Eric Stillwell, one of the writers responsible for one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, started writing scripts because he was told it was the quickest route to becoming what he really wanted to be, a producer.
Stillwell began his Star Trek career as a production assistant on The Next Generation, after he was first turned down for a Trek job. “I sent my resume to Susan Sackett, who worked for Gene Roddenberry,” he said, “and during one of my trips to Los Angeles, I landed an interview with producer Bob Justman. I didn’t initially get the job, but I got a lovely letter from Bob which was very encouraging.”
After a move to Los Angeles several weeks after that interview, Stillwell took a job as a Paramount studio tour guide and guest relations page, which shortly led him back to Star Trek. “As luck would have it, I was assigned to do door duty at the cast and crew screening of Encounter at Farpoint to check off names of guests as they arrived for the screening,” said Stillwell. “When Bob arrived with his wife, he remembered me by name and seemed surprised to see me working on the lot – mostly because I hadn’t been bothering anybody in the Trek production offices during my time as a studio page. Literally, the next day I got a call from Bob telling me that there was an opening for a production assistant job and could I start the next morning? I nearly dropped the phone!”
Advice from Justman led Stillwell, who was interested in directing, to decide to try his hand at writing for Trek. “One of the things that stood out was when [Justman] said the fastest way to become a producer in Hollywood was to be a writer,” said Stillwell. “I gave that a lot of thought because I’d always excelled in writing in school and was definitely fascinated with the creative process.”
Trent Christopher Ganino and Stillwell were responsible for Yesterday’s Enterprise, and the popularity of the episode gratified Stillwell. “It’s really beyond description, just such a wonderful thing to experience,” he said. “I think part of me felt some sort of vindication for all the years of being teased for being a Trekkie, even by some of the producers and production crew. It felt good to know that a couple of Trek fans could write a story that other Trek fans would really love and appreciate. I think we brought some of the TOS spirit to TNG.”
While the Next Generation was on hiatus, Stillwell and Ganino took the opportunity to appear in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, where they both played Klingons. “Trent got to be one of the three Klingon judges and I was one of the nondescript Klingons in the rafters,” said Stillwell. “Honestly, the memory is more fun than the experience. Wearing heavy costumes and rubber masks under bright hot camera lights isn’t as glamorous as you might imagine. But it was fun to be directed by Nicholas Meyer. And we got to have lunch with Mark Lenard when he was on set for a costume fitting during one of our breaks.”
After The Next Generation, Stillwell co-wrote the Star Trek: Voyager episode Prime Factors, ran Star Trek conventions, became executive assistant, script coordinator and associate producer for Michael Piller, was operations manager for Piller’s production company Piller Squared, and worked in children’s programming.
Stillwell’s involvement with Trek was a “dream come true for a kid who grew up playing Starfleet versus Klingons. Having the opportunity to work with Gene Roddenberry and Michael Piller and to make a contribution to the franchise, however small, was a huge thing for me. I’m very proud of my work on Trek and very appreciative to have had the opportunity.”