Interview: Author David A. Goodman Talks Star Trek Federation History Book (and Futurama) December 4, 2012by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Books,History , trackback
Today Publish 47 North released their elaborate coffee table book "Star Trek: Federation: The First 150 Years". Our regular reviewer will be giving his opinion on this history book soon but today we start with an interview with the author, David A. Goodman, who explains how he went about creating history, including making some controversial decisions. Goodman also talks about writing Futurama’s historic Star Trek homage.
Interview with David A. Goodman – Author of Federation: The First 150 Years
This brand new Star Trek history book is a different kind of release for Star Trek. It is a reference book but it is also a work of fiction. Essentially "Federation: The First 150 Years" is a history book set in the Star Trek universe.
It is also more than just a fancy hardcover coffee table book, it is more of a collection set. The book comes on an interactive pedestal which includes additional audio from George Takei. There are also a number of inserts for the book of important historical documents from Federation history.
To create this unique Star Trek tome CBS looked to David A. Goodman who is an accomplished screenwriter and huge Star Trek fan. He was a producer and writer on Star Trek: Enterprise as well as a writer and producer for a number of animated TV series including Family Guy and Futurama. TrekMovie spoke to Goodman about taking on the task of filling in Star Trek’s history.
TrekMovie: This book covers the first 150 years of the Federation but filmed Star Trek, it only covers a fraction of that. How did you approach filling in the rest.
David A. Goodman: Well it ended up being more like 250 years because I start with Zefram Cochrane and First Contact which is 100 or so before. It was certainly a challenge because I didn’t want it to read like I was just connecting dots. I wanted it to have a flow of historical narratives so when you get to those touchstone points we are familiar with it would feel like history leads up to it and continues on afterwards. I wasn’t just drawing lines between bits of continuity porn.
TrekMovie: How much did you look at non-filmed material as sources, such as books, reference guides, games, etc. I note you acknowledge "Spaceflight Chronology" for example…
David A. Goodman: The most important thing was Mike and Denise Okuda’s "Star Trek: Chronology" which they published a few years, which didn’t really cover Enterprise continuity but most of the rest. It adheres very closely to that. Any other books I reference were books that I particularly like, for instance the character Robert April uses references from Diane Carey’s novel ["Final Frontier"]. I was inspired by her fun characterization of April. There were a couple of nods the "Spaceflight Chronology," which was one of my favorite books when I was in high school. So there are some winks and nods, but my main goal was to write a book that adhered to strongly to produced canon, TV and movies, and anything else I referenced were just things that were flavorings that I just liked.
TrekMovie: You mentioned the canon word. Should this book be considered canon?
David A. Goodman: It is canon until somebody makes a movie or TV show that contradicts it. The overwhelming majority of Star Trek fans, even though we enjoy reading books and reading comics and writing fan fiction and the like, the fact is the overwhelming priority is the filmed entertainment.
TrekMovie: I know there were a lot of ideas kicked around for beyond the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise, especially about the Romulan War. As you were a writer and producer on the show, did you tap into some of these unproduced ideas for this book?
David A. Goodman: Absolutely. They did more on the Romulan War in season 4, after I left for Family Guy, but while I was there there were lots of discussions about the Romulan War and it was always something we dreamed to dramatize. In terms of the placement of the war I have it set before the final episode of Enterprise so it happens in between the second to last and the last episode. That was informed with discussions with [fellow Enterprise writer/producer] Mike Sussman while I was writing the book. Also I really pay pretty close consideration to the bits of information that were being laid in Enterprise leading up to the conflict, but the stuff I came up with in the end is all mine. The way the war laid out, etc. We never got into discussions on details of what the war would look like on Enterprise.
TrekMovie: What are some of your favorite bits that you have now added to Star Trek’s history.
David A. Goodman: I am a big fan of the pilot of Enterprise, but one problem I had was Trip has one line about how in fifty years we erased war, disease, etc. When I started watching Enterprise I was hoping we would see a rougher version of humanity figuring out how to solve those problems. So my book spends a good amount of time figuring out how we went from this war-torn world and created this positive future that is so much of Star Trek.
