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Gene Coon

TV writer and producer Gene Coon from Beatrice worked on such shows as "Star Trek," "Wagon Train" and "Bonanza."

The Gage County Historical Society’s Gage County Classic Film Institute will present “Gene Coon: From Beatrice, Nebraska, to Star Trek and Beyond” on March 2-4 at its 2018 annual film event.

Featured guest will be author David Gerrold, who got his career start from Coon. Gerrold also wrote one of the first in-depth books about the series, "The World of Star Trek" (1973). Gerrold has said, “to me, in many ways, Gene L. Coon was the heart and soul of Star Trek.”

Coon (1924-1973) was born and raised in Beatrice. He was involved in writing for many popular TV shows, including "Wagon Train," "Maverick" and "Bonanza." He joined "Star Trek" during the first season as a writer and producer. He is credited with developing the Klingons, the Prime Directive and the interpersonal dynamics between Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

Coon’s "Wagon Train" scripts contained strong moral lessons concerning personal redemption, cultural clashes and opposing war. He later repeated very similar themes in his "Star Trek" scripts. Coon had served in the Marine Corps in WWII and the Korean War. The "Questor Tapes" TV movie — one of the last projects Coon worked on — was about an android searching for his creator and his purpose.

“We want people to know who Gene Coon was," said Sheila Day, Gage County Historical Society board vice president. "That he came from a small town in Nebraska and worked on many iconic TV shows which still have a large influence on American culture today. 'Star Trek' is still relevant 52 years later because of its themes exploring what it means to be human. The current show on TV, 'Star Trek: Discovery,' is using some of creatures and characters Gene helped create.”

This year, the Gage County Classic Film Institute is partnering with the Beatrice Public Library in addition to the Beatrice Community Players Theatre. The library will feature a special exhibit about Gene Coon during February and March. The library recently expanded its selection of books and DVDs related to Gene Coon which patrons can check out.

The following event sessions will be held at the Beatrice Public Library, 100 N. 16th St., as part of the library’s 125th anniversary year-long celebration. These events are free, but seating is limited on a first-come, first-served basis:

* 7 p.m. Friday -- Gerrold will speak followed by a book signing. He doesn’t charge for autographs, but suggests donations to a charity of his choice. The evening will include a screening of the "Star Trek" episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” an episode produced by Coon which started Gerrold’s writing career.

* 7 p.m. Saturday -- Screening of the TV sci-fi movie "Project Questor," the last movie Coon worked on.

* 1:30 p.m. Sunday -- Screening of the first "Star Trek" movie. Coon was not involved, but Gerrold played a crewman.

The following event sessions will be held at the Beatrice Community Players Theatre, 412 Ella St. Tickets are required. Cost is $35 for both sessions:

* 9 a.m. Saturday -- Local film historian Jeanelle Kleveland will discuss Coon’s western TV shows and Beatrice librarian Laureen Riedesel will discuss Coon’s Beatrice roots. It will be followed by a screening “The Ape” from "Bonanza" and “The Emmett Lawton Story” from "Wagon Train." The latter episode was co-written by Coon’s brother, Bloise Coon.

* 1:30 p.m. Saturday -- David Gerrold will lecture about Coon’s numerous contributions to "Star Trek." Two "Star Trek" TV episodes will be screened: "The Devil in the Dark” and “A Taste of Armageddon.”

Note: Lunch will between sessions will be on people’s own, but the speakers will do a Q&A session moderated by Omaha film historian Bruce Crawford at noon at Valentino’s Primavera Room, 701 E. Court St.

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