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B Entries
Barbara Bain
Gene Barry
Wesley E. Barry
Paul Birch
Whit Bissell
Bill Bixby
Jerome Bixby
Chesley Bonestell
Peter Boyle
Ray Bradbury
Adrien Brody
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BIXBY, JEROME
(Drexel Jerome Lewis Bixby 1923–1998). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Edward L. CAHN 1958); Curse of the Faceless Man (Cahn 1958); The Lost Missile (with William A. Berke and John McPartland) (William A. Berke 1958); Tales of Frankenstein (tv pilot) (uncredited, with Curt SIODMAK) (1958); "Is There Another Civilization?" (1960), episode of Men into Space; Fantastic Voyage (story with Otto Klement, "adaptation" David DUNCAN, screenplay Harry Kleiner) (Richard FLEISCHER 1966); "Mirror, Mirror" (1967), "By Any Other Name" (story, screenplay with D. C. FONTANA), "Day of the Dove" (1968), "Requiem for Methuselah" (1969), episodes of Star Trek; Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth (Richard Schenkman 2007).

Film based on his work: "It's a Good Life" (1961), episode of The Twilight Zone; Fantastic Voyage (animated tv series) (1968-1970); "It's a Good Life," segment of Twilight Zone—The Movie (Joe DANTE, John LANDIS, George MILLER, and Steven SPIELBERG 1983); "It's Still a Good Life" (2003), episode of The Twilight Zone.

 
Jerome Bixby should be better known than he is, given that his name is attached to a number of noteworthy films and television programs. Admittedly, a skeptical scrutiny of his works suggests he is an author incapable of genuine creativity who is content to manipulate familiar story elements; but when he is on his game, he can manipulate those elements with breathtaking skill.

He first distinguished himself by writing short stories with furious energy throughout the 1950s, under his own name and several pseudonyms; one of these, "It's a Good Life" (1953), was later voted into The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and provided Rod SERLING with material for a striking episode of The Twilight Zone. While on one level only another horror story about a demonically powerful child with vaguely science-fictional underpinnings, Bixby's Anthony ingeniously torments adults by insisting that they always be happy in a conventional, 1950s sort of way. With such a resonant theme for young science fiction devotees—Hell Is Ozzie and Harriet—it isn't surprising that this was one of three episodes later remade for the Twilight Zone movie.

Before that episode aired, however, Bixby had already joined the unique wave of science fiction writers who moved into film during the late 1950s, and while one can lament that David DUNCAN and Jerry SOHL got their feet in the door, at least greater talents like Richard MATHESON, Theodore STURGEON, and Bixby were also garnering some assignments. First teaming up with reluctant science fiction director Edward L. CAHN, Bixby had an impressive debut in It! The Terror from Beyond Space, offering a lively and suspenseful story of a rubber-suited monster who stows away on a return flight to Mars. Perhaps it was little more than an unauthorized adaptation of A. E. van Vogt's story "Black Destroyer," but Bixby knew how to make it work on the screen, and while van Vogt later would successfully sue to be credited for Alien, Ridley SCOTT's film actually owed more to Bixby than to van Vogt.

Bixby's second effort for Cahn, Curse of the Faceless Man, transplanted the standard mummy story to Italy, with its titular menace cleverly based on haunting images of the Pompeii residents embalmed by the ashes of Vesuvius. The revenant's quest for the modern reincarnation of his ancient lover, however, was less involving than it might have been, principally because this appears to be another one of those movies that employed clumsy narration to compensate for a lost soundtrack. But even an intact soundtrack could not salvage Bixby's third film, The Lost Missile, a contrived cold war thriller about a Communist rocket that seems poised to destroy the world.

After a brief foray into television—providing uncredited assistance to Curt SIODMAK for an unsuccessful tv pilot, Tales of Frankenstein, and writing a rarely-seen episode of Men into Space—Bixby's name next surfaced amidst the credits of the 1996 film Fantastic Voyage. Without access to relevant documentation, this is how one might speculatively reconstruct the project's history: Bixby and Otto Klement developed the basic ideas—the old science fiction trope about miniaturized people traveling through the human body, the crucial mission of saving the life of an important political figure, and an artificial time limit imposed by a miniaturization process that is only temporary. The scenario then fell into the hands of David Duncan, who did something to "adapt" the story—probably, the hackneyed addition of a transparently evil enemy agent to the crew—before Harry Kleiner was finally trusted to write the shooting script. For whatever reason, the resulting film jarringly combined remarkable creativity with remarkable stupidity, and it required the talents of Isaac ASIMOV to finally make the story palatable in his after-the-fact novelization.

Bixby remains most celebrated, of course, for his contributions to the original Star Trek series, which were a mixed bag indeed. Although lauded in some quarters, "Day of the Dove" struck me at the time as a plodding antiwar allegory, as obvious as its title. "By Any Other Name" isn't much better, a dreary saga of alien invaders undone by exposure to messy human emotions, but one can readily blame co-writer D.C. FONTANA for that episode's excesses. However, even though it is visibly nothing more than a rewrite of Forbidden Planet, replacing Dr. Morbius with the standard character of the secret immortal who has assumed various famous identities throughout Earth's history, "Requiem for Methuselah" is a fine episode, stylishly crafted and effectively understated. Even better was "Mirror, Mirror," where Bixby again seized upon an old idea—the parallel universe inhabited by evil counterparts to good people in our universe—and came up with a brilliantly constructed drama dripping with violence, sex, and even a little food for thought. Watching its concluding scene, where a duplicate of the one unfamiliar character in the mirror universe walks on to the bridge of the Enterprise and greets Captain Kirk, one feels the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle slipping into place. Seeking a single episode to epitomize Star Trek—with all its lurid melodrama, raw emotionalism, and appealing pacifist philosophy—the Smithsonian Institution selected "Mirror, Mirror," and they couldn't have made a better choice.

Though Bixby never wrote for the screen again, the impact of "Mirror, Mirror" has lingered on in the world of Star Trek: in the 1990s, seeking some device to enliven what had become the tedious soap opera of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, producers introduced Bixby's mirror universe in several episodes to foreground colorfully sinister counterparts to its stolid regulars. After his death in 1998, an episode featuring the mirror universe, "The Emperor's New Cloak," was dedicated to Jerome Bixby—a surprising tribute to a surprisingly memorable writer. But more surprising tributes to Bixby would come in the twenty-first century: first, a new revival of The Twilight Zone included an effective sequel to "It's a Good Life," bringing back actors from the original episode to explore the life of the adult Anthony and a daughter who seems to have inherited his skills. Then, in the year 2007, a script that Bixby completed shortly before his death was finally filmed as Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth. I have had the privilege of viewing this yet-to-be-released film, and while it again is a story that breaks no new ground—essentially, it is "Requiem for Methuselah" retold in a contemporary Earth setting—it has all the hallmarks of a classic Bixby work: interesting dialogue, a carefully constructed story, and an appealing message. Two decades after his death, it is good to finally see Jerome Bixby's name above the title, and one hopes this film will inspire new attention to his remarkable career.

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