(written from a Production point of view)
Eugene Lee Coon (7 January 1924 – 8 July 1973; age 49), commonly known as Gene L. Coon, sometimes credited as Lee Cronin, was a writer and producer for Star Trek: The Original Series. He produced the first season of TOS from "Miri" to "Operation -- Annihilate!" and the second season from "Catspaw" to "Bread and Circuses". During his tenure, 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")
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)
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 was a United States Marine Corps veteran 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 1950s. 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. 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)
Writing / co-writing credits
As Gene L. Coon
As Lee Cronin
- Star Trek: The Original Series ("Miri" - "The Menagerie, Part I") - Producer
- Star Trek: The Original Series ("Shore Leave" - "Bread and Circuses") - Producer