VegasCon07 – Justman Embraces Change

From the Las Vegas Creation Star Trek Convention (Thursday)
Original Star Trek (and early TNG) supervising producer Robert Justman came to Vegas to show the crowd to show a rare documentary and take some questions from the crowd. Justman said that his work on Trek was the ‘emotional best’ ofhis long career in television, but the workload was ‘debilitating.’ The producer was asked if he thought Gene Roddenberry would have approved of the ‘more militaristic’ Deep Space Nine series (the first Trek series created after the creator of TOS and TNG passed away). Justman said that he didn’t know, but noted that “things change…rapidly at times.” Regarding change Justman said that he was “thrilled” about the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie. He declared the premise or returning to the early years of the TOS crew ‘enticing and exciting.’ He was also very happy to hear that Leonard Nimoy was returning to play Spock.

Justman showed a portion of a film made by the National Air and Space Museum for a Star Trek exhibition in1992. From the looks of it, it is a great documentary. It had clips from the series and featured interviews with Justman, Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Nichelle Nichols Harlan Ellison, and DeForest Kelley. Much of the discussions centered on the significance of Trek in its era. Shatner recounted a moving story I had not heard before about a former Vietnam POW who told the actor how he and his fellow inmates would re-enact Star Trek episodes in order to ‘keep sane.’ I had a chance to talk to Mr. Justman and he tells me that the film is not available publicly andthat he has one of the only copies. Maybe a way can be found for it to end upon a future TOS-R HD-DVD release.

Bob may be getting on in the years, but he still showed hisfamous wit. When asked if the forward thinking and progressive producers behind Star Trek worried over the fate ofthe future and how would turn out, Justman quipped “our worst fear was not meeting an air date.”



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Althought STAR TREK is always credited “Created by Gene Roddenberry”, for my money it’s people like Bob Justman, Gene Coon, all the contributing writers, and the designs Wah Chang and Matt Jeffries that made the show what it was. The productions that were purely GR’s vision like TMP and the first year of TNG were not to my liking.

Mr. Justman is a founding father of Star Trek– and we should all be grateful for his contribution to the ongoing story.

I wonder who has actual ownership in that film he screened. If the National Air and Space Museum displayed it back in 1991, then perhaps it’s the Smithsonian’s property. Whatever the case, Anthony is right, this should be preserved and available for the fanbase at large. Wow, 1991 was 16 years ago…

How come some of the words appear to be missing spaces? Oh well. Otherwise a nice article. I’d rather see this end up on the History Channel or something. I know that there’s no way on Earth or any other planet that I’m gonna shell out two-hundred plus dollars for one season of TOS-R. Heck I wasn’t even happy with some of the fixes that should have been done but were not. I’d like to see this though.

Hope your havin’ fun. Wish I could be there. There and Comic-Con and all the other wonderful things happening that I can’t make it to.

Great article Anthony thanks. Its these types of ‘smaller’ stories that make visiting your site a real treat.

I agree 1.)

I happened to see that exhibit at the Smithsonian while it was running in the early 90’s. It would be too bad if the history in that video were lost.

“Wow, 1991 was 16 years ago…”

Yeah, scary isn’t it?

Bob Justman is pure class, worthy of admiration and respect for a lot more than his work on “Star Trek”. God bless him. Very glad he’s around and doing well.

Pike, I have to agree with you whole heartedly.

Ever since Justman and Solow (sp?) wrote their “Inside Star Trek” I have seen a growing number of fans begin to realize the shameless, self-promoting of the Cult of Roddenberry. I increasing believe that Star Trek may have got started because of Gene, but his antics may have been what brought it orginially to an untimely end as well.

My big fear – verbalized in a conversation had in a comic shop last night – is that the Roddenberry cultist will not be willing to “embrace change”. This guy (no 40ish trekkie like me) kept referring to ST2008 as “J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek”. As if that made a difference. Does that make “Wrath of Khan” Meyer’s Trek. If so, how can “Search for Spock” be Nimoy’s Trek?

This new film is going to be a wonderful opportunity. If it is entertaining, moral and thought-provoking what more can we as “Trek consumers” can we really ask for?

That’s a wonderful documentary. During the period of time that the NASM was running the “Star Trek” exhibit, I worked two blocks away. At least once a week, for ages, I’d go through the exhibit on my lunch hour or after work. I must have watched the documentary dozens of times.

The really coolest thing in the exhibit, IMAO, was the original navigation/helm station from TOS – I’d had no idea it still existed, and never found out from the curators where it came from (or where it went afterward; it didn’t go on tour with the traveling exhibit, although I believe a replica did). It was beat all to hell and had been badly “repaired” at some point, but still had the base to Sulu’s “viewer” attached.

It’s great to see Bob out and about and looking good. I hope people truly understand how key he was to Star Trek being Star Trek…..his influence was sorely missing during production of TMP.

The ‘cult of Roddenberry’ began to be knocked around after D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold left TNG shortly after it began production and received further shakes from Joel Engel’s unauthorized bio, Harlan Ellison’s writings and other things. Basically, the things we love about TREK are the result of many fathers (and mother): Producer/writers Roddenberry and Coon, story editors/writers Fontana and John D.F. Black and other behind the scenes people like Justman, Matt Jeffies, Heb Solow, Wah Chang, Fred Phillips, Jerry Finnerman, all the musicians, etc. etc.

