Star Trek fans are always looking for more. Like fans of Star Wars and other sci fi favorites with a cult following, fans of Gene Roddenberry's creation have watched for decades to see it flourish. While most people are anxiously awaiting Star Trek Into Darkness, the second installation of J.J. Abrams' successful franchise reboot, many may want to check out another addition to the franchise that is rapidly approaching.
Soon, Trek fans will be able to listen in regularly to a new audio series, which has been named Star Trek: Starfinder. This series, set 30 years ahead of the exploits of The Next Generation (TGN) movies, will feature a regular crew, boldly going where no one has gone before. I was lucky enough to be able to interview George Silsby and Scott Lowry, the two creative minds behind this incredible new series, via email last week.
(George Silsby and Scott Lowry of USSStarfinder.com)
I should preface this saying that I went into to interview as a sixth-degree black belt Trekker, as well as someone with an immense collection of audio fiction and vintage radio plays. I'm pleased to say that their responses gave me a lot to look forward to!
Jesse Merkel (JM): As a lifelong Trekker, I’m really excited for anything new in the “Trek” universe, and this project sounds incredibly interesting. Now then, who initially thought up the idea of Star Trek: Starfinder?
George Silsby (GS): That would be me. I was working as staff writer for Subspace-radio.net, Scott here is station manager. I was writing ads for the station, we are a community streaming radio station for Star Trek Online gamers. I noticed as the ads were made we had some great talent, and pictured a full dedicated Star Trek series. Once I heard the Captain I chose, DJ AviKerenski's voice as Captain in an ad, I knew who I'd cast as the lead. So, I approached Scott about the idea.
JM: How did Star Trek: Starfinder come together? Did you guys know each other previously?
Scott Lowry (SL): George came to me with an idea for the series. I manage an online radio station dedicated to Star Trek Online, Subspace Radio, so I had a lot of folks willing to help out. I have known George for a couple of years. He has been a long time listener to the station and has become a good friend. I have experience with marketing and technical stuff so I wanted to help.
GS: I started out as a loyal listener to SSR, supported the station and got to know the DJ's over two years, everyone became like a virtual family!
JM: Have you both been fans of Star Trek for a long time?
GS: Since I was about 5, and i'm 42 now! (LOL)
SL: Honestly no. I didn’t start watching Star Trek until a few years ago really. I saw the TNG movies but never the series. Since then I have become an avid fan of TNG and Voyager. I love going to conventions. I even have a Star Trek bathrobe. I can’t get enough.
JM: While some people may think that the audio story format is something that ended in the 60’s on AM radio, others think it has made a little bit of a resurgence. With many of the classic audio dramas now available on iTunes in the form of podcasts, and websites like Audible providing thousands of titles for people easily, do you think that people could be ready for original audio drama again?
GS: Thank Doctor Who and "Big Finish" for the resurged interest IMO. Dr Who's renewed popularity has also come along with a very popular series of audio dramas. In fact, Chase Masterson, who played "Leeta" in Deep Space Nine, just got her own spin off audio series after guest starring in a Doctor Who audio adventure, they spun her character off into her own series.
SL: I think they are. Star Trek is one of those that, no matter the format, it is a story. With Star Trek even listening to it you can picture it. Starfinder will be available as a podcast as well so people can take it with them. We are sticking with a one-hour long format. But above all it is Star Trek content which we are lacking right now.
JM: A good audio drama takes a lot of work to do right. Are you guys relying on computers and synthesizers to give sound effects? Are you using any old school methods? Maybe a combination of the two?
SL: All of the audio is being done by hand. Our sound engineer is doing everything piece by piece and scene by scene, manually adjusting the audio. All cast give double and triple takes of all their lines for him to choose from. Very time consuming but very well put together.
GS: Our audio engineer, Steven Trent, loves to home brew sound fx. For example, one ad he did of mine he took an empty wine bottle to do a radio type voice and it was brilliant! But we have endless sound fx stockpiled, and I am anal about not sparing the sound details.
JM: How did you go about assembling your team?
GS: Once I was given the green light I first started figuring out the characters. I knew right off the bat who I wanted as my Captain as I mentioned earlier, but the rest just fell into place after I created a large ensemble of characters, some characters are born of people approaching us to lend a voice and be involved.
