Paramount+’s rebooted Star Trek franchise has done an incredible job growing its audience, message, and genre over the last five years.
Besides the five — count ’em, FIVE — series which will air this year, Simon & Schuster Audio has just released an all-new adventure, “Star Trek: No Man’s Land,” as an audio drama co-written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson.
Both authors are well-seasoned Star Trek experts.
Beyer has played a large part in the creation and evolution of the many current Star Trek television series, serving as writer and producer on all the live-action series as well as a co-creator on Star Trek: Picard.
Since joining the franchise in 2007, Johnson has written and co-written the most Star Trek tie-in comics in Star Trek’s history.
Star Trek: No Man’s Land, featuring Star Trek: Picard’s Seven and Raffi on an adventure of their own in the time gap between Season 1 and Season 2, getting to know each other while saving lives and solving a mystery involving eternal life and lost love.
Speaking with TV Fanatic via Zoom audio, Beyer and Johnson discuss the collaborative process of creating a story solely focused on the two women. Beyer describes the early development of the narrative, “It really grew organically out of the performances that Michelle and Jeri gave us in Season 1.
“Watching them develop and evolve those characters to the point where it just felt like there was so much going on for them individually and then potentially between them, it was one of those things where you’re like, ‘I gotta know more.’
“This is how we learn more. We dig in, and we start writing.
“We had been talking with Simon and Schuster about doing the audio drama before Season 1 ended, but we hadn’t really settled what the story might be.”
Johnson has been collaborating with Beyer on various Star Trek tie-in works for years now. The pitch of an audio drama was a fantastic new opportunity.
“Fantastic opportunity is right. I’m very lucky to know and work with Kirsten Beyer.
“We had worked on a bunch of comic book tie-ins for Discovery and Picard, so when the opportunity arose, Kirsten reached out to me and said, ‘Do you want to write an audio drama for Star Trek?’
“I try not to be too stupid, so I said, ‘Yeah, I would love to!’ It went from there.”
Beyer is equally enthusiastic about their partnership, “Mike and I have been doing this together for six years, and the best part of it is, legit, just the two of us sitting across a table or over the phone together tossing around story ideas.
“Coming up with one thing, and then somebody makes it better, and then [we] just keep going on from there.
“Honestly, it’s always a joyful process doing this with Mike because he comes from such a deep Trek knowledge background as do I, but more than that, we have the same or very similar sensibilities about what we like in a Trek story and what we want to see and feel when we’re experiencing one.
The audio drama medium seems from a by-gone age, harkening back to radio plays like Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds” and the long-running serial “The Shadow.”
What are Beyer’s and Johnson’s thoughts on why the medium is making a comeback?
Beyer names the new incarnation first, “I think that there is a fair amount of this form of storytelling coming back, but I think a lot of times they’re in podcast.”
Johnson expands on the appeal of audio dramas, “I really think there’s something to the fact that people have been getting into podcasts and audiobooks through the last few years.
“I think it’s only gaining momentum. I don’t think it’s going away. I think it taps into something sort of primal in humans where it goes back to sitting around a campfire and telling stories to each other and the oral tradition.
“I mean, for most of human history, we didn’t have written stories. We had oral transmission down through the generations.
“I think people really like to listen to stories being told. And I think the popularity of podcasts and audio dramas is a testament to that today. I think it’s just something fundamental in us.”
The pandemic has disrupted the production of all sorts of media. Why would making an audio drama be any different? Gone are the days of table reads and cast members sharing a recording studio.
Beyer is amazed at how it all came together.
“It was all done on Zoom with each individual actor by themselves, which was bananas to me.
“I started out in this life as an actor, and when they said this is how we have to do it because of COVID, I was like, ‘I don’t understand how you build a performance this way.’
“And yet, every single one of our actors did it, and they did it brilliantly. I think they’re more used to it because [while] they’re all professional actors, a number of them are professional voice actors as well.
“They just got right into it, but it was still extraordinary to watch them listening to something that wasn’t there and yet hearing pretty much what they were going to hear. It was stunning.”
In addition to Jeri Ryan and Michelle Hurd voicing the parts of Seven and Raffi, respectively, Star Trek: No Man’s Land also stars Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Fred Tatasciore (pronounced “ta-ta-shore”!) as Rynin, Jack Cutmore-Scott (seen above recording lines as Hyro), and John Kassir as Professor Gillin (and Hyro’s pilot, Deet).
Beyer is delighted with the cast they assembled, with both Trek veterans and newcomers.
“I don’t think John or Jack had ever done Trek before, but John, we’re all familiar with. He was the voice of the Cryptkeeper in Tales from the Crypt. He’s a very famous voice actor as well.
“Jack has done a number of TV things, so he just came to our attention through that. “
The Star Trek: No Man’s Land call to adventure for Raffi and Seven is an attack by Rynin, a wannabe Romulan warlord, on a planet the Fenris Rangers had used as a hidden archive of artifacts and documents salvaged from the Romulan evacuation.
