When I began designing the outline for the story, three story drivers emerged:
- The discovery of the Kir’Shara and its affect on Vulcan Society and it’s relationship with the outside world.
- The revelation at the end of that story arc that the Romulans were in league with the disgraced Vulcan High Council.
- Commander Tucker (and Malcolm’s) encounter with the mysterious Drone ship, which T’Pol noted echoed, in certain ways, the signature of the Romulan State Empire Minefield they had encountered three years before.
Given that the next major event in the Star Trek timeline which the Enterprise would encounter would be the Romulan War, these three elements produced the foundation stones as to where to take the story.
The other more intimate story which required telling during this phase was the consequences to Commander Tucker and T’Pol of the theft of their reproductive DNA and the death of the cloned child produced.
Manny Coto, the show runner for Season Four, has indicated that the latter story would have been played out in Season 5 and another member of the creative team has also indicated that T’Pol’s Father would be discovered to be alive, his death having been feigned, and was a Romulan operative.
My work took these elements and progressed the story in a deconstructed fashion so that, rather than a Company of Players on board the Enterprise, we see the story through individuals. The setting and the larger story which deal with the philosophical issues of war and co-existence of species whilst told would principally be played out within the inner story of what led to a blending of Mankind, Vulcan and Romulan. This latter point seemed entirely consistent with Gene Roddenberry’s Credo.
It also had another consequence: the characters could bloom in ways which cannot happen within a 24 Part TV series. It’s an odd thought, but I am not sure I really know Jonathan Archer any better after four seasons than I did in Broken Bow. But, to coin a Trippism, I sure as hell know much more about Commander Tucker and T’Pol.
For me, Trip was everyman: the perfect explorer at this point in the overarching story. A good and honourable man, but with much to learn and a bit rough round the edges. It has been suggested that Connor Trinneer’s performance echoes De Forrest Kelly’s as Bones. Their accents maybe close but I see many more similarities with a certain James T. Kirk: ‘from Ohio but I work in outer space.’ Trip and Jim are everyman in space and like everyman, capable of real growth and change in a way that we can relate to, universally.
Connor is on record that he expected Season 5 to pick up the consequences of Elizabeth’s death for Trip and T’Pol and for them to go on. To me, with the spontaneous Bond which became all-pervasive in the final episodes of Season 4, that had to be dealt with. It could, like the extension of Jean-Luc’s story into recovery from the Borg in ST:NG, have been done in one episode and then back to narrative normality. But because of my deconstruction, I could play that throughout the First Act, use it in the Second Act and then resolve it in the Third.
The other quality I wanted to bring to Trip’s story is that of ‘Everyman becoming Self Made Man’. The kind of man that does not have to be born on the right side of the tracks but, through experience, grows. To give him T. E. Lawrence’s anonymity but then turn it to something positive, where he grows in other ways, makes him Everyman Plus. It also reminds us that taking a break from the mainstream can be very valuable.
Moving him into Vulcan Robes and placing him in front of V’Lor was largely down to Connor’s performances in the ‘Kir Shira’ story arc and ‘Home.’ He had allowed Trip to stop being parochial or ‘just an Engineer’ and, for me, fulfilled the thoughtfulness in front of Vanik in “Breaking The Ice” years before. What I love about that episode is Jonathan was so wooden and deliberate, whereas his support was more intuitive and less offended. I can feel T’Pol and Trip reaching into that, rather than standing back and being indignant. They didn’t know it but they were breaking the ice and in a number of ways.
Writing ‘Incarceration’ was both very hard and very easy. Hard, because I felt dark and disturbed and had researched torture to write it, which gets behind your finger nails. But easy because this beautiful man, who is wonderfully portrayed, is so reduced by the experience. There was so much story in that reduction. It also planted a seed for further echoing latter.
