Harlan Ellison Wants To Help Out With Star Trek Sequel

ellisonOnly 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.

From HarlanEllison.com:


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.  


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And when his offer gets graciously declined, does he resort to running his mouth once again?

“science fiction author” and Not “Writer” Very good:)

keep this loon away from Abrams

FIRST!!! I would actually be Ellison working on the next film! I think it would be excellent!

JJ would be wise to at least look into it — I won’t hold my breath though.


Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was Harlan Ellison who figured out a way to finally bring Shatner back into Star Trek?

#6 — That would be cool…but I doubt Ellison would want to be hamstrung with anything.

But I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t care for Ellison’s personality or antics, but it would be incredible to have a real science fiction writer of his calibur working on Star Trek again.

No doubt about it.

I Have No Income and I Must Grovel

Harlan — If they won’t let you do a movie script, write a book. C’mon, surely they’ll let you tap out a doozey of a novel. Kill a few of the main characters (again), wreck the ship (again), find God (again.) It’s sci-fi. What the hell!

Hopefully, something good will come. We’ll be waiting.

I have one quote for that-Lets get Ellison”the hell outta here”. nuff said-I doubt jj would push roberto n alex aside for harlan-he would have to have a hell of an idea i think. Its cool that harlan likes jj though…

I would like to see him participate to some degree. He’s a classic writer. I would love to see him inject some more sophisticated dialogue into the next movie. With a lot of movies lately, I feel like the writers are really ‘writing down’ so as to not confound the masses. It scares me somewhat to think how society appears to have regressed.


Well, I’d hate to be the one to break it to Harlan, but there are already three screenwriters attached to the next Trek as it is, so this strikes me as highly unlikely (if not completely untenable, per some of the issues Anthony wisely points out).

Still, I’d love to see someone unleash Harlan on Trek anew via a novel or graphic novel or anime or something. That’d be an enormous treat.

You have got to be freakin kidding me! This guy loses all credibility with anyone who has listened to his rant for the past 30 years! He hasn’t been at it for the love of the art……he lives for the conflict, confrontation, and the clever (yet still smarmy) comments. Now that he won his penultimate battle with Trek, he weeps for there are no new worlds to conquer. Give it a rest, or better still. A Friendly suggestion: Go write something new and original that doesn’t feed off of the negativity of the past. (Clearly, there be scars there!) There is talent in him but it is buried under a veneer of public sourness, and disdain. Good luck with that….

Cool that such a talented guy wants to get involved – I’m not sure how I feel about it all. It seems like it has the potential to cause a big mess, but it also has the potential to result in a really excellent, creative script written for something we all love!

Hmmmm…. I honestly kind of doubt anything will come of this. Orci/Kurtzman have done nothing but a great job so far!

“This guy loses all credibility with anyone who has listened to his rant for the past 30 years! ”

unless you’ve actually payed attention to what he was saying and understood what he was trying to say.

Please keep him away –
(brief and to the point)

EFF NO! Eff him! It’s because of him we almost didn’t get this movie!

IF this could happen the result would be, I dare say, the ‘The Dark Knight’ of Trek films!
I don’t see it happening but the idea gives me a tingle. Ellison can be an acerbic jackhole but he’s one hell of a damn fine writer.

I know I’ll get crucified for this, but as great as “City” is…I still say old H.E. is overrated. I don’t think his style would fit with JJ & company. I just can’t see it. Thanks for the memories, Harlan…but now that you’ve been PAID, it’s over.

Oh, and number 16-Shouldn’t your statement read like this:

“unless you’ve actually ‘PAID’ attention to what he was saying and understood what he was trying to say.”

????? LOL


Thank you.

#21 I’m with you!

#18: “… It’s becasue of hem we almost didn’t get this movie!”

Really? Prove it.

Harlan Ellison is, I think, a genius and has certainly along with Robert Altman, George Lucas, Joseph Heller, Hunter S. Thompson and David Letterman been a huge influence on my own art. It would be great if he became involved with the ST sequel even as an elder adviser as the franchise has been ingeniously loosened of so many of the constraints that ran against his grain (don’t argue with me on that; it’s a fact in terms of the Abrams-verse). The man knows Story the way the rest of us know breathing.

As a great admirer of Mr. Ellison, I can’t help but think his involvement would give a satisfying sense of completion to his unique involvement with Star Trek at this point in his bizarre and storied life.

I have respect for him on the basis that he wrote City on the Edge of Forever.

He probably has ruined his rep with anyone in Hollywood by suing James Cameron for stealing his ideas and using them to create The Terminator, and this whole decades long thing with Star Trek. Who would want to work with someone who would likely sue them later?

24. The new Trek movie had to be very careful of using certain elements not created by Ellison, or else they’d get sued.


Are you saying Mr. Ellison should not have sought out legal counsel after ‘The Terminator’ was made? IF a producer steals someone’s intellectual property it is only fitting to seek compensation.