JM: Have you been in contact with any of the higher-ups that are working on the “Trek” franchise these days?
GS: Talk to Scott about that. At Subspace-Radio, they interviewed some Trek cast members like Tim Russ, and Chase Masterson, and if I am not mistaken had a lot of talks at conventions.
SL: I haven’t contacted any directly. I wanted to get our distribution methods, domain, and such going and the first episode released before reaching out. Working in media for the past few years I have made some great contacts. We will definitely be reaching out once we have everything in place.
JM: Will Star Trek: Starfinder take place on a ship, like most of the previous series have, or will it feature any space station action like DS9?
GS: Starfinder is going to be "a little different." It starts out all about the ship exploring a newly revealed expanse of space called "The Outback." I have a plan underway to create "doors" of opportunity for others to start their own spin off series, by the Season 1 finale. A station being setup in the outback is involved, so a spin off could explore that. By Season 3 I may be changing settings completely as far as where the ship is on it's mission from the Outback to somewhere else or "some when." Take that tease and make of it what you will.
JM: Tell me a little bit about the crew that we will come to know on Star Trek: Starfinder?
GS: The captain is an A.I., a large synthetic brain based on real world science about creating artificial brain to best build Artificial Intelligence; several top Starfleet officers memories were scanned into his "matrix" to form the "perfect" Captain, it's a bold experiment Starfleet is conducting.
He interacts as a hologram, his creator monitors him on the ship. His first officer is a female Romulan, one of the first Romulans to be born in Federation space and become a Starfleet officer. Any fans familiar with the Dominion from Deep Space Nine will recognize the defecting group who are given sanctuary and allowed to serve on Starfinder in the pilot.
I think one more unique aspect of Starfinder's cast, are the M.A.C.O.'s (Military Assault Command Operations). On the series Enterprise, the M.A.C.O.'s were the "troops" introduced that serve Starfleet. The character I personally voice act, Sergeant Byrnes, and a squad of his M.A.C.O.'s, are treated with equal importance as the bridge crew in Starfinder. I served in the Army as did Scott, and I wanted to offer one Trek with respect towards the soldiers of Starfleet.
JM: How about the cast? Who is playing these characters?
GS: Myself, Scott, Steven, several DJ"s we work with at Subspace-radio, and several other voices from other podcasts around the community, as well as people who auditioned from threads in forums etc. The general size of the full cast is 20, but guests and recurring roles such as a Klingon crew, will rotate. The actor who plays the captain's creator is a professional voice actor "Timothy "Tymmyd" Dover.
SL: The folks at the station were all on board when George first mentioned it ... Some of the better known authors in the STO foundry community were more than happy to help out. One of which is Adam Ihles, creator of the Enterprise F, the fan winner for the new design for the Enterprise in STO.
JM: What time period in the timeline does this take place? Is it in the original timeline, or the reboot timeline?
GS: It's set in 2412, the current rough time of Star Trek Online, 32 or so years after the last TNG film Nemesis.
JM: What kind of adventure can we expect from the show? Will this be an action oriented series, will it be exploring the more human side of Star Trek, or will it like most series in the franchise, explore the world of StarFleet from all angles?
GS: All angles. Romance, time travel, humor, action, thinking, the responsibility of creating artificial intelligence and where it leads, the main local alien antagonists come in two groups — "The Choir," a scientific dictatorship who are synthetic beings that started out like the A.I. captain and evolved into an enlightened race, as well as the "War Monks," who broke from The Choir as a military order and went rogue.
JM: Where can people download and listen to this adventure?
GS: The site is in progress but it's USSStarfinder.com. Whether the site will be finished before the launch of the pilot is yet to determined! Scott can answer more on technical details.
SL: The show will be syndicated on a number of online stations dedicated to Star Trek. It will also be available via iTunes, RSS, and our website. We are trying to hit every possible outlet to make sure everyone has options.
Prepare to beam up fellow trekkers and trekkies! Without a doubt, we are in for one hell of a show! I know I'll be tuning in as soon as it premieres, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Seeing as I'm already psyched about the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, finding out that I can soon listen to this new show just sends me over the moon. Those that are interested should also make sure to check out the shows rapidly growing Facebook page.