Robert H. Justman always dreamed of a world full of hope since his start on The Adventures of Superman as an associate producer. He would go on to become a venerable presence behind the scenes involving himself on shows like Lassie, Mission: Impossible, and The Outer Limits. His proudest achievement, according to his son, Jonathan Justman, was being a part of Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek in 1966. With Celestis' spaceflight Enterprise mission, this was an opportunity for Robert, who passed in 2008, to be reunited with other late franchise cast and crew members to have their remains shot up into space. Jonathan spoke to Bleeding Cool about how it feels for his father to be honored again, joining the likes of actors DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, and Nichelle Nichols, the creator himself, along with other Trek pioneers in VFX artists Douglas Trumbull and Greg Jein, his visits to The Original Series set, and how Robert, in part, is responsible for The Next Generation and Picard the way we know it today.
Booking Passage for Robert Justman on Celestis Star Trek Spaceflight
Bleeding Cool: When you heard about what Celestis was doing, what were your initial thoughts?
Justman: I first read about the story in the newspaper after Nichelle Nichols passed and found out her remains were going up on the Celestis flight. I wondered if I could get my father on the same mission. I sent an email to Celestis, and they wrote right back, saying they would be delighted to have him.
How do you feel about your father reuniting with those in the Star Trek family and expanding his legacy directly to space?
It's amazing, and I couldn't be more grateful for this. Star Trek was my father's life for many years. He was also interested in aviation and NASA with their missions to the moon. He would be so thrilled if he knew that he was going to be a part of this mission right up his alley. It's been almost 15 years since he passed. It's wonderful all the way around and keeps his memory alive. It's got my family talking and everyone's excited about it. It's a perfect, appropriate thing to remember him by.
How do you feel about the Star Trek franchise and how it evolved since its premiere in 1966?
What I can tell you is when my dad would talk to me about Star Trek, especially during 'The Original Series,' he tell me it's like a morality play, a good-versus-evil story in every episode. That's the message that he had as far as Star Trek, and it's the same as far as his personal beliefs. He was all about honesty, integrity, and doing the right thing. You can see that when you watch the episodes, particularly in the first series.
Did you work in the franchise, or did you do your own thing?
I was very young when 'TOS' was being made. I was about ten years old. My involvement was limited to going to the studio sometimes and going on the set, and meeting all the actors. I got to go on to the bridge, sit in the captain's chair, and look around. It was really exciting for a young boy to go and do all that. I watched the show every week, of course.
Did you get involved in the franchise when "The Next Generation" came around?
I wasn't, and by that point, I was off doing high school or college and didn't have as much involvement. I didn't get to go to the sets or meet the actors, but I can tell you a story about the captain for 'TNG.' I can tell you the story about how they found Patrick Stewart. We lived in Los Angeles near UCLA, and my parents were taking a night course, and one of the classes was a production of Shakespeare. An actor was coming from England, and he was doing scenes from various Shakespeare plays. My parents took me that night to watch Patrick perform, and I remember about halfway through, my father turned to my mom and me and said, "I think we found our next captain."
Gene pushed back on that, right?
My dad told me, and what I've read, that Gene was dead set against Patrick Stewart because he couldn't wrap his mind around the possibility of having a bald actor play the captain. That was the big sticking point. They went back and forth, and finally, Gene Roddenberry acquiesced, and the rest is history. He was a fantastic captain for that series.
Do you have any stories about your visits to the 'TOS' set and anyone you bonded with?
One, in particular, was Leonard Nimoy, and he lived near us. His kids went to school near us, and we knew their family. He was wonderful. My father was very close with him, and he was a genuinely nice, caring, and very intelligent man. Of all the actors that I've met, he was my favorite.
Did you keep in contact with Nimoy?
I did not, but I know that my father did.
Have you kept up with anyone in the Star Trek franchise?
It's in the past. My mother is still alive at 92, but we don't hear from anybody in the Star Trek world anymore, other than a few fans that my father had correspondence over decades with. We still get letters occasionally from some of them, which I always write back to, but that's about it.
Has there been kind of any letter that stood out?
I can't think of a specific one. All I can tell you is my father was a very busy man, but he always found time to write personal responses to any of the letters he got. There were many he had correspondence with over the years. That's the guy my dad was. He tried to help everybody and was such a great role model for me. I'm very proud to be his son.
Did you ever meet Patrick?
I think I did. I don't know whether we met him the night that he was performing at Royce Hall at UCLA or whether he came over to the house. I don't remember what he was like.
For more on Robert Justman, you can check out his Celestis profile here.