Dorothy Catherine Fontana, a writer on the original Star Trek series, has died. She was 80 years old.
Fontana, who went professionally by “D.C.,” passed away “peacefully” on Monday after fighting a brief illness, the American Film Institute, where she was a senior lecturer, announced Tuesday in a press release obtained by PEOPLE.
The writer is credited with developing the Spock character’s backstory and “expanding Vulcan culture,” SyFy reported of her massive contribution to the beloved sci-fi series. Fontana was the one who came up with Spock’s childhood history revealed in “Yesteryear,” an episode in Star Trek: The Animated Series, on which she was both the story editor and associate producer.
As the outlet pointed out, Fontana was also responsible for the characters of Spock’s parents, the Vulcan Sarek and human Amanda, who were introduced in the notable episode “Journey to Babel.”
In fact, Fontana herself said that she hopes to be remembered for bringing Spock to life.
“Primarily the development of Spock as a character and Vulcan as a history/background/culture from which he sprang,” she said in a 2013 interview published on the Star Trek official site, when asked what she thought her contributions to the series were.
With Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, she also penned the episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” which launched The Next Generation in 1987. The episode introduced Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, and earned the writing pair a Hugo Award nomination.
Not only was Fontana responsible for creating much of Star Trek canon, she also “helped blaze a trail for female writers in sci-fi television,” the official website said in its obituary. “Fontana’s credits to Star Trek cannot be understated, both as a writer of great stories and as a trailblazer for other women.”
Fontana’s agent, Cary Kozlov, tells PEOPLE that while she is recognized as a trailblazer in the industry, she “considered herself a writer first and foremost.”
“I was Ms. Fontana’s film and TV literary agent for more than a dozen years,” Kozlov says. “Although, she has been often recognized as a trailblazer for women in screenwriting during a time when the industry was still considered strictly a “boys” club, she usually would just shrug that off or the idea of a “glass-ceiling” and never really embraced that when I’d raise the subject. For the most part, she just considered herself a writer first and foremost and just one of the guys. But deep down inside, I think Dorothy really enjoyed the recognition.
“I will miss her dearly not only as a client, but as a true friend,” Kozlov adds.
In the 2013 interview, Fontana said that though she was a writer in Hollywood in the 1960s, she didn’t necessarily think of herself as a rarity — but instead felt she was part of “an elite” group.
“At the time, I wasn’t especially aware there were so few female writers doing action adventure scripts,” she said. “There were plenty doing soaps, comedies, or on variety shows. By choosing to do action adventure, I was in an elite, very talented and very different group of women writers.”
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😢 She was a pioneer. Her work will continue to influence for generations to come. https://t.co/ajJ05liZM7— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) December 3, 2019
And for her work in the genre, Fontana is remembered for breaking ground for women in science fiction.
William Shatner, who famously portrayed Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek universe, mourned the loss of Fontana on Twitter on Tuesday, calling her a “pioneer.”
“She was a pioneer,” he said. “Her work will continue to influence for generations to come.”
In addition to her many Star Trek contributions, Fontana’s writing credits include episodes on The Waltons, Bonanza, Babylon 5 and The Six Million Dollar Man.
The writer is survived by husband Dennis Skotak, Variety reported, and the family is asking that donations be sent to either the Humane Society, Best Friends Animal Society or the American Film Institute in lieu of flowers.