This week saw the publication of the second Star Trek: Discovery novel, Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward.
This thrilling adventure book, which brings together the characters of Phillipa Georgiou and Gabriel Lorca in the aftermath of the Massacre of Tarsus IV, gives us greater insights into the character of Georgiou, introduces us to the Prime Universe’s Gabriel Lorca, and fleshes out a critical event in Federation history.
I had the privilege to chat to Dayton about the book via email this week, introducing Prime Lorca, exploring the Massacre of Tarsus IV, and that surprising end!
This interview contains minor spoilers for the plot of Drastic Measures, and the Discovery episode “Vaulting Ambition.”
* * *
TREKCORE: You’ve been working on this book for many months, and have had to keep a lot of secrets about Discovery as a result. How does it feel to finally be able to talk about your book, given its relationship to some of the show’s biggest reveals?
DAYTON WARD: I’ll let you know when I’m actually able to talk about everything! As I write this, there’s still one more episode left to go for the show’s first season, so the CBS Secrecy Ninjas continue to lurk outside my window and in my bushes.
It’s been fun watching the anticipation and discussions – which were all over the place – leading up to the series premiere, and then every week as each new episode was dissected and theories spun for upcoming episodes.
I haven’t spilled anything even to my wife, who’s been watching the show each week with me, and there have been occasions where something happens and she’d turn to me and ask, “You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you? Didn’t you? What else is coming? What else? TELL ME!” while I just smile and shake my head.
TREKCORE: Can you tell me a little bit about what this process was like for you, and how that differed from your usual Star Trek writing process? Whose idea was it to bring together the character of Georgiou and Lorca, and to set it during the massacre on Tarsus IV?
WARD: This is the first Star Trek novel I’ve written where the parent series was in active production. Not only that, but the writers and producers were still developing the show as I was writing my book.
When I wrote my outline and started in on the manuscript, they hadn’t even cast Lorca yet. I didn’t know until I was about halfway through that it was going to be Jason Isaacs, and it took longer before it was decided that he was going to play an American with a slight Southern inflection. So, that made me go back and rethink a few things in his characterization – verbal quirks and slang, for example.
Kirsten Beyer has been the liaison for the novels and comics tying into the show. She’s the one who first asked me if I was interested in writing one of the first Discovery novels (hint: “Hell. Yeah.”). Originally, she had me in mind to write a novel focusing solely on Lorca, but as I got to read the first few scripts, I realized I was really digging Georgiou.
I pitched the idea of finding a story which could involve both of them, and after a few rounds of back and forth with my editor and Kirsten, we settled on the idea of setting them in the midst of the Tarsus IV crisis.
TREKCORE: The book dives into events referenced in the Original Series episode “The Conscience of the King,” including more of an exploration of the character of Kodos the Executioner.
Can you talk about how you went around expanding upon what we were told in TOS about the Massacre of Tarsus IV and reconciling it with your objectives for telling a Star Trek: Discovery story?
WARD: Obviously the objective of a tie-in novel – generally speaking – is to focus on the characters from the parent property, so my first priority was developing a story which could showcase Georgiou and Lorca.
But when you’re dealing with something like Star Trek, which encompasses so many stories and characters over such a broad expanse of “future history,” you also have the responsibility of making sure your new story fits in with the – and I really hate this word because of the negative connotations and fights it always starts – “canon.”
The details of the massacre as relayed to us in “The Conscience of the King” are pretty sparse when you get right down to it, so I had a fairly blank canvas to work with. Once I’d reviewed the episode again and taken down some notes on what was known, I began figuring out how to flesh out bits and pieces, such as giving a face to some of the names listed in the original episode as being people who could identify Kodos.
There were a couple of issues to deal with, of course, because we’re talking about a 50-year old television episode and reality has somewhat surpassed it in certain respects. For example, Kodos burned beyond recognition?
In 1966 that sounded awesome, but in 2017 we have DNA databases and such, so there’s the challenge of staying consistent with Star Trek lore as much as possible while not running afoul of real world advances that make aspects of older stories somewhat problematic.
TREKCORE: We discovered only a few weeks ago that Jason Isaacs’ portrayal of Captain Gabriel Lorca of the USS Discovery has actually been the portrayal of his Mirror Universe counterpart.
