R.I.P. Harlan Ellison, the sci-fi writer behind the greatest Star Trek episode

By: H&I Staff     Posted: June 28, 2018, 5:17PM    Tags: Star Trek

Image: The Everett Collection

The greatest episode of Star Trek is certainly a topic of debate. It is, after all, Star Trek. But is there a better judge than Captain Kirk himself? William Shatner declared "City on the Edge of Forever" to be the brightest gem of the Original Series, and it's hard to argue. Joan Collins. Time travel. The sets from The Andy Griffith Show. Morality. Heartbreak. There's a lot to chew on there. No wonder it won a Hugo Award.

It was just one example of the genius of writer Harlan Ellison. 

Few television writers become household names. Ellison, who also published dozens of novels, short stories, comic books and essays, certainly belongs in the pantheon of science-fiction legends.

His first television credit came on Route 66. The third season episode titled "A Gift for a Warrior" was based on one of Ellison's short stories. He went on to type teleplays for Burke's Law, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ("The Price of Doom"), The Outer Limits ("Soldier," the one that heavily inspired the plot of The Terminator) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, to name a few.

Despite the acclaim for "City on the Edge of Forever," the episode did not come without some behind-the-scenes drama. Ellison, angry at Gene Roddenberry for changing his script, considering using an alias for his credit. Ellison continually fought for his intellectual rights. There were lawsuits for both the television series Future Cop and the film The Terminator for being so heavily indebted to his work.

Announced in a tweet earlier today, Ellison left behind his own epitaph. "For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered."—HE, 1934-2018. He was 84 years old.

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