INTERVIEW: David Mack Talks “Star Trek: Discovery” And His Tie-In Novel

This week Pocket Books released Star Trek: Section 31: Control, written by New York Times bestselling author David Mack. On Wednesday we put up the first part of our interview with Mack which focused on that book and how it tied into the Star Trek universe. In this second part of the interview we talk about what’s next for the author, including Desperate Hours, the first tie-in novel for the CBS All Access TV series Star Trek: Discovery, set to debut in early fall.

Shot from Star Trek: Discovery teaser

Writing the first Discovery tie-in novel I understand you recently completed your draft manuscript for the Discovery novel. In order for you to prepare your book, were you given full access to everything available, like the pilot script, show bible, ship and character designs, etc.?

David Mack: The writers’ room and production teams have shared with me as much as they reasonably can. I haven’t seen as much as the people on the show itself, of course, but I have been privy to quite a lot of behind the scenes material. They have also been very responsive to my requests for information, so that I can do my best to make sure the descriptions of people, places, and things in my book Desperate Hours will track with what eventually ends up on the screen for Discovery.

My two most vital contacts in that regard have been my good friends Kirsten Beyer, who is the show’s season one staff writer, and John Van Citters, from CBS Television Entertainment Licensing.

TM: Obviously you cannot give any spoilers, but, speaking just as a Star Trek fan, what’s your reaction to what you have seen so far from Discovery?

DM: Very impressed. The show’s going to look great, and there’s lots of high-octane fun packed into the two-part pilot. Also, from what I hear, everyone in the writers’ room and on the set is having a great time, and they are all keenly aware that they are becoming part of something with a long and venerable history. I think that if longtime Star Trek fans go into this with open minds they’ll find lots to love, and they and newer Star Trek fans alike are in for an amazing ride.

TM: Mike Johnson, who is writing the Discovery comic book tie-ins for IDW, tells TrekMovie that they “will be woven into the show.” Can you say anything about how the first novel will do the same? For example, is is set before, during, or after the pilot episode? Or is it a mix?

DM: I’m still not allowed to reveal anything specific about my book’s content or setting. All I can say, really, is that I developed it based on characters, dialogue, backstory, and situations in the upcoming series’ two-part pilot. If we’ve all done our jobs correctly, it should serve as an excellent companion piece to the two-part premiere.

EDITORS NOTE: Mack previously confirmed with TrekMovie that Desperate Hours will be available shortly after the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.

Pre-production art showing exterior shots of the USS DIscovery

Glimpse of pre-production art from teaser trailer – Mack has been given access to ‘quite a lot’ to help him write first Star Trek: Discovery novel

What’s next for Mack

TM: What is your next Star Trek book after the Discovery book?

DM: Before I wrote the Discovery novel, I actually had finished a novel for Star Trek Titan. That book is titled Fortune of War, and it is scheduled for publication at the end of November 2017. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Fortune of War is an action-thriller.

TM: Are there any plans or hopes for Trek books after the Discovery and the Titan books?

DM: I have no more Star Trek work under contract, and I don’t know when that might change. For the foreseeable future, I will be working on the story outlines and manuscripts for books two and three of my Dark Arts series for Tor Books, and preparing for the debut of book one, The Midnight Front, coming in February 2018. If all goes well, book two, The Iron Codex, and book three, Shadow Commission, will follow by the end of 2019.

Mack wrote the upcoming 9th novel in the Star Trek: Titan series, a follow-up to 2015’s Sight Unseen by James Swallow

Wants to return to Kelvin universe, even after previous books were pulled

TM: You and three other authors wrote books tied into the new Kelvin universe movies back in 2009. Those books were then shelved by Bad Robot and Paramount, and eventually four different young adult Starfleet Academy books were released, but nothing new in the last five years. Do you think we will see original adult novels tied into the movie series, and would you be interested in returning to that universe yourself even after that experience?

DM: The most truthful answer to the first part of your question is, “I have no idea.” It could happen. Never say never, after all. That said, I know of no plans for such a project at this time.

