John D.F. Black, Star Trek, Five-O writer, dies

McGarrett thinks he has Wo Fat in custody but a U.S. spymaster is about to spring a surprise in The Jinn Who Clears the Way, written by John D.F. Black

John D.F. Black, a writer whose credits included the original Star Trek and Hawaii Five-O series, has died at 85, according to the Star Trek.com and Jacobs Brown Press websites

The writer died on Nov. 29, the websites said. Jacobs Brown said it had been informed by Black’s widow.

Black wrote for various television series including Mission: Impossible, The FBI and Mannix. He submitted a script (The Charge d’Affair) during the fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But it went unproduced after the series was canceled in midseason.

The scribe was versatile, writing for various genres, including westerns (Laredo, The High Virginian) and comedies (The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Besides his television work, he also co-scripted the original 1971 Shaft movie, starring Richard Roundtree and directed by Gordon Parks.

Black had the title of associate producer during part of Star Trek’s first season. He acted as story editor, helping secure and revise scripts. He wrote The Naked Time, where the Enterprise crew suddenly lose their inhibitions. Black also received two “story by” credits (one under the pen name Ralph Wills) on the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. One was a sequel to The Naked Time.

On Five-O, Black penned 10 episodes, including five in the first season. On some he received solo credit, on others his scripts based on plots from the show’s creator and executive producer, Leonard Freeman.

Black also wrote three episodes featuring arch-villain Wo Fat: A two-parter in the fourth season (The Ninety-Second War) and a single-part story (The Jinn Who Clears the Way) in the fifth.

The latter was Black’s finale for the show and he went out with a bang. McGarrett (Jack Lord) finally has Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) in custody. But before McGarrett can savor the triumph, U.S. official Jonathan Kaye (Joseph Sirola) arrives. He lets Wo Fat go because the mastermind is to be exchanged for a U.S. spy plane pilot.

The episode ends with McGarrett slamming Wo Fat’s phony U.S. passport an object on the lawman’s desk. It was one of the highlights of the entire series. (I have been advised by those who’ve reviewed the sequence in slow motion it wasn’t Wo Fat’s phony U.S. passport.)

3 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Colonel Assignment – and thoughts about writings and the world.

  2. Here’s a consideration that comes up on our blog (regarding classic TV topics). Were the writers of the episodes we remember most successful because they crafted an artful plot, script? And because the story lines were originals of the times? Or because the actors knew how to breathe meaning into those words through their personalities and nuance? Of course you can’t have one without the other. So the writers like, and such as John D.F. Black, brought viewers hours of entertainment lasting into this day! Remarkable.

  3. I read that the D.F. in his byline was a tribute to D.C. Fontana, who helped him in the beginning of his script-writing career.

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