By Patrick Donovan & Valerie Milano
(The Hollywood Times) 02/27/2022
About No Man’s Land
Discover what happens to Raffi and Seven of Nine following the stunning conclusion to season one of Star Trek: Picard with this audio exclusive, fully dramatized Star Trek adventure featuring the beloved stars of the hit TV series Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan.
Star Trek: No Man’s Land picks up right after the action-packed season one conclusion of Star Trek: Picard. While Raffi and Seven of Nine are enjoying some much-needed R&R in Raffi’s remote hideaway, their downtime is interrupted by an urgent cry for help: a distant, beleaguered planet has enlisted the Fenris Rangers to save an embattled evacuation effort. As Raffi and Seven team up to rescue a mysteriously ageless professor whose infinity-shaped talisman has placed him in the deadly sights of a vicious Romulan warlord, they take tentative steps to explore the attraction depicted in the final moments of Picard season one.
Star Trek: No Man’s Land is a rich, fully dramatized Star Trek: Picard adventure as Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan pick up their respective characters once more. Written for audio by Kirsten Beyer, a cocreator, writer, and producer on the hit Paramount+ series Star Trek: Picard, and Mike Johnson, a veteran contributor to the Star Trek comic books publishing program, this audio original offers consummate Star Trek storytelling brilliantly reimagined for the audio medium.
In addition to riveting performances from Hurd and Ryan exploring new layers of Raffi and Seven’s relationship, Star Trek: No Man’s Land features a full cast of actors playing all-new characters in the Star Trek: Picard universe, including Fred Tatasciore, Jack Cutmore-Scott, John Kassir, Chris Andrew Ciulla, Lisa Flanagan, Gibson Frazier, Lameece Issaq, Natalie Naudus, Xe Sands, and Emily Woo Zeller, and is presented in a soundscape crackling with exclusive Star Trek sound effects. Drawing listeners into a dramatic, immersive narrative experience that is at once both instantly familiar and spectacularly new, Star Trek: No Man’s Land goes boldly where no audio has gone before as fans new and old clamor to discover what happens next.
About Kirsten Beyer
Kirsten Beyer was a cocreator of the acclaimed hit Paramount+ series Star Trek: Picard, where she served as writer and supervising producer for season one and a coexecutive producer for season two. She has also written and produced Star Trek: Discovery and is currently a coexecutive producer on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the last ten Star Trek: Voyager novels, including 2020’s To Lose the Earth, for which she was the narrator of the audiobook edition. She contributed the short story “Isabo’s Shirt” to Star Trek: Voyager: Distant Shores Anthology. In 2006, Kirsten appeared at Hollywood’s Unknown Theater in their productions of Johnson Over Jordan, This Old Planet, and Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse, which the Los Angeles Times called “unmissable.” She lives in Los Angeles.
About Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson is a New York Times bestselling writer of comics, games, and animation. Since 2015, he has worked as a writer and creative consultant for ViacomCBS on Star Trek games and interactive projects. His work on the Star Trek franchise began in 2009 with Star Trek: Countdown, the comics prequel to the blockbuster film Star Trek directed by J.J. Abrams. Since then, Johnson has written and cowritten the most Star Trek comics in the franchise’s history. His other credits include Superman/Batman, Supergirl, and Earth 2 for DC Comics, Transformers for IDW Publishing, and Ei8ht from Dark Horse Comics. He also wrote for the Emmy Award–winning animated show Transformers: Prime. Johnson previously worked in film and TV development for writers/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
What an incredible listen! I love Star Trek Picard and now with the first in the can, this audio book ties in a small piece of the canon to the second season. The readers are incredible, the music is captivating and the sound effects are spot on. Don’t let me spend more time on this review because you should get the audiobook and listen for yourself. Michael and Kirsten are top notch in their field and truly bring together a whole new aspect of Star Trek. Sit back, and give and listen to the interview I had with them.
