It’s never easy to lose a veteran of the Star Trek family…and we’ve lost so many already: the Great Bird himself, De, Jimmy, Leonard, Majel, Grace Lee, Aron, and so many other talented people who labored diligently in the late 1960s and beyond to create for all us this amazing thing that we so love.
Yesterday, we lost another—and this one cuts deep, especially to us in the Star Trek fan film community.
DOROTHY CATHERINE FONTANA went by the name “D.C. Fontana” because, back in the 1960s, women weren’t taken very seriously in Hollywood…and certainly not as script writers. In fact, young Dorothy first started working in the typing pool and eventually “graduated” to secretary. She began as an assistant to writer Samuel A. Peeples (who would go on to write the second Star Trek pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) on a couple of TV western series.
Eventually, Dorothy found her way to Gene Roddenberry as his secretary, while he was still producing The Lieutenant. But when Gene discovered that Dorothy wanted to become a writer, he and Star Trek producer Robert Justman encouraged her do some writing for a new series they were developing called Star Trek.
Although not initially a fan of science fiction, Dorothy was learning quickly as the new project gained momentum. So Gene gave her an idea he had pitched titled “The Day Charlie Became God” and asked her to write a full teleplay for it. This would eventually become the episode “Charlie X.”
What followed was an amazing career that helped shape Star Trek for decades to come. “D.C” Fontana became a story editor on the original Star Trek, writing another ten episodes of the series as well as working on rewrites of others (including being one of four writers to rework Harlan Ellison’s controversial “The City on the Edge of Forever”).
In the 1970s, D.C. went on to become an associate producer for the animated Star Trek TV series, writing their most beloved episode “Yesteryear,” where we get a unforgettable glimpse of Spock’s childhood on Vulcan. Later, in 1989, D.C. would write the Star Trek novel “Vulcan’s Glory” following the adventures of a young Ensign Spock, recently posted to the USS Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. (The novel did not feature any show tunes in the turbolift.)
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, D.C. enjoyed a rich Hollywood career writing scripts for many well-known series including: The Streets of San Francisco, The Waltons, Dallas, Kung Fu, and sci-fi series like The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, and Buck Rogers. She even became a story editor once again on the short-lived series Logan’s Run.
In the 1980s, D.C. returned to televised Star Trek as an associate producer on The Next Generation. She is even credited as the writer of the series pilot “Encounter at Farpoint.” Unfortunately, growing frictions with Gene Roddenberry would result in D.C. leaving the series after the first season, having written scripts and/or teleplays for five episodes. D.C. would return to TV Star Trek shortly after Gene Roddenberry passed away with a teleplay for the first season Deep Space Nine episode “Dax.”
D.C.’s TV writing career would continue throughout the 1990s and beyond, including three episodes of Babylon 5 plus other series like Earth: Final Conflict, Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys, Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years, and the animated Silver Surfer series.
But D.C. wasn’t finished with the Star Trek franchise just yet! In 2002, she co-wrote the Star Trek: Bridge Commander video simulator game (featuring the voices of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner). Then in 2006, she co-wrote both the game Star Trek: Tactical Assault (featuring the voice of William Shatner) and Star Trek: Legacy (featuring the voices of all five of the Star Trek TV captains at the time).
Oh, and she also wrote a Star Trek comic book for IDW publishing during their “Year Four” series. “The Enterprise Experiment” was a sequel to another story she wrote, the TOS episode “The Enterprise Incident.”
“TO SERVE ALL MY DAYS”
If you look at the image at the beginning of this blog, you’ll see that I chose to place the screen capture from the fan film episode “To Serve All My Days” prominently at the top. There are two reasons I chose to do so.
The first is obvious: this is a blog about Star Trek fan films, and “To Serve All My Days” was the third release from the STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES fan series from James Cawley back in 2006. You can watch it below (this version has the continuity-saving epilogue at the end)…
In so many ways, this production was a game-changer for all Star Trek fan films. Not only did it feature a major Star Trek alumnus reprising his iconic role from TOS—Walter Koenig as Chekov—but the episode was written by the legendary Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana! Either headline by itself would have been newsworthy, but the two together helped put Star Trek fan films “on the map” and validate them in a way nothing else could.
According to a feature from Trekmovie.com back in 2007, it was Walter who asked D.C. to write the episode for him—a way to “retire” the character of Chekov with dignity. But whatever the origin of D.C.’s involvement, the amazing thing is that she agreed to participate at all…a Hollywood veteran of four and a half decades. And not only that, but Walter and D.C. would ultimately open the door for other Star Trek alumni like George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, Marc Zicree, Denise Crosby, and David Gerrold to join the ranks of professionals working on New Voyages. D.C. herself stuck around on the series as a consulting producer for most of the rest of its run through 2016.
While not all Star Trek fan films featured such notable celebrity talent, New Voyages was the first to break that barrier (I’m not counting YORKTOWN until it’s released, folks!) and was followed by others like STAR TREK: OF GODS AND MEN, STARSHIP FARRAGUT, STAR TREK: RENEGADES, STAR TREK CONTINUES, and PRELUDE TO AXANAR.
But the other reason I chose to feature “To Serve All My Days” so prominently in the tribute image at the top is because that is what D.C. Fontana did for Star Trek fandom. She served all of us fans, year after year, decade after decade, caring for and nurturing Star Trek for most of her adult life until her passing on Monday night after a short illness.
Dorothy, from myself and, I am certain, all of Star Trek fandom, we thank you for your service, your inspiration, and your dedication to this wonderful legacy you helped to create. You will be missed…but never forgotten.