Robert Justman is one of the true founding fathers of Star Trek. He was a producer on Star Trek: The Original Series as well as the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation. TrekMovie.com visited with him to talk about Trek’s beginning (as well as its current remastering). Justman’s journey with Trek began as the associate producer on thesecond Trek pilot “Where No Man Had Gone Before,” and that almost became the end of his tenure with Star Trek.
TrekMovie.com: You worked on both the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek pilots, both of which got picked up. How did you decide which show to go with?
Robert Justman: Both Gene [Roddenberry] and [M:I producer] Bruce Geller wanted me to work on their productions if they were sold. We never envisioned that [Desilu executive] Herb [Solow] would come back from New York with both pilots sold and only one Bob Justman. Herb made the decision. His reasoning was thus: “Gene Roddenberry had done two pictures with him and Bruce Gellar had done one with him, therefore Gene Roddenberry had more gimmies.” But Bruce was pissed.
TM: So as associate producer on Trek, what were your responsibilities?
RJ: You know how today there are twenty or thirty producers on a show. On Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry was the executive producer and there were two associate producers: John D.F. Black, who was for the stories, and Bob Justman, who did everything else. If anything needed handling and there wasn’t anyone to do it, I would make it mine. That meant that I had input into story and script, casting, set design, set cost, set dressing, props, cutting…every function that has to be handled by someone, I would do. There were no other executives, everyone else had dirt under their fingernails. When Gene started petering out because of the tremendous strain on him, he brought in Gene Coon…who was a godsend.
TM: Do you think the show would have survived without Gene Coon?
RJ: It would not have gone as well, no. Coon saved our ass. Gene Roddenberry was the best rewrite person I ever saw and I have been around a long time. He was fantastic; the only problem was that he was so busy that you had to drag him tooth and nail out of his office to go rewrite the various shows. Coon could write shootable scripts sitting in his office typing away in no time at all. He could write an hour episode and hand it in after a long weekend; not only was it terrific but it was so long we had to chop parts away. He caught the Star Trek essence. He could think ‘Star Trekian.’
TM: You used both traditional Hollywood TV writers along with some serious sci-fi authors. In the end, which do you feel worked out better?
RJ: It wasn’t an issue of working better, but sci-fi writers didn’t necessarily follow the precepts of drama as we understand it. Hollywood writers understood that, and that is a big thing. We had some very famous sci-fi writers work on the show, and some were fine and some were in never-never land. They were all talented. They were on their internal trip. With some of them you could work, but some of them didn’t quite get the hang of it. It’s all well and good to imagine a canyon on a planet filled with brontosauruses… Christ! Do we have any brontosauruses left over? They just didn’t understand budgets and the precepts of dramatic four-act plays.
TM: When you joined the show for the second pilot, Jeffrey Hunter decided not to do come back and so William Shatner came aboard. Do you think that the show was better for it?
RJ: Absolutely. Jeffrey Hunter would have had to have done the show if the first pilot was picked up, but the terms of his contract never allowed for a second pilot and he wanted to be a motion picture star. I had worked before on The Outer Limits and Bill was the guest star on an episode. I liked him immediately and admired his work… he was full of zest. I felt after working on the second pilot he had what we needed. Like him or not, and some of the cast didn’t like him at all. He didn’t mean anything by it; he was just being Bill and having a great time living his life. God knows he really gave it what we needed. A sense of adventure, of full energy, good sense of humor, he had it all.
TM: In your book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, you talked about how you struggled with NBC to keep the Spock character the same. Did you know at the time he would become such a breakout star on the show?
RJ: I thought, and I made the point of it to Gene, that he was going to be hot stuff. I said, “It is like the French fleet is in town and the sailors are ashore and cutting wide swaths in the feminine population.” Everyone got this feeling that this person seems expressionless and doesn’t allow his himself to reveal anyone his emotions. But dammit down underneath he was something else. What that something else was is a mystery. And that mystery intrigued women. We had a full-sized female contingent who liked Mr. Spock, he was just mysterious.
TM: What were some of the other challenges you dealt with at the beginning?
RJ: I really didn’t know how to make the shows. Desilu was staffed with people attuned to half-hour comedies and didn’t really have people with good technical talent. Once they sold the shows I began setting up for the crew we would need and I brought people in. Star Trek was really a monster…we really had to blaze new ways of doing things.
TM: For example?
RJ: After doing the pilot, we had to shoot a planet with a sky with the same dark green backing that we had in the first pilot and I thought, ‘We can’t do that.’ I realized we had to have a neutral sky and we would project colored light on to the tarp that covered three sides of the stage to depict the sky. So, evenings before production began on a new episode and the guys knew to phone me and I would come down and I would say, “This one calls for a red orange sky” or sometimes fuchsia or what have you. I tried to make the environment match for each episode.
