RIP George Clayton Johnson, The Man Who Started Star Trek On Its Epic Voyage

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Yesterday, science fiction author and screenwriter George Clayton Johnson passed away at the age of 86. He’s best known for novels such as Logan’s Run and shows such as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek.

Johnson was born in 1929 in Wyoming, and served in the United States Army for a short while, eventually using the GI Bill to attend college. He worked as a draftsman, and took up writing. His first story, ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’ appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1959, and he began placing stories in other well-known publications such as Playboy, The Twilight Zone Magazine, Rogue, and others.


Along with Jack Golden Russell, Johnson co-authored the treatment for the film Ocean’s 11, and began working in the film industry. Eventually meeting Rod Sterling, he sold several stories to the showrunner, and began writing scripts for The Twilight Zone. His works became the basis for such episodes as The Four Of Us Are Dying and A Penny for Your Thoughts.


Johnson’s most famous contribution to television came on September 8th, 1966 when the first episode of Star Trek, The Man Trap, aired on NBC. Johnson had joined the staff of the show to write an episode about the Enterprise crew visiting a 1920s style planet, and had been recommended to the production staff by one of the show’s producers. Another screenwriter, Lee Erwin had been assigned the storyline that would eventually become the basis for the episode, but when Gene Roddenberry wasn’t thrilled with the episode Johnson was working on, he gave him the episode. The episode would be his only contribution to the show.

Following Star Trek, Johnson and William F. Nolan worked together to produce Logan’s Run, a dystopian science fiction novel about a society that killed anyone who turns 21 years old. The novel was later made into a movie directed by Michael Anderson, and eventually won a pair of Academy Awards.


In his later years, he continued to write, videotaping his own youtube channel and was heavily involved in the convention and writing circuit. He remained politically engaged, becoming an advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

Johnson died due to complications from cancer, and is survived by Lola Johnson, a daughter, Judy Olive, a son, Paul B. Johnson and a half-sister.


Image credit: