Despite the recent resurgence in the popularity of Star Wars, let us never forget the other seminal sci-fi franchise: Star Trek. The original 1966 Gene Roddenberry series paved the way not only for innumerable franchises, but even provided the inspiration for some of the technological achievements we have seen over the last few decades such as cell phones and tablets. However, this week the world of Star Trek is in mourning as we say goodbye to one of its most legendary writers: George Clayton Johnson.
Variety reports that on Christmas day Johnson tragically passed away after losing a battle with cancer. At 86 years old, Johnson had developed an incredible writing resume spanning numerous decades. Arguably his greatest contribution to the world of film and television was penning the first ever episode of the 1966 Star Trek series. The script – titled “The Man Trap” – focused on a salt-hungry monster causing havoc and mayhem for Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise’s crew. His efforts on that episode would lay the groundwork for the style and tone of future Star Trek adventures to come.
Beyond Star Trek, Johnson also penned numerous other scripts for The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Kung-Fu (among many others). He also wrote a short story that would serve as the basis for the Ocean’s 11 franchise, and co-wrote the novel Logan’s Run, which would go on to become a cult classic science fiction movie in the 1970s.
Johnson spoke out about his own mortality and the legacy he will leave behind in a 2003 interview – it’s something we should all take to heart:
I want to be remembered as a person who early on in his life took control of his life and set goals. When people gave me a lined paper, I wrote the other way. When people expect some certain behavior from me, I will frustrate their expectations.”
Outside of his work as a writer, Johnson was also a vocal advocate for the widespread legalization of marijuana. Seemingly understanding the effect his work has had on millions of people, he spent much of his time in recent years attending sci-fi and comic book conventions in order to meet and interact with fans of his work. With Star Trek Beyond on the way, one can only hope that the modernized version of the franchise will find some way to honor his achievements to the fullest possible extent.
While George Clayton Johnson will most certainly be missed, he will be remembered and cherished for his life well lived. His work across numerous genres helped create the pop culture landscape we know and love today. He is survived by numerous loving family members including his wife, daughter, son, and half-sister.