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Go Inside Discovery: Drastic Measures with Dayton Ward

Go Inside Discovery: Drastic Measures with Dayton Ward

Right around Christmas, 2015, I received a phone call from my fellow writer and dear friend, Kirsten Beyer. She was calling to tell me that she'd been hired as a writer for Star Trek: Discovery. A formal announcement was supposed to be coming, and I remember waiting for a couple of months before they released that info to the public. All during that period, during the show's earliest days of development, we'd talk on occasion as her schedule allowed. Sometimes it was just catching up and shooting the breeze, but there were a few times that she asked questions about this or that bit of Trek lore. I knew from those early conversations how the series concept was taking shape, but this was well before the first scripts were even written.

Even from those first days, I was excited about what I was hearing. I'd never had this kind of access to any of the previous Star Trek productions. All of my prior Star Trek novels were written well after their parent series had wrapped production, but here? I was learning about the show's development from the writing team, as it was happening.

Very. Very. Cool.

Later that year, it was decided that Pocket Books would publish a trio of novels tying into the new show, and the people involved with the show would be reviewing and approving everything. The novels were to be prequels, and the show's writers and producers, with Kirsten as liaison, had a few ideas about things they wanted to see explored in the books.

In the beginning, I was asked to consider a story focusing on Gabriel Lorca. At the point these discussions began, we knew almost nothing about him - or any of the characters, really - so it was sort of a blank slate with respect to his backstory. As things progressed, I was clued in to specific things like Lorca and his previous command, the U.S.S. Buran, and what happened there. At one point, we talked about fleshing out that whole thing, as it was looking like it would not be portrayed on screen.

We keep going along those lines, and by now I'm starting to see story treatments and concept art and the initial versions of the scripts for the first few episodes, and I realize I'm really digging Georgiou's character. I knew that they were bringing in Michelle Yeoh for the part, but at this point Jason Isaacs had not been cast. I mentioned to Kirsten that I really wanted to write a Georgiou story. We talked about it and eventually one of us had the bright idea of "Hey, why not a story with both of them?"

Okay. Sure. I'm in.

This begat a series of conversations about how or when Georgiou and Lorca might cross paths at some point, preferably well before the events of Discovery's first season. It's important to note that at this point - late 2016 or so – the show’s writing staff did not yet know how exactly they were going to play out every little detail of the season's "master plan." One or two changes in direction had already impacted Dave Mack as he was writing his own book (Desperate Hours), also a prequel, in this case set much closer to the events of the series itself, with Georgiou and Burnham on the Shenzhou. In Dave’s story, they partner with the Enterprise under Captain Pike’s command, having Georgiou and Pike square off while Burnham and Spock work together.

Like Dave, I was being given a chance to connect Discovery to the larger Star Trek universe via known anchor points in the chronology. Conscious of dealing with the same sorts of challenges he faced as the show writers were continuing to develop the series, I started looking farther backward from Discovery’s place in the Star Trek timeline (2255-2256, or approximately ten years before the events of the original Star Trek series). I figured that this approach would also allow me to separate a bit from Dave's book, set far enough before the show that the Shenzhou and its crew might not even play a role.

Working with editor Margaret Clark, I hashed out a couple of very high-concept pitches to give to Kirsten, and the idea of having both Lorca and Georgiou on Tarsus IV ten years before the start of Discovery, in order to shed new light on the events later described in the original series episode "The Conscience of the King," was the one that seemed to click with her and other people in the writer's room. There have been other novels that dealt in varying degrees with the events on Tarsus IV, but of course those aren't "canon" and so I was directed to concentrate on how best to write a story which showcased the new Discovery characters. I was given a tremendous amount of freedom not just to flesh out the events themselves, but also to develop bits and pieces of backstory for both Georgiou and Lorca.

So, I set to work, keeping in touch with Kirsten at regular intervals throughout the tail end of 2016 and well into 2017 as I wrote my book. All the while, scripts are being written and episodes are being filmed, and I'm just getting showered with all sorts of great reference material, from scripts to set photography. If I had a question about a character's mannerisms or speech or personal quirks or whatever, I'd call Kirsten to fill me in. I had to make a few adjustments here and there as things evolved or were just flat-out changed on the show - as can happen when you're developing a new series - but for the most part, my cunning plan to write a prequel which could avoid most of those potential pitfalls and booby traps was successful.

The result? Drastic Measures: the story of the crisis on Tarsus IV and how it affected Philippa Georgiou and Gabriel Lorca, each in its own way. This was perhaps the most challenging Star Trek writing project I’ve ever tackled (to date, at least), due to the fact that the show was in development throughout my writing, and we were all sort of learning the ropes as we went along. In that regard, Kirsten was a huge help, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to work with her throughout the process.

Another aspect of this project I truly enjoyed is the fact that the novel’s also been adapted for audio (take a listen to the exclusive preview above). Actor Robert Petkoff has been with us for several Star Trek novels at this point, including three of my previous novels (Star Trek: Legacies Book 3 – Purgatory’s Key, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation novels Headlong Flight and Hearts and Minds). He’s a huge Star Trek fan and I thought he did a fabulous job on the other books, so I’m thrilled that he again lends his voice for Drastic Measures.

Given the story's place in the Star Trek timeline, you can expect to run across a few Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the novel, particularly for the original Star Trek series. Some are obvious, though I also think there are a couple of pretty deep rolls tucked within those pages, as well. Good luck finding them, along with a couple of surprises waiting for you, in there.

(:: insert evil laugh here ::)