D.C. Fontana

D.C. Fontana

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Birthday: Mar 25, 1939

Birthplace: Sussex, New Jersey, USA

A pioneering woman in the male-dominated field of television writing, Dorothy Catherine "D.C." Fontana rightfully earned her place as one of the most revered contributors to the longest-running science fiction franchise of all time. Getting her start as a secretary for several television screenwriters, Fontana had the good fortune to take a job with producer Gene Roddenberry in the mid-1960s. It was in this position that she was given an early glimpse at a story concept that would become "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69), while it was her talent as a writer that made her one of the show's most influential creative voices. Even after the cancellation of the as yet to be recognized cultural phenomenon, she continued to work with Roddenberry on such projects as "Star Trek: The Animated Adventures (NBC, 1973-75) and its popular revival spin-off, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-94). Even though she frequently wrote for other non-"Trek" properties over the years, Fontana would always be most closely associated with the space adventure franchise, leading to endeavors like the comic book miniseries Star Trek: Year Four - The Enterprise Experiment. In a career that helped shape television science fiction for more than four decades, Fontana won the hearts and minds of generations of Trekkies everywhere. Born on March 25, 1939 in Sussex, NJ, Dorothy Catherine Fontana always knew what she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. By the time she was 11 years old, she was already crafting elaborate stories for her childhood friends. As she grew older, she became an avid reader of Westerns, police stories and history books. Her first desire was to pen novels, but she soon took an interest in the new medium of television. The practical side of Fontana led her to study secretarial and administrative skills in both high school and college, to make sure she could earn a living - practical thinking that would soon pay off. It was with her first attempt to break into the business - a script for the WWII action series "Combat" (ABC, 1962-67) - that she became acutely aware of the barriers to women writers. Despite her extensive knowledge of military history, neither of her two spec scripts could even get read, never mind a chance at consideration. Fontana decided to skirt the issue by using her first two initials to hide her gender - thus, the nom deplume "D.C. Fontana" was born. She would later make it clear that the shortened name was just to get a foot in the door of the male-dominated industry and that she never intended to pull an ongoing ruse. Her first sale was to the detective show "Ben Casey," (ABC, 1961-66). That show's producer, Irving Elman, liked the script enough to pursue it - in spite of the fact that it was penned by a woman. Just the same, the "D.C." stuck. In order to pay the bills, Fontana still sought regular work as a secretary - mainly for scripter Sam Peeples, who wrote for the shows, "Frontier Circus" (CBS, 1961-62) and "The Tall Man," (NBC, 1960-62). She would soon write spec scripts of her own for both programs. Fontana also found work as a secretary for producer Gene Roddenberry. It was while working for the now legendary producer at his offices at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that she was asked to take a look at a 12-page outline for a show he was creating entitled "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69). She immediately took to the idea, focusing on the character of Mr. Spock, still officially uncast. When Roddenberry made the move to Desilu Studios on the Paramount Pictures lot across town, Fontana went with him. After NBC gave the co-ahead for the show, she was given the opportunity to punch up a script entitled "This Side of Paradise." Suitably impressed, both Roddenberry and the network gave its approval, and Fontana became story editor. She went on to develop crucial storylines for the character of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in particular, and the alien culture of Vulcans in general. She was responsible for such iconic ideas as the famed Vulcan nerve pinch, and wrote the popular episode, "Journey to Babel," which featured Jane Wyman and Mark Lenard as the parents of the pointy-eared first officer. Following Trek's infamous early cancellation after just three seasons, Fontana moved on to other shows, notably Westerns such as "The Big Valley" (ABC, 1965-69) and "Bonanza," (NBC, 1959-1973), as well as "Then Came Bronson," (NBC, 1969-1970), for which she won a Writer's Guild Award, "The High Chaparral," (NBC, 1967-1971) and "Ghost Story" (NBC, 1972-73). By 1973, Roddenberry came calling again. NBC, in response to a burgeoning grassroots interest in "Star Trek," was developing an animated version of the program entitled, "Star Trek: