Published May 26, 2019
In Conversation: Legendary TOS Guest Star, Joan Collins
The classic Hollywood actress — who appeared in "The City on the Edge of Forever" — is busier than ever.
By StarTrek.com Staff
Actress Joan Collins is now Dame Joan Collins, but to Star Trek fans worldwide she'll always be the woman who brought warmth and humanity to Edith Keeler, the pivotal pacifist character at the center of "The City on the Edge of Forever." That brilliant, award-winning episode of Star Trek: The Original Series is widely regarded as not only the franchise's finest hour, but simply one of the best sci-fi stories ever told.
An interview with Collins has long been on StarTrek.com's wishlist, and we're pleased to say that we can finally scratch off her name. The legendary Hollywood fixture agreed to an interview in which she talked about "The City on the Edge of Forever," Dynasty, receiving her 'Dame' title, her many upcoming projects and more.
StarTrek.com: Congratulations on your recent honor. What does it mean to you to now be Dame Joan Collins
Joan Collins: It's wonderful. It's lovely. It's just about the highest honor that a woman can get in Britain. So it means a great deal to me.
You seem to be forever young and forever busy. Tell us about some of your current projects.
JC: I'm in a series called The Royals that has just been picked up [by the E! network]. That's their first scripted series. I'm in another series called Benidorm in England, but people [in the United States] probably never have heard of it. I'm also working on writing books. And I have a very successful beauty and skincare line on QVC in Europe. It's in England and Germany and Italy, and I hope it's going to come to America. I'm totally hands on with it. I've been involved with that for nearly four years, and with every single piece of it. We have a fantastic scent called I Am Woman. So I have to tell you, I am very busy.
Let's talk about Star Trek. By the time you shot "The City on the Edge of Forever" in February 1967, you'd already established yourself in America. You'd done The Bravados, Rally Round the Flag, The Road to Hong Kong and other feature films. So what led you to a one-off guest appearance on Star Trek?
JC: My children. When I was asked to do Star Trek, I remember saying to my agent, "Well, what is Star Trek?" I'd never heard of it. When I told my children — who were then about two and four — that I'd been asked to do Star Trek, my daughter [who was the older child] jumped up and down and said, "Oh, mum, you must do it. It's a great show." So that's why I did it.
What intrigued you most about Keeler and about the episode's concept that this well-meaning woman had to die for millions of other people to live?
JC: I really didn't think about it very much. I just read the script and I thought the script was very good. And I thought it was an interesting premise that this woman could have prevented a world war. So I just went ahead and did it.
What do you remember of the shoot itself? Of working with Shatner and Nimoy and Kelley?
J: It was fun. I did get to know Bill a little bit. We cross paths once in a while still. Years ago, at my first [Star Trek] convention, he introduced me [to the audience]. I actually think that was the only convention I've ever done.
There's a shot of Keeler and Kirk walking in front of a barbershop. That was actually the Floyd's Barbershop storefront from The Andy Griffith Show, which filmed on the famous 40 Acres backlot, where you shot portions of "City on the Edge of Forever." Were you aware of that at the time? Has anyone ever pointed that out to you? Or is that too arcane a piece of Trek trivia?
JC: I had no clue! [Laughs]. As far as I was concerned, I was starting to do lots of television at that time. I did The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I did The Virginian. So I was doing quite a few shows and, as far as I was concerned, [Star Trek] really was just another gig.
At the end of the day, though, "The City on the Edge of Forever" ranks as one of Star Trek's best episodes ever.
JC: I know.
How pleased are you to have been a part of that episode and, as a result, of the whole Star Trek phenomenon?
JC: I am pleased. It's nice. But I didn't even have a clue at the time that we'd made a memorable episode. It was not until several years later.
The episode aired back in 1967. Have you seen it since it premiered?
JC: I don't watch my older work. I'm not Gloria Swanson. [Laughs]. But if it's on, sometimes I will take a look. But I don't exactly sit there and hunch over it and think, "Oh, my God."
When you're making appearances at events like the Hollywood Show, what do people want to talk with you about most? Is it Dynasty? Star Trek? Something else? Maybe something like Batman or Empire of the Ants?
JC: It's mostly Dynasty. People mostly want to talk about Dynasty. Let's say that out of 10 people, eight will want to talk about Dynasty, one will want to talk about Star Trek and another one will want to talk about other things. Some people talk to me about theater, because I've done a great deal of theater. I've been doing a one-woman show regularly, and I'll be doing that two or three times this year.
You have hundreds of film, stage and TV credits. What are you proudest of? Maybe credits most people haven't even seen?
JC: Well, there are two movies that I did, independent films that you've probably never heard of. They didn't get a lot of attention. One is called Quest for Love (1971), an English film. And the other is called Decadence (1994), which is also a British film, that I did with [writer, director and co-star] Steven Berkoff. I would say that my performances in those films are the performances I'm most proud of. Then, again, I'd also say Dynasty. It's not easy to take a venal, vindictive character and make her extremely popular.
The Royals will debut in March and has already been renewed for a second season, before a single episode has even aired. Tell us about your character on the show...
JC: It was only just announced last week. The show is a fictional account of the royal family. I'm playing the Grand Duchess of Oxford [the mother of Queen Helena, portrayed by Elizabeth Hurley].
This interview, originally published in 2015, has been edited and condensed.