George Clayton Johnson, Writer of First ‘Star Trek’ Episode, Dies at 86

George Clayton Johnson Star Trek
Courtesy StarTrek.com

George Clayton Johnson, who wrote the script for the first “Star Trek” episode to air and co-wrote “Logan’s Run,” died Friday, Dec. 25 in the Los Angeles area following a battle with cancer, according to his son, Paul Johnson. He was 86.

He was born in Cheyenne, Wyo., in 1929. He broke into the entertainment business in 1959 when he wrote the “I’ll Take Care of You” episode for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Johnson was a member of the Southern California School of Writers, which included Theodore Sturgeon, William F. Nolan, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. He met “Twilight Zone” producer Rod Serling through them and would go on to write eight episodes for the seminal sci-fi series including “Nothing in the Dark,” “Kick the Can,” “A Game of Pool” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts.”

Johnson sold a short story that would serve as the basis for Frank Sinatra’s 1960 movie “Ocean’s 11” and the George Clooney-Brad Pitt reboot in 2001. He also wrote episodes for “Route 66,” “The Law and Mrs. Jones” and “Kung Fu.”

With William F. Nolan, he wrote the dystopian novel “Logan’s Run,” in which people are executed at the age of 21 and which served as the basis for the 1976 film. He wrote the adapted script for “The Intruder,” the 1962 movie directed by Roger Corman, based on the novel by his friend Charles Beaumont. Both appear in the movie along with William F. Nolan.

His script “The Man Trap” was the basis for the first “Star Trek” episode, which aired on Sept. 8, 1966. It centered on salt-hungry creature who terrorized the crew of the USS Enterprise.

Johnson was a longtime advocate for the legalization of marijuana and in his later years wrote comic books and was a frequent guest at sci-fi and comics conventions. He co-created the comic book series “Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology” with cartoonist and author Jay Allen Sanford.

“He had a special place in his heart for all of his fans, who sustained him and gave him a forum to share thoughts at a million miles a second,” his son said.

In a 2003 interview for the Archive of American Television, Johnson said, “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.”

He is survived by his wife, Lola Johnson, a daughter, Judy Olive, a son, Paul B. Johnson and a half-sister.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this obituary gave the wrong date of death. Johnson died Dec. 25, 2015.

 

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  1. T'omm J'Onzz says:

    renew, George Johnson! renew!

    addendum to article: Twilight Zone episode ‘Kick the Can’ was also one of the stories selected for the 1983 ‘Twilight Zone’ movie.

  2. Jesse says:

    May the light of heaven shine on your grave George Clayton Johnson

  3. Ima Right says:

    The man was a genius much like most of the Twilight Zone and other writers of great TV and movies
    in the 50’s and 60’s that nobody can write stories like them today! Love his twilight zone episodes!
    Logan’s Run was one of my favorite movies as a kid but I haven’t seen in a long time! I have to watch
    it again. But RIP. Too bad there are no more great writers like him and Richard Matheson left!

  4. Joe Posner says:

    As I recall, the book set the execution date at 21, which was changed to age 30 for the movie.

  5. S. Conn says:

    Sorry, with regard to the movie…

  6. S. Conn says:

    Just a detail with regard to “Logan’s Run”: 30 was the age that the populace was sent to Carousel…

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