The audio interview with Michael and Kirsten
The written version of the interview with Michael and Kirsten
Patrick: Hi, Kirsten, hi Mike. How you guys doing today? I’m a Pat Donovan with the Hollywood times, and I wanted to thank you for joining me today.
Kirsten: Thank you for having us. I’m Kirsten Beyer.
Michael: Great to be here.
Patrick: Mike, thank you. I have a couple of questions, first of all. Well, several there’s, at least 30 or 40, we’ll tone them down, budget-wise,
Kirsten: [ Laughter]
Patrick: …but seriously, how are you doing with COVID? How’s everything going for you guys? You finally relaxing and or is it kind of tough? How are your families?
Kirsten: Well, we’ve managed to go the entire span of this thing without actually contracting COVID for which I am very grateful.
And it does, it does feel like this latest surge is starting to, you know, come down a little bit, but for myself and for my family, we still are very, very cautious about everything that we do. You know, I don’t want to end with that now.
Patrick: No. I agree. I’ve gotten my booster and both vaccinations with the Veterans administration. I’m a disabled vet. So they took care of me and my family and the kids. So I’m grateful how you. Mike how are you doing?
Michael: Yeah, everything good. You know, knock on wood. Everybody’s healthy. So…
Patrick: All right. So I’ve got a bunch of questions. The first couple are first for the both of you and then I’ve got some for Kiersten and then I’ll intermix them in some for you, Mike. Okay? What both got you interested in writing for me? It started when I was in elementary school, so, and it hasn’t stopped. So Kirsten, you go first ladies first.
Kirsten: So I was someone for whom, all the way through my school years, writing came very easily, but wasn’t necessarily my chosen form of storytelling. I started out in life as a dancer and then an actor.
But once I got out of graduate school, I found that I just had a lot of time on my hands and that the most creatively fulfilling thing I could do was write. So, I literally started to teach myself how to write for television by watching Star Trek Voyager, and everything sort of developed from there.
Patrick: Wow. I remember watching Star Trek the classic series when I was six, seven and eight in the 1960s.
Kirsten: We watched it too with my brother
Patrick: We all gathered around the TV and NBC for… sorry, I didn’t mean to swear you’re with CBS now, but you get the idea. It was great. Friday night, 6:30 on NBC. That’s what we would watch. Mike how about you, sir?
Michael: I yeah, I grew up too big reader and wasn’t really interested in anything that wasn’t a story or, you know, fantasy or sci-fi or… and then, you know, fall in love with comic books and when I got out of college, I wanted to actually draw comics as well as write them. I just wasn’t good enough for an artist. So I settled on, on writing.
Michael: So it’s a backup, it’s a backup career and it’s okay.
Kirsten: It’s worked out alright, though.
Michael: It’s worked out alright.
Patrick: Yes, it has and as from what I’ve seen and I would be asking you some questions about the crossover stuff you wrote, but anyway… How did you both get involved with Star Trek and who was your inspiration to begin writing? For me it was Clive Cussler.
Kirsten: Well, I think, I think honestly my earliest inspiration to begin writing was probably Madeleine L’Engle, the Wrinkle in Time series, you know, that as a very young child, those stories blew my mind. And I was always looking for more that were like that, but they had a unique combination of sort of these fantastical ideas and science, but also deeply emotional human stories and I think honestly, that’s Star Trek might be the next place where I really found that incredibly potent combination, starting with the original series and then carrying through to all the shows that came after, you know,
Patrick: Correct. And I agree with you a hundred percent. It’s a human condition. And when I spoke to Gene Roddenberry in 1987 on the phone, which was completely by bizarre chance, he was so happy to tell me about Next Generation, but I love Star Trek and I love the way it addressed human conditions, you know, and that’s what my friend Dan Curry is always pounding by headed to the desk when he reads my stuff and said, “You got to do it and make sure you don’t tell what the characters are going to do. It’s show, not tell!” And you know, so it’s been a journey, but Mike, how about you?
