(written from a Production point of view)
|Gene L. Coon|
|Birth name:||Eugene Lee Coon|
|Date of birth:||7 January 1924|
|Place of birth:||Nebraska, USA|
|Date of death:||8 July 1973|
|Place of death:||Los Angeles, California, USA|
|Awards for Trek:||1 Emmy Award nomination|
Eugene "Gene" Lee Coon (7 January 1924 – 8 July 1973; age 49), commonly known as "Gene L. Coon", sometimes credited under the pseudonym "Lee Cronin", was a writer and producer for Star Trek: The Original Series. He produced the first season of the series from "Miri" to "Operation -- Annihilate!" and the second season from "Catspaw" to "A Private Little War", earning him a 1967 Emmy Award nomination.
Coon was hired as line producer in August 1966, when associate producer / story editor John D.F. Black left, and Gene Roddenberry felt he needed someone to handle everyday production business and do re-writes of the scripts, or else he and Robert Justman would soon be unable to cope up with the demanding work. He was Roddenberry's fourth choice for the job, as Fred Freiberger, Samuel A. Peeples and James Goldstone all declined the offer. (These Are the Voyages: TOS Season One)
Much of the framework of the Star Trek universe, was established under Coon's tenure on the series; the Klingons were introduced (TOS: "Errand of Mercy", the galactic governing body United Federation of Planets was named (TOS: "Arena", "A Taste of Armageddon"), Starfleet Command was firmly established as the USS Enterprise's operating authority (TOS: "Court Martial"), and the Prime Directive was first articulated. (TOS: "The Return of the Archons") James T. Kirk actor, William Shatner, has flat-out attributed the creation of all of these to Coon in his book Star Trek Memories (p. 219), having called him "The Unsung Hero", the title of an entire chapter he dedicated to Coon.
Besides writing and producing the series, Coon often did uncredited rewrites on the scripts, just like he did in The Wild Wild West. (The Star Trek Compendium) He was also known for his ability to write scripts in a very short time. For example, Coon wrote "The Devil in the Dark" over the course of four days. (The World of Star Trek)
Coon left the series mid-season 2, partly because of being tired and worn-out by the constantly exhausting work, and partly because of his dispute with Roddenberry, who disliked the more light-hearted, comedic approach taken by the show under Coon's guidance (especially the three straight-out comedy episodes, "I, Mudd", "The Trouble with Tribbles", and "A Piece of the Action"). Despite leaving the series as producer and head writer, Coon continued writing to Star Trek, using his pseudynom "Lee Cronin". (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, These Are the Voyages: TOS Season Two)
Coon was invited, by D.C. Fontana, to write for Star Trek: The Animated Series but declined her offer, being uninterested in it. As such, he was one of only a few people who turned down the invite. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 16, p. 67)
Career outside Star TrekEdit
Coon was a Marine who served during World War II (from 21 August 1942 to 23 August 1946), then joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1948 before being called back into active duty in 1950 for service in Korea, serving from 21 June 1950 to 25 August 1952.
Coon wrote two novels, Meanwhile, Back At The Front and The Short End, both of which dealt with the Korean War conflict. Soon after, Coon began writing for the movie and television screen. In 1957 he wrote two films for Universal Pictures, The Girl in the Kremlin and Man in the Shadow. Both films featured William Schallert in the cast, while the latter co-starred Orson Welles and also featured Paul Fix. He also wrote the script for the 1964 film The Killers (featuring Seymour Cassel) - best known for being Ronald Reagan's final acting role before entering politics.
Coon began to write for television in the late 1950's. Among his many contributions, he wrote two episodes of Zorro, both of them featuring Ken Lynch, an episode of My Favorite Martian (starring Ray Walston), and an episode of Have Gun - Will Travel, on which Gene Roddenberry served as one of the leading writers. He also wrote an episode of Bonanza which featured Leonard Nimoy and another episode which featured Michael Forest and Anthony Caruso.
Following his tenure on Star Trek, Coon produced the series It Takes a Thief, which co-starred Malachi Throne. He also wrote an episode of The Sixth Sense featuring William Shatner, and two episodes of the Harve Bennett-produced The Mod Squad, starring Tige Andrews and Clarence Williams III, and directed by Lawrence Dobkin. With Gene Roddenberry, Coon wrote The Questor Tapes, an unsold 1974 pilot which was directed by Richard Colla and featured Majel Barrett and Walter Koenig; Robert Foxworth played the title character. Data, the android from Star Trek: The Next Generation was based on Questor. Though the series was not picked up, it did earn him, posthumously, and Roddenberry a 1975 Hugo Award nomination in the category Best Dramatic Presentation. Coon died before the project was completed, and D.C. Fontana's novelization of the pilot is dedicated to his memory.
Coon divorced his first wife, Joy, in 1968, and married his teenage love, model-actress Jacqueline Mitchell. Joy died one year later of cancer, and refused to allow her ex-husband to visit her in the hospital. Coon was shattered by the event. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 347-349, 428)
Coon died of lung cancer in 1973, only a week after being diagnosed. He visited Robert Justman's office one day, wearing a portable oxygen tank and mask, gasping and coughing. Justman urged him to go in for medical tests, despite the fact that Coon said his breathing difficulties stemmed from the "Goddamned LA smog." (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, pp. 428-429)
Star Trek credits Edit
- Writing / co-writing credits
- TOS, as Gene L. Coon:
- TOS, as Lee Cronin:
- Producing credits
Emmy Award nominationEdit
As Producer, Coon received the following Emmy Award nomination in the category Outstanding Dramatic Series: