Ellison to ‘Star Trek': Pay Up!

Just in time for the no doubt extraordinarily lucrative “Star Trek” franchise reboot, the irascible Harlan Ellison is going after Paramount for money he says is owed to him on a 42-year-old episode of original TV series. Pointy-eared peeps know that “City on the Edge of Forever”, penned by Ellison, starring Joan Collins and first […]

Last Updated: March 17, 2009 @ 6:18 PM

Just in time for the no doubt extraordinarily lucrative “Star Trek” franchise reboot, the irascible Harlan Ellison is going after Paramount for money he says is owed to him on a 42-year-old episode of original TV series.

Pointy-eared peeps know that “City on the Edge of Forever”, penned by Ellison, starring Joan Collins and first aired on April 6, 1967, is regarded as one of the finest, if not the finest, voyage of the Starship Enterprise.

And hard-core fans will know that there’s long been controversy over who wrote what when and why.

Ellison’s original script was deemed inappropriate back in late 1966.

One of the reasons why was because it had a crew member dealing drugs. No doubt some audience members would’ve thought that was groovy, man.

Not Gene Roddenberry though.

And so Ellison rewrote it numerous times.

Then five others, including  Roddenberry, did drafts.

The result gave the whole thing an anti-peacenik slant Ellison was none too pleased with.

He even considered taking his name off it and slapping his disdainful “I’ve been compromised” Cordwainer Bird pseudonym on the thing.

But out of the whirlpool of writers and re-writers – think of of it as a cosmic Casablanca – came something great.

Ellison takes great pains to remind us of the awards and accolades “City on the Edge of Forever” received in his March 13 press release announcing his legal action against Paramount for monies owed for merchandising, publishing and other exploitations of the episode since 1967.

Fair enough, too, because the episode’s highly entertaining stuff.

But so too is his press release.

Once the nuts and bolts of Ellison’s claims are out of the way, it’s the best laugh I’ve had in some time.

Not only does he hose down not Paramount and the WGA for failing him, but he takes Hollywood en masse to task.

To quote Ellison, as he’s quoted in the release:

“And please make sure to remember, at the moment some Studio mouthpiece calls me a mooch, and says I’m only pursuing this legal retribution to get into their ‘deep pockets,’ tell’m Ellison snarled back, ‘F- – – -in’-A damn skippy!’  I’m no hypocrite.  It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no!  I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!

“The arrogance, the pompous dismissive imperial manner of those who ‘have more important things to worry about,’ who’ll have their assistant get back to you, who don’t actually read or create, who merely ‘take’ meetings, and shuffle papers – much of which is paper money denied to those who actually did the manual labor of creating those dreams – they refuse even to notice…until you jam a Federal lawsuit in their eye.  To hell with all that obfuscation and phony flag-waving: they got my money.  Pay me and pay off all the other writers from whom you’ve made hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars…from OUR labors…just so you can float your fat asses in warm Bahamian waters.

“The Trek fans who know my City screenplay understand just exactly why I’m bare-fangs-of-Adamantium about this.”

When Mr. Ellison calmed down, he continued, soberly, “They maintain fortresses staffed and insulated with corporate and legal Black Legions whose ability to speak fluent bullshit is the ramadoola of gyrating, gibbering  numbers via which they cling to every dollar.  And when you aren’t getting paid for the marvels you helped bring forth — fine, hard, careful artifacts that are making others pig-rich — at some point any sane person knows he has three, and only three choices: the first is to sit around dinner parties and ceaselessly whine over your sushi about how they screwed you, boo hoo, but you can’t beef about it Out There in the World or they’ll blacklist you; the second is to pick up an Uzi somewhere, crash your SUV through a Studio gate, and just run amok; and the third, last, choice is this one – to act like an adult, to take ‘em on in Federal Court and to make the greedy, amoral bastards blink blood out of their eyes.  What they do is tantamount to common street-thug robbery… just add the pig-rich Madoff-style smoothyguts attorneys.”

And on it goes. See the full release here – it’s totally worth it for the final line.

I’m thinking of this as the press-release version of Stewart Vs MSNBC, or perhaps Bale Vs Hurlbut.

And coming from Ellison, these are more than just highly amusing fightin’ words – just ask James Cameron and Co., who had to shell out with bucks and a credit because they’d lifted two of the writer’s The Outer Limits episodes and a short story to come up with The Terminator.

What’s a little bit scary is Ellison’s passing reference to Adamantium.

Don’t tell me that back in the hippie era he wrote a little something about an indestructible mutant guy with a steel skeleton?