As you say, writers throughout the ages have been inspired (both positively and negatively) by other or prior writers; most of them have used that inspiration to create something original.
Actually, no. That's completely wrong. Throughout most of recorded human history, the normative pattern was to retell pre-existing stories, whether classic myths or legends, historical events, or the like. Keep in mind that the vast majority of human history took place before the printing press, before literacy was widespread, before it was easy to propagate a single version of a story. For most of the time our species has existed, the only way to keep a story alive was to retell it, and it's the nature of oral history and lore in any culture that it changes with the retelling, adapted to suit the tastes and inclinations of its teller and audience. Look at all the classical Greek and Roman plays that are based on mythology, or all the various different, evolving versions of Arthurian legend from Geoffrey of Monmouth to de Troyes to Malory to Tennyson to White. Retelling and reinventing old stories is the way humans have done things for most of the history of creativity.
The cultural practice of creating mostly new stories rather than retelling old ones is a fairly recent innovation in our society. There's a reason why novels are called novels, meaning "new" -- because at the time they started to come out, it was a distinctive thing for stories to be new rather than retold. It wasn't something people were used to seeing.
Forbidden Planet was inspired by The Tempest, but it was neither slavishly derivative nor did it recycle names and terminology.
And Malory's Arthur is not "slavishly derivative" of de Troyes' (or whatever his other sources were), and indeed it reinterprets the lore considerably and adds a lot of new elements to it, but it definitely recycles names and plot points, just like every other iteration of Arthurian legend or every Greek play or most of Shakespeare's canon. For that matter, The Tempest
itself, while just about the only thing in Shakespeare's canon that doesn't have a single clear source it's adapted from, definitely draws from a variety of other sources, such as the traditions of commedia del'arte
, the writings of Montaigne and Strachey, and the like. One of Prospero's speeches is cribbed almost verbatim from a passage of Ovid's Metamorphoses
. They didn't have copyright laws back then.
It's a straw man to say that the only two options are total originality and "slavish" imitation. That's so obviously false that I shouldn't even need to call you on it. Many works of fiction, including the one we're talking about, combine adapted elements with original elements.
If the producers of the original Hulk TV show wanted to combine the theme of the inner demon with The Fugitive, they should have created something original.
They did, by any legitimate and reasonable definition of "original." Anyone who knows jack about creativity knows that originality is in what you do with the ideas, not where you get them from.
And I categorically and emphatically reject any argument based on what creators "should" be prohibited from doing. That way lies censorship. It's a hideous notion. Creators need to have the freedom to try whatever they feel is appropriate. There's no guarantee it'll work, but who the hell are you to seek to impose limits on what they're able to try?