Today we welcome New York Times bestselling author David Mack to the Once and Future Blog to talk about his latest release, Star Trek: Discovery--Desperate Hours, and why it's more than just your ordinary tie-in novel! David has written more than thirty novels, and has also done work in film, comics, and television, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Most media tie-in novels have little mandate other than to feel like an extension of the brand, to deliver to fans in a prose format more of what they love about the series they watch or play in another medium. That has been true for many of the Star Trek novels I’ve written, but it’s most definitely not the case with my latest work, Star Trek: Discovery – Desperate Hours.
My marching orders on Desperate Hours included not just filling in interesting bits of backstory about the main characters of the series’ pilot, but also bringing fully to life the minor characters who populate their world, such as the other members of the bridge crew and the medical staff of the Starship Shenzhou. I also set out to reconcile for longtime fans of Star Trek the obvious aesthetic differences between the new series and The Original Series.
So what can fans expect to find in my novel that they won’t get just by watching Star Trek: Discovery’s first season?
1. Full names for the Shenzhou’s bridge officers. One of the perks that came with writing the first novel for Star Trek: Discovery was that I got to interact with the show’s writers’ room, and sometimes that meant that I got to contribute in tiny ways, such as names and backgrounds for minor characters. On the Starship Shenzhou, I named and crafted the bios for helm officer Lieutenant Keyla Detmer, communications officer Lieutenant Troy Jannuzzi, life-support systems specialist Ensign Proat (the blue guy with a plug in the back of his head), and Lieutenant Jira Narwani, junior tactical officer (the one with the Daft Punk video helmet). I also expanded the bios for Ensign Connor (ops), engineering officer Britch Weeton, and Doctor Anton Nambue.
2. The relationship between Michael Burnham and Spock. The show hints at the family life shared by Michael and Spock, who both were raised on Vulcan by Sarek and Amanda. However, Michael doesn’t talk much about Spock in the series, and viewers will be left to speculate about the exact nature of the relationship between her and her younger foster sibling. The producers generously gave me permission to dig deep into this relationship in Desperate Hours, and it not only forms the emotional heart of the story, it adds new facets to the history of Spock.
3. Insights about Saru and his species. We are told only a few details about the Kelpiens during the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. But there were some clear ideas at work behind the scenes, and I was allowed to incorporate a few of them into the first novel. Readers of my novel will learn more about Saru’s inner life, his species, his homeworld, and how he came to be a part of Starfleet.
4. Reasons why Discovery looks different from The Original Series. Rather than try to pretend that there is no difference in the appearances and capabilities of the starships Shenzhou and Enterprise, or the uniforms of their crews, I tackled the differences head-on. My goal was to offer some possible rational explanations for why the technology and fashions seem so different despite existing contemporaneously. Some readers will agree with my hypotheses; some likely will disagree. But I think that with a bit of imagination, it’s not hard to put all of this in one big shared Star Trek Prime universe.
5. Captain Philippa Georgiou vs. Captain Christopher Pike. This was the nugget of story that started it all. When series co-creator Bryan Fuller asked me to think up a story that would cross over the Shenzhou with Pike’s Enterprise, at first I had no idea how to make the story work. Luckily for me, fellow author John Jackson Miller (Star Trek, Star Wars) put me on the right track with one simple bit of advice: “Pit the two ships against each other, and have them both be right.” Once I applied that bit of wisdom from John, the rest of the story fell into place, and it set the stage for a tense showdown between two great captains—one that, thankfully, has a happy and heroic ending.
There’s more, of course — lots more — to be found in the pages of Desperate Hours: alien mysteries, Federation politics, Starfleet gamesmanship, and rip-roaring action. But the brief list above should give prospective readers a good idea of the generous latitude afforded me by the show’s producers and writing staff, and make it obvious why Desperate Hours is going to be a different kind of tie-in novel than the ones I normally get to write.
Here’s hoping I’ve persuaded a few new readers to beam aboard for this all-new original adventure of Captain Georgiou, Commander Burnham, and the Starship Shenzhou!