For those of you who don’t know — I just found out myself while reading The Hollywood Reporter — beloved and revered Star Trek writer Dorothy Catherine “D.C.” Fontana passed away on Monday at age 80.
She’s the writer responsible for much of the nuance and character details we love about Star Trek.
Gene Roddenberry gave life to the thing, but in this fan’s estimation, it was Fontana and producer Gene L. Coon who gave it personality.
Of the eleven TAS episodes Fontana had a hand in writing, the four best are:
A super-powered adolescent menaces the Enterprise.
You have to be firm with teens or they’ll fuck shit up.
I still can’t watch that scene where Charlie makes the female crew member’s face vanish. Freaked me out at age 6. Still gives me chills, as corny as it looks.
“This Side of Paradise”
The Enterprise Crew gets into drugs in the form of alien spores.
Hippies are losers who accomplish nothing.
One of my all-time fave episodes. Truly developed Kirk and Spock’s friendship.
“Tomorrow Is Yesterday”
The Enterprise travels back to the ’60s and encounters an Air Force pilot whose very presence on their ship could destroy the space-time continuum.
Time travel is not a band-aid for writer’s block.
This is why I hated Star Trek IV when I first saw it.
Because in this episode, the crew is extremely careful about everything they do in the past.
“By Any Other Name”
Aliens disguised as humans take over the Enterprise by turning the crew into little blocks of minerals — after removing the water and other elements — then the aliens start getting itchy in their human form.
Kirk, Spock, Scotty and McCoy exploit that weakness.
It’s our feelings that make us human!
An under-appreciated gem and an obvious template for the movie Under The Skin.
I don’t have much insight into Ms. Fontana’s life beyond her skill with words, and that she started off on Star Trek as Roddenberry’s production secretary, ultimately making her way up to story editor/staff writer.
For me, her passing is a reminder of another loss of the old guard.
I’m not going to pontificate about how TV writers were better in D.C. Fontana’s day because, in all honesty, they weren’t.
But Star Trek writers were.
I truly believe that the reason the writers were so good on that series is they were just doing what they did best, churning out scripts for weekly episodic television without the baggage of writing for a “legendary” series.
They had the studio and network breathing down their necks about what was acceptable or not and they were forced to be creative: i.e., it wasn’t cool to preach outright and technobabble hadn’t reared its ugly head yet.
At the time, Ms. Fontana was tops at producing entertaining and thought-provoking episodes, rich in character details.
Ms. Fontana, I salute you.