Dorothy Fontana, who died this week at the age of eighty, is best known for her work as a writer for the original Star Trek television series. But, in fact, she was one of the most remarkable women in Hollywood history, a creative and prolific author who helped create some of the most memorable pieces of contemporary American culture.

Born in New Jersey in 1939, Fontana decided she wanted to be a writer at the age of eleven. After graduating from college with a secretarial degree, she moved to Hollywood and began working with Samuel Peeples, a screenwriter then working on Westerns. Fontana enjoyed Westerns herself and found a mentor in Peeples, who taught her the techniques and discipline of writing for TV. “You had to be very concise [to] complete your story in 24 minutes. . . . Sam was very instrumental in teaching me that.”1 She sold Peeples her earliest stories at the age of twenty-one but found it hard to break into writing full-time, particularly for the military shows that were then popular. “Nobody wanted to look at my scripts because I was a woman,” she recalled. “I wanted to write for Combat! for instance, and they wouldn’t read it. . . . That’s when I started putting ‘D. C. Fontana’ on the front cover.” . . .


1. Interview with Dorothy Fontana, Television Academy Foundation, December 23, 2003,

2. Interview with Dorothy Fontana.

3. Interview with Dorothy Fontana.

4. Fontana was not involved with the Star Trek films, however.

5. Interview with Dorothy Fontana.

6. Interview with Dorothy Fontana.

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