Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years – David Goodman Interview Part II

David Goodman's historical Trek masterpiece Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years is set to hit shelves in under three weeks. The book is packed full of information chronicling the pivotal era leading up to Humankind's First Contact with Vulcan in 2063, the Romulan War in 2156, the creation of the Federation in 2161, and the first 150 years of the intergalactic democracy up until the year 2311.

To celebrate the launch, we spoke with the author himself, David Goodman in an exclusive in-depth interview. Part 1 of the interview was published earlier this week, and now we present the second and final part.

 

 

Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com

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TrekCore: The book is teasingly subtitled “The First 150 Years”. Why was the decision made to stop after 150 and does it leave the door open for a follow-up book?

David Goodman: Well I assume it leaves the door open for a follow-up book, but only if people buy it! I think that the feeling was… the 150 years came out of wanting to end the book with the last Original Series movie. That is the last movie with the Original Series cast which was The Undiscovered Country, I mean Generations still had guests – but for most fans it was The Undiscovered Country. So, working backwards it was more than 100 years but less than 150, so we pushed it to 150 so it would make it sort of logical. The book itself actually covers 250 years of history because we start before the Federation is founded… a good 100 years before the Federation, so we probably should have settled with “The First 250 Years”, but it’s not… I mean, the Federation is only 150 years old in the book.

TrekCore: It’s a challenge summarizing that!

David Goodman: Yes! Laughs

TrekCore: The book itself has a really unique design with the pedestal. Was that always the intention with the publishers?

David Goodman: Yes, absolutely. From the beginning they wanted a real gift book. They wanted [it] to really feel like something that was “in world”, like something you would feel was futuristic. The pedestal was not my idea, but I love the idea of it. We had thought of using a computer voice for the message, but my idea was ‘why don’t we get George Takei’. If he’s available to come in and record his voice, he’ll be Admiral Sulu because he’d probably still be alive at the 150th anniversary. Canon establishes him as having been an Admiral from a Voyager episode ['Flashback']. It seemed like that created a lot of fun for the whole experience of the book. It’s like something that fans can really have on their table – it’s on my table, I love it!

TrekCore: Fans also know you from your work on Enterprise. With 10 years of hindsight now – it’s gone so fast – have your opinions on the show changed?

David Goodman: That’s interesting. Yeah, I’ve grown fonder of it as time’s gone on. I look back at some of those shows, and there’s still no show like it on television any more. There’s no Star Trek on TV anymore… hardly any spaceships on TV, it feels like sci-fi leaks into other genres now, but we don’t get to do future-TV anymore, which makes me sad because I love anything that takes place on a spaceship! I look back, and I re-watched a lot of episodes before I wrote the book and it’s such a great cast. The pilot is the best pilot of any of the sequel series and it had incredible scope. It makes me wistful that it’s not still on, that it didn’t go 7 years. I think that part of the problem with Enterprise and the conception with it is that by doing a prequel series you’re sort of trapped as a writer between wanting to tell original stories, but also wanting to explore the canon. You wanted to show how the Federation came about – and we did some fun episodes about that – but I wonder whether that limited our audience. Those are sort of the things. But in general I look back on the show and it was one of the best experiences I had in my career and I loved being a part of it.

TrekCore: What was the writing environment like? Did you feel like you were overly constrained by the network or producers to stay within the ‘Star Trek formula’ when you were story writing?

David Goodman: The Star Trek formula had been… I don’t know about the network, but Rick [Berman] and Brannon [Braga] had been doing Star Trek very successfully for a long time and Enterprise was definitely in that kind of genre: the genre that they essentially helped create. I don’t know if I would say I was restricted or constrained by that, I would say that I wanted to… you know every TV show has its own formula and rules, and that’s your job as a TV writer when you’re hired on the show – to write good stuff within those rules. I can speak very highly of my colleagues who showed that there were no constrictions. If you look at Manny [Coto]’s ‘Similitude’ episode or Mike [Sussman]’s ‘Twilight’ episode, there were – throughout – great episodes done within this world. I don’t see it as constraints, I see it as ‘you need rules, how do you make it good within those rules?’

