World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

D–E Entries
  Johnny Depp
  Meyer Dolinsky
  Faith Domergue
  James Doohan
  David Duchovny
  David Duncan
  Harlan Ellison
  Roland Emmerich
  Maurice Evans
(1934– ). American writer.

Wrote: "Memo from Purgatory" (1962), episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; "Soldier" (additional material Seeleg Lester), "Demon with a Glass Hand" (1964), episodes of The Outer Limits; uncredited rewrites for five The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episodes, possibly including "The Virtue Affair" (1965); "The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair" (1966), "The Pieces of Fate Affair" (with Yale Urdoff) (1967), episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; "The City on the Edge of Forever" (1967), episode of Star Trek; "Earth, Air, Fire and Water" (with D. C. FONTANA) (1973), episode of Circle of Fear (series previously known as Ghost Story); "Crypt" (with Al Hayes) (1977), episode of Logan's Run; "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (1985), "Gramma" (1986), "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich" (1988), episodes of Twilight Zone; "A View from the Gallery" (1997), "Objects in Motion" (1998) (both: story with J. Michael STRACZYNSKI; script Straczynski), episodes of Babylon 5.

Wrote as Cordwainer Bird: "The Price of Doom" (1964), episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; "You Can't Get There from Here" (1968), episode of The Flying Nun; "Voyage of Discovery" (1973), episode of The Starlost (also created series).

Also: story editor (with D. C. FONTANA), The Sixth Sense (tv series) (1971-72); creative consultant, Twilight Zone (tv series) (1985-86); conceptual consultant, Babylon 5 (tv series) (1993-98); conceptual consultant for four Babylon 5 television movies: In the Beginning (Michael Vejar 1998), Thirdspace (Jesus Salvador Trevino 1998), The River of Souls (Janet Greek 1998), and A Call to Arms (Vejar 1999).

Films based on his work in addition to "Soldier" and "Paladin of the Lost Hour": A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones 1975); "Djinn, No Chaser" (1984), episode of Tales from the Darkside; "Shatterday," "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty" (1985), episodes of Twilight Zone; "The Human Operators" (based on story by Ellison and A. E. van Vogt) (1999), episode of The Outer Limits.

Acknowledged as films based on his work after legal action: Future Cop (based on story by Ellison and Ben Bova) (tv movie) (Jud Taylor 1976); Future Cop (tv series) (1976-77); The Terminator (based on "Soldier") (James CAMERON 1984).

Appeared in: "The Observer Effect" (1994), episode of The Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal; "The Face of the Enemy" (1997), episode of Babylon 5.

Provided voice for: episode of Mother Goose and Grimm (animated tv series) (1991-92); "A Boy and His Cat" (1994), episode of Phantom 2040 (animated tv series); opening narration of Space Cases (tv series) (1966-97) (and wrote narration); "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" (1996), "Day of the Dead" (1998), episodes of Babylon 5.

One more time, I will attempt to write about the career of Harlan Ellison in a manner that does not provoke an angry phone call from the author. Believe me, it isn't easy.

In a previous survey of Ellison's contributions to science fiction television and film, I sought to make two points, which I will restate in the most inoffensive manner I can devise. First, due to his visual imagination, narrative energy, and distinctive prose style, Ellison easily qualifies as one of the most gifted screenwriters who ever wrote scripts for science fiction projects. Second, and unfortunately, Ellison never possessed the temperament that would have enabled him to make film work his primary vocation.

I will readily concede the essence of Ellison's complaints about the film and television industry—that it is filled with studio executives, producers, directors, and actors who are talentless and unscrupulous, ready, willing, and able to transform even the finest script into a celluloid Auschwitz. While reading one of his innumerable tales of woe, I can almost embrace his standard version of events: that he was a perfectly calm, reasonable craftsman who was virtually driven to blind fury by intolerable acts of stupidity and deceit.