Drastic Measures is set 10 years before Discovery, and so we’re effectively meeting the Prime Universe’s version of Lorca for the first time. What was it like developing and writing Prime Lorca, given we know almost nothing about him?
WARD: In a lot of ways, it was like developing a character for a completely original, non-licensed tie-in novel. Or, in the case of Star Trek, working out the kinks of a character I might have created for one of the Pocket Books “spin-off” novel series (Vanguard, Seekers, Starfleet Corps of Engineers, etc.).
On the other hand, I was getting first-rate direction and advice directly from the Discovery writers room. They obviously had their ideas about the character, and so I took my lead from them, most of the time. There were several discussions about how to portray Lorca, particularly when it came to comparing and contrasting him against Georgiou.
TREKCORE: Another character who makes a welcome return in this novel is Philippa Georgiou from the Prime Universe. We see her at an earlier point in her career, as she is only just about to begin serving in a command role on a ship of the line.
Can you talk a little bit about her arc through the novel, and was it fun to write action scenes for a character played by notable action star/badass Michelle Yeoh?
WARD: One of the reasons I wanted to write a story featuring Georgiou is because I’m such a huge fan of Michelle Yeoh. When I first heard she’d been cast, I knew she’d be a perfect mentor for a character like Michael Burnham. Then, when they cast Jason Isaacs as Lorca, I thought I’d won the lottery. Both of these actors are at the top of their game.
As for Georgiou’s arc in the book, I was encouraged to set things up so that – in the beginning, at least – Georgiou and Lorca don’t see eye to eye. She’s concerned about the large crisis and its immediate fallout, whereas Lorca is determined to hunt down Kodos by any means necessary.
As the story progresses, their viewpoints dance around one another and intersect at certain key points, but I wanted to make sure she always embodied those “Starfleet ideals” we’ve heard other Star Trek captains talk about over the years.
TREKCORE: Are there any characters from Discovery that you weren’t able to include in Drastic Measures because of the timeframe that you’d want to write in a future novel?
WARD: Um, all of them? Seriously, I’d love a chance to write a novel with the full Discovery crew, or even the Shenzhou crew.
One particular favorite character is Cadet Tilly, who ended up being something completely different my first impression, which came from just reading her dialogue in the script. Mary Wiseman totally nailed Tilly in every way, and I’d leap at the chance to write a story focusing on everybody’s favorite Starfleet cadet.
TREKCORE: The book has a very exciting coda, teasing future possibilities for the show (or future tie-in novels) and one of its characters. How did that come about? Is there anything else you can reveal without condemning yourself to a trip to an agonizer booth?
WARD: The coda was an idea cooked up between my editor at Pocket and Kirsten. My main contribution, aside from actually writing the thing, was the suggestion of making it a “post-credits” scene, which I don’t believe is something you’ve seen done that much in novels (aside from a “sneak preview” from an upcoming novel in the same series).
As for what it might mean, or how it might be revisited…there’s a ninja looking at me through my office window.
TREKCORE: If a fan of Star Trek: Discovery picks up this book and is interested in reading more of your work, do you have any recommendations? Do you have any upcoming projects on the horizon that we can look forward to?
WARD: I suppose that, tonally speaking, my original series Star Trek novels are closest to what you’ll find in Drastic Measures.
Particular favorites from my own backlist include From History’s Shadow and its sequel, Elusive Salvation (along with a Next Generation-focused follow-up, Hearts and Minds). There’s also the Star Trek: Vanguard series, the brainchild of former Pocket editor Marco Palmieri and David Mack, with whom my writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, and I collaborated.
As for what I’m working on at the moment? I have several irons in the fire, precisely none of which have been formally announced by their respective publishers, so I can’t say much about them at this point — but yes, there are a couple of Star Trek things in that mix.
A huge thanks to Dayton for taking the time to chat with us about his book! If you haven’t picked it up yet, Star Trek: Discovery – Drastic Measures is in stores and available as an eBook download and audiobook now.
Next up in the Discovery novel line is Fear Itself, a Saru-centric tale coming from author James Swallow this June. You can preorder through the links below!