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D–E Entries
Meyer Dolinsky
Faith Domergue
David Duchovny
David Duncan
Harlan Ellison
Roland Emmerich
Maurice Evans
 
DOLINSKY, MEYER
(1923–1984). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: "Sound That Kills" (1956), "Bolt of Lightning" (1957), episodes of Science Fiction Theatre; "Unexpected Murder," "Chemical Story" (with Robert C. Dennis) (1959), episodes of World of Giants; "Building a Space Station" (1959), "Caves of the Moon" (1960), episodes of Men into Space; "The Architects of Fear," "O.B.I.T." (1963), "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z" (additional material Joseph STEFANO) (1964), episodes of The Outer Limits; "Plato's Stepchildren" (1968), episode of Star Trek; SST—Death Flight (story Gordon Trueblood; script with Robert L. Joseph and William Roberts, uncredited) (tv movie) (David Lowell Rich 1977).

Wrote as Michael Adams: "Dateline Moon" (story; script Robert Warnes Leach) (1960), episode of Men into Space; "Vikor," "The Watchers" (story with Earl HAMNER, Jr; script Hamner and Jerry SOHL) (1967), episodes of The Invaders; "Live Bait" (story; script with James D. Buchanan and Ronald Austin) (1969), episode of Mission Impossible.

 
As is often the case with writers—those absolutely essential but criminally neglected architects of film—there seems to be almost no biographical information available on Meyer Dolinsky, forcing the biographical encyclopedist to speculate and invent, based on the scraps of data available, hoping that some Internet-savvy relative will be inspired to step forward and provide him with some actual facts. Granted, based on his accomplishments, one might argue that he doesn't really merit such attention, but true science fiction fans remember everyone and everything, sometimes with unexpected rewards.

We learn from an obituary of his younger sister, Annette Dolinsky Baran, that his father was a Jewish house painter in Chicago, and based on his date of birth, one can assume that the young Dolinsky was drafted to fight for his country in World War II. However, he probably did not enjoy the experience, since he never wrote any war stories, and pacifist sentiments sometimes surface in his stories. After the war, we find this native Chicagoan in the Los Angeles area, perhaps having moved there with his family (since he and his sister both attended UCLA), though perhaps he relocated by himself to pursue a career as a writer. Dogged investigation shows that Dolinsky was writing scripts for the radio series The Whistler as early as February, 1947; still, as if realizing that such work could not guarantee him a steady income, this cautious young man also took advantage of the GI Bill to obtain a college degree from UCLA in 1949 and a secondary teaching credential from USC in 1950, so that he could always support himself as a high school teacher if all else failed. Interestingly, a recent message from a former student confirms that Dolinsky did work as a high school English teacher in Los Angeles in the early 1950s, impressing her with his passion and sense of humor and encouraging his students to listen to episodes of another radio series he scripted, The Green Hornet. She also suggests that he may have lost his teaching job after being identified as a Communist during the McCarthy hearings: does a youthful flirtation with leftist politics explain why he had trouble getting steady work until the late 1950s? In any event, his tenure as a teacher may have been brief, but it surely informed his successful work for the television series Mr. Novak (1963-1965), featuring an idealistic high school English teacher that Dolinsky undoubtedly identified with.

One doubts, though, that Dolinsky ever missed teaching as he began getting writing assignments in radio, film, and television, including the scripts of two forgotten B-movies—Hot Rod Rumble (1957) and As Young As We Are (1958); a cover image also shows that he wrote the novelization of the former film under the title Hot Rod Gang Rumble (1957). However, the bulk of his credits, then and for the rest of his career, involved writing for television, including an unusually high proportion of science fiction series—which might be regarded as evidence of a special affinity for the genre, even if there is little about his scripts to suggest he had any sort of scientific background or special interest in science. From a more cynical perspective, one might argue that, since the science fiction series of the day were not particularly prestigious or profitable, the top writers tended to avoid them, so that unheralded journeymen like Dolinsky could more readily market their wares in such venues.

What else do we know about Meyer Dolinsky? As he settled into his screenwriting career, we know that he engaged in some minimal networking with other writers, since he was twice a guest speaker for a writer's organization called the Southwest Manuscripters, whose other speakers included science fiction writers like Forrest J. ACKERMAN, Charles BEAUMONT, Robert BLOCH, Ray BRADBURY, Mark Clifton, Rod SERLING, and Leonard Wibberley; later, he had no trouble getting a science fiction novel published, and he was interviewed by another writer, David J. SCHOW, for the book The Outer Limits Companion. A Jewish organization newsletter indicates that, at some point, a man named Meyer Dolinsky picked up a wife named Ursel, though a genealogy chart elsewhere, with different birth and death dates for the man married to Ursel, suggests that this was a different Meyer Dolinsky; who can be sure about such things? Still, one can more confidently discount reports that the man also worked as an "actor and stunt coordinator," since these appear to be the result of confusing Dolinsky with other people who shared his pseudonym Michael Adams.