Michael: I remember getting into Trek. I was born in the seventies I saw the original series on reruns, but I remember the Mego action figures with the classic uniforms. That was really big when I was little.
And then when it comes to writing, I mean I grew up on the classics like CS Lewis and Narnia. Right? And then Lloyd Alexander, who wrote a great fantasy series, the Chronicle of Prydain. That was really big for me as a kid. And then honestly influenced by a lot of comics, writers. And I think having comics and tracker kind of a natural fit, and they’ve been doing Trek on since the original series.
Patrick: Yeah. I saw that you’ve got a lot of comic experience. Correct? So that’s something that I’m really interested in hearing more about. And speaking of the classics, Heinlein let’s talk about Isaac Asimov and I love Foundation.
Michael: Yeah, Asimov is big one, actually more than anybody, it was Ray Bradbury.
Patrick: Yes. I’ve been watching that on another network. We won’t swear, but you get it. Fantastic! What books did you love to read when you were younger? Kirsten, and now as an adult?
Kirsten: So I was very lucky to grow up in a house that was always filled with books and I was kind of a junkie early on and my parents were very supportive of my habits. So I read everything I could get my hands on both things that were, you know, age appropriate and then things that were maybe not, but also kind of opened my mind to new ideas.
As I’ve gotten older, I find myself most interested in actually biographies and sort of a literary or historical fiction. I love it when people take events that we know happen and really try to fill in the gaps of who these people actually could have been. You know,
Patrick: Are you thinking like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer,
Patrick: [laughter] I’m not trying to make fun of you. Go ahead….
Kirsten: …like Sharon Kay Penman, for example, has written. Her first work, Lender, is a retelling of the Richard III story in a way that sort of turns the entire Shakespeare narrative on its head and I find stuff like that incredibly interesting.
Michael: Yeah, it’s funny. I actually really like reading nonfiction now. History histories and books about science. Still read fantasy sci-fi I love Neil Stephenson’s novels. There’s a Scottish sci-fi writer who, who passed away recently, but his name is Ian M Banks, who is for people that know.
His Culture series is the greatest, my favorite sci-fi series ever. But yeah, I think it extends to my TV too. I’d rather watch nature documentaries now than anything else. So, yeah, it’s funny I think because we spend all day with our heads in the fiction world, it’s kind of nice to read something else in our free time.
Patrick: You know, Discovery of course has got the mycelial network and Paul Stamets as the engineer played by Anthony Rapp, correct? Did you know where that originated from? Dr. Paul Stamets here with Fantastic Fungi over in Olympia, Washington, who I have did an article on called: Fantastic Fungi. There are 2 million fungi on the planet of which 20,000 are edible and they’re using stuff at John’s Hopkins to help people with end of life. Dr. Paul Stamets is talking about the mycelium network that exists on the planet, that when you step on one inch of ground, you’re stepping on 300 miles of mycelial network
Michael: Well yeah. The largest organism in the world is, is a mycelial network. I think it’s an England or something.
Patrick: Yes! And you guys got the idea from Dr. Paul Stamets.
Michael: I’m pretty sure he got the idea from Star Trek actually, pretty sure. We came up with it first,
Patrick: Oh, that’s right. I am so sorry.
Kirsten: I was with Discovery the earliest days of the, of the creation of that show. And we actually, the entire writing staff, sat on a conference call with Dr. Stamets. In the early days, to talk about all that. It was very cool.
Patrick: Isn’t it an amazing, I mean, I watched that movie and I was just amazed. I’d actually reached out to him. He told the story about him eating the magic mushrooms, going in a tree and he heard the colors and saw the sound.
Kirsten: Mm, Mm.
Patrick: And he stopped stuttering after that.
Michael: All that’s fun, man!
Kirsten: Yeah, it’s fun.