That said, I am not convinced Ellison’s ‘Soldier’ or “the Demon With The Glass Hand’ from ‘The Outer Limits’ was the sole influence in making the ‘Terminator’ film. I mean–and before I continue I want to reiterate that I have the utmost respect for Mr. Ellison–but seriously, he did not invent the time travel story.

I do think Ellison could make a valuable contribution to the next movie, but also do not think it an essential one either.

Better chance of Shatner than Ellison.

As a fan and admirer of Harlan Ellison’s talent, I guess I feel vindicated by my vigorous defense of ST.09 that Harlan Ellison actually wants to help with the sequel.

As I’ve said before, the man’s work will stand with few others when people from the future look back to the writers of this time.

And to those who want to cut Harlan down—screw off. Because the man did more to help out Star Trek than you did. It was, in fact, to HIM that GR turned to “save” Star Trek in a writing campaign to popular SF authors of the time, and it was GR who time and again lied or otherwise told untruths about Harlan’s original City script and Scotty “dealing drugs,” even after being corrected over and over again, and promising not to say it anymore.

So if you are going to compare GR to Harlan Ellison for who the more honest man is, the award goes to Harlan Ellison, and that’s probably why so many Star Trek fans don’t like him—because he doesn’t spare their beliefs with lies.

One of the best lines ever written for Star Trek was one which you never got to hear, and it was written by Harlan Ellison:

“No woman was ever loved as much, Jim. Because no woman was ever offered the universe for love.”

I’m game for having Harlan Ellison on board, BUT…

The real question is, how well can he collaborate with others?

It’s one thing to write the script, it’s another to *co-write* it with several other writers, all of whom are MUCH younger.

I want an old hand to be on the staff, but not at the expense of the youthful energy behind Star Trek XI.

Ha, go Harlan, go!

This guy and I were roommates at the Tantalus Colony.

Nicely worded #30.

Personally, I’d love to see JJ Abrams take on Mr. Ellison’s long in contention film adaptation of his brain melting “Mephisto in Onyx” as a feature.

21 x 3. Ellison may be a genius at getting money without working, and for claiming to have shaped other people’s work (from Land of the Lost to Terminator and on to whoever he’s suing next) but beyond all that B.S., his Trek claim-to-fame is for an episode of Trek that was the least Trek-like episode in the series — which was refreshing, granted, but I doubt JJ is looking for a wild tangent type of story.

#30 “And to those who want to cut Harlan down—screw off. ”

#34 Nailed it………… “Nicely worded”

Ellison shouldn’t be allowed any where near the next movie. Orci and Kurtzman hit the ball out of the park the first time, why on Earth would Paramount throw a volatile quantity like Ellison into the middle of an obviously successful writing team? Orci and Kurtzman are good. Really good. Let’s not spoil that.

I added a couple clips of Ellison talking Trek from Tom Snyder in 1976

Here’s why not: Bad Business

Sorry, good writer / author / etc.

Bad for buisness.

Ellison is a very greedy piece of crap and should be banned from hollywood for life. Dont let him get involved with the trek sequel or he will own it for life

Gotta get me some Star Trek medallions….

40: And you are a bindlestiff.

Harlan Ellison has never been anything but an asset to Star Trek. And if you don’t know it, it’s because you are a bindlestiff.

It’s to Gene Roddenberry that he’s been a pain in the ass, and Roddenberry returned the agony with interest paid.

I can’t see that Bob, Alex, and Damon will step aside, but it’s perfectly reasonable for them to hear Harlan’s pitch. The man is a master of the art and the genre.

All I can say is NoNoNONoNONoNONONO! It would be a big mistake! JJ and his team know what they want and to add this guy into the mix wouldn’t be pretty to say the least, there might not even be a ST3 if he got no board with ST2 since he’d sue them for useing…he’s still trying to come up with it! I can say that JJ made a mistake not going with the Shatner sceene, it would have made the film an instant classic!

Better chance of *De Kelley* than Ellison.

Everyone who credits him for “City on the Edge of Forever” clearly has no recollection of Ellison’s whining for decades that the episode was rewritten and ruined. Ellison turned in a MESS and the Trek staff had to pound it into the classic we all love.

And really, strive for the higher function responses here instead of the SNL Frankenstein parody of “FIRE BAD!!!”

Every time a Star Trek fan opens his mouth and something stupid falls out, an angel that looks like Harlan Ellison gets his wings.

Better Ellison than Orci / Kurtzman. The guy is a serious writer.

@44: Funniest thing I read all night. I’ve read the original City script. The inferior version was the one that got filmed, as far as I am concerned. I will agree with you on one thing, however: Ellison’s original script did get pounded.

#33. Mr. Delicious – November 24, 2009 wrote:
“This guy and I were roommates at the Tantalus Colony.”

That is very funny. This comment is nicely worded too.

what is the upside to involving ellison? he is a fine writer, sure, but his reputation precedes him. his litigious nature could jump up and bite us all on the ass. abrams makes one wrong move, and we won’t see a sequel till the real 23rd century.

plus, abrams and company have a handle on this thing. harlan, they really don’t need the help.

Well said #49