – it’s a cultural phenomenon. 

Arguably the best Star Trek episode ever made – in any of the ubiquitous franchise’s many incarnations – is City on the Edge of Forever.  City on the Edge of Forever features the original and most beloved characters in the Star Trek pantheon: Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, “Bones” McCoy, and so on.  The story is simple and poignant: Kirk travels back in time to 1930’s New York to prevent a shipmate from altering time.  There, he falls in love, but to fulfill his mission, he must allow the woman he has fallen in love with to die.

The episode spawned a famous feud between the episode’s original writer, Harlan Ellison, and Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry.  Citing cost overruns and other difficulties, Roddenberry and his staff (Gene L. Coon and D.C. Fontana, mainly) completely rewrote Ellison’s version of the episode before shooting it.  The two versions are quite a bit different, yet both have demonstrable merit.  Roddenberry’s went on to win a Hugo; Ellison’s won the Writer’s Guild of America’s Award for Most Outstanding Teleplay.  Just about everyone has seen Roddenberry’s version of City on the Edge of Forever — Ellison’s version has never been produced for film, televison or radio.

Harlan Ellison owns the rights to his original, award-winning version of the most famous Star Trek episode ever to air.  Paramount Studios owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise; they do not own the rights to Harlan’s script. What this means is that CBC Radio can produce a radio play version of City on the Edge of Forever simply by changing the names of the characters. 

The free publicity for CBC Radio likely to be generated by mounting a radio version of Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever, coupled with the intrinsic entertainment value of the piece itself, is probably reason enough to produce the property.  Couching the production within the context of the issue of creative ownership (conversations with Harlan Ellison and other artists who perceive their work to have been mishandled by others) might justify the production further.

I believe this to be quite an opportunity.  Given Star Trek’s place in popular culture, it is possible – perhaps even likely – that a CBC Radio production of Harlan Ellison’s City on the Edge of Forever could be nothing less than a cultural event.

Adventures in the Radio Trade

If you came here looking for The Story of Q, the original version is now located here.

Coming Soon

Adventures in the Radio Trade

by Joe Mahoney

From Donovan Street Press

This is the story of your average Joe working mostly behind the scenes at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Adventures in the Radio Trade is an attempt to document a roughly twenty year stretch of CBC Radio between 1988 and 2008. It covers a fair amount of ground from the perspective of single audio technician (me) following his own unique path through the CBC Radio trenches.

My time with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been mostly positive, so you won’t see much dirt here. This is a celebration of CBC Radio, though an unflinching one, as there were some challenging moments. I do my utmost to be strictly factual based on a pretty good memory and copious notes taken throughout my career.

The tale begins in July 1988…

Something Technical

My roommate came home with a brand new car. I’d been bumming around for a couple of months, enjoying a summer off after working as a lab assistant at Ryerson. He’d been bumming around too, but then he got a job at GM, and one day he came home with a car. It seemed so… grown up. And cool. The guy had a car. He could afford a car. A brand new car. I still remember what kind of car it was. A red Chevy Beretta.

I decided I wanted to be able to afford a car. This meant it was time to get a job.

I applied for a job at Sony where I’d make $25,000 dollars a year. This seemed like a huge amount. Ryerson had paid $13,000 for eight months of work. I was still living off that because my lifestyle cost virtually nothing. I had nothing. Up until then I’d wanted nothing. Until my roommate came home with a car.

I also applied at a post production facility. I forget the name. They interviewed me (Sony didn’t). They were willing to pay me $18,000 a year. They said, if you were offered both jobs, this one and the one at Sony, which one would you take? I didn’t even blink an eye. “The one at Sony,” I said.

“Why?”

“Because it’s seven thousand dollars more a year!”

I didn’t get either job. The post-production facility phoned me up to give me the news.

“Do you know why we didn’t give you the job?” the fellow who called asked me.

“No, why?”

“It’s because you said you’d take the Sony job over ours for the money.”

“So you’re penalizing me for being honest,” I said.