Patrick: Why don’t people recognize that now with the pandemic? We won’t get into that. That’s a topic for another discussion, but you get it, you get it. It’s the basic principle, you know. So this is to both of you. How did you and Mike or Mike and you, or Kirsten, and you end up teaming up to produce this audio drama Star Trek Picard: No Man’s Land?
Kirsten: Well, we’ve been working together for about six years in the Star Trek universe, almost from day one of beginning to work on Discovery, I was asked because I already had a history with the tie-in properties writing the Voyager novels before I started to work in television to work with creators.
Patrick: The relaunch!
Kirsten: Yes, yes, the Voyager relaunch. So, I was going to be working with the various authors to create the ancillary materials for the new and Mike was the very first one that I was introduced to. He, and I hit it off immediately in terms of starting to talk about the kinds of stories that we could do as comics and Mike, very generously because I had no experience in comics, taught me a lot about the storytelling form in that medium and really sort of guided me on the path of how to do that. So our partnership began with that, and we’ve collaborated since then on God, how many?
Michael: We’ve got up to 20. Yeah.
Patrick: Mm, mm.
Michael: It’s been great!
Michael: Kirsten’s a natural at it. And yeah, we were talking before this, about how important it is to in a partnership that you can kind of tell right away if you’re going to vibe with someone and yeah. We just hit it off and it’s been great.
Patrick: But basically, it’s the same idea with software engineering, you’ve got to be able to collaborate with your colleagues and so you’ve got to get that synergy, correct? And so that’s what I noticed. Let me ask you a question. How was creating a TV series different from an audiobook?
Kirsten: Well in a television story, you’re always thinking about what’s the audience going to see, right? You’re going to be telling the story visually, and you have a lot of wonderful tools at your disposal as a result. In an audio drama, you are strictly limited to what people are going to hear. And so it, it takes away a lot of your tools, but it also gives you opportunities to create a story in a different way. It’s just, it’s just more of a, it’s a specific kind of challenge.
So for instance, if you’re watching something on screen and you give an actor, a line of dialogue, there’s a lot that they’re going to express before and after the line, you know, and a lot can be conveyed in that way. In an audio drama, you have none of that available. So you really have to think moment what are, what can people hear that will help move the story along and keep them grounded in what’s happening so that they don’t lose track of the story. You’re trying to tell them.
Patrick: You know, and that’s very important because I’ve actually interviewed Roy Samuelson, he is the voice of Hollywood. He’s now doing Audio Description for the people that are blind or have low vision. So doing that in a movie or a TV show where you’re describing what the people are seeing and they can’t, it’s so vital to the experience, correct?
Kirsten: Mm, mm. Oh yeah.
Patrick: So you are now turning the audio book into an audio description of what you would see on the streaming series or the big screen or whatever, aren’t you, right?
Kirsten: Well, I think…
Michael: Absolutely that’s exactly right.
Kirsten: I was just going to say that it’s one of the things you can’t do in an audio drama that you could like if you’re reading. If you’re writing a novel and you’re doing a straight reading of that novel, there are going to be long passages of description of what people are seeing and what’s happening to them.
In an audio drama, because it’s a dramatic presentation, you have to sort of… you can’t have those things because people aren’t usually sitting there describing what’s happening to them. They’re just sort of living through it. So you still have to find a way to be clear about what’s happening, but you’re only able to access that information through, what should sound like normal conversations between people, right?
And then you have sound effects, and you have music and you have all kinds of things that can help carry you along in terms of tone. But it’s not like a novel in that, you know, you’re not ever just sort of dumping… okay, so we’re here now, and this is what’s happening. You sort of have to keep going in a different way.
Patrick: And that’s correct, because when I wrote my novel, there are a couple of pages of nothing but me describing stuff. You can’t do that in an audio book, right. Mike?
Michael: That’s right, exactly what Kirsten said, and in a TV or film, you have just visual information you’re taking in as an audience member without having anything being described to you, so the challenge with this was okay, what is out the window? What are the tools that we can’t use in this, but then what is the new set of tools that we can use? Music, sound effects, different accents, different languages. So it’s a really fun, new toolbox to play with.
