As we’ve been reporting, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon has joined the Star Trek writing team. He co-wrote this month’s Short Treks episode “Calypso” (which premieres this Thursday) and he is part of the writers’ room for the upcoming Picard show. Recently he spoke with J Weekly about jumping into the Star Trek universe.
Watched TOS thanks to a Trekkie babysitter
When asked whether he grew up watching Star Trek, Chabon had tales to tell:
My dad watched The Original Series, I remember that as a small child, but it was on too late for me to watch. It seemed very grownup and incomprehensible. I must’ve been 4 or 5. But I remember his attachment to it. When I was 10, I had a babysitter. The Original Series was on syndication everywhere, and she was a Trekkie, self-described. She turned me on to it. We had it on every time she was over. She would go to conventions and come back with cool stuff. She was my introduction to the show and to fandom all at once.
His path to the CBS Trek franchise
If you’ve wondered how Chabon became involved with the new Trek on TV, it turns out we have a Discovery Season 1 producer to think for that:
I was working on a film project with one of the producers of Discovery and now the Picard project, Akiva Goldsman. They were just starting to assemble possible ideas for these shorts, what became Short Treks, and I was in the room while he was talking about it. I’m a big fan and I had told him I’m really enjoying Discovery. So he was about to ask if I wanted to write this — before the question was out of his mouth, I said ‘yes.’
The mysteries of “Calypso”
The November Short Treks episode is titled “Calypso” and it was co-written by Chabon. The mini-episode is by far the most mysterious of the bunch–it’s the only one featuring a totally new character, named Craft, and set in the far-flung future.
It is about a castaway who is rescued by the Discovery, in the far future, and is rescued by the AI of the starship. It’s about the relationship that forms between the mysterious castaway and the AI. And there is a mystery of what it’s been doing for the last millennium. By the end, some mysteries are explained and others remain mysteries.
Can’t say anything about Picard series
Of course, the article’s author had to try and ask about the Picard show–who could blame him? He asked Chabon if he could say anything about the themes or the setting of the show. Showing his Trekkie knowledge (likely from his recent boot camp catching him up on the goings-on in the franchise since TOS), he answered with a Trek reference:
I cannot answer either of those questions. I will be abducted by Section 31.
Being part of a writers’ room
Chabon is a novelist, so writing for TV is a very different experience; primarily it’s much more collaborative, since it’s in a room of other writers (and often producers). He elaborated on the differences:
It’s very different. It’s really pleasurable. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about it. It could be a horrible thing if the people were not nice and kind, but this room is full of bright, funny, charming people with great ideas. Solving plot problems by yourself can be agonizing. Sometimes I get into a hole, and I just bang my head against the wall, and it takes weeks or months, and maybe I never solve it. But when there’s this room of smart people, and they all bring their experiences in life and as readers and consumers of media. You can see this unsolvable problem, and then after an hour of conversation it works itself out.
The rest of the interview is worth a read too.