Only a month after settling a lawsuit over Star Trek with CBS and Paramount, Harlan Ellison seems to want to make nice, and dive back in…as long as he gets paid, of course. In a couple of postings on his website the famously cantankerous science fiction author has said he would be interested in working with JJ Abrams on the Star Trek sequel.
Ellison Trek again?
Harlan Ellison has a long and rocky history with the Star Trek franchise. It started with the episode "City on the Edge of Forever" which is considered by many to be the best of the franchise. Ellison famously fell out with Gene Roddenberry over that episode over changes made to the script. After that they patched things up enough in the 70s for Ellison to be one of the writers to pitch an idea for the first Star Trek feature film. Most recently Ellison sued CBS and Paramount over royalties related to "City", and that suit was only recently settled.
In the last week it was suggested (and debated) by some fans on HarlanEllison.com that Harlan might want to get involved with Trek again. After some debate, the man himself weighed in with an unequivocal statement affirming that he would certainly be interested.
THE WORD FROM HARLAN DIRECTLY:
I would jump at the chance to work with the inordinately-talented J.J. Abrams on a new STAR TREK film. Yes, I would likely try to steer him toward the original film idea I was asked to pitch, by the late Gene Roddenberry and a production exec whose name I have blissfully flensed from memory (but he had been, if I recall, a hairdresser or clothing designer or ex-boyfriend of someone or other, and he kept trying to press me to include the Mayan Calendar).
If the very smart Abrams didn’t want to go that way, I would be wide-open to rethinking such a film from the git-go.
Paramount would, of course, have to pay me from the first meet git-go; but I have absolutely NO attitude that would prevent me from jumping in to work with such a clever fellah. One is NEVER too old to come up with fresh ideas, particularly if one has lived long enough, and cleverly enough, to know WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE to death, sixteen times over.
If anyone out there thinks this melding has legs, let Abrams or anyone else with the chops to get in touch with me DIRECTLY. I am without full-time film-agent representation, by choice, at the moment; so if the job presents itself, I will work for pay.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
Ellison also quickly followed up with the following, as a response to the fans on his site who didn’t seem to buy into the idea:
What the hell ARE you guys…nuts?
Where’s the "downside" to getting topside the radar of J.J. Abrams? This guy ain’t Roddenberry! He also ain’t the ex-hairdresser with the jones for Mayan calendars!
He’s a writer I respect, whose work has frequently blown the lid off my box of surpriseability. But, then, he already KNOWS that. It isn’t as if I’d kept my admiration chained in the darkest cell of the basement of Bedlam.
So go, my faithful minions. Fly! Fly! Save the Olde Geezer from croaking without a killer Third Act.
Yr. Pal, Harlan
Ellison Talks Trek and pitching TMP Idea in 1976
As noted above, the last time Ellison was involved in a Star Trek film, was in the 70s, when he pitched for the first Trek feature film.
Here are clips of Harlan on the Tom Snyder show from 1976 (along with DeForest Kelley and Walter Koenig). He talks Trek and also how his pitch went.
Will it ever happen?
There can be no doubt that Harlan Ellison is a talented and creative science-fiction writer. He has picked up many awards over his decades long career including eight Hugos and three Nebulas. In his recent interview with TrekMovie, co-writer/exec producer Roberto Orci said he was currently reviewing classic science fiction novels for inspiration, so talking to a ‘legend’ of sci-fi is not out of the question. Ellison may very well have some interesting ideas, and he does understand the Star Trek characters. Also, Ellison’s praise for JJ Abrams is sincere. I interviewed him during the writers strike in 2007 and he spoke highly of the director at that time (as you can see in the video below – NOTE: Harlan uses many ‘colorful metaphors’).
However, Ellison is notoriously litigious. Even in his comments above, he notes how important it is for him to be "paid." The Star Trek film makers may be concerned that they could face a lawsuit claiming they used his ideas, even if they felt they did not. If you listen to the new commentary on the recently re-released Star Trek First Contact on Blu-ray and DVD, Star Trek producer (and sequel co-writer) Damon Lindelof and I spoke about time travel Trek episodes and when ever I mentioned "City on the Edge of Forever", Lindelof joked that we owed Harlan more money. There is also another issue. As evidenced in our video interview (above) Ellison had made an enemy of the late studio negotiator Nick Counter, making many disparaging remarks about him in public. Unfortunately for Ellison, Nick Counter’s son-in-law is Star Trek co-writer/exec producer Alex Kurtzman.
But you never know.