Patrick: Doesn’t this take us back to the old CBS radio mystery theater. Remember that?
Kirsten: Yeah, it does!
Michael: I was lucky that my mom and dad as a seventies kid, we didn’t have the VCRs even. So it was like, you know, we, all the Disney stuff, we had records of the Disney shows and we had we had like the Star Wars storybook, or I should say Star Trek, storybook.
But my dad also gave us old radio shows that we would listen to and actually there’s an old British comedy troupe called The Goon Show with Peter Sellers and that was a big, big, big influence on us. So, it was always, I think I was lucky. I don’t know… kids today, I don’t know how much they are just audio focused but growing up. Yeah, there was a lot of now that I think about it, I haven’t thought about it actually in a while, but there was a big focus on audio storytelling in my household.
Kirsten: You can say…
Patrick: Well, it’s so much more, go ahead Kirsten, I apologize.
Kirsten: You can say, I think you and I are listening to the same records, Mike, because I can remember listening to those Disney records.
Michael: The Disney ones? Yeah,
Kirsten: Maybe the film would be released, and you could see it in the theater one, but you had to relive it. You had to sit there and listen to those records over and over. I remember like, Bambi crushing me, you know.
Patrick: We’re not going to be in trouble by saying Disney on a CBS paramount type thing, are we?
Kirsten: No, no. [laughter]
Michael: I don’t know about Paramount, but Disney might come after you for just mentioning them without… I don’t know. (comedically)
[jokingly and quieter]
Patrick: I’ll have to do a disclaimer, “Anything about Disney, ABC and its other SW show that we won’t talk about either, right?” So anyway, what new elements can viewers expect and are there any new characters joining the cast?
Kirsten: Yes, there are! The two characters who are directly connected to the series are; Seven of Nine and Raffi but they are surrounded by a cast of characters who were all new, just for this audio drama who were all voiced by incredibly wonderful actors and yeah. Yeah, it’s a way as all ancillary properties are, to take us deeper into an aspect of the story that the television series is not necessarily going to go into. So we’re flushing out new corners of the universe for our audiences.
Patrick: Excellent. Mike, I’m gonna throw one at you. How important were the sound effects in creating the right energy for this project?
Michael: Hugely important. And, you know, we weren’t totally aware of exactly how the sound effects would sound. And we wrote in cues like here, you would see here, the sound effects of know the ship’s firing or something. But I heard the drama for the first time over the weekend and I was blown away by how great the sound effects were and how much they add to the production.
They’re really sort of the, the, the special effects of our, of our project and the team just did an amazing job filling out the soundscape and making it sound very Star Trek as well, because even within the franchises, you know, there are different iconic sound effects that are different from franchise to franchise and I just thought this sounded, sounded like Star Trek and it sounded great that extends to the music.
Patrick: You know, Scott Martin Gershin is a friend of mine and I know him from NASA, and I was introduced to him through, Bill Knopf, and he did a lot of the sound designing and sound stuff for the Martian, you know? And so that is so vital to people imagining what you’re doing for them. So they create that world that isn’t seen on the screen, but their mind begins to create that for them. Well let me ask you a question, Kirsten, any more plans on creating more audio books?
Kirsten: At this time we don’t have anything specific that we’re working on, but because this is sort of the first foray for Star Trek into this medium. But my suspicion is that if this does well, that there will be more of them.
Patrick: Great. And this is another one for you, Kirsten. You have quite a resume with the Voyager relaunch series from Christie Golden, starting with Full Circle in ’09. How have your past works influenced you to create No Man’s Land?
Kirsten: Well, the greatest thing that writing the novels did for me was it gave me an understanding of the Star Trek universe as a vast interconnected thing. Do you know what I mean? There are people who are telling stories in this universe for 55 years now, and there is a ton of it.
