Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael Chabon (“Wonder Boys,” “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”) makes his television-writing debut this week with “Short Treks: Calypso,” one of four short films tied into the “Star Trek: Discovery” series on CBS All Access.
The most standalone of the four, the story is set a millennia post-Discovery when a soldier (Aldis Hodge) awakens on an abandoned starship run by the ship’s computer which has evolved after centuries of isolation into a unique personality.
That marks Chabon’s first foray into ‘Trek,’ and he’ll be expanding his involvement in the franchise with work on the upcoming TV series which marks the return of Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard. Speaking with CNET, Chabon spoke about his approach to the show’s canon:
“Any Star Trek writer, any writing room on any Star Trek show after, let’s say, The Original Series had a responsibility to consider canon, to know your canon. Just speaking for me, that’s an incredible pleasure – to have a legitimate excuse, and get paid, to nerd out completely.
At the same time, and this is true when you’re dealing with any kind of canon, there’s always gaps. There are cracks. There are contradictions. There are mysteries that we never got to hear the explanation of, when people allude to things in canon and don’t give any further explanation. Maybe the greatest example in all canon ever is the giant rat of Sumatra from Sherlock Holmes. Fans and writers ever since have tried to come up with possible explanations for that.
So I think it’s important not just to view canon as a barrier, as a perimeter beyond which you can’t go, a kind of a grid that you’re trapped on. You try to find the loopholes. You find the empty areas. You find the things the canon doesn’t seem to have anything to say, and you say it. And if you’re really lucky and you get to be working on a Star Trek show then what you say becomes canon itself.
He also discussed sticking to the ideals of “Star Trek” including diversity, overcoming baser instincts, and offering a hopeful outlook for the future:
“Now that I’m working on the show and now that I’m part of Star Trek, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure that the current model is true to the ideals of the original show, the ideas of tolerance and egalitarianism. Obviously, you look at the way women are represented on The Original Series, and that show fell far short of its stated ideals of egalitarianism, although at least they did have women in some positions of responsibility.
But I think we have this responsibility to continue to articulate a hopeful, positive vision of the future. I think if anything that’s more important now than it was when The Original Series came out. It was really important then, and it had a profound impact, socially, with Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise, and this message that we can think our way out of our most primitive violent instincts.
To me, dystopia has lost its bite. A, we’re living in it, and B, it’s such a complete crushing series of cliches at this point. The tropes have all been worked and reworked so many times. There was a period where a positive, optimistic, techno-future where mankind learns to live in harmony and goes out into the stars just to discover and not to conquer, that was an overworked trope. But that is no longer the case. A positive vision of the future articulated through principles of tolerance and egalitarianism and optimism and the quest for scientific knowledge, to me that’s feels fresh nowadays.
Captain Picard is the hero we need right now. He exemplifies in some ways even more then James Kirk — and I’m not gonna get into the Kirk vs Picard argument because I love Captain Kirk, he was my first captain — but Picard is even more of an exemplar of everything that is best about Star Trek’s vision for the future.… And he wasn’t such a hound dog as Captain Kirk.
Indeed Patrick Stewart’s involvement in the production is a key to making it work. He separately tells Indiewire:
“[It’s] one of the reasons it’s going to be as good as it is going to be… He’s been involved pretty much from the beginning. His voice has been a very, very important and useful voice. He’s been a great resource for us. We’re so lucky to have him and that he wanted to participate to the extent that he has.”
“Short Treks: Calypso” is now streaming on CBS All Access. The Picard series has yet to set an air date.