I also had to solve the problem of Khan. I lived through the 1990s and I know he wasn’t a dictator. I loved the way I solved it, with just a footnote at the beginning of the book, and I think fans will really enjoy it. Obviously the Romulan War was fun to work on. I am a history buff, especially World War II and World War I, and I think laid a war that makes sense, and I laid out a canonical connection between the Romulans and Cheron, which I am proud of.
TrekMovie: Obviously this book is set in what is now being called the "prime timeline," but you mentioned the USS Kelvin from the 2009 Star Trek movie, which of course would exist in the prime timeline as well. But you also made what I think was a bold choice in saying that James T. Kirk was born on the Kelvin. Was this the subject of some debate with CBS?
David A. Goodman: Does it contradict canon? Kirk said "I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space." But there was long discussion. It wasn’t an argument but it was a long discussion. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure which way to go. I loved JJ Abrams Star Trek movie and I feel as a strict fan, canon is filmed entertainment and everything in JJ Abrams movie up until the Romulans come through that wormhole is prime universe canon. And you could argue that the Kelvin made it back to Earth in time for Kirk’s mom to give birth, but why jump through that hoop. I feel there is no problem. It seems more poetic to me that James T. Kirk was born in space, and raised in Iowa.
TrekMovie: One of the interesting bits about this release was the extra materials included – the various important historical documents and illustrations. How did you decide which things needed to get that special treatment?
David A. Goodman: Some things were clear like the Prime Directive and something from the Federation Charter. Then it was about variety and things I found interesting as a writer. For example the teachings of Surak. How does a guy come to the thought that logic is more important than emotion. I drew on a very limited education I had in philosophy and wrote a document of Surak’s own journey. There was an idea I had when I was on Enterprise that I never got to do about a human on deep cover as a Vulcan for many years, so there is a document about that character in there. And there were things some things I thought fans would like, like the one line from "Bread and Circuses" about Hodgekin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development. How did that come to be? So I wanted that in there. Some things were fun like the destruction of the Tribble home planet. How Arne Darvin became a spy. All these things that tell us something of the history of the galaxy but are also touchstones
for fans of the show.
TrekMovie: Do you expect there to be a sequel to this one that will take us through the 24th and into the 25th century?
David A. Goodman: It’s all about the money. If it makes money they will do it.
TrekMovie: Switching gears, since I have you I can’t help but ask you about the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," which you wrote. Can you talk about how that came about and what a Trekkie nerdgasm that must have been for you?
David A. Goodman: There is no other term for it. The writing staff of Futurama was filled with Star Trek fans and they got word that Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were willing to do an episode and they were throwing around ideas and [executive producer/co-creator] David Cohen was going back and forth on whether he wanted to do a Star Trek homage or just use Shatner and Nimoy in a funny non-Star Trek way. Once he came to the decision to do the Star Trek homage it because quickly apparent to him that I was, among all the Trek fans on the staff, I was the biggest. So he assigned me the script and the idea of a fan on a planet making them go to a convention and the gas creature were my ideas. They really didn’t do gas creatures on Futurama, they were very science oriented and didn’t think they were realistic but they took a leap. In the first week writing I broke my ankle and in the second week I had jury duty and yet it was still the best writing experience I
ever had. The recording was a delight as we recorded William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy together, which is unusual for an animated show. I still have the sessions for that on CD.
TrekMovie: So that episode established that one day Star Trek will become a religion. Now that you are a bona fide future historian, how likely do you think that will come to be?
David A. Goodman: Elvis has become a religion, so I can’t believe Star Trek wont become one. Star Trek has already stood the test of time, much beyond where anyone expected. It was a joke in a Futurama episode, but I’m not so sure it was a joke.
From Futurama’s "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" – writing the episode was dream come true for Goodman
"Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years" is available today. You can purchase it discounted at Amazon to $59.99.
Here is a video showing off the various components of this set.