The Hubris of Harlan

The Shakespeare of science fiction, Harlan Ellison had the nerve to state that television programming held the possibility of educating and uplifting humanity.  He bemoaned the state of stupid TV and most pointedly Star Trek — the ‘trekkie’ phenomenon and mediocre plotting on the TV series.

A brilliant writer, his one time teleplay he wrote for the series, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” a time travel story involving Captain Kirk falling in love with Edith Keeler, a woman from the 1930s, was rewritten and rewritten by studio hacks taking the heart and soul from the story which completely infuriated Harlan.  Not one to take the slashing of his story lightly he declared,

“I’ve never seen more than a pittance from “The City on the Edge of Forever,” while every thug and studio putz and semiliterate bandwagon jumper and merchandiser has grown fat as a maggot in a corpse off what I created…”¹

After 50 years of television ‘programming’ Harlan Ellison’s words are more relevant today than ever.  Especially after Harlan’s nemesis, Gene Roddenberry admitted “…that television has incredible power.”  And that the “Ultimate power in this world, as you know, has always been one simple thing: the control and manipulation of minds.”

1. Harlan Ellison, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” The Original Teleplay, in The Harlan Ellison Collection, Open Road Integrated Media, (Kindle Edition).

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