A major contributor to the Star Trek legacy, Robert H. Justman, died May 28, 2008 from complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 81.
Justman made his mark as a sought-after assistant producer/director on many landmark television shows in the 1950s and 60s, including The Adventures of Superman, Lassie, One Step Beyond, and the original Outer Limits,. He worked on both pilots of the original Star Trek series as well as the pilot for Mission: Impossible..
While Roddenberry and his producing staff struggled with scripts and casting, Justman's job was to handle virtually everything else. He made certain the show ran on time and (mostly) on budget.
Justman later served as a producer of the pilot episode and a portion of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and is credited with convincing Roddenberry to hire a bald, obscure English Shakespearean actor- Patrick Stewart- to assume the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
"Bob Justman is one of the most amazing production men in the business," Stephen Whitfield wrote in his 1968 book, The Making of Star Trek. "He can flip through a script and in fifteen minutes tell you how long it will take to shoot it, and almost to the penny how much it will cost. He has a complete grasp of every facet of production, right down to how many cups of coffee the man should make every morning on the stage."
He also had a unique method of getting Gene Roddenberry to finish rewrites for the next day's shooting schedule:
"In desperation, [Justman] walked into Gene Roddenberry's office, climbed up on top of his desk, and stood there loudly declaring he would not move one inch until Gene finished the rewrite on the scene. And he stood there until Gene finished. He then accepted the new scene with thanks, jumped off the desk and walked out of the office. For quite a while after that it was common site to see Bob Justman standing on top of Gene Roddenberry's desk waiting for him to finish rewriting a scene so he could hurry down to the set and give it to the director."
Justman's sense of humor was legendary. In response to a rather pompous Roddenberry memo directing the staff to refer to props by their real names rather than calling them "Feinbergers" (after prop man Irving Feinberg), Justman told Roddenberry in a memo:
"Therefore, I feel that we should no longer use the term "Feinberg" as a
substitute name for gadget... I, for one, intend to dispense with all
the jokes at and levity I have undertaken this past season. I feel that
in this way I can set an example for the rest of our fellow workers.
Very truly yours,
Robert H. Feinberg
Justman and Desilu production chief Herb Solow wrote a superb account of Trek's production history in their 1996 book, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. Free of the hero- and Roddenberry-worship of other works, it's an objective and frequently hysterical retelling of the series' twisted history.
Even better, listen to Justman himself:
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