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Robert H. Justman, at 81; was co-producer of two 'Star Trek' series

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Claire Noland
Los Angeles Times / June 3, 2008

LOS ANGELES - Robert H. Justman, a producer who was one of the creative forces behind the original "Star Trek" television series of the 1960s as well as the 1980s-era "Star Trek: The Next Generation," has died. He was 81.

Mr. Justman died Wednesday at his Los Angeles home of complications from Parkinson's disease, his son Jonathan said.

Mr. Justman's death occurred within days of those of his "Star Trek" friends and colleagues Joseph Pevney, who directed some of the series' most popular episodes, and Alexander "Sandy" Courage, who composed the theme.

"There seems to be a big `Star Trek' convention and everyone is going," Jonathan Justman said. "Everyone is getting beamed up."

As associate producer, technical consultant, and eventually co-producer, Mr. Robert Justman wielded considerable influence on "Star Trek" from its beginning in 1966 until 1969, when NBC canceled the series after its third season. He was involved in all facets of production and had a hand in casting, set design, and props, as well as story lines and scripts.

The late Gene Roddenberry created the TV show featuring the Starship Enterprise and its multiracial crew, which explored 23d century galaxies with a "five-year mission, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

"It wasn't just a science fiction show; it was a morality play," Mr. Justman told the Christian Science Monitor in 2001. "It was, 'Do the right thing and do right by your fellow man, and all will be well, hopefully.' "

Although "Star Trek" struggled in the ratings in the '60s, it found a devoted fan base in reruns and came to be seen as an iconic science fiction TV program.

Twenty years later, Roddenberry revived the franchise for Paramount and reassembled much of the earlier show's production team for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," a syndicated series that aired from 1987 to 1994.

Mr. Justman was a supervising producer on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," along with Rick Berman.

"I can't tell you how nurturing this guy was to me," Berman said. "He was like a mentor and a father. He was extraordinary."

Mr. Justman designed sets, models, and visual effects and oversaw character and script development for the debut of "The Next Generation." But Berman said his biggest contribution was championing the casting of Patrick Stewart, who became one of the most popular characters of the new series.

"Roddenberry was very against the idea of a bald British actor playing the next Captain Kirk," Berman said. "But Bob was very persistent, and Patrick became Captain Picard."

Robert Harris Justman was born in Brooklyn, the son of Lena and Joseph Justman. His father found success in the produce business, then decided to go into the movie business and bought a studio in Los Angeles.

The younger Justman served as a Navy radio operator in the Pacific during World War II and worked in his father's produce operation. Then, in 1950, he decided to try his hand at the family's other business, the Motion Picture Center studio. (It later became part of Desilu Studios, owned by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.)

At the beginning, Mr. Justman made $50 a week and worked his way up to assistant director and associate producer on dozens of films, including "Red Planet Mars" and "Apache," and on hundreds of TV episodes, includingthe pilot for "Mission: Impossible."

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