If you search the Internet, you’ll find Jerry
Sohl’s name among a pantheon of science fiction
writers. He’s listed as the writer of several
of Star Trek’s early episodes.
Sohl has been a writer all his life. He began
writing for his high school newspaper and progressed
to the editorship of an Illinois weekly before
being drafted in World War II. After the war he
became a newspaperman again, covering a gamut
of assignments from reporting accidents on nearby
Route 66, to music and book critic, to editor
again. But in his spare time, he wrote science
Sohl didn’t have a science background. What
he had was an imagination. Simon and Shuster published
his first novel “The Ha ploids” in 1949. It was
a story about genetic engineering long before
the reality of genetic engineering. He wrote more
than fifty other novels. Several of them made
the New York Times bestseller list.
In the late fifties, he moved to California
and began writing for the movies. He adapted H.P.
Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” as one of
Boris Karloff’s last pictures. Other work he bemoans.
“Frankenstein Conquers the World” and several
other scripts starring actors like Raymond Burr
became part of a myriad of Japanese schlock science
fiction films made at the time. One thing about
his Japanese movies Sohl appreciated however.
They respected their writers. In a Japanese film
the writer’s name was always more prominent onscreen
than the actors.
In the early sixties, Jerry recalls meeting
Gene Roddenberry, then the producer of some television
cop show. Two years before the pilot of Star Trek,
Roddenberry began meeting with several prominent
science fiction writers, fishing for ideas. When
the Star Trek pilot was picked up, Roddenberry
hired Sohl to write one of the first episodes,
“The Corbomite Maneuver.”
“I remember meeting with Gene (Roddenberry)
and Howard Justman (Star Trek’s producer),” Sohl
relates. In the early episodes there were several
problems to work out. How big was the Starship
Enterprise supposed to be? Like god describing
the size of the ark, Roddenberry laid down the
exact size of the spaceship. Even though he made
it larger than a football field, the set still
fit on a sound stage. And how would the crew communicate
with aliens? That was easily solved. English would
just have to serve as the galaxy’s universal language.
Leonard Nimoy (Spock) didn’t like his ears. He
had to get to the set an hour earlier than everyone
else to put them on. But Roddenberry insisted
the ears stay. Since Nimoy was under contract,
not even a Vulcan could change Roddenberry’s mind.
Jerry Sohl has had a prolific career. He’s written
more than fifty published novels, six movies,
more than one hundred television scripts. In his
eighties now, he lives with his wife on a quiet
cul de sac in Thousand Oaks. But he’s a man who
knows all about galaxies far, far away.