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Star Trek writers reflect on how 50 years of the iconic show influenced public opinion

Writers Dorothy “D. C.” Fontana and David Gerrold reflect on the show's cultural influence and long-standing success.
Spock and Captain Kirk in Star Trek IV (Fair Use)
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Originally published on December 22, 2016

"This is going to be good," says Dorothy "D. C." Fontana on hearing Star Trek's opening theme song. With the 50th anniversary of the show being celebrated this year, writers David Gerrold and Fontana reflect on how the show changed their lives and influenced the public's opinion on challenging social issues. "For me it evokes the charm and the sense of wonder of that first season," admits Gerrold, "it's just one of my favourite pieces of music."

Star Trek writers Dorothy "D. C." Fontana and David Gerrold. (Submitted by Dorothy Fontana/Getty Images)

Gerrold was still in college when Star Trek first aired, taking classes in screenwriting. Gerrold explains, "I don't want them to screw it up by doing 'Lost in Space' with Monster of the Week, so I submitted an outline." He was always a fan of science fiction and became invested in the story arc of the show. Eventually, producer Gene L. Coon invited Gerrold to the studio, and although they were full for the first season, Coon encouraged Gerrold to submit story outlines for the second season. Fontana happened to read one of his outlines and enjoyed it. "Next thing we know we got 'The Trouble with Tribbles' episode which is celebrating its 49th anniversary," says Gerrold on joining the Star Trek team in the second season.

On tackling challenging social issues, Fontana says, "our audience is very intelligent and I think we got the messages through." She was able to write about polarizing issues like the Vietnam War, race and Genderism, where a lot of other shows could not. "But we could under the guise of science fiction," notes Fontana.

Gerrold attributes Star Trek's long-term success its "optimistic view of the future." "That inspires people," he explains, "the idea that there is a bright, optimistic, hopeful future, if we're willing to work for it." Gerrold says Star Trek was always about tackling the problems in front of us because they are solvable. It's people working towards a common cause.

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