As for myself, I enjoyed writing one of the novels that got shelved in 2010. I thought it captured what was unique in tone and content about the Kelvin timeline versions of the characters and their story, and did something fun with them. If the powers that be decide to resurrect that book someday, I might need to tweak it a bit to make it fit with the movies’ continuity, but I still think the core story could work.

If the publisher worked out a deal to publish Kelvin Timeline novels and asked me to write a new one, I’d be glad to take on the gig. After all, that’s why they keep me around. <grin>

Mock cover for David Mack’s tie-in novel to the 2009 “Star Trek” movie , pulled from the schedule in 2010

Interview, part 1: Star Trek Section 31: Control

Check out part 1 of our interview with David Mack about his new book Star Trek Section 31: Control, out now and available at Amazon.

You can find David Mack online at or on Twitter @DavidAlanMack.

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Two-part pilot. Is this something we already knew?

I don’t recall anything about that. It begs the question, is CBS broadcasting both parts?

I guess it’s a two part cliffhanger and they’ll only show the first half on broadcast.

I could be wrong but that’s what I’m thinking will happen.

We certainly already knew this. Dunno about whether they’ll broadcast both parts on TV, but my guess is no, since they’re trying to get people to subscribe. Still think it’s gonna be incredible.

Yawn Trek: The Last Generation.

Yawn: Cap’n’s ongoing whining

Yup, my patience for fans like Cap’n is running out. Always something to whine and complain about. Nothing is ever perfect or right.

And they hadn’t even seen the show yet. I mean, yes, I hate Voyager passionately, but even I gave it one-and-half season worth of chance before condemning it (Threshold was the last straw).

Passionately? That’s kind of extreme.

You don’t have to see something to know the concept is a grave mistake.

They might as well be making a star trek based in medieval scotland. you dont need more than a few brain cells to realise what a stupid idea that would be too.

Cap’n, the whining fan, captain of the whiney whiners. What I just said was about as mature as what you just said. Prime, reboot, alternate, whatever, its Star Trek. I love TOS as much as I do TNG, DS9, VGR, ENT, TOS movies, TNG movies, reboot movies and im certain Discovery will be in there too. You don’t like it, its your loss lol, completely your loss.

i think the point he/she is succesfully making is that the audience of discovery is so tightly aimed at original series fans that it pretty much locks out all of the fans of tng-nemesis in one fell swoop, which is clearly a fudging stupid idea beyond belief. you can love it as much as you want, it wont be widely watched, it wont get another season, and after it’s all buried you’ll surely blame it on all the “fans” who didnt watch it.

You don’t get it Will Tate, Discovery isn’t aimed at TOS fans; it’s aimed at people who like good television! Discovery promises to be a modern take on the Trek we know and love. It will be completely different. It has nothing to do with TOS besides a few names and settings. It is 21st century Star Trek. If it compares to other contemporary television, it will be worth watching.

agreed. for star trek fans of the 60s for real. i bet they will get all shouty at us when the ratings are not good enough for it to gain any traction

” I think that if longtime Star Trek fans go into this with open minds they’ll find lots to love”

Translation: This is gonna mess big time with canon.

And it’s about time. “Canon” needs to be shot out of a cannon or the stories that the new series tells will seem hopelessly mired in the past 50 years of encruftation.

Scott, that’s what makes the whole think work…sticking to canon. Throw that out and it becomes a huge mess and nothing relates. Relax.

Strict adherence to canon is what’s killing Trek. While I agree they can’t just ignore canon, requiring the set design to exactly match a budget TV show produced in the 1960s is ridiculous, among other unrealistic expectations.

I dunno, maybe don’t set it in the same time as TOS and try something new that’s not a prequel/callback/reboot.

Basically you guys have to think about it like this. Is Flash Gordon the TV show supposed to look like Flash Gordon the serial from the 30s? NO, DUH. It needs a face lift. It needs a reinterpretation. That’s how franchises evolve and live on. It’s technically “prime timeline” Trek, but when I watch 90s Trek, it might as well be as old as TOS for me. It looks ancient compared to modern television. It needs to be reinterpreted for a modern audience. If they can do that, its success is a foregone conclusion.

