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George Clayton Johnson dead; sci-fi writer who penned ‘Star Trek’ premiere episode was 86

George Clayton Johnson

George Clayton Johnson Credit: YouTube

LOS ANGELES — George Clayton Johnson, the legendary science-fiction writer who authored the first “Star Trek” television episode and several classic stories for the popular 1960s TV show “The Twilight Zone,” died on Christmas Day. He was 86.

Johnson, who also co-wrote the dark futuristic tale “Logan’s Run,” died of cancer in Los Angeles on Friday, his son, Paul B. Johnson, told The Associated Press.

“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,” said his son, who has been deluged with calls, emails and social media postings in recent days.

Although not widely known outside of science-fiction circles, Johnson was revered among fans of the genre for his work, which also included collaborating with Ray Bradbury on the 1962, Oscar-nominated, animated short film “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.”

A popular figure at science-fiction conventions for decades, the soft-spoken but friendly author was instantly recognizable for his long, flowing white hair and beard, as well as what might best be described as his hippie attire.

Johnson’s best-known science-fiction work was likely “Logan’s Run,” co-written as a novel with William F. Nolan in 1967 and released as a film in 1976.

The book was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Michael York as Logan and Jenny Agutter as a fellow runner. It also included a brief but memorable appearance by a young Farrah Fawcett.

It was followed by a short-lived TV series, and for years there has been talk of a remake.

Before “Logan’s Run” Johnson also created several of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.”

Johnson’s most prominent mainstream work was “Ocean’s 11,” the 1960 film about a Las Vegas casino heist that starred Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford. He and fellow writer Jack Golden Russell created the story, which has resulted so far in a remake and two sequels, each starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

In 1966, Johnson wrote “The Man Trap,” the premiere episode of “Star Trek” that introduced audiences to the crew of the USS Enterprise, including now familiar characters Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock.

Born July 29, 1929, in Cheyenne, Wyo., George Clayton Johnson served in the Army before studying drafting in college.

He eventually moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a draftsman for the Lockheed aviation company while moonlighting as a writer.

Soon after quitting his day job to pursue writing full-time, he connected with another prominent “Twilight Zone” writer, Charles Beaumont, who introduced him to the show’s creator, Rod Serling.

Over the years Johnson also had a handful of small roles in quirky films such as “The Intruder,” which starred William Shatner, “The Boneyard Collection” and “Her Morbid Diaries.” His last film appearance was in 2013’s “Saint Bernard.”

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