And yet—other film and television writers, somehow, manage to put up with it. Unlike Ellison, they bite their tongues, issue no complaints while observing the latest humiliation with their name on it, and make quiet resolutions about how to avoid another such atrocity: I will never work with that person again, or, I will never get into that sort of contractual arrangement again. They persevere, they keep on writing as much as they can and as well as they can, and they gradually build up the credits, money, and connections that enable them to have some control over what happens to their scripts. It doesn't always happen, but it does happen, and it appears to be the only way that a writer can achieve a satisfying career in the industry. And it's a game that Ellison simply can't play.

Ellison's career started so promisingly. After a modicum of success as a short story writer, he moved to Hollywood and broke into television writing episodes for series like Ripcord and Burke's Law. He then wrote scripts for the two best science fiction series of the 1960s, and he wrote their very best episodes: "Demon with a Glass Hand" for The Outer Limits, and "The City on the Edge of Forever" for Star Trek. Both dramas impressively portray intelligent science-fictional ideas in the context of persuasive personal relationships, and both seem as fresh and involving today as they did in the 1960s. Also worth noting from this period were another episode of The Outer Limits, "Soldier," and two enjoyable episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Yet there were early signs that Ellison wasn't going to last too long in this business: somehow roped into writing episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and The Flying Nun, he was so displeased with the outcomes that he insisted upon employing a farcical pseudonym chosen to insult producers, Cordwainer Bird; by one account, he was also so inexplicably displeased with the outcome of "The City on the Edge of Forever" that he again demanded use of the Bird pseudonym, but was wisely ignored by producer Gene RODDENBERRY.

From then on, a pattern emerges: Ellison angrily announces that he is through with the business; he is lured back to write a script with guarantees of complete artistic freedom and an ironclad commitment to realize his vision on film; something appalling happens anyway, and he storms away, angrily announcing that he is through with the business .... In some cases, we know all the details, since Ellison has written at length about how he was approached to create a science fiction series, The Starlost, by producers who proceeded to break all their promises and horribly mangle his evocative script for the pilot episode; in his book The Other Glass Teat, he recounts at length how his script for the series The Young Lawyers was shamefully trashed by its cast and director; and we have also heard how he abruptly quit his job as "creative consultant" for the revived Twilight Zone when CBS refused to approve a less-than-heartwarming Christmas episode. I'm sure that somewhere there are also recorded interesting stories about how he was briefly suckered into working for series like The Sixth Sense and Logan's Run. Ellison further contrived to expand his filmography—displaying admirable integrity—by successfully suing the producers of the television movie and series Future Cop and the film The Terminator for plagiarizing his stories, while also working on any number of abortive film projects, including the fabled Harlan Ellison's Movie and an adaptation of Isaac ASIMOV's I, Robot which eventually appeared in book form. All in all, Ellison was generating enough entertaining anecdotes about the cruel, crazy film industry to keep an audience rolling in the aisles for hours, but he was otherwise managing to contribute remarkably little to science fiction television and film. (However, it should be noted, I provide his credits with no confidence that they are complete or completely accurate; like all aspects of his volcanically productive career, a complete and completely accurate filmography of Ellison's work is difficult to achieve.)

By the 1990s, Ellison had bizarrely mutated into a sort of latter-day Forrest J. ACKERMAN, a beloved colleague who was often hanging out on the set and was sometimes coaxed into some sort of minor contribution to the proceedings. Thus, Ellison remained in the peripheral role of "conceptual consultant" for the entire run of J. Michael STRACZYNSKI's series Babylon 5, and he made cameo appearances and provided voices for several forgettable television projects like The Psi Factor, Phantom 2040, and Space Cases. Yet a filmography that increasingly resembles Ackerman's hardly constitutes a significant achievement.

Still, no matter what Ellison may believe while he is screaming at me over the phone, I primarily seek to praise the man, not to criticize him, and what he has done away from the film industry is praiseworthy indeed. Damn, the man can write. Working brilliantly and with ferocious power, he has produced, among other things, several of the greatest short stories in the history of science fiction and a series of sparkling and insightful commentaries on television and film, many available in his collections The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, and Harlan Ellison's Watching. He has accomplished so much that it seems almost churlish to ask for more; however, using the mildest possible terms, I do wish that circumstances had permitted Ellison to write more often in the fields of science fiction television and film.

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2018 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art