Actually that’s not true at all. They haven’t stuck to canon in over a decade. They keep doing these reboots/reimagining which keeps Trek stuck in neutral instead of blazing a path forward like other franchises are doing *cough cough Star Wars

Star Wars is moving forward, sure, but I say look at the execution. TFA was a soft reboot; same story, same recycled ideas. It was hardly innovative and frankly kinda lame. Rogue One, I loved, but it certainly wasn’t very new — it filled in a blank, but we already knew the outcome. So sure, SW is “moving forward” but so far it hasn’t done it boldly. I think Discovery is looking pretty bold to me.

And the new Star Wars movies didn’t change anything about the look of the universe. They didn’t reimagine it to appeal to modern audiences.

Heck they even brought back the 70’s bushy hairdos!


Re: the new Star Wars movies didn’t change anything about the look of the universe

You can assert that only because it had already been changed, several times over by the time Lucas handed it over to them. Disney did NOT faithfully restore the universe look of the original release of the first ever STAR WARS feature released.

Curious Cadet,

I’m not sure strict canon adherence is the problem. It’s canon in the episode CONSCIENCE OF THE KING that the Karidian Players, a Shakespearean acting troop, updated Shakespeare’s sets and costumes in the 23rd century. It seems it’s canon that updating past dramatic production companies’ designs is to be expected and should be accepted as such?

What was the reason (Official and/or actual) they pulled those Kelvin-U books?

~Pensive’s Wetness

The PW,

Well, there never was on “official” reason given.

One of the authors said that a source said the stop order didn’t come from the publishers but directly from CBS who owns them.

There was some scuttlebutt that someone got the jitters that the subjects for the novels were exploring parts of the KT universe where the film’s sequel writers might want to be free to tread as it hadn’t been written yet. Bob Orci seemed to make it clear that he wasn’t part of communicating any such concerns to CBS or its publishers,

Paula Block was in charge of Trek licensing for both Paramount and CBS. Perhaps she knows more?

“Very impressed. The show’s going to look great, and there’s lots of high-octane fun packed into the two-part pilot. Also, from what I hear, everyone in the writers’ room and on the set is having a great time, and they are all keenly aware that they are becoming part of something with a long and venerable history. I think that if longtime Star Trek fans go into this with open minds they’ll find lots to love, and they and newer Star Trek fans alike are in for an amazing ride.”


“I think that if longtime Star Trek fans go into this with open minds they’ll find lots to love”


haha yeah my inner monologue said that too

I don’t think he could have found a way to worry me more than saying that we should go in with an open mind. Oof. Whatever they do, I hope they at least bring in someone like Manny Coto towards the end to clean up some of the mess.

Yeah, god forbid TREK fans have open minds! The best thing about the hope, optimism, and peaceful message of Star Trek is the close-mindedness it promotes!

I kept an open mind when they abandoned their own years of lore and decided to tell a prequel story with Enterprise, I kept an open mind when they discarded the universe entirely (except to blow up Romulus on the way out) to let a Star Wars fan redesign the franchise as pew-pew action with Trek elements pasted on. I think I’ve done my bit, it’s up to them to prove that they understand Trek to be something more than a name they use when they want to sell us something.

ENT isn’t a fair example, since the people running TNG never really seemed to know what Star Trek was a bout and DS9 and VOY moved ever further away from it. So there was never any reason to keep an open mind with ENT. The Main Title theme song was enough to kill that series for me, before I ever got a look at woefully miscast Bakula.

Likewise with BR Trek. Everything they said leading up to it were red flags they didn’t get it and it wouldn’t turn out well. While ST09 managed to be passable, the alarm bells rang nonstop leading up to STID, and yet they still failed to learn their lesson with BEY.

This is a whole different kettle of fish, and a lot more optimistic.

In retrospect, I really appreciate how much effort the Enterprise people put into keeping the series consistent with what came before. Now that I see what it looks like when the creators don’t care, the fact that Enterprise didn’t use the arrowhead, for instance, seems almost brave.

