D.C. Fontana aka Dorothy Catherine Fontana, the famed “Star Trek” writer, has died at the age of 80.
Fontana passed away on December 2. A press release said that Fontana died after a brief illness. Fontana is survived by her husband, Oscar-winning visual effects cinematographer, Dennis Skotak.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gene Roddenberry Encouraged Her to Use Her Initials Rather Than Her First Name Due to Sexism From Executives
A statement from the American Film Institute said that Fontana has most-recently been employed as a lecturer at the AFI. Fontana, a native of Sussex, New Jersey, is best known for her work on “Star Trek: The Original Series,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” including the show’s pilot episode, and “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.”
In addition to her “Star Trek” work, Fontana also wrote on the TV shows, “Logan’s Run,” “The Streets of San Francisco” and “The Six Million Dollar Man,” according to her IMDb page.
Since 1997, Fontana has operated the production company Cardwell Productions. Fontana’s IMDb page notes that during the 1960s, she had been told by Gene Roddenberry to use her initials rather than her given name as executives were biased against female writers.
2. Fontana Co-Wrote the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Pilot
The press release announcing Fontana’s sad passing says that “For decades, Ms. Fontana was an ardent and active member of the Writers Guild of America,” in addition to spending two terms as a board member. In 1997 and 2002, Fontana won the guild’s Morgan Cox Award. In 1988, Fontan’s work, alongside Gene Roddenberry, on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” pilot, “Encounter at Fairpoint,” was nominated for a Hugo Award in the Best Dramatic Presentation category.
3. Fontana’s Husband, Dennis Skotak, Worked in Visual Effects on ‘Aliens’ & ‘Batman Returns’
Fontana’s family asks that donations be made in her name to with the Humane Society, Best Friends Animal Society or the American Film Institute.
Fontana’s husband, Dennis Skotak, and his brother, Robert, are known for their work in visual effects on movies such as “The Abyss,” “Batman Returns” and “Aliens.”
4. Fontana Says That She Began Writing in Earnest in the 5th Grade
Fontana told The Spectrum in October 2017 that she began writing in earnest while in the 5th grade. Fontana said, “I’d write stories out on yellow notepads and pass them around to my friends. So I always wanted to write and hoped to become a novelist.”
During the same interview, Fontana said that she graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University and went to work as a secretary for the head of Screen Gems in Manhattan. During that time, reading scripts, Fontana was inspired to begin writing herself. Fontana said that she sold her first story, a Western-themed TV episode, “The Tall Man,” at the age of 21 in June 1960.
5. In 2011, Fontana Appeared Alongside Brent Spiner in an Episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory’
In October 2011, Fontana appeared in the background of an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.” The episode, “The Russian Rocket Reaction,” also starred “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star Brent Spiner.
Fontana told The Spectrum about the experience saying, “I love the show and the comedy writing is brilliant – it’s clever, sharp, funny, and scientifically accurate – and my husband and I have frequently gone to watch the tapings. I know (creators) Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and they took us backstage to meet everyone. Just out of the blue, they asked if I would like to be in the background on an episode and I said ‘Yeah!’ David Gerrold, another Star Trek writer, was also in it. And what was also funny was that a couple of days after being on the show, I received a check for $65 for being an extra!”