Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family

We talked to Star Trek writer DC Fontana about creating Spock's family in The Original Series and beyond.

For fans of Star Trek, Dorothy Fontana—better known to Trekkies as “D.C. Fontana”— is the most influential living Trek writer on the planet. Not only was she a script editor on The Original Series, she also worked as a associate producer and/or writer on The Animated SeriesStar Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

This week, Fontana celebrated her 80th birthday on March 25. In celebration of that milestone and of the Trek legacy she has helped to create, Den of Geek got in touch with Fontana to get some insight into how the most famous family in all of Star Trek was created in the first place.

In terms canonical appearances, Spock’s parents are referenced well before we see them. In “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Spock’s mix heritage is mentioned in passing. And in “The Naked Time,” Spock cries thinking about his mother, but, when we spoke to Fontana about Spock’s parent’s origins, she drew on a different episode: the famous story in which Spock gets infected by the spores, in “This Side of Paradise.”

read more: How Star Trek: The Animated Series Influences Discovery

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In ‘This Side of Paradise,’ when Kirk was spewing insults at Spock to incite him to anger, he insulted Spock’s parents,” says Fontana. “Spock’s answer was: My father is an ambassador, my mother is a teacher. That was all. Later on, when considering the story for ‘Journey to Babel,’ I went back to those thoughts and came up with the relationship that would have meant so much to Spock and his parents.”

In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

Tellarite and Andorian admirals can both seen in multiple episodes this year, most notably in “Project Daedalus.” And of course, Amanda Grayson has played a major role this season. While Fontana didn’t write these new Discovery episodes, her vision for Amanda is keenly felt in the performance of Mia Kirshner.

“I felt Amanda would have been able to talk deeply to Sarek; she would have been important in his life – and very much in Spock’s as he grew up,” Fontana says of the influence of Spock’s parents on the iconic character. “I later expanded on this to show Spock’s childhood and important events that shaped that in The Animated [Series] episode, ‘Yesteryear.’ But on ‘Journey to Babel,’ I just thought about those two people—human and Vulcan—and how they came together to form that important rock in Spock’s past.”

read more: Star Trek’s 50 Best Episodes

In two pivotal Discovery episodes—”Point of Light” and “Light and Shadows”—we see Amanda taking matters into her own hands by not only defying Starfleet law, but standing up to her husband, Sarek. Though we never really saw this in The Original Series (at least not to extent we do in Discovery), it turns out this characterization of Amanda is 100 percent in line with what her creator envisioned.

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“I believe Amanda would be an outspoken woman.  She wouldn’t just bow down to Sarek. She should state her positions and her point of view—and definitely her role in Spock’s upbringing—especially if Sarek had to be away on ambassador trips to other planets,” Fontana says firmly. “As a strong woman, she would mark her position in Spock’s life and fulfill it.”

read more: Who is Star Trek’s Amanda Grayson?

The notion of families—both biological and not—have made up a huge part of this latest season of Star Trek: Discovery, but arguably, the best of Star Trek in general. In the 2016 book The Fifty Year Mission, (by Ed Gross and Mark Altman), Fontana was quoted saying that she thought “relationships” were essential to what made the series great. “The stories that didn’t go well were stories that were against objects without human relationships involved somewhere in the story.”

The fact is evident in the better aspects of this season of Discovery, and not just inside of Spock’s family. Fontana tells me that Spock’s family in “Journey to Babel” was “My writing. My characters,” but, over five decades later, we’re all lucky for her gift, not only of these characters in specific, but also, to the ongoing human adventure that is always beginning, just beyond the next star.

Ryan Britt is the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume/Penguin Random House). You can find more of his work here.