Turning to his contributions to science fiction film, Dolinsky's earliest scripts of genre interest include two of the duller episodes of that dull series, Science Fiction Theatre, and his contributions to the short-lived World of Giants were probably no better. But his work for another short-lived series, Men into Space, showed more promise: true, "Building a Space Station" and "Caves of the Moon" were only competent but routine tales of male camaraderie and a spaceman in peril, which is what the show specialized in, but his story for "Dateline: Moon" broke away from the pattern to offer an intriguing drama about a sleazy journalist who tries to con William LUNDIGAN's Colonel McCauley with a phony alien artifact, also introducing the provocative theme that would increasingly dominate the series, McCauley's quest for evidence of alien life. Yet since his script for the episode, now in the UCLA archives, was rejected and rewritten, leaving him with only a story credit, and since he never worked for the series again, one might detect evidence of a pattern that would haunt his career: Dolinsky figures out what a series wants and initially provides it, then somehow loses his touch, or alienates somebody on the staff, forcing him to look for work elsewhere. "Dateline: Moon" was also the first occasion when Dolinsky asserted his Writer's Guild-protected right to use a pseudonym, Michael Adams, and one can infer from its occasional deployments that, like Harlan ELLISON, he used this name to indicate his extreme displeasure with the way a certain assignment turned out. (Does the name mean that Michael, the first name he later used for his novel, damns this project?) Pardon me for projecting, then, but to me it all suggests a writer who lacked certain social skills.

But Dolinsky soldiered on with the indefatigable energy that would define his career, selling scripts to a number of major and minor series in the 1960s, and he temporarily seemed to find a home with the anthology series The Outer Limits, to which he contributed three scripts that represent his best argument for inclusion in this encyclopedia. Therein, a characteristic theme also suggestive of a socially challenged person emerged: paranoia. "The Architects of Fear" involves some scientists' scheme to stage a phony alien invasion to bring about world peace, "O.B.I.T." posits an implausible effort by aliens to conquer the Earth by introducing a pervasive surveillance device, and "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z" looks suspiciously at some beehives to suggest that their inhabitants, too, may be secretly plotting to take over the Earth. The first two episodes have been critically praised, but to me they were sabotaged by factors Dolinsky had no control over: the ludicrous appearance of the purported monster in "The Architects of Fear," and the obligatory appearance of an alien menace in "O.B.I.T.," dictated by the series' format, that distorted an otherwise straightforward look at the dangers of Big Brother-style totalitarianism. Only "Z-Z-Z-Z-Z" seems an unqualified success, driven by the remarkable performance of Joanna FRANK, although its tale of a bee-turned-woman who kills a man's wife in dogged pursuit of her sinister goals is more than mildly misogynistic, another recurring undercurrent in Dolinsky's work. But Joseph STEFANO disliked certain aspects of his script and heavily revised it, and Dolinsky never worked for the series again.

Dolinsky kept dabbling in science fiction in the later 1960s, though with increasingly unhappy results: certainly, "Plato's Stepchildren" should be near the top of anyone's list of the worst Star Trek episodes, and the second script he wrote for the series, the rejected "The Joy Machine," was undoubtedly much worse. And his brief associations with The Invaders and Mission: Impossible were probably not fulfilling experiences, since he had all of his work credited to Adams. By the early 1970s, Dolinsky was mostly writing for crime dramas, with several scripts for Cannon (1971-1976) and Hawaii Five-0 (1968-1980), although his tenure with the later series again ended, as was the case with Men into Space, with a rewritten script and another story credit for Adams. A collection of his scripts, donated to the library of his alma mater UCLA, shows that he also tried to sell scripts to several other series in the 1960s and 1970s, including the forgettable science fiction series My Favorite Martian, Amos Burke, Secret Agent, The Time Tunnel, and The Man from Atlantis, and he also worked on a proposed adaptation of Eleanor Cameron's 1954 juvenile The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet —a project that, despite its science fictional story line, seems far removed from Dolinsky's strengths, such as they were, as a writer.

But the 1970s was also the time when the risk-adverse Dolinsky, now entering his fifties, finally decided to pursue some bigger dreams: he published a science fiction novel, as Mike Dolinsky, called Mind One (1972), and he began writing film scripts again: two routine made-for-television movies, the crime drama The Manhunter (1972) and technothriller SST—Death Flight, and a mildly horrific insane-asylum drama, The Fifth Floor (1978), that earned a theatrical release. But none of these projects brought him any acclaim, and this is also the time when Meyer Dolinsky begins to fade from the public record, with only one more credit for an episode of the ephemeral series Big Shamus, Little Shamus (1979) before his seemingly premature death in 1984 at the age of sixty. Noting that his years of birth and death roughly coincide with those of Rock HUDSON, one might theorize that Dolinsky was also a deeply closeted gay man who died of AIDS, explaining the near-complete absence of biographical data and certain recurring themes in his work. But there are many other things that can drive a hard-working writer to an early grave, including alcoholism, drug abuse, and the sheer anger and frustration of working in an industry that so dauntingly fails to value its writers. Based on the information that I have been able to turn up, one suspects that there is an interesting and instructive story to tell about the life of Meyer Dolinsky, and somebody, somewhere, for some reason, should endeavor to tell it. But having done what I can, this hard-working writer must now leave this unfinished task for others to address and move on to another assignment.

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