Gene L. Coon
|Gene L. Coon|
|Born||Eugene Lee Coon
January 7, 1924
|Died||July 8, 1973 (aged 49)|
|Pen name||Lee Cronin|
|Occupation||Screenwriter & television producer|
Life and career
Gene Coon served in the United States Marine Corps for four years during and after World War II, seeing combat in the Pacific theater and serving in China and in occupied Japan.
After the war, Coon attended and, in 1948, graduated from, the Frederich H. Speare Professional School of Radio Broadcasting in Hollywood, California. The same year he joined fellow Marine Andy Petersen (they served together in China and occupied Japan after the war) at the radio station WREL-AM in Lexington, Virginia as an on-air personality. After about a year in Lexington, he returned to Hollywood.
Coon wrote mainly for television. His writing credits included Dragnet (for which Gene Roddenberry, using the pen name "Robert Wesley," also wrote in addition to providing technical advice), Bonanza, Zorro, Have Gun--Will Travel, Wagon Train, and The Wild Wild West, as well as the premiere episodes of The Four Just Men and McHale's Navy. He also became a producer for The Wild Wild West and later became a producer and writer for Star Trek: The Original Series.
His Wagon Train scripts contained strong moral lessons concerning personal redemption and opposing war, and he later repeated very similar themes in his Star Trek scripts. (The latter series, though it owed much to C. S. Forrester's novels about Horatio Hornblower and Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels, had had to be sold to the NBC television network using the unofficial nickname of "Wagon Train To The Stars.") Coon joined Star Trek in the middle of the first season; David Gerrold credited him with being a skilled showrunner before Coon left in the middle of the second season. Coon was responsible for many rewrites of Star Trek scripts. He continued to contribute scripts for the third season, but he had to do so using the pseudonym "Lee Cronin", as he was under contract to Universal Studios at the time and was likely not, by the terms of his contract, supposed to be working for Paramount as well.
His credited creations for Star Trek include the Klingons and the Organian Peace Treaty (in "Errand of Mercy"), Khan Noonien Singh (in "Space Seed"), Zefram Cochrane (in "Metamorphosis"), the Prime Directive in "The Return of the Archons" and "Bread and Circuses", the United Federation of Planets in Arena, and Starfleet Command in Court Martial. Since he also had the position of doing rewrites for scripts, his work touches many more episodes. He also mentored the young Gerrold and helped him polish the script for the episode "The Trouble With Tribbles." Other popular "Star Trek" episodes that he wrote include "The Devil in the Dark", "Arena", and "A Taste of Armageddon". He is credited with much of the character development of Star Trek's characters, much of the humor of Star Trek, and the disagreements between Spock and McCoy.
In the closing credits of the 1999 Star Trek tribute film Free Enterprise, he is referred to as “The Forgotten Gene” (in comparison to the recognition received by his close friend and collaborator, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry).
Following his period with Star Trek, Coon produced the Universal Studios series It Takes a Thief, starring Robert Wagner, during which time he mentored Glen A. Larson and helped the latter develop the story-line then called Adama's Ark. (By the time Larson finally got the story-line into production and release, it had become the 1978 series Battlestar Galactica.) He also continued to write for Kung Fu and The Streets of San Francisco. In 1973, he served as co-writer with Gene Roddenberry on the NBC TV movie The Questor Tapes. The movie was to serve as a pilot for a new series, but Roddenberry balked at changes made by NBC (eliminating the character of Jerry Robinson, Questor's human companion/mentor). He died before the movie aired in early 1974.
Coon was known as one of the fastest writers in Hollywood, and it was not unusual for him to rewrite a script for shooting overnight, or over a weekend. He had a dry sense of humor as reflected in his two novels, Meanwhile Back At The Front and The Short End (published in 1964 about the Korean War). After years of separation, Coon again found his first love, model Jackie Mitchell. In 1967 he divorced his wife Joy so that he could be with Jackie, with whom he spent that last five years of his life.
Coon was in progressively poorer physical health as the 1960s began to wane, and following his and Roddenberry's arguments over the tone of the installment "Bread And Circuses," a satire on the very medium of television itself, he recommended to John Meredyth Lucas that the latter take over as showrunner of Star Trek; Lucas, who had already written the installments "Patterns Of Force" and "The Changeling" for the program, quoted Coon as saying, after announcing to him (Lucas) that he (Coon) was leaving, "Why the hell don't you take over? You produced The Fugitive and Ben Casey and that shit." Lucas suspected Coon might have had cancer by then, but he never definitely learned whether this was the case.
Coon was a chain-smoker of cigarillos. He continued to smoke even after he began to breathe from an oxygen tank he rolled with him. Coon died of cancer of the throat and lungs in 1973. He was 49 years of age.
He worked on Dragnet, Bonanza, Zorro, Have Gun--Will Travel, Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West, The Four Just Men, Combat!, and McHale's Navy. Later his role was producer for The Wild Wild West, then producer and writer for Star Trek (alias Lee Cronin).
|1960's||Star Trek||writer, producer||Lee Cronin|
The Short End published 1964
- "David Gerrold - The Trouble with Tribbles writer". BBC. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
- "Majel Barrett - Nurse Chapel, the Computer and Gene Roddenberry's wife.". BBC. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
- Star Trek Memories, p. 324(paperback edition). Dictated by William Shatner. Transcribed by Christopher Kreski.
- Soul of Star Trek
- "Meanwhile". Retrieved 12 March 2013.