Star Trek Production Crew You Should Know: Original Series Edition
I know how it is when you’re new to the Star Trek fandom… I mean, I grew up watching it, but even then there’s always that point when you come into the fandom for the first time. Like most sci-fi nerds, Trekkies are known for their vast bodies of knowledge, but they seem particularly known for their behind-the-scenes knowledge and personal identification with behind-the-scenes crew. The traditional Trekkie is just as invested in the production side as they are the finished episodes, and that can be super confusing for someone who comes in fresh from watching the show. With that in mind, here are five names you should know from the original series production crew (not counting Gene Roddenberry!):
Gene Coon – Coon was a writer and showrunner who worked with Gene Roddenberry several times. He died in 1974, so it’s not always clear exactly he did or why he left before the show ended, but he was in charge of editing scripts (among other things including some full scriptwriting) and was responsible for much of the humor and humanity that started to develop for the characters after the early episodes. Basically if there’s a joke, it’s probably Gene Coon’s. You can still get in a fight with a Trekkie over which Gene gets credit for what, though.
Matt Jefferies – Everyone knows the Jefferies tubes — those things Scotty’s always crawling into — are named after Trek’s art designer Matt Jefferies, so you should know it too. But he also designed basically everything else, in collaboration with the producers, including the Enterprise‘s distinctive shape. While you’re at it, you should know the term “Feinberger,” any wacky futuristic prop seen on Trek, named for the prop master Irving Feinberg. (He mostly made them out of repurposed everyday objects).
Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana – D.C. Fontana started as Gene Roddenberry’s secretary, but she’d already had writing experience, and she was involved with Trek’s scripts from the beginning. The first episode she wrote was “Charlie X,” the eighth episode filmed. She’s kept writing Trek episodes and related stuff basically up to the present, although she was most heavily involved in the original series (especially in building up Vulcans, Spock as a character, and writing some major female roles like the Romulan commander). You can still get in a LOT of fights about her, because as the most prominent female writer, everyone wants to debate whether her contributions were valuable.
William Ware Theiss – I’m sneaking in Bill, not necessarily because everyone knows him but because everyone should. He was TOS’s costume designer, and his name is now immortalized in the Theiss Titillation Theory: “the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be.” I’ve written about women’s TOS costumes and how feminist they are at length on the old CompGeeks site, so I won’t repeat it here, but he’s super important to the whole aesthetic of Trek. He was also gay, which you won’t find in most of the behind-the-scenes books.
Robert “Bob” Justman – Justman was a producer and production manager, the nuts-and-bolts guy to Roddenberry’s “get it done” creativity. He was involved from pretty close to the beginning, so he really helped shape the show, as well as being the guy who literally made it possible to turn the episodes in by crunching the budget and whatnot. He’s pretty interesting, but you probably won’t get in a fight about him. He comes up as a complement to the Genes a lot though, and he also said one of my favorite quotes in the world:
“We’re all in outer space, Jerry, and we’re in color. NBC claims to be the first full-color network, so let’s prove it for them. When you light the sets, throw wild colors in—magenta, red, green, any color you can find—especially behind the actors when they’re in a close shot. Be dramatic. In fact, go overboard. Backlight the women and make them more beautiful. Take some chances. No one can tell you that’s not the way the future will look.” –Robert Justman
He’s talking about lighting, of course, but I think that’s one of the things that keeps us coming back to Star Trek’s optimistic future. Take some chances. No one can tell you that’s not the way the future will look. I like trivia and accuracy as much as the next fan, but I especially care about behind-the-scenes because of quotes like that. Once you start recognizing names, you’ll start getting attached. If you’re a new Trekkie, don’t be afraid to take the plunge!