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Harlan Ellison Defied Hollywood Brass

Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison in 1977.

Harlan Ellison was not afraid of the Hollywood establishment. The science fiction author and screenwriter did not suffer plagiarists lightly. He successfully sued ABC and James Cameron, among many others. Ellison died on June 28th at the age of 84.

In his lawsuit against ABC and Paramount Pictures, he alleged the TV series Future Cop was based on the short story Brillo, which was co-written with Ben Bova. The court awarded Ellison and Bova a settlement of $337,00.

He also successfully sued James Cameron, based on an Outer Limits episode he wrote. Soldier is about a warrior sent back in time with one mission – to kill an enemy. Sound familiar?

Terminator Acknowledgement

Settled out of court, Cameron had to concede Ellison’s influence on his screenplay (written with Gale Anne Hurd) The Terminator. As Sarah Connor drives her jeep towards the oncoming storm in the final scene of the movie, the words: “Acknowledgement to the works of HARLAN ELLISON” appear onscreen, just before the end credits roll.

Cameron later described Ellison as “…a parasite who can kiss my ass.”

One of Ellison’s most famous teleplays, Star Trek’s City on the Edge of Forever, is one of the most interesting and unique episodes of the original Star Trek series that ever aired.  A heavily drugged Dr. McCoy travels back to a depression-era USA. McCoy saves the life of a woman (played by Joan Collins). In doing so, he inadvertently changes the future, and not for the better. Kirk and Spock follow him through time and try to put the timeline back in order.

Most noteworthy, he also wrote novels, novellas, comic book scripts and episodes of other television shows, including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Babylon 5, The Twilight Zone and Logan’s Run.

Harlan Ellison was a talented writer who had no fear of challenging the status quo. RIP.

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