Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yet Another Star Trek Veteran Passes On

Robert H. Justman, associate producer on Star Trek for much of its run and co-producer for the rest of it, passed May 28 at the age of 81 from complications from Parkinson's Disease.

Justman was born in Brooklyn on July 13, 1926. his father, successful in the produce business, decided to move the family to Los Angeles and enter show business by buying a studio. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Justman attended UCLA. His career in show business began in 1950 as a production assistant. As such he was a part of such films as Joe Palooka in the Squared Circle, Red Planet Mars, and Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kid. By 1952 he had become an assistant director, working on the shows The Doctor, I Married Joan, The Life of Riley, Letter to Loretta, and The Adventures of Superman. He also worked as an assistant director on such films as Man Crazy, Kiss Me Deadly, Affair in Havana, and Mutiny on the Bounty.

It was on The Adventures of Superman that Justman first worked as an associate producer. He would not produce another show until Star Trek in 1966. Justman became linked to the show when he was hired by Herb Solow, Desilu's executive in charge of production on the show, in 1964 as an assistant director for its pilot episode "The Cage." When "The Cage" was rejected by network executives as "too cerebral," Justman was brought in as both assistant director and associate producer on the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." He remained associate producer for the show's first two seasons and became a co-producer in its third season. In fact, in some respects Justman was a bit of a jack of all trades on Star Trek. It was also a technical consultant on visual effects on the show, in addition to having been assistant director on both pilots.

Justman was a co-producer on the cult series Then Came Bronson for its single season in 1969, and a producer on the short lived series Search and The Man From Atlantis. He would be a supervising producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Among his many contributions to that show was fighting for Patrick Stewart cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Gene Roddenberry did not like the idea, but Justman convinced him Stewart was the right choice.

Justman had served on both the Board of Directors of the Directors Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America. With Herb Solow, he co-wrote the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, perhaps the definitive book on the original show.

Even had he not worked on Star Trek, Justman would still be worth remembering. He worked on several classic shows, including The Adventures of Superman andThe Outer Limites. Then Came Bronson, Search, and The Man From Atlantis may not be household names today, but I have very fond memories of them from my childhood. Of course, it is Star Trek for which he will be remembered, which is perhaps fitting given his impact on the show. He was with the series before it even aired and there when it was cancelled. As an associate producer Justman was involved with everything from props to sets to scripts to casting. He was certainly among the people who made that show a classic and perhaps the most famous American science fiction series of all time.

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