Exclusive Interview: “Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures” Author Dayton Ward
With the inaugural season completed, and the second not set to air until the fall, fans of Star Trek Discovery might be wondering what to do with all their free time. Good thing the adventure is actually continuing (well, in a non-canonical way, of course), with the new prequel novel Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures (paperback, Kindle) by veteran Trek novelist — and confessed Rush fan — Dayton Ward.
To start, what is Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures about, and how does it connect both chronologically and narratively to both the show and to the previous Star Trek: Discovery novel, Desperate Hours by David Mack?
Drastic Measures takes place in 2246, ten years before Star Trek: Discovery‘s first season and just under twenty years before the events of the original Star Trek series. Philippa Georgiou is tasked with leading a group of “first responders” to a Federation colony on the planet Tarsus IV, which is in the grips of an ecological crisis that has destroyed the settlement’s food supplies. We learn about this disaster from the original series episode, “The Conscience Of The King.” Gabriel Lorca is already on the planet, as the leader of a small Starfleet sensor monitoring outpost.
The novel has no connection to Desperate Hours, but I recommend reading that novel because, well…David Mack.
Where did the idea for Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures come from?
The initial idea for the story was a joint effort between myself, my editor Margaret Clark, and Kirsten Beyer, who is a member of Discovery‘s writing staff. Kirsten originally had in mind my writing a Lorca-centric story, but as I began getting access to early script drafts and other info from the writers’ room, I mentioned a desire to write something featuring Georgiou. It was Kirsten and Margaret who discussed a “team up” between the two characters, and one of the ideas we batted around was the incident on Tarsus IV. That seemed like a good way to help anchor Discovery to the larger Star Trek framework.
Obviously, Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures takes influence from the show and the rest of Star Trek canon. But did any non-Trek movies or TV shows have an influence on this novel?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t know that any specific non-Trek film or TV episode was a key influencer, but I guess you could say there are general elements drawn from any number of movies or television shows, such as Zero Dark Thirty, 24, even L.A. Confidential and Apocalypse Now, and so on. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t also a few thoughts and ideas drawn from such historic events as the hunts for Saddam Hussein or Adolph Eichmann and other Nazi war criminals.
What about more literary influences; are there any writers or non-Star Trek novels that had an impact on Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures?
As with films or television, I don’t know that I can point to any one specific influence here, either. I’m all over the map when it comes to what I read, so anything from Stephen King’s The Running Man novel to [Erik Larson’s] Dead Wake to [Frederick Forsyth’s] The Day Of The Jackal might’ve been bouncing around in my head at some point. I’ve also read a few books about actual manhunts that likely provided inspiration, such as Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides, about the search for James Earl Ray, and James Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer.
Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures is, of course, not your first Star Trek novel. But unless I’m mistaken, it’s the first you’ve written about a Star Trek show that’s still in production. Did that make writing this book easier, more difficult…?
All of my previous Star Trek novels were focused on characters after their shows and films were finished, so for those I had a body of completed work I could use for reference. Drastic Measures was more challenging in this regard, of course, since not only was the show in production but it was also in development. So, the writers and producers were still figuring out various things even as I was writing my book.
You mentioned working with one of the show’s writers. Without spoiling anything, were there any instances where they either said, “No, you can’t do that…and we can’t tell you why” or “That’s a good idea, we should use that on the show”?
I can’t think of anything specific where I was told I couldn’t do something, and a few of my suggestions were met with great enthusiasm. I don’t know if anything I offered will ever end up on the show in any capacity, but I suppose a guy can dream, right?
Now, in a previous interview we did about your book Star Trek The Next Generation Headlong Flight [which you can read here], we discussed our mutual love of Rush. So, I have to ask, how many Rush references did you try to sneak into Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures, and how many actually made it into the finished book?
Believe it or not, I actually restrained myself this time around. Just to be sure, I went back in and looked at the manuscript and even the style guide assembled by my copyeditor — a document that lists things like names of people, ships, locations, etc., so that consistency can be tracked throughout the editing stage — and I found no Rush references. That may be a first!
And how about references to Federico Garcia Lorca? Or would that have been too obvious?
I have to admit that one never occurred to me.
I did like that you slipped in a Simpsons reference by naming a character Governor Kodos.
Actually, Kodos is the name they gave him in “The Conscience Of The King.” The Simpsons character is named for him.
D’oh! So do you think the plot of Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures would work as an episode of Star Trek Discovery?
I suppose that in a streamlined form, it could work as an episode. That’s the fun thing about novels, though: You can do all sorts of things that might not be practical on TV for various reasons, be it budget or time or just the simple differences in storytelling medium.
Finally, if someone enjoys Star Trek Discovery Drastic Measures, what similar but non-Star Trek sci-fi novel would you suggest they read and why?
Drastic Measures isn’t about the crisis on Tarsus IV so much as it focuses on how those extraordinary circumstances affect our main characters and their immediate environment. Those are the types of stories I like to write and read, whether they’re Star Trek or science fiction or something else entirely. With that in mind, and while it’s certainly not the same kind of book, if you like character-based science fiction with military and political flavors added to the mix, I can recommend Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers.
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