Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land, Trek’s first audio drama for adults, arrives on Tuesday. And it stars Jeri Ryan as Seven and Michelle Hurd as Raffi Musiker in a story that takes place shortly after the end of season 1 of Picard. It features the two characters deepening the relationship hinted at the end of the season and going on a mission together with the Fenris Rangers.
TrekMovie’s All Access Star Trek podcast had the opportunity to interview writers Kirsten Beyer (Star Trek: Picard co-creator, Discovery consultant, and novel writer) and Mike Johnson (writer of comics, games, and animation, who started his Trek career with the Star Trek: Countdown movie tie-in comics in 2009) to talk about how they put the story together, whether it’s considered canon, and how to make new characters pop in an audio-only format.
Below are excerpts from our talk with Kirsten and Mike and the podcast with the full interview.
Podcast: All Access Goes To No Man’s Land
In this All Access Star Trek supplemental, Tony and Laurie begin with their review of Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land and at the 17:24 mark they bring in the authors to discuss the audio drama and more. You can listen to the whole thing here or wherever you get the All Access Star Trek podcast.
We want you to start just by telling us how the project came about: Did someone come to you or did you pitch it?
Kirsten Beyer: Simon and Schuster actually approached me, I want to say almost three years ago while we were still working on season 1 of Picard, to say that they were really excited about getting into this new format with audio dramas. And they wanted Star Trek: Picard to be the first one that they did for Star Trek. So we talked about it for a long time. And we needed to sort of wait until season 2 got started, because we knew we were going to be… the story was going to bridge between seasons 1 and 2, we had settled very early on on the idea of a Seven of Nine story, and then a Raffi story, just because it felt like one of those things that was going to be perfect for tie- in material. We weren’t sure how much the series itself was going to get to go deep with things like the Fenris Rangers, and any of that stuff, so So we sort of zeroed in on that.
Do you see this as a romance or love story in a sense?
Kirsten Beyer: I mean, not in the sense that I think we traditionally talk about romances, where, two people meet, they have strong feelings for each other, maybe they go through some struggles, and then it ultimately works out. It’s definitely a romance, but these are two people who have a lot of history and are basically exploring whether or not a relationship is possible at this point in their lives, which I think is a much more interesting journey than one where the ending is a foregone conclusion.
But I think it’s also very true to where these people are in their lives. They both had plenty of relationships that have gone in different directions. Raffi’s character has a son, was married to Gabe’s father for a while… that clearly didn’t work out, we don’t know all the details around it. You know, people will tend to think of Seven’s early romantic history on Voyager. But then there’s 20 years, and we get hints in season 1 of other things that might have happened there. But we haven’t got a lot of the details, by the time we meet her she is a very different person 20 years later. So beginning to unpack that relationship with someone else, I think is a pretty exciting thing to do as a storyteller.
We talked to James Swallow a while ago, who had talked about Seven’s Fenris Ranger backstory and how there’d been some talks of maybe holding off on doing certain things with her because they might cover it in the show. So do you feel like there’s more coming, or do you feel like you covered that background?
Kirsten Beyer: As someone who has done tie-in stuff now for, I guess, almost 20 years, I think there’s tons of fertile ground for many different kinds of stories to explore. Talking about 20 years, we tried to cover 20 years of Picard in Una [McCormack]’s novel The Last Best Hope, which hit a lot of the important points, and certainly the ones that were significant for the show. But yeah, with characters and a universe like this, when you’ve got that kind of a time gap, there are always stories to be told.
Mike Johnson: I know I was jonesing for a Fenris Rangers comic book. It’s kind of totally suited to the further adventures of—in lieu of a Fenris Rangers show—having a serialized story would be great. So I think just taking the Rangers alone, there’s so much room to play there. And one of the fun things about doing this audio drama was getting to introduce Ranger characters and showing that they’re not just like, a monolith, but they’re actually each individuals in their own right.
Characters like Hyro and Deet were so much fun to listen to. Did you guys get inspiration for those characters from anything specific?
Mike Johnson: Those two in particular really came from Kirsten. I think I know when it came to Deet—well, when it came to both of them actually, there was definitely an intention to add some comedy to the story and a lighter touch. Seven and Raffi’s story is so emotional and inherently dramatic—not that they don’t have funny moments themselves in the story, they do. But we also want it to have, as I think is traditional with Star Trek, there’s always characters that bring a lighter touch to the story. So those two, in particular, were a way not only to do that, but also, again to show that the Fenris Rangers are not some sort of super-serious monolith of interstellar justice or something. But it’s full of quirky characters in their own right. So yeah, they were really fun to write and really fun to actually play with on an in, in an audio sense by giving them their own distinct voices.
Deet, of course—well, I don’t want to spoil it. But I can say that Deet speaks his own particular language. Those are ways to give the story flavor and character not visually, because that was the trickiest part, not relying on, say, alien makeup to convey that a character is not human. But how do you do that? Through sound and through voice. So those two characters are an opportunity for that really.
You guys have both done so much work in Star Trek. But what is different when you’re writing for pure audio?
