In three statements that should come as no shock to Harlan Ellison fans, the noted author A) is standing up for and looking to be recognized (and subsequently compensated) for his work, B) is going to court to do it and C) it involves The City on The Edge of Forever. Variety gave word today that the multi-time award winning author is suing CBS Paramount and the Writers Guild of America for failing to adequately pay him for various exploitations of his famed Star Trek episode, 42 years after it first aired. the suit is alleging several things, including breach of collective bargaining agreement (both Paramount and the WGA, and breach of fair representation (WGA). However, where the WGA is concerned, Ellison is only seeking $1 plus court / attorney fees. Ellison is showing no such restraint for Paramount, though. In Ellison’s own words, “It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, it’s about the money! Pay me!”
Ellison is known almost as much for his fierce protection of his work as he is for the work itself, and has frequently gone to court to seek vindication. The issue in the past has been how much of it was warranted and how much was frivolous ego-tripping. In this case, Ellison’s suit states, “To some extent, this case is about the degree to which the producers
have co-opted the WGA and how the WGA in various ways improperly
screens out contractually legitimate claims by its individual members
to avoid rocking the boat,” The dollar figure isn’t stated in the suit, but Ellison is going for the deluxe litigation package of performance, compensatory, consequential and punitive damages.
The City on the Edge of Forever of course is possibly the most highly-regarded episode of the original series, and concerns the consequences of fate and time travel. Kirk and Spock must follow a wigged-out McCoy when he accidentally ODs on a drug and steals through a time portal and alters history. That alteration of course involves the demise, or lack thereof of Kirk’s love du episode, Edith Keeler (Joan Collins). Ellison won a 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and a WGA Award for the episode. This is despite some significant controversy over the rewriting of the script.
According to the Wikipedia article on the episode, Gene Roddenberry once noted, “…many people would get prizes if they wrote scripts that budgeted out to three times the show’s cost”. Be that as it may, Ellison has fiercely looked after his work on the episode for over 40 years and this is merely the latest chapter in that book. A previous chapter also concerned whether or not the episode would have been the MacGuffin for JJ Abram’s upcoming Trek theatrical reboot. No doubt litigation on the Romulans is pending.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey