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.)

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:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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

 

 

Lawrence Montaigne, busy character actor, dies

Lawrence Montaigne (1931-2017)

Lawrence Montaigne, a character actor frequently seen on television in the 1960s and ’70s, has died at 86.

His death was announced on Facebook by his daughter, Jessica. The startrek.com website published an obituary.

Montaigne may be best known for the 1967 Star Trek episode Amok Time. He played Stonn, the Vulcan boyfriend of T’Pring (Arlene Martel), who is betrothed to Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

It’s one of the best-remembered episodes of the 1966-69 series in part because it includes a fight between Spock and Captain Kirk (William Shatner), which is heightened by a Gerald Fried score. Years later, the Jim Carrey movie The Cable guy did a parody, including Fried’s music.

Montaigne also was in the cast of an earlier Star Tre episode, Balance of Terror, in a different role.

The actor was more than Star Trek. He was in the large cast of the 1963 movie The Great Escape. Montaigne also appeared in many spy and detective shows, usually as a villain.

Lawrence Montaigne in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Among them: two episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; two episodes of Mission: Impossible; one episode of I Spy; one episode of Blue Light, the World War II spy series with Robert Goulet; one episode of Hawaii Five-O; one episode of It Takes a Thief; and eight episodes of The FBI.

Montaigne’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 69 acting credits.

Robert H. Justman: In the nexus of Star Trek, M:I, Superman

robert-h-justman-title-card

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

This month is the 50th anniversary of both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. One man links both. Not to mention The Adventures of Superman.

That man would be Robert H. Justman (1926-2008).

Justman was associate producer for the pilots of Star Trek (specifically, the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before) and Mission: Impossible.

At the time, Desilu was a sleepy studio. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were divorced in 1960. Desi was handled creative efforts. Lucy was the no-nonsense head of business affairs. After the divorce, Lucy bought out Desi.

Over time, Desi’s absence had an effect. As older Desilu shows ran their course, the studio wasn’t able to replace them. By the mid-1960s, Desilu mostly rented out its studios to other production companies.

In early 1966, however, Desilu was getting its mojo back. It pitched two expensive series (for their time), Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, to television networks. Both sold.

Robert Justman suddenly was in demand. Both Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Mission: Impossible creator Bruce Geller wanted Justman to work on their series. Roddenberry won out.

Earlier in his career, Justman worked on a show featuring another major character. He had been an assistant director on The Adventures of Superman, the 1950s series with George Reeves as Superman. He held the same post with The Outer Limits in the early 1960s.

Today, Justman is known mostly for Star Trek. Roddenberry made him part of his team when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987.

Still, over a long career, Justman worked in a variety of genres, including a Philip Marlowe series and a TV version of The Thin Man. He was producer of Search, a spy-like series on NBC during the 1972-73 season.

Gene L. Coon: More than just Star Trek

Poster for The Killers, a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Poster for The Killers (1964), a pre-Star Trek credit for Gene L. Coon

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

For the purposes of this post, we’re stretching the definition of “unsung.” Gene L. Coon was a major figure for the original Star Trek series (where he was producer for part of the first and second seasons) and he’s mostly remembered for that.

However, the writer-producer performed work in other genres. That included 1960s spy shows, serving as a producer for some episodes of The Wild Wild West and It Takes a Thief. He also wrote episodes of war dramas and westerns.

Coon also did the script for the 1964 version of The Killers, with a cast headed by Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Ronald Reagan. The crew included composer John Williams.

The Killers was intended by Universal to be a made-for-television movie. What producer-director Don Siegel delivered was deemed to be too violent for the small screen. So The Killers got a theatrical release instead.

Coon had a reputation as a hard worker. He had an admirer in director Ralph Senensky. Here’s what Senensky said about Coon in a reply to a post about an episode of The Wild Wild West titled The Night of the Druid’s Blood:

I think Gene Coon is one of the unsung heroes of television. Both on this series and later on STAR TREK his work (and he was a rewriting machine) set a standard that elevated both series to levels that were seldom reached after his departure.

Coon produced only six episodes of The Wild Wild West near the end of that show’s first season (1965-66). The following television season, he joined Star Trek as producer, working under creator-executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Coon’s main task was to secure and produce a steady stream of scripts.

Coon’s major contributions included the Klingons and co-writing Space Seed, the episode that introduced Ricardo Montalban’s Khan character. Khan would be brought back twice (once with Montalban and once with Benedict Cumberbatch) as villains in Star Trek movies.