And when you start to write in it, you have to begin to understand not just the specific characters that you’re talking about or the specific shifts. You have to start to think of the thing as sort of its own living thing. I just going to say so things that we never seen necessarily on the screen or on the page, but have to exist in order for this universe to exist, you know?
There has to be a functioning government. There has to be a legal system. So you start to think about it just expands your understanding of the universe and that makes it an incredibly fertile place to set stories like there’s you can do almost anything.
Patrick: That said, Mike, can you expound on world building because I noticed when I create my stuff, I have to create a brand-new world, something that’s never been seen and get people excited about it. How vital is that to what you and Kirsten are doing here?
Michael: Yeah, I think it’s the whole ball game. I think we benefited from the fact that we’re entering into an established universe. So we kind of have that working for us from the start. And then at that point we telling a story that’s faithful to universe that feels like it belongs because even when we talk about Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica or anything like that, even though they stay side by, they each have their own particular tone and essence that makes it different from the others.
So I think it definitely helps that we’re both huge fans of Star Trek that we absorbed it from when we were very young, and I think that carries over into the work.
Patrick: Let me ask you another question like this is for you specifically, talk to me about your history with DC in your comic crossover, Star Trek Green Lantern series and if no man’s land has any roots in your past work.
Michael: Yeah, that was a lot of fun. Star Trek has, has crossed over with things before. It felt like a natural, given this Green Lantern is so focused on space as well. And we just got a great response or DC. They were willing to have fun with it and I think one of the, one of the great advantages of the comics is that you can do things like that where you’re just doing it for the love of the property. And Yeah, we were lucky to do it and it came out really well. And I hope we can do another one. I would love to,
Patrick: I would love to see a movie the Green Lantern and Star Trek.
Patrick: I mean, think about how Batman and Green Hornet crossed over in the sixties. That was pretty incredible, you know. But the things like that, those crossovers between series where there’s a synergy always works and it really garner interests, doesn’t it?
Michael: Yeah, it really does. I think fans really eat it up, especially if they know that it feels coming from the creators, having fun.
Patrick: That’s the whole point right Kirsten is to have fun.
Kirsten: Absolutely, absolutely. Creation should be a joyous process. Cause it’s hard. There needs to be as much fun as you can possibly squeeze out of it.
Patrick: Tell me about it. When I wrote my script 20 years ago and I did the table read in 2014. It’s completely changed now to what it is today. It’s never done. There’s something called a book called Rewrite and write again. So you’re constantly rewriting even up until the day you’re shooting. Isn’t it? Because there’s constant change.
Oh, wait a minute. You got to do this now. The writer didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean that. Yes, I did. Well, we got to change it because it doesn’t work. Okay. I’m flexible. Great. Cause you won’t get paid
Michael: Patrick. I hate to say it, but my time is up.
Patrick: Oh darn, sorry.
Michael: Yeah, I apologize. It’s after five, but…
Kirsten: Yeah, no, go ahead. If you have one more question, but then I’m going to have to go as well.
Patrick: We’ve got one real quick question. If you can answer it really quick, what can you tell me, Mike, to our readers and listeners that are toying with the idea of becoming a writer in 30 seconds and then Kiersten, you can jump in.
Michael: Oh, I would just say write your stuff without worrying about who’s going to buy it or whether it’s going to be seen because write to entertain yourself, first of all, if you’re entertaining yourself, then you’re going to entertain other people.
Patrick: Great advice. Thank you, Mike, thank you, Kirsten if you could jump in.
Kirsten: Yeah, I would just say along the lines of what Mike was saying as well, be true so much of this is about finding your voice and understanding that nobody else in the universe sees things or experiences things exactly the way you do. And that that’s what you’re striving to communicate to others.
Patrick: That’s great. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you. It’s been wonderful speaking to you and to Mike and it’s a pleasure and an honor. Thank you.
Kirsten: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time. We really appreciate it.
Patrick: Yes, ma’am. Bye-bye.
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