Which is true of any thing creative that requires more than one person.

This is great coverage from the Vegas show, thanks for the effort to bring it to us! I had hoped to go!

I was at the NASM in 1992 and I did see that video. I don’t recall all the specifics of the video, but that Viet Nam story rings a bell. It would be cool to see it again, if they can get it out.

Bob Justman was an unsung hero in Star Trek history, no question. But Roddenberry was not the nuts and bolts producer of the show, he was a writer more or less. Plus he had to spend most of his time fighting the network due to all their idiotic standards and practices. Nothing has changed, the networks still behave in exactly the same fashion.

#s 1, 8, and 11,

To your great insight that any successful piece of popular entertainment owes its success to many creative individuals: gee, ya think? But the rest is unadulterated drivel. Roddenberry’s “antics”–I assume you’re referring to his sexcapades and drug use–had no more to do with Trek’s “demise” than Carl Sagan’s pot smoking was responsible for his failure to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. Engel’s “tell-all” was a piece of self-serving slop, while the Solo and Justman book, your interpretation to the contrary, was a well-balanced work that portrayed Star Trek‘s creator like a human being in all his facets, good and bad.

That Gene had a messy personal life is by now legendary. That he was less than a saint should come as no surprise to anyone, his unintentional standing as the head of what almost became a humanistic cult notwithstanding. (It should be noted at the same time that many of his former colleagues seem to view their time spent with him with great nostalgia and affection–unlike, say, so many who have worked with Mr. Shatner.) And that his abilities to produce good Star Trek deteriorated over time is undeniable. But in truth, the same could be said for Gene Coon and Bob Justman, whose contributions to Trek’s third season were also sadly less than stellar.

When Roddenberry created Trek in 1964 he was a promising young writer/producer who had already won a Writer’s Guild award for his work. He gave Trek its setting, created its characters, and defined its humanistic outlook. Many people were responsible for fleshing out that vision, but to deny him the credit for what has made this program so enduring over the years is even more ridiculous than denying credit to those who he hired to assist him in bringing that vision to life. That’s just the history of the matter, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any cult of Gene Roddenberry.

I don’t see where I’m being particularly harsh on Roddenberry in my post (I can’t speak for anyone else who has posted). From all I’ve read TOS was never a big rating hit at any point, and NBC was ready to cancel it after the first season as well regardless of anything Roddenberry did or didn’t do. There is no question that he was the creator of TREK and did the bulk of the producer’s chores from 1964 through the beginning of the first season.
I have no particular regard for Engel’s bio as 100% gospel truth, any more than David Alexander’s authorized book. I very much like Justman and Solow’s INSIDE STAR TREK and do not see how I in any way denigrated that work.
As for the third season, with a demoralized crew, poor producer (Fred Friedberger) and reduced budget, it would have been hard for anyone to do their best.

Sorry, but having a reduced budget or Fred Freiberger as a producer doesn’t justify writing “Spock’s Brain” or “Spectre of the Gun” (though neither of those debacles take away from Gene Coon’s fine work during the previous two seasons). As for Justman, of course you’re correct that he made the best shows he could during the third year given what he had to work with, but that’s precisely my point. Justman was an excellent hand at keeping the show running smoothly, and he could even make valuable suggestions on scripts from time to time, but his job was mostly to take what the producers handed him and to get it filmed on time and budget. Good producer, good scripts; bad producer, bad scripts–and from 1964 until well into the show’s first season, that producer was Gene Roddenberry.

Anyone who’s into Trek should read INSIDE STAR TREK.
It’s the definitive chronicle of that era- a very different way of producing shows compared to today. Not surprising classic Trek was so great.

Wow. I wanna be in Vegas!
Keep the reports coming, Anthony!

I don’t think its a surprise to anyone that Gene has received – and taken – more credit for Star Trek’s success that he was probably due. That baby’s success was due to many, many fathers (and mothers). If the pendulum has swung a bit in the other direction in recent years, and the contributions of Justman, Coon, Fontana, et al, are being acknowledged and lauded, I don’t think its the worst thing. Even if their recognition is at the expense of Gene’s. There’s enough credit to go around, especially since Star Trek will always be seen through the prism of “Created by Gene Roddenberry”. I see no harm in the world having a clearer picture of who contributed what to the behemoth that Star Trek has become. And if people know that Gene had feet of clay, just like the rest of us, I don’t think that’s bad either. His accomplishments remain.

No Gene Roddenberry, No Star Trek period!

Darth” Two Haging” Ballz

I have read Inside Star Trek 3 or 4 times, and I agree it is one of the best books about the show. I, too, feel it gives a balanced view about “who did what”, including Mr. Roddenberry.

Star Trek (TOS) =Cheesy “Dinosaur?

(Cheesy “Dinosaur” special effects maybe….compared to the excellent Deep Space -9 or sometimes outstanding
TNG, even Voyager once in awhile …..and last and certainly least ……that enterprise show/thing with ….that time jumping bakula guy.

(TOS when compared to many current shows of that genra, even today still has/had the most noble and greatest best stories many times, and that’s thanks in no small part to a foward…seeing…team…of…visionarys… incredible team of writers and yes…even actors…..boldly going where no one had ever gone before in an adult space show at the time 1966-1969)

Thanks Bob Justman!