Doug Grindstaff, 'Star Trek' Sound Effects Maestro, Dies at 87

Courtesy of Grindstaff family
Doug Grindstaff

A five-Time Emmy winner, he came up with Tribble coos, communicator beeps and the whoosh of Enterprise bridge doors opening and closing.

Doug Grindstaff, a five-time Emmy Award winner who created communicator beeps, Tribble coos and other sound effects employed on the original Star Trek, died July 23 in Peoria, Arizona, his family announced. He was 87.


Grindstaff served as a vice president at Lorimar-Telepictures, headed sound departments at Paramount, Columbia and Pacific Sound and was president of the Motion Picture Sound Editors, which honored him in 1998 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

During his five-decade career, Grindstaff also was a valuable behind-the-scenes player on Mannix, Mission: Impossible, The Odd Couple, The Brady Bunch, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Dallas and Fantasy Island.

He received 14 Emmy nominations in all — including one for Star Trek in 1967 — and won for his editing on The Immortal in 1970, Medical Story in 1976, Police Story in 1978, Power in 1980 and Max Headroom in 1987.

Working with Jack Finlay and Joseph Sorokin, Grindstaff created the background sounds and effects used on NBC's Star Trek. These sounds included red alert klaxons, the whoosh of Enterprise bridge doors opening/closing, heartbeats, boatswain whistles, sickbay scanners and communicator beeps and the acoustics that invoked phasers striking deflector shields and transporter materialization (and dematerialization).

In a 2016 interview for the Audible Range blog, Grindstaff noted that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry "wanted to paint the whole show [with sound] like you were painting a picture.

"And he wanted sounds everywhere. One time I asked him, 'Don't you think we're getting too cartoony?' Because I felt it should be a little more dignified, but he wanted sound for everything. For example, I worked on one scene where [Dr. McCoy] is giving someone a shot. Gene says, 'Doug, I'm missing one thing. The doctor injects him and I don't hear the shot.' I said, 'You wouldn't hear a shot, Gene.' He said, 'No, no, this is Star Trek, we want a sound for it.'

"So I turned around to the mixing panel and said, 'Do you guys have an air compressor?' And they did. I fired up the air compressor, squirted it for a long enough period by the mic, went upstairs, played with it a little bit and then put it in the show. And Gene loved it. So, that's how Gene was. He didn't miss nothing!"

Grindstaff said he created Tribble coos by manipulating the sound of a dove.

Born on April 6, 1931, Grindstaff, the youngest of five boys, was raised in Los Angeles. He graduated from the California Institute of the Arts and served in combat in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Early in his entertainment career, Grindstaff was a supervising sound editor on One Potato, Two Potato (1964), the groundbreaking interracial drama directed by Larry Peerce that starred Barbara Barrie and Bernie Hamilton.

He was working on a series called Swinging Summer at Goldwyn when he got a phone call from Roddenberry asking him to work on Star Trek.

Survivors include his wife, Marcia; children Marla, Chuck and Dan; stepchildren Dean, Felicia and Eli; 16 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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