Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens first started writing Star Trek books back in 1988 with "Memory Prime" and after that went on to write the two epics "Prime Directive" and "Federation." In 1995 they collaborated with William Shatner on his first Trek novel "The Ashes of Eden" and the trio went on to complete three trilogies – creating the so called "Shatnerverse" of Trek fiction. This month their latest opus, "Star Trek: The Academy–Collision Course" hits books stores. The novel chronicles the lives of young Kirk and Spock as they head to Starfleet Academy. In a new exclusive interview the Reeves-Stevens talk to TrekMovie.com about their Trek writing career and their latest collaboration with the original Captain Kirk.
TrekMovie.com: Back in 1995 you guys were already successful writers on your own, so how did you end up working together with William Shatner?
Garfield Reeves-Stevens: I can remember to this day about getting that phone call. "Federation" was in manuscript and I got a call from [Pocket Books editor] Kevin Ryan who said they were talking to Shatner and wanted to know if we were interested with working him. We went to Bill’s office and he had this idea, a romantic idea, and he told us the story and did the voices and it was great. Our question at the end, because it was a good Captain Kirk story, was ‘what about Spock and McCoy? What do they do?’ And he said ‘we’ll work that out.’
TrekMovie.com: Why do you think Pocket picked you to work with Bill?
Judith Reeves-Stevens: I think they felt that we were able to work comfortably as a fly on the wall for the "The Making of Deep Space Nine" book so that we could work well with Bill and draw things out of him comfortably in a collaboration. If you have more than one person’s name on a book, then you have to have the feeling that all the people can talk together and are simpatico and we definitely established a rapport with Bill. Any time you have more than one creative person involved in a project then you have to have a rapport, and that first book was so much fun that our ideas kept meshing and now we are up to book ten. I also think we were chosen because of "Federation," which showed we were into big stories…and anything to do with Bill is big. And we were Canadian so we knew the ‘secret Canadian handshake.’
TrekMovie.com: Since you began your collaboration with Shatner you guys haven’t done as many books on your own…
Garfield: After we finished both "Prime Directive" and "Federation" bringing the crews together, we had this feeling that we have now told our ‘big Star Trek stories.’ As Judy would say, for the 500 years of Star Trek history we needed a James Michener type of Novel.
Judith: We wanted to see everything put in perspective so you could see the passing of the torch from generation to generation, so you could connect all of Star Trek history together…and that is what lead to "Federation."
Judith: But we loved the original characters and so when the opportunity came up to work with Bill, that was the ultimate dream. We would be working with the actor who co-created that character with the original writers. What better thing than working with the person who owns that role.
TrekMovie.com: The books you have written with Shatner have been given a moniker…’The Shatnerverse.’ The books have a universe of their own and in a sense what happens in the Shatnerverse, stays in the Shatnerverse.
Judith: [laughs] It is kind of nice. It is like the many universe theory. This is a bubble that has formed with these stories that have gone and have internal consistency, but they also have consistency with canon.
Garfield: We try. This is one thing that I think people are just coming to realize about Star Trek. That it exists in so many forms. In "Federation" a key character was Zefram Cochrane and how he invents the warp drive and we said in the afterward that this was our interpretation and that maybe someday there would be a canon version of this. And sure enough there was in First Contact.
Judith: And First Contact created quite a different version of Zefram Cochrane and the two co-exist today and the world does not end.
Garfield: We thought after First Contact that no one would look at "Federation" again, but it keeps selling and selling.
TrekMovie.com: You guys wrote a couple of Star Wars short stories. One of the big difference between the two franchises is the approach to books and canon. Star Wars books are required to be internally consistent with each other and are considered canon, but Trek books are only required to be consistent with the filmed canon. Which do you prefer?
Judith: I think it is great that these two versions exist. Star Wars shows you one way of doing it and many enjoy that and Star Trek has a different approach. Perhaps in Star Trek you are more free as a writer. There are fewer restrictions on you and the characters become more of your own.
Garfield: Remember Star Wars is one long epic story, whereas Star Trek is a context for story telling. So you have your bubble universe of Deep Space Nine where things are not quite as perfect or you can have your pocket universe of Voyager where instead of exploring you are going home. And you can have the rough and ready approach of The Original Series and have the more mature and corporate approach of The Next Generation.
TrekMovie.com: The premise of your previous nine novels with Shatner is based on the notion that Captain Kirk was resurrected after the events of Star Trek Generations. How did you feel about Generations killing off Kirk?
Garfield: Killing Kirk is a choice we wouldn’t have made. I understand why it was done and it was certainly a powerful moment. For epic characters like Kirk you take the choice like the end of "Lord of the Rings" or King Arthur where at the end of the big final battle the fate of the hero is unknown.
Judith: That leaves room for other adventures and that is what these books are…the afterlife of Kirk.
TrekMovie.com: However, as we discussed before, since Trek books are not canon Kirk is still dead. So do you think that the new movie should (as some have called for) ‘fix’ Generations and bring Kirk back from the dead officially?
Garfield: Oh no, no. We hate that word ‘fix.’
