robert justman

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Despite only appearing for only a few moments in the final episode, the Salt Vampire from “The Man Trap” remains one of Star Trek’s most iconic creatures. Wah Chang designed the costume and when the episode’s writer George C. Johnson saw it in Robert Justman’s office, he was at first disappointed, feeling that the teeth and appearance was not close to his original vision of “something like a refugee from a concentration camp.” He was convinced, though, upon seeing dancer Sandra Gimpel’s performance in the suit.

“She was incredible. She got the whole spirit of the damned thing,” Johnson recalled years later.

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When in preproduction on “The Galileo Seven,” Robert Justman realized they had a problem: a full-sized version of the titular shuttlecraft was going to be a significant expense, one that the budgetarily-strapped show could ill afford, especially after previously-made episodes had all come in with significant deficits in their wake. However, there was a solution from a very unusual, if logical, source: AMT Corporation, a model kit manufacturer.

AMT executives had seen the previews for Star Trek and wanted to make tiny versions of the ship featured in them for bedrooms, basements and garages across America. They met with Ed Perlstein of Desilu and sealed a deal where they would get exclusive model rights for the Enterprise in exchange for two full-sized versions of the ship (one for exteriors and a second for interior photography) and a miniature for special effects purposes.

“The City On The Edge Of Forever” won major writing awards for both the aired and Harlan Ellison’s original version of its screenplay. The broadcasted script for “City” earned a 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (it was running against four other episodes of Star Trek) while Ellison took home the Writers Guild of America Award for “Best Written Dramatic Episode” for his version.

At the WGA awards, Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon, Robert Justman, Herb Solow and others involved in the show’s production were on hand to show support for his work despite the problems they’d experienced. Ellison, of course, used his time at the podium to berate the audience about executives rewriting his work.

“Space Seed” was the sixth episode of Star Trek directed by Marc Daniels, a favorite of the producers. His previous television experience (dozens of episodes of shows in every genre, including I Love Lucy, the program that made Desilu’s founders into megastars) ensured that even complex scripts were filmed within a reasonable schedule and with an eye on the budget.

“During a drought, you pray for rain. During the first year of Star Trek, we prayed for Marc Daniels,” Robert Justman recalled.

In Inside Star Trek, Robert Justman recalls when he found the first draft screenplay for “The City On The Edge Of Forever” waiting to be read. He recalls:

“I’m smiling and I go to my office to give it a quick read. I stop smiling. Harlan’s script is brilliantly written, but completely unusable. At first glance, I can tell it’s going to be hugely expensive, and at the same time, his Enterprise characters are speaking incorrectly and, more importantly, behaving incorrectly.”

Even with the numerous problems in the script, he couldn’t help but admire Ellison’s ambitions. Justman fired off a memo to John D.F. Black:

Without a doubt, this is the best and most beautifully written screenplay we have gotten to date, and possibly we’ll ever get this season. If you tell this to Harlan, I’ll kill you.

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Here’s what “The Trouble With Tribbles” scribe David Gerrold (left, at a convention in 1973) had to say about producer Robert Justman (right, seated on the set of “The Cage” with Susan Oliver, Gene Roddenberryand director Robert Butler) in an interview from the 1980s.

“He presented one of the friendliest demeanors on the lot – but don’t let his looks full you. beneath that warm, furry exterior, there lurked the heart of a miser. You would have thought he was spending his own money. And vicious? Well, not – not really. But anyone who would send a six-page, single-spaced, one-thousand-words-to-the-page memo to a new writer, listing in glaring detail all the faults in his first rough draft script, is the kind of man who would sacrifice naked girl scouts, cookie packages still clutched in their hands, before a giant statue of mammon, the god of money, whil cackling gleefully and muttering arcane verses from the Wall Street Journal.”

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When Theodore Sturgeon turned in his treatment for “Shore Leave,” it was unworkable, resembling a seriously disjointed short story more than a workable outline for television. It took seven days to reach Robert Justman’s desk and his written response to John D.F. Black was: “What are we going to do about this story? Having just finished a memo on Harlan Ellison’s story, I am in no condition to go through this one yet.“

Thankfully, someone had a quiet word with Sturgeon and something that more closely resembled a proper screen outline arrived from the then-novice TV writer’s typewriter the next day.

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In writer John Kneubuhl’s treatment for “Bread and Circuses,” the surviving Stafleet officer from the SS Beagle who became the First Citizen of 892-IV was a Vulcan named Jeroth. Robert Justman felt that it would be impossible for the differently-complexioned alien to fit in, even if he wore a helmet to cover his ears. He also felt that using another Vulcan as an antagonist should be reserved for another episode.

In a memo, Justman stated: “The big gimmick in this show is that Kirk and Spock must fight each other. Let’s at least consider saving combat between Spock and another Vulcan for another show in which that will be the central Theme.”

William Smithers played Captain R.M. Merik in the final episode, known as Merikus to the planet’s inhabitants.

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Robert Justman was not happy with the first draft of John Meredyth Lucas’s script for “The Changeling.” Memos to Gene Coon included passages like “I found myself so overwhelmed by this teleplay that I was unable to come to grips with it professionally. We are deficient in the areas of story, logic, believability, dialogue, characterizations and so on, and so on, and so on, and so on. Good luck!”

He also wrote: “I have a secret way to handle this small spaceship so that it moves with your people and yet at the same time we do not see any wires. You must have this script rewritten before I will tell you my secret. I don’t want to blow a good secret on a bad script.”

Justman’s secret, by the way, was pretty obvious: he told director Marc Daniels to use very thin wiring holding up a very light model. There was also a heftier model of Nomad made that used a dolly when the entire model wasn’t seen moving on-screen as well as a floor-mounted version for steady shots.