Dorothy Fontana (also known as D.C. Fontana) began writing Trek stories in 1966 and hasn’t stopped since (writing for TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, a novel, games and even a fan series). The writer sat down with TrekMovie.com at last weekend’s Las Vegas Star Trek Convention and talked about her thoughts on her favorite series, canon, the new film, if Gene would have liked DS9 as well as her plans for writing more Trek stories. Full interview below.
TrekMovie.com: After working on four Trek series, which one was the most fun to work on?
Dorothy Fontana: I would have to say The Original Series, only because we just laying down the foundations and paving new ground and making it up as we go along. So there wasn’t the big canon behind us…and I mean that in both senses of the word. We were doing it. We were making canon as we went. Of course we didn’t know that.
Dorothy Fontana: We had a wonderful research company called DeForest Research and a person who worked directly with us, Joan Pearce. Her husband was a science fiction writer and she was a fan for a long time so she knew science fiction. If we strayed into someone else’s territory she was sure to let us know. And also she kept us straight on ‘well on episode 5 you did this, but you are saying this over here and that is a conflict so resolve it.’ We always did, but the only one we didn’t resolve was the tombstone in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” with ‘James R. Kirk’ for what became James T. Kirk. We always explain that by saying ‘Gary Lockwood wasn’t perfect.’
TrekMovie.com: There are actually a number of anachronisms between “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and the rest of the series. The ship is different, Dr. Piper was replaced, No Uhura, Sulu and Spock are different. Why were all those changes made?
Dorothy Fontana: There were some things that Gene Roddenberry was dissatisfied with where he was not all that happy. Paul Fix who played the doctor [Piper] was an excellent character actor, but he wasn’t exactly what Gene wanted in terms of relationship with the captain. He had worked with DeForest Kelley a number of years before on 333 Montgomery Street and on a pilot that was shot at the same time called Police Story where he played a forensic scientist. He came across the way Gene wanted the doctor to come across so he invited De to become the new doctor.
TrekMovie.com: The new JJ Abrams movie may also have to deal with “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” How would you feel if the film ended up more like the rest of the series with its characters and look, but is set before “Where No Man Has Gone Before?”
Dorothy Fontana: I probably wouldn’t go see it.
TrekMovie.com: Because of making any changes?
Dorothy Fontana: No; I haven’t seen the last four Trek movies anyhow and I didn’t even watch Star Trek Enteprise. I know that is terrible of me, but I just wasn’t interested by the concepts. God know that I love Scott Bakula as an actor, but I couldn’t get interested in Enterprise. I did got back and watch it somewhat when we did the game [Star Trek Legacy] which went back to Enterprise and through to DS9 and Voyager.
TrekMovie.com: In the last couple of years you have been active in the Trek universe, writing and episode for Star Trek New Voyages and the stories for two games from Bethesda. What is it like to come back to the Trek universe?
Dorothy Fontana: Well I have never really been away. Before I wrote those two games I wrote another game – Bridge Commander with my partner Derek Chester. I have been active with Star Trek all along.
TrekMovie.com: Do you expect to get involved with any new games or Trek projects soon?
Dorothy Fontana: A new game has not happened yet, but I have been approached to write a new comic book series. It would be an Original Series comic and my partner and I are working up a 5 book arc that we are going to propose.
[NOTE: TrekMovie.com has checked with IDW and it looks like this Fontana series is going to go forward]
TrekMovie.com: Is this part of their Part of their ‘Star Trek Year 4’ series continuing on the 5 year mission?
Dorothy Fontana: Yes
TrekMovie.com: In the 80s you wrote the novel “Vulcan’s Glory” about Spock’s early career. Have you thought about going back and doing another Trek novel?
Dorothy Fontana: Yes that is also on the fire, but we haven’t worked out the story. I would again be co-writing with Derek Chester. We have become very good partners in that universe. Again that would be within the 5 year mission.
TrekMovie.com: Are these ideas based on unused story ideas you had when making the series in the 60s?
Dorothy Fontana: These are new ideas. I haven’t looked back at the old files, they are in storage right now.
TrekMovie.com: IDW have also done TNG comics, are you considering doing that?
Dorothy Fontana: Not at the moment. Both Derek and I have been concentrating on furthering the five year mission. I love that arena.
TrekMovie.com: Have you had a chance to look at the current ‘Star Trek Year Four’ comics from IDW? How do you feel about where they are going? For example will you include The Animated Series characters as they have?
Dorothy Fontana: Arex certainly, not sure about M’Ress. I love M’Ress and I love cats and have cats so the feline-oid was great for me. But it is a matter of ‘does it fit with the story we want to tell?’
TrekMovie.com: Speaking of The Animated series and the earlier mentioned canon – do you consider the entire Animated Series part of the Original Series canon, even though Gene Roddenberry did not.
Dorothy Fontana: I would – I honestly would. Because I thought most of the stories were quite good given the limited amount of time we had to tell the stories. There was only about 22 minutes of story telling and that is pretty tight so you could only get in one plot and maybe a tiny subplot. But within those limitations I thought there was some very good stories to tell.
TrekMovie.com: Changing subjects – yesterday Bob Justman was asked if he thought Gene Roddenberry would have liked Deep Space Nine. He only said ‘things change.’ I know you liked the show and wrote one episode [Dax], so do you think Gene would have liked the show in the end?
Dorothy Fontana: I suspect he might have. It was an extension of The Next Generation and the Star Trek universe and he was always interested in that. He loved that universe.
TrekMovie.com: So you don’t think he would have been bothered by some of the darker themes and less optimistic view of the future that [show runner] Ira [Steven Behr] was going with?
Dorothy Fontana: I know Ira Steven Behr. He is a good writer and solid story editor and producer. He is doing quite well on another series, The 4400, right now. He is really good with character and story. I think Gene would have liked it ultimately even with the darker themes. Let’s face it, Gene lived and fought through World War II and that is pretty dark days so he has to know they occur. He was around when we were in the middle of the muck of Vietnam. He would like to think that humanity would be better than that, but we made the same mistakes over and over again and until we learned from history I suspect we are going to keep on doing it.
TrekMovie.com: Outside of the world of Star Trek what else has been keeping you busy these days?
Dorothy Fontana: Well I am writing a young adult novel set in the world of rodeo, a sport that I love. I come here to Vegas to the national finals every year and have been a rodeo fan for many many years. This is in the world of barrel racing and my heroine is a 16 year old girl. And I do teach at the American Film Institute. I teach ‘Writing One Hour Television Drama’ to 2nd year writing students. And I also teach a script development program to the producers and the directors of the 2nd year course. So I keep pretty busy. But the novel is my big push right now.
UPDATE: Secrets of Vulcan Fury Novel?
After the interview Dorothy Fontana appeared on stage to talk abouther time on the Original Series. During the Q&A she was asked whatever happened to the defunct game ‘Secrets of Vulcan Fury.’ ..
Dorothy Fontana: It was a very complicated story. It was big.There was mystery. There was a chase. There was threat and danger. It was five parts that were really very full and complicated. The ‘Vulcan Fury’ was actually one of the moons of Vulcan that was actually a weapons platform that had long bead dead and some happens tore-activate it. Which would then threaten the Enterprise which was in orbit and other Federation ships. The problem was that it became very expensive and the head of [game publisher] Interplay pulled it because it was too expensive and he didn’t see getting his money back on it. I have asked [CBS Products Exec] Paula Block if I can take it, clear it,and make it into a novel. I haven’t got an answer back yet, but I think it would be a heck of a great story as a novel.
it is not clear if this is the same novel Fontana referred to in the interview