Rynin’s target is the Lemniscate, an artifact described by Fred Tatasciore so wonderfully in Rynin’s voice in the above recording studio clip.
The Lemniscate is rumored to bestow eternal life on its bearer. Is Rynin’s pursuit of immortality a callback to Data’s thoughts on life and how its preciousness is imbued by its finiteness at the end of Star Trek: Picard Season 1?
Beyer believes the parallel messaging is inadvertent.
“[Talking about it now] these connections seem so obvious in a weird way, but I’m not sure that there was ever a moment where we were thinking specifically about that theme as it related to Season 1 of Picard.
“Although when we do these projects, we’re always very consciously trying to approach the work in the same way the shows do so that it feels like things are of a piece.
“The same sorts of thematic elements, the same sorts of choices in terms of depth of character and weight of plot and things like that.
“In this specific case, though, the idea of eternal life and eternal love and The Professor’s story was a result of the story we were telling with Seven and Raffi.
“These two women who are exploring the possibility of relationship, who have had relationships before that, for one reason or another, they are no longer in, and who, while obviously attracted to one another, are very, very cautious about each other, based on their experiences.
“The idea there could be any version of perfect love or a sort of relationship that they might find intriguing or interesting is what we were looking for with The Professor and his wife. What could that teach them that they might not already know?”
Star Trek: No Man’s Land picks up just after the events of the Star Trek: Picard Season 1 finale with Seven and Raffi taking some time to relax at Raffi’s home in the desert, getting to know each other over wine with an entertaining and enlightening variation of Twenty Questions.
Johnson admits the entire opening scene was Beyer’s brain-child, while Beyer provides a thoughtful description of the process she went through to develop the scene.
“The actual game, the idea of the questions and answers, and the way they were playing with each other took a while to get to actually.
“The job of that scene initially was to locate us not only in space and time but in what moment of these women’s relationship are we.
“You write the first few versions, and you’re making sure you get all the information out, and then you start playing with ‘how do people really talk?’ and ‘how do these people really talk?’ and ‘how would they go about a moment like this?’
“What we were shooting for was ‘how much fun could we possibly have with these two?’
“The adventure’s going to start, and things are going to get heavy and intense, and then they’re going to get pulled apart, so, how can we — in one scene — give both the characters and the audience the sense that these two people would be awesome together, and we would really like to see more of that.”
Despite that tantalizing tease, Beyer cannot confirm more Seven and Raffi audio adventures are coming.
“No. Sorry. This was the first step for Simon & Schuster getting into this market, and while Mike and I have been delighted with the reviews’ response and the fans’ response to the audio drama, there’s no way to know at this point if or how they might continue.
“It feels like if this does really well, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to do more, but we’re not working on anything specific at this moment.”
Johnson clearly revels in his work with Trek tie-ins and has a lot of love for the franchise and its messaging.
“Not even joking, I’m very lucky to get up each day and work in Trek. Last night, I was working on an upcoming comic book that hasn’t been announced that Kirsten and I are working on.
“It’s just really cool to be working on these characters in this world, and I feel grateful to be doing it still. I think there’s a lot of – for lack of a better word – IP out there, and Star Trek is special.
“Star Trek represents something in our culture and pop culture history, and it’s a really good place to spend your mental prime in what seems like an increasingly horrible world to live in.
“But the good outweighs the bad ultimately, and I think Star Trek represents that, so it’s just a nice place to spend your days.”
Out of all of the immersive, action-packed, and mystery-laden scenes that bring Star Trek: No Man’s Land to life, do Beyer and Johnson have a particular element that shines for them?
Johnson jumps in first. “For me, it was the genius idea that Kirsten had which were the letters that The Professor writes that we hear Seven read.
“Not only were they a great storytelling device, particularly for an audio drama, but they’re just really beautiful and emotional.
“They don’t just serve to move the plot along – in a lot of stories, we just have things that are there to service the plot – they’re specifically about revealing character and conveying emotion. So, the letters for me are the most important part.”
The two co-writers are so in sync that Beyer echoes the same sentiment.
“Well, Mike stole my answer. But just to say that they were the most surprising element for me when I was listening to it for the first time once it was done.
“I was blown away by how the combination of the sound and the words and the music created a whole new thing that I hadn’t expected.
“I would say that the other scenes that I found particularly affecting that came as a surprise were both of the scenes – both the flashback and then near the end – between Seven and The Professor.
“We had been saying that there was this relationship and this connection established through those letters, but the two of them finally talking to each other and playing off of each other always gets me.”
Star Trek: No Man’s Land is available wherever digital audiobooks are sold.
Have you already enjoyed this audio adventure, Fanatics? What did you think?
If Raffi and Seven pair up for more recorded dramas, where do you imagine they’ll go? Beam your thoughts and theories into our comments below!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.