(Above: ‘City on the Edge of Forever,’ from the original ‘Star Trek’ series)
Writer Harlan Ellison, who died June 27 at 84, left behind an extensive legacy in fiction, both in print and for the screen.
His name (including aliases like Cordwainer Bird) is attached to more than 1,800 works. In TV and film, his output included not only science fiction but a range of other genres — from procedurals (Burke’s Law, The Young Lawyers) to spy dramas, comedies and westerns (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Flying Nun, Cimarron Strip).
The Savvy Screener remembers the formidably prolific and brilliant writer with a brief survey of some of his most memorable contributions to television science fiction — and tells you where you can stream them.
Star Trek: “City on the Edge of Forever”
Passionate about his creations, Ellison could be combative, especially with those who tried to reshape his stories.
An often-cited example is his run-in with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry over the fan favorite original series episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” Roddenberry and the story editors made changes that prompted Ellison to request that his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird, not his real name, appear in the credits. Roddenberry refused, apparently leading to a falling out between the two science fiction legends.
In 1998, Sci Fi Channel interviewed Ellison about the episode for its “Special Edition” airing of the entire Star Trek series, in which episodes were extended to 90 minutes to include commentary. Below, Ellison (starting at the 4:12 mark) reflects on his battle to preserve the original script, as well as the never-used ending he wrote for the episode:
Although the final product didn’t reflect his vision, Ellison’s original script did win Hugo and Writers Guild of America awards.
There are many options for streaming the original Star Trek episode. It’s available to Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access subscribers. You can also buy it for $1.99 in SD/$2.99 HD from Fandango Now, Amazon and other providers.
The Outer Limits
Ellison penned two 1964 episodes of The Outer Limits. You can watch both of them here.
In “Soldier,” government authorities apprehend a soldier from the future who is armed with an incredible weapon and an instinct to kill.
In another time-travel-themed episode, “Demon with a Glass Hand,” Robert Culp goes back in time to battle an alien race intent on taking over Earth. Ellison won a Writers’ Guild of America Award for the episode.
The Twilight Zone (1985)
Ellison wrote teleplays for three episodes of the reincarnated 1985 version of The Twilight Zone.
You can watch all three episodes here.
The first, “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” is an adaption of his short story “Paladin.” It stars Danny Kaye as Gaspar, an old man with a special watch who bonds with a military veteran:
“Gramma,” based on a Stephen King story, is about a boy who is terrified of his bed-ridden grandmother:
“Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” features an underworld boss who battles an angry demon named Volkerps for the soul of unfortunate Archie Lochner:
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