Judith: That would force everyone to conform to one point of view. And again that is the strength of Trek, that there are many many branches.
TrekMovie.com: I understand that Shatner pitched the Academy concept that became Collision Course to Paramount as a possible TV series…
Garfield: It started as a book proposal because Bill had this really neat twist about how Kirk and Spock got together and got into Starfleet Academy. We loved it and we started talking about how to turn it into a book series and we also thought it would be a great television series. We worked up the book pitch which Pocket said yes to. Then we honed it to see how it could be a television series and we went in with Bill to pitch it to Paramount. The idea was that they generally started thinking about a new series years before the current one ended. It would take them at least two years to get a show up and running. We were thinking of it following Enterprise or possibly overlapping the way DS9 did with TNG.
TrekMovie.com: Why did it not go forward as a show?
Garfield: There was a discussion ongoing as to whether it was better for Enterprise to be just one Trek show or part of two and there were numbers supporting both possibilities. Rick [Berman] was always of the belief that focusing on one show was best and you would dilute the audience if you have two. But if you have two, although each show might have slightly fewer viewers, you will end up with more overall. So they were exploring ideas and possibilities.
TrekMovie.com: Was Shatner to appear in this series?
Garfield: No, he would just be the executive producer.
TrekMovie.com: Of course the idea of an Academy story goes further back than that.
Garfield: We have been able to trace it back to Gene Roddenberry at the World Science Fiction Convention in Oakland in 1968. Star Trek was in production on its 3rd season and Gene told the fans there that he was in talks with Paramount about making a movie that would show how Kirk, Spock and McCoy all met at the Academy…and apparently he got a huge round of applause
TrekMovie.com: When news of the new Trek film first surfaced, the consistent rumor was that it was going to be about Kirk and Spock at the Academy. Many seem to believe that this violates canon.
Judith: We found a devilish way that fits with continuity.
Garfield: On the back of the "Star Trek Chronology" Mike and Denise [Okuda] talk about how some dates are inexact and cannot be determined precisely, and one of them is when Kirk and Spock were at the Academy. So we chose a date that fits within the ranges and it works out. We originally thought we would put McCoy in there as a grad student, but "Shore Leave" makes it clear that McCoy didn’t know Kirk at the Academy. We really had this combed through by experts – the Okudas and a bunch of others. This is one of the most rigid books within continuity that we have ever done. But actually for this first book this is about how they get into the Academy and there is lots of action at the Academy. It is not until the final chapter that they actually join their first year.
TrekMovie.com: Do we see other familiar faces?
Garfield: How can you go to the Academy without seeing Finnegan and seeing Kirk and Finnegan’s first meeting. Captain Pike has a short bit. In "The Apple" Kirk refers to Lt. Mallory’s father as the man who helps get him in into the Academy, so he is in. Plus Sarek, Amanda and Kirk’s parents too.
TrekMovie.com: So if this is before Kirk gets into the Academy, does that mean that we will learn more about Tarsus IV and Kodos the Executioner?
Garfield: That is central to the book, but don’t want to give away any spoilers.
TrekMovie.com: And what comes after this book?
Garfield: The next one is called "Trial Run" and is mentioned at the end of "Collision Course," and this is planned as two books for now.
TrekMovie.com: I want to go back and ask you a follow-up question from our last interview where you guys said you were considering a story about the origin of the Borg Queen for Enterprise. This kicked up a bit of controversy amongst some who claimed that isn’t consistent with canon. So do you think it would violate canon?
Garfield: Absolutely not. When we were thinking of the story we were very much aware of the Borg story and worked out our story to account for all that to make sure there would be no violations. And we would simply reassure people that there was no mention of the Borg Queen until First Contact. The Borg Queen didn’t seem to be part of the collective that Picard was dealing with for the longest time. Our story would have made everyone go ‘oh, now we get it.’
Judith: So everyone would say ‘oh my gosh…that is a possibility.’ Possibilities, never the definitive answer…that is the fun of it.
Garfield: We had this other idea…
Judith: [cutting in] oh no, don’t step into another one
TrekMovie.com: Yes, Yes, please step in
Garfield: OK. Well we came up with what we thought was a great story. The idea being what would Archer’s reaction to the Trill be? We thought that to first humans to meet a joined species like the Trill and it would be something of a horror. It would be like a planet where the body snatchers had won.
Judith: And the humans would want to separate them
Garfield: But there was no way we could make that work with continuity.
TrekMovie.com: Well of course there is already a big continuity difference between the TNG Trill and the DS9 Trill, but no one seems to care about that.
Garfield: Well they were the Trill from the southern part of the planet.
TrekMovie.com: Exactly. There are so many places that people call ‘errors,’ but they could easily be explained as ‘variations.’
Judith: And those variations are where you find your stories. That is half the fun from The Original Series on. Sometimes things happen on camera that create openings for stories and when everything doesn’t line up is where you find your possibilities.
Star Trek Collision Course by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens is available now at Amazon
Judy and Gar with one of the stars of “Enterprise”