TM: It wasn’t that easy making new space shots each week though was it?
RJ: If you want to see a shot of the Enterprise entering and going into orbit around a planet there were various elements that have to be shot separately and then put together. So you had a shot of the orb or planet, and then a shot of the enterprise turning and then a star background and all of these things had to be done by matting all this stuff together. Every time you did it you lost a certain amount of the image. It just got grainier and grainier. I could always spot when a fade-out was coming on a show because the last cut would look different because it had more stuff messed with and would looked even grainier. When we went to Star Trek: The Next Generation, we no longer had that dragging us down. We had the ability to combine many different elements in one final piece of film. It would be fresh and perfect and fantastic. Nowadays they generate everything they want with computers.
TM: Speaking of computers, have you had a chance to see the new remastered Star Trek?
RJ: I have seen it and I’m thrilled. Because for the first time since its first release, the film, the individual cells look the way we envisioned them when we first shot the show. It is the closest thing to the original dailies, because they are fresh and pristine. I had this discussion with Jerry Finnerman that I wanted a strong key light. I said, “Jerry, ever been to any of these planets and who knows what it is like? I don’t want to be like it is in this room… I want to see color where you least expect it.”
TM: How do you feel about the new CGI shots, some of which are different from the originals, are you concerned they are making changes?
RJ: No, as long as it makes the show better I would be happy. It is like it was with Next Gen. We were able to do things we couldn’t do before and I was all for it. It is like being in a candy store. So if you are not harming the show it is okay. I guess some might say, “You are harming the show for me.” Well I can’t help that. Anything that makes the show better is better for the show and is better for the viewer.
You can tell by his candid comments that he is a person with a generous nature. His number one priority always seemed to be what needed to be done to make the show better. Is JJ Abrams using him as a consultant on the new film? I think his experience and talent would be invaluable!
i could read 1000 interviews with Bob Justman about early tos…his book is great
Always enjoy reading Justman’s comments. I read the book he wrote with Herb Solow several times and thought it was great. The pressures of producing that show seemed to be quite intense at times.
A TOS-R blessing from Bob Justman himself. Good enough for me. Can’t want for Part II
Always interesting to hear from him about the TOS days. He gives credit where credit is due. Whenever I heard GR speak about TOS all he seemed to talk about was his own role.
People talk about “Gene Roddenbery’s Star Trek” – I prefer “Justman, Coon, Black, Solow, Roddenberry et al ‘s Star Trek”
“Gene Roddenbery’s Star Trek” is ST:TMP and the first years of TNG – not my favorites.
Bob Justman’s attitude about remastered Trek has to be a boost to CBS Digital. That’s high praise, coming from a man who lived and breathed the show and was a HUGE part of it.
Nice to see a guy like Bob Justman not letting his ego get in the way of a quality revision on something he helped create. Imagine yourself creatively involved in producing a show in the 1960’s and now, forty years later, some other people say they want to “revamp it and make it better”. Can you imagine how many folks on the original team who would say, “it’s good, leave it alone!”. Bravo, Bob!
“We had some very famous sci-fi writers work on the show, and some were fine and some were in never-never land”
And, I wonder where Harlan E. fit in between those two categories “fine” or “never-never land”
Good genre writer, and “City” as written would have been a great piece of work — in a much later period (maybe, the 90s) in broadcast TV history.
Bob Justman is a class act. Having met the man before, I walked away feeling richer from our discussion. He was very approachable, and very generous with his time and answered questions about his work on Trek and The Outer Limits.
And, cheers to Bob Justman.
Love stuff like this. Nice to hear his opinions on Trek’s current direction and his recollections of TOS are priceless..I mean the man was THERE… I could read this kind of stuff all day. Great article, look forward to more.
Just awesome that Tony was able to interview Mr. Justman. I’ve known this article was coming for a while now, so seeing it finally ready to go is a treat :)
The dude is old but the mac techMology in his trousers is not dated by the passage of time.
old people are kewl.
Great article. And, for those interested, Justman and Solow’s Inside Star Trek is a fantastic book.
Have Great, Great Respect for Mr. Justman anytime he wishes to speak we will listen. Thanks much Anthony for the article.
Well put Josh T. and it’s exactly for the reasons you cited that I hated the Lord of the Rings trilogy (or is that travesty?). CGI effects galore, but a storyline that “stunk on ice”. Go over a hill, get into a battle….go over a hill, get into a battle….go over…well, you get the idea. I will go on record as saying that any “A” film produced before 1950 is far superior to most of the films made in the last twenty years in regard to storyline, character development and audience interest. They just don’t make them like they used to and we’re all the lesser for it! I hear they’re going to remake “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. Watch for it to be a piece of dogshit with piss-poor acting backed by CGI up the yazoo to try and dazzle audiences. All flash and NO substance! Hollywood was always defined as where Art meets Commerce; too bad Art left town twenty years ago!