TrekCore: Looking at your own list of Enterprise writing credits, you went from writing one of the least liked episodes in Season 2 with ‘Precious Cargo’ to one of the best received episodes in Season 3 with ‘The Forgotten’. How does writing each episode compare to you? Did you know when you’d made a good episode?

David Goodman: I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve written one of the most hated episodes of Star Trek ever (laughs). I know that I’m not given credit for writing one of the best ones, but definitely for writing one of the worst. The fact that I still get to be involved in Star Trek probably really annoys people. With ‘Precious Cargo’ I was new to the staff, I didn’t fully understand the rules and I definitely didn’t – a lot of my problems with that episode were my fault, in terms of how I approached writing it. You learn as you go. I still say the piece of crap that I wrote was not the piece of crap that aired. (Laughs) I don’t take full responsibility for the episode, but I definitely had a lot to learn… even up to that point I had not written for one-hour television which was definitely very different from writing for half-hour. I had a big learning curve, and I learnt a lot.

My next episode was ‘Judgment’ which I am very proud of. A lot of people had problems with that episode, but in general I’m very proud of it. My next episode after that was ‘North Star’ which has its fans and its detractors, but it was fun to get to write the one cowboy-planet episode of the sequel series. And then going to ‘The Forgotten’ which I wrote with Chris Black – so I have to absolutely give him credit as it was a real collaboration. We split up the script and we helped each other and Chris was one of the best writers for Enterprise, if not the best writer. Writing that script with him elevated that episode for me. I worked on a lot of my episodes with other people, but that was a true one-on-one collaboration with a very gifted writer who was also very confident and understanding of what the rules were for writing for Star Trek Enterprise.

TrekCore: IMDB also lists you as serving as a ‘consulting producer’ on Enterprise to the end of the third season. What did that role entail?

David Goodman: Well, producer titles in television are often - but not always - a title for a writer. A producer can be somebody who, aside from being a writer, is somebody who’s casting the show and working with set designers and special effects teams. On my episodes I did that. I worked with the director, gave casting suggestions. In the episode ‘Judgment’ my friend Dan Riordan played the Klingon Duras and I worked with him a couple of times before – he played this character Captain Zoom in a TV movie I wrote back in the nineties. So you play that role of being an advisor and working with other people in production to help realize the script in a way that you want it to be realized. You’re also working with other writers on their episodes, you’re helping them break their stories. I had a hand in a lot of other Enterprise episodes while I was there, helping other writers figure out their stories, figure out what the scenes were – those kinds of things with notes on scripts.

TrekCore: A lot of your Enterprise episodes are dripping with references to TNG. Did those come from the producers wanting to link Enterprise to previous shows or were they your own ideas?

David Goodman: Well ‘Precious Cargo’ – that was their idea. They included those references to TNG ‘The Perfect Mate’. ‘Judgment’ was all me, I shoved as many TNG Klingon references as I could into there, and most of them stayed in so I was very happy about that. I like linking it in. It was fun for me to write this episode that was an attempt to explain… the Klingons in the Original Series are very different to the Klingons in the Next Generation, and I was sort of saying that the Klingons themselves were undergoing a kind of crisis as a culture that would lead to the Original Series Klingons but that the basis for the Next Generation Klingons would be under the surface. And I explore that in Federation too!

TrekCore: Thanks for your time, David - it's been great to talk to you. I wish you all the best of luck with 'Federation', it's a wonderful book and I think fans are going to love every page of it.

David Goodman: Thanks, Adam. It was great talking to you too.

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Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years is published by 47NORTH and produced by becker&mayer. It is officially licensed by CBS Consumer Products. The book will go on sale: December 4, 2012.

Order Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years