In regards to the arrowhead, I love the contortions places like Memory Alpha are going through to try to maintain a sense of consistency when the producers have clearly thrown the idea out the window. To wit, in the section on Starfleet Insignia: “By the early 2270s, Starfleet Command had adopted a new Starfleet insignia, a symbol previously used as the assignment patch of the USS Enterprise, and prior to that, the USS Kelvin and USS Franklin.” Because, you see, we have to pretend that ships included in the new movies which were launched before the Narada incursion existed in the real universe, because they must have even though they obviously didn’t. So what was formerly thought of as a unique Enterprise insignia is now also the insignia for random, garbage ships, too. Because lore. [I actually have a different head canon explanation that the insignia was actually the insignia for the 11th (or 1st, maybe) fleet, and all of the ships in that fleet used the same one. But that’s neither here nor there.]

Anyway, I’ll finish my pointless ramble by noting that Discovery uses the arrowhead, too.

Ya know Mario you’d be surprised just how many times the “prime timeline” broke continuity with itself. It didn’t seem to undermine the entire fabric of Trek fandom then, and it hasn’t now.

I don’t care about breaking continuity, I care that they don’t care about breaking continuity. One of the best episodes of Voyager, Living Witness, directly contradicted how the Doctor worked. Did it matter? No, because the change was in service to a great story, so they fudged it a bit. What we’ve seen lately isn’t fudging, it’s just tossing everything aside out of convenience, ignorance, or laziness.

If fans don’t hold them accountable they won’t even pretend to try, and you end up with movies featuring a captain modeled more on Zapp Brannigan than Kirk.

How do you know they’re casually tossing out canon? Again, you just said Living Witness fudged canon in service to a great story. You have no idea how great Discovery is gonna be. So I don’t subscribe to your unfounded belief that the producers are tossing everything aside out of convenience, ignorance, or laziness. I think they know exactly what they’re doing.

I didn’t say they were, but the Narada Timeline people did and I worry that these people will too, that’s all. I hope they don’t, and I hope anything of substance that they change will be worth it. We’ll see… so far there’s little to suggest either way. But then again, there’s that arrowhead.

Yep, really. Nothing worse, or more indicative of impending disaster, than someone suggesting you keep an open mind before experiencing something new.

remember when the Ghostbusters reboot had that exact same line in the press.
they wanna give the same treatment to the matrix now too. independence day was a load of crap, so was terminator genesis. the list is endless. the public backlash for this kind of trash tv and film is now pretty aggressive and discovery is no different. if they want to cruise on the successes of other people’s work they need to produce something VASTLY superior to the original or it’s going to be laughed in to cancellation. This rubbish reboot has already got that and it is still months away from even being shown.

Doesn’t take a movie critic to see a really, really bad concept in production. I feel sorry for Netflix the most.

And what if Westworld? Jurassic World? Planet of the Apes? Battlestar Galactica may be the best example.

All of these had scores of detractors during development and turned out to be great entertainment.

Take the wait-and-see approach.

It wouldn’t be hard to see how TOS could be “VASTLY” improved upon with modern television production. I’m not a “TOS fanboy” as some on here accuse, but I’m salivating at the thought of a television reimagining of TOS [as opposed to the blockbuster interpretation of JJ]

You’ll like it, if not we’ll keep throwing out recons and reboots until you give the right answer.

So the answer to your disappointment is to be close minded? What an idiotic statement.

It’s fair to have lower expectations after repeated disappointment, it’s fair even to be a bit cynical, but close minded?

Must be a trump voter.

There are certain friends of Steve Bannon within CBS (from his hollywood days) that would rather this series not happen, due to it’s liberal leanings.

Guys. I come here all the time. I see your comments. I usually don’t care because HOLY CRAP there’s a lot of in-fighting in the Trek community, and if I were a creative working for Trek, I would ignore everyone here. If I were not enjoying this bottle of Saurian brandy, I might have skipped this comment section too, but GEEZ. I’m not excited about Discovery. And it’s because of the fan base. You people ruin everything. I have every Trek series and movie on my shelf, and I am a fan, but I am deeply ashamed of the community. It is a terrible community with awful, hate-filled people. Not all of you (but many) are an affront to what Trek stands for. In short: stop being dicks and give this a chance.