Put another way, Coon’s contributions had an impact on Trek productions long after he first made them.

The writer-producer continued into Trek’s second season but departed. He ended up at Universal’s television operation. However, he did some moonlighting, writing some Trek scripts under the pen name Lee Cronin.

One of them, Spock’s Brain, in which Spock’s brain is taken from him, still generates groans from Trek fans decades later. Well, everyone has an off day and the writing conditions (doing it on the side while working full-time at Universal) weren’t ideal.

Gene L. Coon died of cancer on July 8, 1973, just 49 years old. His final writing credit was for an episode of The Streets of San Francisco titled Death and the Favored Few. That show aired in March 1974.

Stephen Kandel: Have genre, will write

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Another in an occasional series about unsung figures of television.

Stephen Kandel, now 89, was the kind of television who could take on multiple genres and do it well.

Science fiction? He wrote the two Star Trek episodes featuring Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel), one of Captain Kirk’s more unusual adversaries.

Espionage? His list of credits included I Spy, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief and A Man Called Sloane.

Crime dramas? Hawaii Five-O and Mannix, among too many to list here. His work included a Cannon-Barnaby Jones crossover, The Deadly Conspiracy, a 1975 two-part story airing as an episode of each series.

Not to mention the occasional Western, drama, super hero series (Batman and Wonder Woman) and some shows that don’t easily fit categories (The Magician, MacGyver).

Writer Harlan Ellison in 1970 referred to Kandel as “one of the more lunatic scriveners in Clown Town.” In a column reprinted in The Other Glass Teat, Ellison wrote that Kandel was assigned to write an episode of a drama called The Young Lawyers that was to introduce a new WASP character.

According to Ellison, ABC opted to tone down socially conscious stories among other changes. Kandel wasn’t a fan of the changes. He initially named the new WASP character “Christian White.”

“It went through three drafts before anyone got hip to Steve’s sword in the spleen,” Ellison wrote.

Other in-joke humor by Kandel that did make it to television screens.

One was a 1973 episode of Mannix, Sing a Song of Murder. Kandel named a hit man Anthony Spinner. Kandel had earlier worked for Spinner on the QM series Dan August.

Presumably Spinner didn’t mind. Kandel ended up working for Spinner on Cannon.

Another bit was Kandel’s script for A Man Called Sloane episode titled The Seduction Squad. Robert Culp played a Blofeld-like criminal, except he carried around a small dog instead of a cat.

Kandel wrapped up his television career with MacGyver. Today, somewhere in the world, there may be an episode of some series written by Kandel being shown.

 

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83, dabbled in spy entertainment

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy with his future Star Trek co-star William Shatner in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock on Star Trek but who also dabbled in spy entertainment, has died today at 83, according to an obituary in THE NEW YORK TIMES.

A brief excerpt:

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week

Nimoy’s greatest fame was as Spock. He first played the role in an unsold 1964 pilot starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike. A second pilot, with William Shatner as Capt. James Kirk, did sell and a series aired on NBC for three seasons. Much later, Star Trek was revived for theatrical movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation, a syndicated series set decades after the original. Nimoy’s Spock showed up at one time or another in some of the films and the later series.

Still, he appeared in spy shows as well. He and Shatner were in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Project Strigas Affair. Shatner was an “innocent” recruited by Napoleon Solo as part of a complicated plot. Nimoy was a secondary villain.

Nimoy also replaced Martin Landau on Mission: Impossible for that show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Nimoy played Paris, a magician and master of disguise. Executives at Paramount forced out Landau, who never signed a long-term contact and who had previously won salary raises in negotiations.

Landau was was popular as disguise expert Rollin Hand and the departure also cost M:I of the services of his then-wife, Barbara Bain. As a result, Nimoy came aboard as the show’s ratings slipped. He left before the series changed to a format where the Impossible Missions Force battled only organized crime in the final two seasons.

UPDATE: Leonard Nimoy was active on Twitter. This is his last Tweet:

UPDATE II (7 p.m.): MeTV, the U.S. cable channel of classic television shows, is showing a lot of episodes of shows where Nimoy was the guest star. On Sunday at 10 p.m., it will show The Project Strigas Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by one of Nimoy’s appearances on Mission: Impossible (“The Hostage) at 11 p.m., followed by an episode of Get Smart (The Dead Spy Scrawls) with Nimoy. For more details, CLICK HERE.