“She was a very, very tough lady,” Mr. Skotak said. “She carried a phaser with her right up to the end.” https://t.co/jH3MxZQyHi
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) December 4, 2019
I’ve always thought of Fontana as the Mother of All Trekkies — she showed us it was possible. Yes, of course, that women could succeed at writing ‘action shows’ for television (which was no small thing). But also that women — we — could play with the two-dimensional sci-fi Wagon-Train-to-the-Stars characters (mysterious dark alien, stalwart trickster captain, hard-bitten hard-drinking medical man) and make something worth sharing. She certainly wasn’t the first to turn fanfic into a living (I can’t be the only one who wanted, back in the day, to see Nimoy and Shatner do a turn as Sherlock and Watson) but she gave a STEM-curious generation the key to a particular door…
D.C. Fontana, who helped craft the lore of the 1960s television series “Star Trek” and developed one of its signature characters, Spock, as the show’s first female writer, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Burbank, Calif. She was 80.
Her husband and only immediate survivor, Dennis Skotak, said the cause was cancer.
Ms. Fontana was part of the “Star Trek” universe from its early days, working alongside the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, as a story editor and writer…
In a 2013 interview with StarTrek.com, the franchise’s official website, Ms. Fontana said she thought her greatest contribution to the franchise had been “primarily the development of Spock as a character and Vulcan as a history/background/culture from which he sprang.”
She fleshed out the character’s back story as the child of a human mother and a Vulcan father while she was a story editor and associate producer for “Star Trek: The Animated Series” in the 1970s. She later wrote, with Mr. Roddenberry, the pilot that launched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1987.
Dorothy Catherine Fontana was born on March 25, 1939, in Sussex, N.J. She was raised by a single mother in Totowa, N.J., and dreamed of becoming a novelist, she said in an interview with the Writers Guild Foundation in 2014.
After high school, she studied to become a secretary at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. She told the foundation that she had thought that clerical work would be a good day job for an aspiring novelist, but that her goals had changed when she became a secretary at Columbia Pictures’ television arm, which was based in New York.
When her boss died of a heart attack, leaving her jobless after just two months, she decided to move to California, in December 1959, to see if she could break into television writing. She achieved early success selling scripts to western series, which were popular in the early 1960s, including “The Tall Man,” “Shotgun Slade” and “Frontier Circus.” …
Ms. Fontana wrote for all three seasons of the original series. She later wrote for other science fiction shows, including “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Babylon 5,” as well as influential series outside that genre like “Bonanza,” “Dallas” and “The Waltons.” …
Speaking to StarTrek.com in 2013, Ms. Fontana reflected on what it was like to be a female writer in Hollywood in the 1960s. While working on “Star Trek,” she said, she did not realize that she had gone where no woman had gone before.
“At the time, I wasn’t especially aware there were so few female writers doing action adventure scripts,” she said. “There were plenty doing soaps, comedies, or on variety shows. By choosing to do action adventure, I was in an elite, very talented and very different group of women writers.”
From the blog The Objective Standard:
… [W]hat truly set Fontana apart was the artistic integrity of her own work. Consider, for example, “This Side of Paradise,” which tells the story of the “logical” Mr. Spock discovering emotions, falling in love, and being tempted to abandon his lifelong mission of discovery in order to remain in a seeming paradise forever. With its elegant dialogue and sympathetic tone, the episode evokes the viewer’s emotions but takes a firm stand against utopian fantasies and in favor of embracing the more rewarding challenges of real life. Reducing such a complex plot, profound ideas, and compelling character developments to a single hour-long episode was a remarkable achievement.
It was par for the course for Fontana, however, who earned a reputation for hard work and intense focus. “The first draft [a producer] gets is really my third or fourth draft, because I’m always refining,” she said. Conscious of the practical limitations of producing a series within money and time constraints, she was nevertheless committed to her artistic vision. “I just work at it so hard that I feel, this is what I want to say.”…
Asked once how she would like to be remembered, her answer was simple—and characteristically straightforward. “I would like to be remembered most just for being a damn good writer.”