Harlan Ellison, passionate writer, dies at 84

Title card to “The City on the Edge of Forever, the first-season Star Trek episode written by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison, a writer who was passionate about his work and was willing to fight for it, has died at 84, according to an obituary published by Variety.

Ellison was normally described as a science fiction writer. That was understandable. His output of science fiction was large and took the form of television stories, novels and short stories.

Ellison’s production included the Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever.

In the episode, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock must travel back in time to Earth in the Great Depression and fix history. In doing so, Kirk has to let a woman he’s fall in love with (Joan Collins) die.

Ellison also penned episodes of the original Outer Limits series, including Demon With a Glass Hand starring Robert Culp. Culp’s Trent has no memory but must fight off attacks from mysterious enemies from the future.

However, Ellison could easily tackle other genres.

Cyborgs menace Solo and Illya in The Sort of Do It Yourself Dreadful Affair, written by Harlan Ellison

He penned two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. They were highlights of the show’s third season, where humor overwhelmed the proceedings. One of episodes, The Sort of Do It Yourself Dreadful Affair, added science fiction with cyborgs as part of the plot. The special effects were lacking (even by 1966 standards) but Ellison’s script was funny where it was supposed to be (not always the case with U.N.C.L.E.’s third season).

The writer also tackled the western series Cimarron Strip. Ellison’s twist was that Jack the Ripper, on the run from his murder spree in London, was stalking victims in 1888 Oklahoma. Making the episode even more memorable was a score by Bernard Herrmann.

Ellison also wrote essays about television. The books The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat collected such essays. The author was brutally honest and critical of U.S. television.

The writer was known for advocating strongly for his work, fighting (verbally) against changes by producers and story editors. The City on the Edge of Forever was revised so it wouldn’t bust Star Trek’s budget. Ellison was not happy.

When Ellison was really displeased, he took his name off the writing credit and substituted Cord Wainer Bird or Cordwainer Bird.

According to a review in The New York Review of Science Fiction concerning a book about Ellison’s career, the fighting got physical on one occasion. Ellison got into a fight with ABC executive Adrian Samish over a script for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

The book, A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, says as a result of the fight, a model of the Seaview submarine dropped onto Samish. The executive suffered a broken pelvis.

It was a story Ellison told himself, though the review raises some questions. “How did Harlan avoid an arrest for assault or at least a whopping big lawsuit, or did ABC just hush it all up and pay Samish’s medical costs? How did Harlan ever find work in the TV industry after that?”

If the story is true, the answer probably is Ellison’s enormous talent. On social media, there were tributes to Ellison. Here’s one from Jon Burlingame, an author and academic about film and television music:

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UPDATE (June 29): Harlan Ellison also did some uncredited rewrites of other U.N.C.L.E. episodes. The one I’ve always seen identified is The Virtue Affair in Season Two.

Anyway, according to movie industry professional Robert Short, who also runs an U.N.C.L.E. page on Facebook, Ellison also designed a special bow used by Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) in The Virtue Affair.

Here Illya demonstrates his prowess with the bow while a villain played by Frank Marth looks on.

UNCLE Illya bow Virtue Affair

 

 

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007 Magazine defends Golden Gun film

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

007 Magazine is coming out with a new issue that includes an article titled “In Defence of The Man With the Golden Gun.”

The magazine’s website doesn’t have many details. However, the 1974 James Bond film, the second starring Roger Moore, often gets criticism from critics and fans. So in that regard, 007 Magazine apparently is going to give the ninth Bond film from Eon Productions some fan love.

Also in issue 56 is an interview with Daniel Kleinman, who has designed the titles for seven Bond films, starting with GoldenEye and running through SPECTRE. (Quantum of Solace’s titles were produced by MK12.)

There is also an article about George Leech and his career as a British stuntman and stunt arranger.

For more information, CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 and 11.99 euros.