Star Trek Threatened By Harlan Ellison

Because the thing’s been kept so tightly under wraps, every rumor site on the planet is scrambling to be the first to get the real deal on the plot of JJ Abrams’ new Star Trek. There’s no shortage of rumors, but so far no confirmations.

The latest bunch of plot rumors come from IESB, where their scooper is basically recycling some of the other rumors we’ve heard about the film, but with a few more interesting specifics. Stop reading if you want to avoid any and all spoilers.

They claim, as have so many others, that the movie will revolve around time travel. What’s surprising is that IESB says the movie isn’t really a prequel, but is instead set in the era of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apparently TNG era Spock must stop a plot by the Romulans to kill James T. Kirk before he becomes Captain of the Enterprise, and to do it enlists the help of his past self using the Guardian of Forever.

This is the first mention we’ve heard of the Guardian being used in the film as their time travel device. In case you’re a little fuzzy on it, The Guardian of Forever was a sentient time travel machine featured in the award winning original series episode called "City on the Edge of Forever". It’s the one in which Kirk goes back in time, falls in love with Edith Keeler, and then must watch her die in order to avoid screwing up the timeline. If you’ve ever seen a list of the best Trek episodes of all time, this one is always on it.

It’s on it, in large part because of the writing of Harlan Ellison, who came up with the episode’s script and has spent the years since bitching about the way Gene Roddenberry treated his work. Evidently Ellison’s original script included such ludicrous things as drug dealing on the Enterprise, and Roddenberry made a few changes.

Here’s where it gets interesting. It seems Ellison got wind of the rumor that the Guardian of Forever may be in a new Star Trek, and it’s gotten him pissed all over again. He’s responded to the news on his website, and the guy sound ready for a lawsuit. Here’s what Harlan has to say: “Would someone go to that site, and suggest to those people there, that "City" and all its elements EXCEPT specific Star Trek characters, belong to Harlan Ellison--author of that much-lauded episode--by terms of the Separation of Rights clause of the Writers Guild's Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), and if Mr. Abrams--with whom I'm currently on strike--or anyone else, at Paramount or elsewhere, thinks they're going to use MY creations--whether the City, the Guardians, Sister Edith Keeler, or any other elements CREATED BY HARLAN ELLISON...they had damned well better lose the unilateral arrogance, get in touch with me, or my agent, Marty Shapiro, and be prepared to pay for the privilege of mining the lode I own.”

Harlan is an incredible writer, but he’s also an old man, and a cranky one by the sound of it. I’m no lawyer, but I find it hard to believe that there’s really anything he could do to stop them from making a movie using his Guardian creation. His bitterness towards Trek is legendary, and if he had any legal recourse, he’d have used it long ago to prevent Paramount from using the Guardian in the plethora of Star Trek comics and novels which they’ve published using the Guardian as a subject. And if he does have a leg to stand on here, then consider his outrage a way to discredit IESB’s rumor. His issues with Paramount are no secret, and if they thought there was any way he could cause them trouble then there’s no way they’d have let Abrams use the Guardian on the Edge of Forever in his script.

Josh Tyler