Bob Justman worked on the Disney “Man in Space” series with Ward Kimball in the 1950s, a fact I had not known when I joined up with TNG in 1987. As soon as I learned that Bob had been involved, I said “Wow, YOU’RE the reason I got into space art?!” I grew up watching those shows, before the first satellite was ever launched, and was amazed at what they were showing us for the future. And to have worked with Bob on Star Trek, to learn how things were done for episodic television, was simply incredible. – Rick
Of all the people who have ever worked on Star Trek, I have the highest regard and greatest respect for Mr. Justman. He has done a lot of good over the course of a life well lived. God bless you, sir.
What’s going on? I just wrote a response to an eloquent missive written by Josh T. and now I see his post has been erased! There was no good reason to censor his statement!
“I hear they’re going to remake “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.:”
Hadn’t heard about that one, but I recall hearing that S. Spielberg was going to take a whack at “When Worlds Collide”.
/shades of “here…let’s use Photoshop to recreate ‘Sunday in the Park on the Island of La Grande Jatte’. Make it more realistic. Fill in the parts between the points.”
Thanks for this great interview! God Bless Bob Justman!
Bob Justman is one of the great talents directly responsible for Trek. His book with Herb Solow, Inside Star Trek, is essential reading to understanding the origins of our beloved TV show. I bought it last year and I couldn’t put it down.
20 I delted it because it was long, incoherent rant about how all movies from hollywood are bad….and had zero to do with bob justman. Maybe he meant it for another thread
Anthony You are deleting posts now because YOU deem them as irrelevent to the thread?
Yeah actually it WAS relevant to the thread, as Bob Justman embodies the era of Hollywood film-making I was specifically referring to, and No it was actually QUITE coherent for those studious enough to listen, but that’s the problem with assuming, it makes an ass of you and me, in this instance you. Who are you to deem something “Incoherent” just because YOU don’t get it or agree with it?
This website as far as I’m concerned just made a major turn onto redundancy blvd and censorship avenue, to hell with this. If I wanted that sort of half-assed micro-managed excuse for editorial prowess I’d post an essay to my 7th grade literature class and incompetent 7th grade teacher.
I’m severely dissapointed in Anthony Pascale. It sounds to me like he liked 300 and is pissed I took a stab at it. Whatever.
You are deleting posts now simply because YOU don’t like them or agree with them??
To HELL with this website.
Anyway – did he talk about Shatner’s wig? Does he have pictures without?
As I recall, Shatner’s piece is properly referred to as “The Intergalactic Weave.”
What’s interesting in regard to Shatner having a hair replacement is just when this occurred in his life. When you see publicity shots from early in his career he always seemed to have a full head of hair. We know by the time of TOS he was sporting a wig/toupee, so I guess he must have started “blowing his feathers” in his twenties! It’s interesting how actors “head it off at the pass” (pun intended) and cover any hint of baldness before it can even be seen. It would seem most men have lost a good portion of their locks before they take any action in covering up this fact. Is there anybody out there who met Shatner in his youth who could “shed some light” (there I go again!) on the topic?
Read somewhere that Joan Collins saw The Shat without the toup in the dressing room. Anybody recall where that anecdotal information came from?
Love this website. I just hope the editor doesn’t start deleting posts, as long as they’re clean.
Live long and prosper, Mr. Justman. Great interview. Mr. Justman always gives credit where credit is due.
Another great interview, can’t wait to read the second half.
As for censorship on this site hey if you don’t like it don’t come here.
Justman left TOS near the middle of season 3, making the intro to the article inaccurate. By the last dozen episodes, only Freiberger was producing.
Hopefully Justman’s remarks about TOS-R will shut up some of the idiots who scream blue murder about ‘killing canon!’ every time so much as a scratch is cleaned up!
i only want to see the blue flame miramanee spoke of to her husband Kirok…to come out that was shown seen as “gold”….in the paradise syndrome\Remastered!
Oh please fix Mr Okuda
(copyright 2007 Paramount Pictures)….
great justman interview!
he has real class, as always
And thanks for a great site all in all… Anthony Piscale!
regards to all
…”i only want to see the blue flame miramanee spoke of to her husband Kirok…to come out that as was shown wrongly as “gold”….in the great third season Paradise Syndrome\Remastered cbs-cgi.”
Oh please fix Mr Okuda
(copyright 2007 Paramount Pictures)….”
#32- I’ll second that.
Can’t wait for more from Bob J. Very refreshing, intelligent, and informative.
