Jul 29 2014 1:11pm

Holy Nostalgia! Harlan Ellison Wrote an Episode for Adam West’s Batman

Adam West Batman Harlan Ellison

If you’re a fan of alternate universes that specifically relate to pop culture, then you know Harlan Ellison is a very important figure when asking the question “what if?” From Star Trek, to I, Robot, to the infamous “Starlost,” Ellison’s filmed projects are sometimes equally as famous as his unfilmed ones. Now it turns out that Ellison wrote an episode for the light-hearted 1960s Adam West Batman that would have introduced Two-Face and…Clint Eastwood?

Late last year with the release of the latest volume in his book series Brain Films, Harlan Ellison revealed the treatment for an unproduced episode of the 1960’s Batman which would have featured the television debut of Two-Face. Shocking no one (I love you Harlan!) this Two-Face was deemed too gruesome for the kid-friendly biff-pow Batman TV show, and they probably dreamed up Louie the Lilac to replace him instead. Additionally, this version of Two-Face was said to be a TV reporter (not a lawyer) and would have hopefully been played by CLINT EASTWOOD. If you need to know exactly what happens now, you can grab Brain Films Volume 5 here.

Now, DC comics is bringing this “lost” Harlan Ellison episode to life in a forthcoming adaptation of the story called “Batman: The Lost Episode,” released as part of the ongoing Batman ’66 title from DC Comics. Launched last July, this series imagines new adventures of Batman and Robin as depicted in their 1960’s Adam West and Burt Ward guises. This means all bat-gizmos, one-liners, and ridiculous totally realistic cliffhangers never had to actually end in the 60’s and dozens of new gee-golly adventures still await. The adaptation of Ellison’s lost Two-Face episode is scheduled for a November 2014 release and comes just after IDW’s comic book adaption of Ellison’s original teleplay for Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever.”

Is 2014-2015 the year of Harlan Ellison alternate TV reality? Can a Babylon 5 jam be next? Maybe Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?

Actually, let’s dream up a lost Harlan Ellison episode from ANY classic show. Or, for that matter, any show, at all. What would it be? Pick anything! Even if he NEVER wrote for the show.

Comment below! 

Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com.

Guy Capet
1. Guy Capet
A Harlan Ellison-scripted episode of The Prisoner would have been remarkable.
Guy Capet
3. Mike TeeVee
Soooo I'm going to take this in a truly twisted direction and suggest a Harlan Ellison scripted episode of Family Matters or Full House.
Guy Capet
4. Josh D
I, Robot was Asimov, unless I'm missing something...

I can't wait for this comic! They made a documentry about Ellison. It's crazy. The man is funny.
D. Bell
5. SchuylerH
@4: I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay is Ellison's unfilmed but published adaptation of the Asimov book.
Guy Capet
6. Mike TeeVee
Harlan wrote a screenplay adaptation of Asimov's I, Robot back in the late 70's. Since the film was never developed further (until the Alex Proyas nightmare that ultimately did make it to the screen), Harlan published it. It's a terrific read!
Guy Capet
7. Steven Chesney
Firefly (what else?)
Guy Capet
8. shellywb
Either The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family. I'd pay a lot of money to see that. Now you all can imagine the mayhem he'd wreak. (Alice is revealed to be a robot soldier from the future waiting for the right moment to murder the entire family except for Jan, who afterwards is revealed to be the genius driven by childhood tragedy to recreate all who died as androids, even Marsha.) Yes, I borrowed heavily from Terminator, but since they borrowed from him it's only fair.
Lee Whiteside
9. LeeWhiteside
There's always the often discussed but never actually written Babylon 5 episode where Trent (Robert Culp) from Demon With a Glass Hand shows up on Babylon 5.
Guy Capet
10. C Oppenheimer
Wild, Wild West (the TV series not the awful movie).
Matt Schultze
11. kaiser19
The Sanford and Son where they're successful businessmen.
Guy Capet
12. MarkNYLA
It can't get any stranger than reality: Harlan actually did write a produced episode of The Flying Nun, mostly, as the story goes, because he wanted to bang Sally Field. Whether or not the end was achieved is unrecorded.
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
It should be kept in mind that the title of this post is incorrect, as is the title The Lost Episode for the upcoming comic adaptation. Ellison didn't write an episode, he wrote an unsold outline for an episode. There was never a script, just a story premise, one of the countless unsold pitches the show undoubtedly got. The comic's script will be written by veteran comics writer Len Wein (creator of Wolverine). So we won't actually be getting any Ellisonian prose here, unlike the "City on the Edge" adaptation.

I always figured that the reason for not doing Two-Face on the '66 show was mainly that the character hadn't been used since the early '50s and thus wasn't remembered (unlike the other classic rogues, he wasn't reintroduced to comics until the early '70s). The fact that Ellison pitched a Two-Face proposal disproves that. That leaves my other theory, that the makeup was too expensive as well as too gruesome for '60s TV. But I had the idea that they could've resolved both problems by giving Tw0-Face a Phantom of the Opera-style mask and only hinting at the horror beneath.
Mike Conley
14. NomadUK
I wonder about the 'gruesome' excuse, though. I seem to recall there was a villain of the week named — I think — 'The Mask' who was never named (in the credits, he was always '?'), and wore this transparent plastic mask, and he looked pretty nasty. I thought he was kind of scary at the time.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@14: You're thinking of False-Face (Malachi Throne) from "True or False-Face"/"Holy Rat Race," episodes 17-18 of the series. He was billed as "?" until the closing credits of part 2, in order to create mystery about his identity, leading to all sorts of speculation about who the actor might be. Malachi Throne was rather unhappy about having his identity hidden, which might be why the character didn't return. (Ironically, though, the False-Face mask actually looked a lot like Throne's face.)

But while the mask might've been a little creepy, it wouldn't have violated broadcast standards like showing a horribly acid-scarred face would have. We're talking about a time when even murders on TV tended to be bloodless, because anything suggestive of graphic bodily injury was restricted. And, more importantly, it cost a lot less than the prosthetic makeup would have.
Guy Capet
16. DTS
How about a not-so-necessarily "lost episode" of "Sherlock" (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch)n? Ellison's got a new Sherlock Holmes related storyHersho -- "He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes" (over at "Subterranean Online") -- that would make for an interesting, break-up the formula whilst being true to the series, episode of that show.
Guy Capet
17. DTS
How about a not-so-necessarily "lost episode" of "Sherlock" (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch)n? Ellison's got a new Sherlock Holmes related storyHersho -- "He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes" (over at "Subterranean Online") -- that would make for an interesting, break-up the formula whilst being true to the series, episode of that show.
Guy Capet
18. DTS
Sorry about the double post (captcha thingee is a b@$tard to read and get right).

Forgot to mention: regarding the specualtion of WHY the script wasn't filmed: the explanation (which doesn't involve the script, the villain he used or any of the other guesses here) is given in BRAIN MOVIES 5. I know, I've a copy on a nearby bookshelf. :)

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