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D.C. Fontana, famed writer for Star Trek, dies at 80

By James Comtois
D.C. Fontana

D.C. Fontana, the famed TV writer best known for Star Trek: The Original Series and who blazed a trail for storytelling and women in science fiction, died Monday after a brief illness. She was 80.

The American Film Institute announced today the news of Fontana's passing.

Fontana, whose full name was Dorothy Catherine, wrote several episodes of Star Trek (some under the pseudonym Michael Richards) and was most noted for creating Spock’s backstory and expanding Vulcan culture. In the episode “Journey to Babel,” she established the characters of Spock’s father Sarek and mother Amanda. In the “Yesteryear” episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, for which Fontana served as story editor and associate producer, she created Spock’s childhood history.

Born on March 25, 1939, in Sussex, N.J., Fontana began writing horror adventure tales in the fifth grade that featured her classmates as characters. After graduating from New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson University, she became a secretary for the head of Screen Gems in New York. She sold her first story for the TV western The Tall Man in June 1960.

“I was 21 years old and have been writing ever since,” Fontana said in an interview in 2018.

Other TV writing credits included episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, Land of the Lost, Babylon 5, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, among many others. Her last produced writing credit was an episode of the web series Star Trek: New Voyages entitled “To Serve All My Days,” starring Walter Koenig (Chekov in TOS).

In addition to her work for TV, Fontana also wrote novels, including Vulcan’s Glory and The Questor Tapes. She also wrote a Trek comic book and several science fiction video games.

Fontana served on the board of directors for the Writers Guild of America West for two terms. She won the Morgan Cox Award for Guild Service twice: once in 1997 and again in 2002.

Most recently, Fontana was a senior lecturer at the American Film Institute.

Following the news of her death, the official Star Trek Twitter page paid tribute to Fontana:

She is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer Dennis Skotak. In lieu of flowers, her family asks that donations be made to the Humane Society, Best Friends Animal Society, or the American Film Institute in her memory.