Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (February 22, 2022)
Runtime: 1 hour and 39 minutes
As Star Trek: Picard’s first season drew to a close, one fleeting shot in the final scene caused quite the buzz among Trek fans. As the camera swept through La Sirena showing the newly-assembled crew settling into life after the resolution of the synth crisis, we saw Raffi Musiker and Seven of Nine sitting at a table in the ship’s hold, and Raffi’s hand reached out for Seven’s in a gesture of affection. Then the camera passed by, and it was over—but the suggestion of a possible romance between the two characters lit the Trek-verse on fire. Would they become a couple? What sort of relationship would that be, knowing what we know of who they are as people—Raffi coming back from a drug addiction that cost her a career in Starfleet, a husband, and her son, and Seven shaken by the deaths of Icheb and Hugh, her connections with the Borg Queen, and her extended time as a member of the Fenris Rangers. Could Raffi overcome her dependency and Seven her intense anger and isolation long enough to truly form an intimate bond?
Enter Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land, a full-cast, immersive audio drama from Simon & Schuster, written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson and starring the voices of Michelle Hurd as Raffi Musiker and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine. Not an audiobook, this is more of a fully immersive audio experience, a play or a television episode without visuals but with full sound effects, voices, and musical score. Beyer, a longtime Trek novelist specializing in Star Trek: Voyager books, staff writer on Star Trek: Discovery, and co-creator and writer of Star Trek: Picard has the depth of experience with the characters to make this story a treat, and Johnson, a longtime writer of Star Trek comics for IDW and frequent collaborator with Beyer on some of that company’s tie-in comics is the perfect writing partner for her. The result is an experience unique to Star Trek thus far, the first of what I hope will be many audio drama episodes to come.
Having listened to audio dramas in the past—namely a sprawling 13-disc dramatization of The Lord of the Rings trilogy produced by Brian Sibley in 1999 and the 1993 Time Warner AudioBooks production of Superman Lives!—I was familiar with the challenges of the medium. Since the audience can’t see what’s happening, and there is no narrator, all descriptions must be spoken by the characters or conveyed somehow through sound effects and music. This can lead to awkward lines, things that don’t sound like natural dialogue, like Raffi describing six Romulans standing next to a shuttle at one point in this drama. But Beyer and Johnson generally handle these situations with deftness, and very few moments are enough to take you out of the story.
What the format does well is invite you into the characters’ lives at a pace and an intimacy that a typical TV episode does not, with the deep bonus of the skills of the actors we know and love in their roles to help us hear what’s going on in the characters’ hearts. Simply put, Hurd and Ryan are fantastic in this piece, conveying with just their voices what they are accustomed to doing with their bodies, faces, costumes, and makeup. The story takes us through an adventure that starts shortly after the conclusion of season 1 of Star Trek: Picard and provides the context that will certainly complement and enrich what we will learn in season 2 of the series. Much like Una McCormack’s tie-in novel Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope, this audio drama will make what’s eventually onscreen better and richer experience.
But that’s not the only joy in this drama. Beyer and Johnson take us into the world of the Fenris Rangers and introduce a number of great new characters, especially the Rangers’ Hyro and Deet, two aliens whose alien-ness is conveyed through dialogue and audio performance so well that it’s easy to visualize them in your head. They had me laughing many times throughout the course of the drama’s 1 hour and 40 minute runtime. Voiced by Jack Cutmore-Scott and John Kassir, these two characters are joined by John Kassir doing double duty as Professor Gillin and Lower Decks’ Fred Tatasciore as the one-and-a-half-note villain, the Romulan Rynin.
The story is fun and gives us good insight into the Seven/Raffi relationship, but a stock villain and a fairly pedestrian plot are two weaknesses of the piece. All in all, it’s a fun and worthwhile production. My only caveat is the price—I didn’t feel that $15 was the right price point. Considering that a month of Paramount+ is $7 and a month of Disney+ is $8, paying $15 for an audio drama that runs less than two hours seems like not enough bang for my buck. From my perspective, I’d say that $10 would be a reasonable price for what I got; however, if my $15 will help build a market for more (reasonably priced) audio dramas in the future, it is probably money well spent.
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…
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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.
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