Harlan Ellison is considered one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Ellison was “ranked with great science fiction writers like Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.” However, Ellison didn’t like being called a science fiction writer. He once said:
Despite his disdain for science fiction, Ellison ended up writing one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series ever aired. He wrote the original television play for City on the Edge of Forever, although the episode aired was very different from what he originally wrote.
In fact, it was so different that Ellison didn’t want his name in the credits of the last episode. He wanted to be given a pseudonym that he would use when he felt that his work had been irrevocably changed. Ellison later released the original teleplay so fans could see what he intended for the episode and compare it to the episode actually aired.
The changes to his job sparked a decade-long feud with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and resulted in Ellison beating the franchise every time he got the chance. However, this was not very atypical of Ellison. In fact, he was notorious for his aggressive personality and wild temper.
During a panel at New York Comic Con 2021, TOS actor George Takei remembered what it really was like to work with Ellison.
Takei said he was really “intrigued” by Ellison after working on City on the Edge of Forever. When he found out Ellison was on the set, he went to see him so he could introduce himself.
However, he was not prepared for what he found. Takei said:
Takei went on to say that someone took Ellison aside and reassured him. Then he came back and introduced himself to Takei.
When Takei finally spoke to Ellison, he learned a whole other side of the iconic writer.
“He was the most charming guy,” said Takei. “It’s amazing that he can go from black to white and from white to green. His feelings change with the snap of a finger! “
Takei continued, “He was an adorable guy and a man with lots of ideas. A very resourceful guy. “
Takei acknowledged that Ellison was “very fickle” and while he was “very fond of” Ellison knew that sometimes he was to be avoided at all costs.
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