Kirsten Beyer: Really, at the beginning, it was just building a story with your eyes closed, imagining that it’s only going to be clearer based on ‘what are you hearing?’ What can I hear, what’s out there, what are the possibilities? Certainly, when I’m writing a script, I never think about music; you’ll think about sounds and things that will have to be there, but you’re always so focused on what you’re going to see. And this time around, almost from the very beginning, I was very conscious of the fact that music was going to play a huge part of it in terms of threading this thing together, thematically and emotionally. But it wasn’t always going to be there either. I mean, it just kind felt like we were just using different tools, in a weird way, and trying to maximize them. But having never done it before, it was also kind of like a shot in the dark. Like, I think this would sound cool. But will it?
Mike Johnson: Hearing the final product, we kind of knew the music and the sound effects are going to be important, but they really… they are the art direction, and the special effects that that really bring it to life beyond just the dialogue. The team working on it just did an amazing job bringing it to life.
Kirsten, you work on the show, this is always the awkward question of canon. Mike dealt with this back with the Star Trek comics tied into the movies. You know, if you are a creator of the show… how canon is this thing?
Mike Johnson: This is an interesting case, because we always said, if it’s on TV or film, it’s canon. And if it’s not, I always thought it’s canon until it’s contradicted by TV or film. But in this case, you’ve got the actresses from the show. It feels like it’s… I don’t want to say it’s more canon than the novels because it’s an interesting case. It’s an interesting case in the great canon discussion.
The short answer is yes, it’s absolutely canon! [laughs]
Kirsten Beyer: Okay! [laughs] Obviously I understand people’s fascination with and desire to understand canon. I have always been perfectly happy with the explanation that it’s everything that’s on film, animated or live-action. Because it’s simply a way of narrowing the scope of what you have to deal with in terms of your stories, right? Because as tie-in creators, we are required to be consistent with canon as much as humanly possible. And so keeping that definition sort of narrow helps us as storytellers.
That said, I don’t know that stories are more or less important, depending on their status as canon, for my money—if it’s a story that you enjoy, whether or not it can be made to be absolutely consistent with everything else you’ve ever seen or heard, I don’t think that changes its value. I think that the thing we’re striving for in every format that we’re working in is excellent storytelling. So I’m really less concerned, the more I do this with whether or not any of it is canon, I just want them all to be great stories.
This is the first audio drama, but it sounds like there’s an appetite for this. So should we expect more from any of the shows?
Kirsten Beyer: I think if this one does really well, the answer will be yes. But there is nothing specific in the works right now to tell you about. But I hope it does and I frankly was surprised and delighted by the response to the announcement of it, and to see how huge the appetite is for it. I was thrilled.
Mike Johnson: Basically everyone listening to this has to go out and buy it and then you will get more
Before we wrap up since we’ve got you here, Kirsten, what can you spoil about season two of Picard? What can you tell us?
Kirsten Beyer: I think season 2 continues what we’ve been exploring with the Picard character from the very beginning, which is the idea of how does our past impact our present and our possible future? It feels like in season 1, there were fairly recent but 20-year-old sort of things that he needed to deal with. And season 2 takes us even deeper and farther back in a way that allows us to just go deeper into the Picard character.
You two are also collaborating on an upcoming Adventures in the 32nd Century comics series, which is going to tell us the big Grudge backstory, which we’re excited about. Can you tell us more about this series? And is it just going to be the four issues or is it going to keep on going?
Mike Johnson: It’s just four issues right now and each issue spotlights a different cast member so it starts with Grudge. And then it focuses on Adira and then Detmer and then Linus. The art is coming in… we get to see baby Linus, which is incredible. So those are really just sort of nice little bites of character that the show hasn’t really had time to do, which is one of the reasons ancillary stuff is so great. I hope we can do more.
We’re talking about other tie-in comics that we’ll be working on this year. I think once the series comes out and we see the reaction, I’m really hoping we get to revisit a couple of the stories and settings from this. I’m really excited for people to see it. I think it’s the most fun I’ve had working on a Trek comic. There are different tones within, like the Grudge one is not a big serious drama—it might be from Grudge’s point of view, but it’s just a lighter touch. And this series is an opportunity to have a little bit more fun.
Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land arrives Tuesday
The new audio drama will be released on Tuesday, February 22nd. You can pre-order Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land at Amazon/Audible for $14.95.
No Man’s Land is written by Picard co-creator and writer Kirsten Beyer along with Star Trek comics veteran writer Mike Johnson. In addition to Raffi and Seven, the audio drama includes a full cast playing all-new characters including the Romulan warlord Rynin, a Fenris Ranger, various exotic alien species, and more. The voice cast includes Fred Tatasciore (Shaxs on Star Trek: Lower Decks), John Kassir (Cryptkeeper on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt), and John Cutmore-Scott (a featured character on the ABC series Deception). In addition, it will feature actual Star Trek: Picard sound effects such as transporters, weapons, explosions, and more.
No Man’s Land clip
In this clip, Raffi and Seven touch down on the planet Ebla expecting a bloodbath with the Romulan warlord Rynin, but instead realize the Romulans are really there to abduct someone Seven knows…
Star Trek: Picard season 2 premieres on March 3.
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