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Drex Files: Bob Justman, The Heart & Soul Of Star Trek, II

Drex Files: Bob Justman, The Heart & Soul Of Star Trek, II

In part two of his deeply personal guest blog, Doug Drexler pays tribute to one of the most important men in Star Trek history, Robert H. Justman. If you haven't read part one yet, please click HERE.

1986 - The first production episode of TNG had not gone before the lens yet, and you could almost feel the electricity and the tension in the air. It was a big gamble. The studio was taking a chance. This new series was with the old-school guys who created the original Star Trek, and not the current breed who had made the movie series a success. What makes anyone think they could do it again? In fact, when they did it last time, it wasn't such a hit. As Bob and I walked across the lot from a meeting I sat in on with ILM, he confirmed the fear. They had to compete with the motion pictures. I told him that I thought Trek was better served as a series, and that every movie must be a car chase. I preferred the template which allowed for a varied exploitation of ideas... that that format works best for science fiction. He smiled in his Bob way... Well, he said... we'll know in September if it's all down the tubes. I pat him on the shoulder reassuringly, and feeling slightly unstuck in time, not unlike Billy Pilgrim.

Image- One of Bob's famous gag memos. This one where he fires Gene Roddenberry in true Hollywood style.

1986 - Bob opens the door to the writers’ building, as we entered the coolness. I want you to meet someone, he says, leading me upstairs, and through a maze of doors. A friendly looking man is digging through some files in one of the offices. He turns as we enter. Eddie, this is Doug Drexler... an east coast makeup artist, and one of our original generation of Star Trek fans. Dumbfounded, I drop down on one knee and genuflect before Eddie Milkis. Eddie, the jovial personality he is, cracks up, pulling me to my feet. We shake hands and I am grinning from ear to ear. Eddie not only was a veteran of the original Star Trek, but had become a Hollywood powerhouse. He was the Milkis of Miller-Milkis Productions and had been involved with Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and The Odd Couple. It's a pleasure to meet you, Doug!, he smiled. Welcome to Star Trek! Thank you sir, the pleasure and honor is mine, all mine. Yes it is, said Bob dryly, with a small satisfied smile. Gee, I love these guys, I'm thinking, I HAVE to work here."...Bob Justman originally hired me to work at Paramount for two weeks during preproduction for Star Trek: The Next Generation. For a kid from Hawaii, it was no small thrill. When I started, I told Bob that I thought the graphics for the Enterprise-D bridge would take longer, but he wouldn't budge. After all, Bob was legendary for running Star Trek's budget with an iron fist. Needless to say, I was delighted that he eventually relented and kept me on. Of course, from that point on, whenever I saw him on the set, he'd always demand - with a twinkle in his eye - to know when I'd be getting OFF his payroll and returning to Hawaii!" -Mike Okuda

Image- Bob and Eddie in 1967, lampooned by TOS soundman Frank Oakden. They are commenting on Gregg Peters' bald pate.

1998 - Eddie Milkis drops into the art department, and I had not seen him since that day in 1986 in the writers’ building. He stuck his head into our office, and we all lit up like 100-watt bulbs. Smiling at us warmly he says...  I just wanted to say hello, give you my love, and tell you to remember that you will look back on this experience as some of the best days of your lives. Remember that. We shook his hand, and hugged him. That was the last time we saw Eddie. He must have known something, as he passed away shortly after that.2008 - Seeing Bob that day full of wit and charm, was one of the best moments of my life. He was warm, wonderful, and fully brilliant. His movements were measured, and he was more frail than we had ever seen him, but he was our Bob, and we lavished him with attention. In the past, he had seemed uncomfortable with our adulation of him, but this time around was different. I was not mistaken; he was basking in it and soaking it up, and we were thrilled to pile it on. Look at the pictures of us visiting him that day. I was beside myself. Can't you see the love and admiration?

We had a wonderful evening. Jackie Justman was the perfect hostess, and had a magnificent spread of different wines and cheese set out for us. We reminisced with Bob, and told him the stories of how he affected our lives and the way we looked at the world. There was one moment that I will never forget, a magic moment that Bob and I shared that night. I told him how much I loved his show that followed Star Trek, a show called Then Came Bronson, and that I tuned it in at first simply because he was producing it. Now, I've heard of people following an actor from show to show... but a producer? I think that was the biggest Bob smiled that night. But the best was yet to come for me.

Image- Bob and Herb Solow (L) on the set of "Then Came Bronson"

While discussing Bronson I mentioned the parallels between Star Trek and Bronson. The main characters are both explorers. One explores the universe on a spaceship, and thereby himself, and the other explores the country on a motorcycle, and thereby himself. I pointed out that both shows begin with a monologue, or dialogue which sets the stage -  "Space the final frontier...""At that moment Bob looked me directly in the eye and said, Takin' a trip? I smiled and squinted at him... What's that? I said, and without missing a beat he repeated... Takin' a trip? I smiled, hardly able to contain myself... Um... yeah... Bob looked at me with liquid eyes... Where to? He asked with conviction. I shook my head in disbelief... I dunno... wherever I end up, I guess. Now Bob looked at me more intent than ever... Man, I wish I was you, he said... I was blown away...  Really? Well, hang in there! ... And then I lost it, laughing like a little kid... probably that same kid from 1966 who while reading the Making of Star Trek knew what he wanted to do, and loved a gentleman by the name of Bob Justman from afar." - Doug Drexler

Video- Takin' a trip? Clip From "Then Came Bronson".

Image(Above)- Letter from Bob granting Doug the thrill of a lifetime.

Image (Above)- Denise explaining to a dumbfounded Mike Okuda that this is his 40th birthday surprise party at Bob Burns' house; Steven Poe and Bob look on in delight.

Image (Above)- Gary Hutzel, Denise, Bob, me, and Mike at Image G during effects shooting for "Trials and Tribble-ations."

Image (Above)- Doug hobnobbing with Bob and his lady, the ever-elegant and beautiful Jackie Justman, at Mike's 40th.

Image- Bob on board the icon he helped to create, the U.S.S. Enterprise. The transporter is an analogy for life itself. You beam in and do what it is you are meant to do, and when the mission is over you beam out... but not without first leaving your mark on life -- and on all the people you touched along the way. Thank you, Bob. Thanks for making millions of lives around the world that much richer.

Ok... there you have it. I have no idea how it turned out... but man... I'm emotionally drained. Special-special thanks to Mike, Denise, Rick, and Andy! - Good night, my friends!  We love you, Bob! - DougDoug DrexlerNorth Hollywood, Ca.


About Doug Drexler

A lifelong Star Trek fan, Doug Drexler made a variety of marks on the franchise as makeup artist, graphic designer, illustrator, and visual effects artist. Over his 32-year-career in Hollywood, science fiction, fantasy, and especially Star Trek, have defined Doug's career. A protege of makeup legend Dick Smith, Doug went on to become a creative mainstay on Trek for 17 years, designing such shows as TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. His Trek career culminated as the primary designer of the Enterprise NX. Drex, as everyone calls him, has written Trek books, made cameo appearances on TNG and Enterprise, and has even had a Trek character named after him: on DS9, the Klingon son of Martok and Sirella was named... Drex. Post-Trek, Doug has worked as CG supervisor on several iterations of Battlestar Galactica, including the upcoming Blood and Chrome and Defiance. Click HERE to visit Drexler's office blog, Drex Files. Drex is an American and British Academy Award winner, two-time Emmy winner (seven nominations), Saturn Award winner, Peabody Award recipient, and Visual Effects Society Award winner.