Ellison Sues Paramount, WGA Over Trek Episode

Ellison Sues Paramount, WGA

Kirk and Spock face the Guardian of Forever

Harlan Ellison filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday against CBS Paramount and the Writers Guild of America over his script for “The City on the Edge of Forever,” an episode of the original Star Trek series that first aired in April of 1967.

According to the suit, Ellison claims that he has no payment or accounting from Paramount for the exploitation of his original teleplay; and also claims that the WGA has failed to act on his behalf on the issue, and has breached its duty of fair representation.

Ellison is seeking performance, compensatory, consequential and punitive damages from CBS Paramount but did not specify a dollar figure, and is seeking only $1 in damages plus attorneys fees and court costs from the Guild.

The suit claims that Paramount did not inform Ellison of the use of The Guardian of Forever (the circular gateway to other times and places Ellison introduced in the Hugo Award-winning teleplay) as a basis of “The Crucible” trilogy of Star Trek novels (Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows, Crucible: Spock--The Fire and the Rose and Crucible: Kirk: The Star to Every Wandering, all written by David R. George III), and other merchandising, including Hallmark’s “talking” Christmas ornament, released in 2004, which features a sound clip of dialogue from the episode. The suit states that, under the WGA’s master contract, Ellison is entitled to 25% of the revenues from licensing and publication of products based on the episode.

(Possible spoiler warnings for May’s Star Trek movie head)

Early in the development of the upcoming Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams, it was rumored that the Guardian played a role in the film’s apparent time-travel storyline. Ellison denied these rumors in late 2007.

(End possible spoilers)

In regards to the WGA, the suit claims that Ellison sought to obtain the Guild’s assistance on the issue over the course of the past year, and received initial promises that it would help him, but later, the Guild – according to the suit – falsely implied that Ellison verbally withdrew his claim.

From the suit: “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.”

Speaking about his dealings with Paramount in order to resolve the issue, Ellison said in a statement (available on Harlanellison.com): "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."

"It ain't about the 'principle,' friend, it's about the money! Pay me!" Ellison also said in the statement. "I'm doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!"

A reading of the statement can be found here.

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