D.C. Fontana, writer, dies

D.C. FontanaDorothy Catherine Fontana, better known by her “indeterminate gender” pen name D.C. Fontana, dies at the age of 80. Originally setting out to be a novelist, she found herself drawn to the business of writing for the then-new medium of television, working her way from secretarial jobs to production assistant and script editor. Some of her earliest work, for TV westerns such as The Tall Man and Ben Casey, went out under her full name; by the time she sold scripts to The Wild Wild West, she found it easier to use a pseudonym (often “Michael Edwards” or “Michael Richards”). As the production secretary for a new series launched in 1963 called The Lieutenant, she was nominally working for executive producer Del Reisman, but often worked alongside the show’s creator, a junior producer named Gene Roddenberry. When The Lieutenant was cancelled after a single season, Roddenberry hired her to work on his next project, a sci-fi series called Star Trek, of which she became the story editor and a frequent scriptwriter, creating several critical points of the series’ backstory, especially involving Spock’s home planet of Vulcan. Work for such shows as Bonanza, Circle Of Fear, The Six Million Dollar Man, Land Of The Lost, and The Fantastic Journey followed; she was effectively the showrunner of the early 1970s animated revival of Star Trek, even though she was credited only as an associate producer. She served as story editor once again on the TV version of Logan’s Run, and, with fellow Star Trek writer David Gerrold, did significant work developing a modern (late 1970s) revival of Buck Rogers for television, only to see much of that work go unused by the eventual showrunner, Glen A. Larson. (She did still write a script for the series, however.) Between 1986 and 1987, she was one of numerous alumni of the original Star Trek to be brought aboard to develop the TV spinoff Star Trek: The Next Generation, but she found the working environment (dominated by Roddenberry’s attorney, Leonard Maizlish) to be stifling, and made no contributions past the first season. (She also had to fight for co-writing credit on the series premiere, Encounter At Farpoint.) Later writing assignments included War Of The Worlds, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Hypernauts, ReBoot, and the posthumously-produced Roddenberry series Earth: Final Conflict.

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