Michael Chabon on What Makes ‘Star Trek’ Star Trek

Remember how excited we were to report on the return of Star Trek favorite Captain Jean Luc Picard back in August? That joy hasn’t really gone away yet; Sir Patrick Stewart at the helm of a Starfleet vessel is the stuff of Federation dreams.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon will be helming the Picard series for CBS ALL ACCESS, and he recently spoke with Deadline about what makes Star Trek Star Trek to him:

DEADLINE: What makes a Star Trek story a Star Trek story in your mind?  

CHABON: “On a lot of levels the way I would answer that question would be while I was writing and I think almost all of them would be unconscious. I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was about 10-years-old and I’ve watched every version of the show since the first-run — after the original series, which I watched first in reruns — and I’ve seen all the movies and, look, I’m a huge fan. I’ve absorbed a lot of the Star Trekethos so as soon as I sat down and started trying to write for Star Trek, a lot of those questions — what are the parameters, what are the givens, what are the underlying assumptions — I think a lot of that is stuff I’m doing almost subconsciously so I don’t have to stop and think about it. I think what appealed to me in this germ of an idea [with Calypso] is when I perceived of this artificial intelligence being a character in the story which grows out of the traditions.

In a way there are kinda two competing strands in history of Star Trek in terms of looking at computers and artificial intelligences — although that’s not what they would have been calling them in the original series — and one that was especially prevelant in the original series was this idea of computers being dangerous. There’s one episode where there’s this computer called Nomad, that believes it’s mission is to sterilize the human race, expunge it from creation because it’s imperfect. So you’ve got sort of like doomsday computers and mad computers and that’s a common trope in the late sixties and early seventies where this super mad computer was going crazy, taking over the world and killing all the humans. You see that over and over coming through Terminator and all kinds of cautionary tales right up to the present moment.

Then there’s this other strand that really emerges and it’s best and fullest form is on Star Trek: The Next Generation with the character Data who is more than just an A.I. He is an artificial human. Which is another way of looking at it and with Data it gets at one of the perennial Star Trek questions which is: What does it mean to be a human being? And whether you’re looking at that from Mr. Spock the question was framed as: How much of human nature is based in emotion and how much is based in intelligence or logic? And then you have Data really pushing that question, it comes up again with [the Star Trek Voyager character called] Seven of Nine and the Borg. So it’s something that Star Trek has always been fascinated by and it’s that sub-genre that this new story is coming from with the story of this castaway and the Artificial Intelligence that saves him. What is human and how does he come to view her.”

While we don’t yet have a release date for the Picard series (or a title, for that matter) we do know that Star Trek: Discovery will be returning for their second season on January 17th 2019.

About Mary Anne Butler

Bleeding Cool News Editor Mary Anne Butler (Mab, for short) has been part of the fast-paced world of journalism since she was 15, getting her start in album reviews and live concert coverage for a nationally published (print) music magazine. She eventually transitioned to online media, writing for such sites as UGO/IGN, ComicsOnline, Geek Magazine, Ace of Geeks, Aggressive Comix (where she is still Editor-in-Chief), and most recently Bleeding Cool.

Over the past 10 years, she’s built a presence at conventions across the globe as a cosplayer (occasionally), photographer (constantly), panelist and moderator (mostly), and reporter (always). 

Interviews, reviews, observations, breaking news, and objective reporting are the name of the game for the founder of Harkonnen Knife Fight, a Dune-themed band with an international presence. 

Though she be but little, she is fierce. #MabTheProfessional

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