He didn’t care. He was trying to tell me that they wanted to hire someone with a passion for what they were doing, but I didn’t clue in. It wasn’t where my head was at just then. I wanted a job, and the more money the better. I’d figure out the passion bit later.  

So I crossed the street — Jarvis Street — to the CBC and gave the receptionist June my resume. June asked, “What kind of job do you want?”

“Something technical,” I told her.

I have no idea why I said that. It just came out without any premeditation whatsoever. I could have said, “Something that will earn me a lot of money,” or “Something On Air.” But I didn’t. Probably any other answer wouldn’t have gotten me a job. I said, “Something technical” and June picked up the phone right away and called someone.

It was Don Burgess, who was the manager in charge of radio technicians at the time. No idea what his exact title was. I don’t think he did the job very long. But he did it long enough for me. We chatted a bit about my background… plenty of experience in private radio, a degree in radio and television from Ryerson, and so on. He set up an interview.

A week later three people sat at one end of a table while I sat at the other. It was a friendly interrogation. I told them I could read music, that I’d been an announcer/operator for many years, that I listened to CBC Radio all the time since I’d been a kid. I could name shows and hosts dating back a decade and a half. My favourite shows were Variety Tonight with Vicki Gabereau and I also enjoyed The Entertainers when it had been on.

At the end of the interview they asked me if I had any questions. I said, “Just one. What have you been interviewing me for?”

They all laughed. Nobody answered the question. They thought I was joking. But I wasn’t joking. Nobody had taken the time to explain the position to me. All I knew was that it was something technical to do with CBC Radio. (I’ve conducted many interviews since; I always take time off the top to make sure the applicant completely understands what they’re applying for.)

A week later they hired me. A few days after that I received a letter from the CBC saying they couldn’t hire me. This was because I had also dropped off a letter to their Human Resources department asking for a job. The Human Resources department didn’t want me. Fortunately the technical folks did.

I’d been working for CBC Radio an entire week before I really started to get a sense of what the job was. It was a job that hadn’t existed in any of the private radio stations I’d worked for. In private radio you did it all. At the CBC you just did a piece of it all. You specialized. And I was going to specialize in the technical stuff. Not fixing things, operating them. Consoles, microphones, tape recorders, all technical equipment having to do with the recording and broadcast of sound.

Something technical. Those two words changed my life, have defined my life for over three decades now.

Never did get a car. Had to marry into that. But that’s another story.


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Adventures in the Radio Trade

Table of Contents

Something Technical

CJRW

A Brief History of Radio

Net Testing

The Radio Building

Studio Q

“Joe, We Have a Problem”

Riding the Faders

Radio Techness

As It Happens

Morningside

Freelancing

Studios from Scratch

One Leg at a Time

French Radio: CJBC

Four Days Chez Margaret Atwood

A Dramatic Turn of Events

Tools of the Trade

Cherry Docs

Requiem for a Studio

2F100

Strike! 132

Hybrids

Muckraker

The Handmaid’s Tale

Stuart McLean

Faster Than Light

The Cold Equations

Captain’s Away!

Barney’s Version

To the Ships!

Faster Than Light: The Second and Third Pilots

Matt Watts

Arthur J. Vaughan: One Officer’s Experiences

The Great Radio Drama Submission Call

Birth

Worms for Sale

The Great Lockout of ’05

The Adventures of Apocalypse Al

Live Effects for a Dead Dog

Funny Boy

Canadia: 2056

The Story of Q

The Producer

The Dark Side

Cue Backtime

Glossary

Coming Soon

Adventures in the Radio Trade

by Joe Mahoney

Donovan Street Press

All material in this post, audio and otherwise, is presented under the Fair Dealings provision of Canadian Copyright law. However, if any copyright holders wish me to remove any creative material, please contact me at ilanderz@gmail.com and I will do so immediately.

Stay tuned…


A Time and a Place, by Joe Mahoney

“Unlike any other sci-fi you’ve ever read. This book was both comic and tragic, sad and funny, with a hero who tries to do the right thing but always seems to stumble. Recommended.”

Lee Herman, Amazon 5 Star Review


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