The Animated Adventures (NBC, 1973-75). The short-lived show featured the original cast reprising the voices of the characters, and, along with Fontana and Roddenberry, much of the original writing staff. Fontana was also named associate producer and contributed a script, "Yesteryear" which was deemed significant enough in its portrayal of the Vulcan culture to be considered part of continuity for the rest of the universe. After the second incarnation of "Trek" left the airwaves, Fontana once more went on to write for such staples of 1970s sci-fi television as "The Six Million Dollar Man," (ABC, 1974-78), "Land of the Lost," (NBC, 1974-77), "Logan's Run," (CBS, 1977-78) and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" (NBC, 1979-1981). Outside the realm of genre fare, she also worked on such mainstream fare as "The Waltons" (CBS, 1972-1981), "The Streets of San Francisco," (ABC, 1972-77) and "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991). In the early 1980s, her TV writing output tapered off before she returned to her roots with "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994), for which she was also named a producer. Some 20 years later, Fontana was again responsible for steering Roddenberry's vision of the 23rd century, now updated and set some 80 years after the original series, with an all-new cast. Fontana had co-written the pilot and had planned to introduce a female engineer in upcoming episodes, but her relationship with Roddenberry became strained, and she left the show halfway through its first of seven seasons after 13 episodes. She again returned to the "Trek" universe with another spin-off, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," (syndicated, 1992-98), under the control of new producers. In the new environment, her imagination fired up as never before, creating a sophisticated backstory for another alien race through the character of Dax (Terry Farrell). Continuing to work in genre television, Fontana also wrote for "Babylon 5" (syndicated, 1994-98) - which she later likened to a much grittier future world than "Trek" - and "Earth: Final Conflict" (syndicated, 1997-2002), another sci-fi series originated from an idea of Roddenberry's. Among her continuing credits in animation were episodes of Filmation's "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," (syndicated, 1983-85), "Beast Wars: Transformers" (syndicated, 1996-99) and the cosmic-themed superhero adaptation "The Silver Surfer." (Fox Kids Network, 1998-99). Still a much-revered voice among long-time "Trek" fans, Fontana continued to give interviews and speak about her career, especially as it pertained to the groundbreaking sci-fi show. She even contributed a script to the fan-created project, "Star Trek: New Voyages," produced by die-hard fans who painstakingly recreated sets and costumes from the original series (because of copyright concerns, the amateur show was only allowed to circulate in a non-profit capacity among loyal followers). Fontana's episode featured actor Walter Koenig, reprising his character of Chekov, from the original series. In 2001, Fontana was inducted into the American Screenwriter's Association Hall of Fame; in 2002, she won a Writer's Guild Award for her contributions to the guild over the years. In between writing jobs, she also found time to write three books, including a Star Trek novel, Vulcan's Glory, recounting Spock's first mission on the Enterprise. In 2008, she co-wrote the comic book miniseries Star Trek: Year Four - The Enterprise Experiment, a continuation of the plotline begun in the original series episode "The Enterprise Incident," which was also penned by Fontana. Additional duties included teaching screenwriting at Los Angeles' American Film Institute. D.C. Fontana died of undisclosed natural causes in Los Angeles on December 2, 2019. She was 80 years old.

Filmography

Movies

Credit
No Score Yet 66% Trek Nation Unknown (Character) - 2010

TV

Credit
83% 82% James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction Guest 2018
No Score Yet No Score Yet Earth: Final Conflict Writer 1997
No Score Yet No Score Yet Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years Writer 1995
No Score Yet 93% Babylon 5 Writer 1994
90% 86% Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Writer 1993
89% 90% Star Trek: The Next Generation Writer 1987-1988
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Six Million Dollar Man Writer 1974
94% 81% Star Trek: The Animated Series Writer 1973
No Score Yet No Score Yet Assignment: Vienna Writer 1972
No Score Yet No Score Yet Bonanza Writer 1969-1970
No Score Yet No Score Yet Here Come the Brides Writer 1970
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Big Valley Writer 1968-1969
80% 88% Star Trek Writer 1966-1968
No Score Yet No Score Yet Ben Casey Writer 1965
No Score Yet No Score Yet The Tall Man Writer,
Writer (Story)
1960-1961

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