Personal appeal to Anthony-
I have enjoyed this site ever since I’ve found it. I’ve told lots of friends about it. It’s quality is outstanding. HOWEVER, as much as I sometimes disagree with Josh…censorship is a bad thing. Foul language and disrespect for others (personally)=wipe it clean. But opinions about movie making, types of movies, changes in the Arts, etc. =Please don’t censor this.
I HATE rap music. As a music teacher, however, I must embrace it because it may be the only way to draw some kids into my program. Do I have to use it and perform it daily, monthly, or even yearly? No! But to censor it from my program would be suicide. Please reconsider what you are doing in this area. I have total respect for you and what you have done here, Anthony. I know how upset I’d be if my thoughts and feelings were wiped clean off this board, however.
Bob Justman showed us a good point in saying that even some of the greatest sci-fi writers were “out there” when it came to writing for a television show. It still sounds like he respected their talent, however, even if he didn’t agree with their methods.
What a great interview with one of the guys who made the Enterprise fly. Anything Mr. Justman has to say I’m interested in reading. He’s a talented guy…. If Bob Justman thinks the remastering is good for the show, then it’s just one more reason to accept the validity of the efforts of the remastering team.
Great interview, brought me back to this site. It’s always enlightening to read Mr. Justman’s comments about Star Trek. Looking forward to part 2.
Josh wrote (in his deleted post):
> An army of 100,000? To [heck] with that CGI stuff, go hire you
> 100,000 EXTRAS- HUMAN BEINGS, give them their union wages
> and start filming. If it was ok for Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus,
> The Longest Day, etc, it sure as hell can be ok for todays films.
Steven Bernstein, director of photography for a certain
recently released film, said in an interview:
“There were battle sequences when they asked how many extras
I wanted. I said we 7,000 would be great, but that we could
always enhance and multiply a smaller group digitally.
The next day we had 7,000 extras show up.”
For “The Longest Day”, the producers wanted the Army to supply
“5,000 extras for the recreation of the landings at Normandy.
But “due to the Berlin Wall crisis and political concerns”,
the Army was able to provide only 250 soldiers!
“One thousand French soldiers dressed in American uniforms
were also used.” (Quoted from a US Army webzine article.)
“King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his
Arab Legion as extras” for “Lawrence of Arabia”. (IMDB)
For “Spartacus”, 8500 extras were used in a battle that
took six weeks to film. (IMDB)
Wow, couldn’t have lived without seeing that, good thing for humanity that SOMEONE saved it and re-posted it under a brand-spanking new user name! Nothing like gettingaround a pesky moderator to show maturity.
For all know that I am the paragon of maturity and taste. And if you don’t agree withthat, you can (EDITED FOR CONTENT. COMMENTS NOT RELEVANT TO THREAD) and no-body will ever edit my posts for that reason.
This was a fantastic interview, very insightful. JJ Abrams should sign him as executive creative consultant ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
AGREED! If J.J. Abrams is not already consulted with this man, he should. I would imagine Shatner And Nimoy have expressed this also. The very best of Star Trek occured with Bob Justman’s involvement.
this is the last I will say on the subject
I thought Josh meant to post his rant on the evils of every Hollywood movie in the Micheal Bay thread since it appeared to refer to that, and didnt seem to mention Justman or Trek.
if it was really for this thread then I am sorry, it was housecleaning and not censorship..i really dont give a rats about peoples various theories of life, as along as they try and stay somewhat on subject, dont attack other posters and arent just here to spam or troll
for the record I have not seen 300
Hello,….Josh T., are you out there? If you read the above post, I think you can see Anthony is extending the “olive branch” of peace. Please accept it and come back to the Enterprise family, we…need you. Was that clear enough? I said…WE…NEED…YOU! How do you like my SHAT impression?
The book “Inside Star Trek” is a must have for anyone who would visit website and read up to blog post #45. I read it in 1998 and loved it. It’s full of a lot of info some of which is juicy but it’s all real. It’s actually a bit depressing but if you ever get into how TV and movies are really done it’s such a struggle and downer for a lot of the journey. I can’t believe more TV and movie producers don’t comb their hair with a shotgun.
This a great article, even though I only felt like I got a peek~! Behind the scenes stuff is always interesting, in my opinion, whether or not it gives an accurate picture of the behind the scenes reality is another matter I think. ;-) I’m glad Bob thinks the Remastered updates are fine, as I have been won over for the most part, and am now in the camp of “Do more!”
I look forward to more material like this. :-)
Yeah, don’t leave Josh T! We’re better WITH you than without you!! :-)
I accept for the misunderstanding Anthony, all is well.
I love the nod to Gene Coon. – “Coon saved our ass.” (Classic Justman)
Hey Josh T., good to see you back! I look forward to your intelligent discourse on the next topic!
Thank you for EVERYTHING- your contributions will be remembered for many future generations. And your chronicle of Star Trek’s early years is an invaluable resource to us all.
Peace and long life.