Sci-fi Legend George Clayton Johnson Dies at 86 — Writer Of ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Logan’s Run’
A sad day has fallen on the sci-fi community. George Clayton Johnson, the legendary science fiction writer who authored the premiere episode of Star Trek as well as Logan’s Run and numerous classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, has died on Christmas Day 2015. He was 86 years old.
Johnson famously wrote 1966’s “The Man Trap,” the first episode of Star Trek to air in which the crew of the starship Enterprise battle a creature known as the salt vampire. He also penned the novel that was the basis for the movie Logan’s Run and co-wrote the story that would become the 1960 Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11, remade in 2001 starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The remake was followed by a pair of sequels.
His son, Paul Johnson, confirmed his death from bladder and prostate cancer at a veteran’s hospital in North Hills, California.
“Please emphasize how much he loved his fans, and judging by the overwhelming response I’ve received, from hundreds of people, known and unknown, he made quite an impact on them,” his son was quoted by NY Daily News.
— io9 (@io9) December 26, 2015
The Hollywood Reporter described Johnson as a vibrant personality.
“A native of Cheyenne, Wyo., with a distinctive straggly white beard and long hair, Johnson was a beloved, colorful and mystical figure in the world of sci-fi.”
Johnson was born in Cheyenne in 1929. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade, then briefly served in the U.S. Army as a telegraph operator, eventually enrolling in Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) under the G.I. Bill. He first entered the entertainment industry in 1959 by writing the story for the episode “I’ll Take Care of You” of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and soon after wrote the story for the 1960 heist film Ocean’s 11. He worked with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury on 1962’s Academy Award-nominated animated short Icarus Montgolfier Wright.George Clayton Johnson co-wrote the novel Logan’s Run in 1967 with William F. Nolan, the source material on which the famous 1976 film was based. In it, he envisioned a futuristic dystopian society in which everyone over the age of 30 is executed in order to curb population and consumption of resources. Soon after, he met Twilight Zone producer and narrator Rod Serling and went on to write several classic episodes of the show, including “The Four of Us Are Dying,” in which Harry Townes plays a con man with the supernatural ability to shape-shift his face to look like anyone he chooses.
Johnson’s Twilight Zone scripts also included “Execution,” an episode about a scientist who uses a time machine to send a convicted man about to be hanged in 1880 to the present day; “Kick the Can,” which deals with the question of mortality and aging; “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” in which a bank teller discovers he has telepathic powers; “Ninety Years Without Slumbering,” about a man who believes he will die if his grandfather clock stops ticking and obsessively winds it every day; “A Game of Pool,” about a pool shark who plays against the restless spirit of the greatest pool player of all time in order to take the champion’s title from him; “Nothing in the Dark,” an episode where an elderly woman literally hides from death; and “The Prime Mover,” in which a gambler discovers his partner has telekinetic powers and seeks to exploit them.“The Twilight Zone played just as much a part in the renaissance transformation of the ’60s as bright-colored clothing, rock music and marijuana did,” Johnson said in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television. “It helped to jack people up to a higher level.”
Johnson is the last of the classic Twilight Zone lineup of writers to pass, joining Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, as noted by Inquisitr.
He also wrote scripts for the television series Route 66, The Law and Mrs. Jones and Kung Fu.
In addition to his son, Paul Johnson, George Clayton Johnson is survived by a daughter, Judy Olive, and his wife of 63 years, Lola Johnson.
[Photo by Hubble Space Telescope/Nasa via Getty Images]