One final observation: the opening sections of “Blissful Ignorance” were very much influenced by the experiences of John McCarthy, incarcerated as a hostage in Beirut for many years and Jill Morrell, his campaigning girlfriend. When the man she loved and had campaigned for was finally released after years, there was no happy ending. I believe, if this wasn’t science fiction and Amanda had lived, the same would have happened. But this story was about a Vulcan Bond and destiny. Nevertheless, the sense of unfairness for the endlessly supportive partner is played into the narrative, though only briefly.
Jolene Blalock, who played T’Pol, has been dismissed in some quarters as a mere model but that does her a considerable disservice. Like the show, she developed and by the third season was firing on all cylinders. I agree with others that they took too long to ignite T’Pol and Trip. One senses early on the writers were hedging their bets and Jonathan/T’Pol was considered. For whatever reason, when Jolene played against Connor it lifted her performance to another level. However, having finally given propulsion to the idea, T’Pol over two seasons ended up a ‘mess’. T’Pol/Trip was in danger of becoming ‘Soap Opera’ and as Jolene has suggested the very final wrap up, post 21, didn’t end well. So much investment was lost.
As both a writer and a member of the audience, I was clear that T’Pol should, in a continuing story, be an absolute straight line. She was entirely consistent and only dropped her guard and veered away from her resolute patient commitment to Trip on two separate occasions.
- When Trip confronted her over the revelation of her Appointment as Emissary at the end of the Act 1.
- When she became frustrated with Trip, coolly running off the consequences of her father being Romulan after indicating that he would still honour his promise to Amanda.
T’Pol is the rock on which the story is told. She was honourable, selfless and patient until finally she reaches the point, as her daughter is revealed, that she can now tell Elizabeth the story of her and Trip’s blissful joining.
One thing I discovered in writing this book is portraying a Vulcan is the most challenging of all, without taking them away from being Vulcan. In the third act, I wanted to show how T’Pol was becoming like Trip but, again, it was more in the actions than the words. The perfect example was her very non-Vulcan discovery of the joy of water, both on it and below it. But there are several examples where this extraordinary Vulcan Female reached out to become fully alive. In terms of pure dialogue, I only allowed once for a Trip colloquialism near the very end but that was more to bring humour into a series of poignant scenes.
If a Vulcan is a challenge, then Amanda was easy. She was military everywoman and the ease with which she came in Act 1 is again down to Noa, who played her in the Season 3 episode ‘Harbinger.’ The complete antithesis of T’Pol: intuitive, easy. But I was determined, as she became central to the Sub Plot, to deal with another theme,”The Effect of War.” When we see her again in Act 2, her free-spirited young woman persona has been replaced by her reaction to mushrooming responsibility and the constant experience of death. We only see the soft-spoken Amanda of her time with T’Pol in the episode ‘Harbinger’ in her closing scene in the story.
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of all was Hoshi. In the original outline, where the journey to Vulcan was quite different, she was mere texture. Once she appeared in the Mess Hall and put her arm around Trip, her story grew and grew. As I wrote more and more of the story, the evening she spent with Trip just kept on growing. By the time she gave him the Charm, it wasn’t really from ‘them’, it was from her.
Her ability to analyse and unlock problems came to the fore in Chapter 13. She played a crucial role in showing Trip that he could love several woman but Bond with only one. Hoshi helped give personality to Chapter 14 and also helps demonstrate T’Pol’s unique and magnanimous love during his terrible suffering. Instead of offering herself and replacing Hoshi in the dream, she strengthened it and allowed her acquired memories of Hoshi, from their Meld, to be accessed which plays out in the pathos reflected in the epilogue. Linda Park talked about urging the writers to offer more growth for her character. To some extent the sexiness of Hoshi was borrowed from her alter ego in “Through A Mirror Darkly.” I also wanted to honour her fragile beginnings in Season 1, where she was less than robust about danger and flight. She became the underrated contributor who was, as she says, dismissed as a kind of librarian.
The Journey to Vulcan was always going to take place on ‘Enterprise’. In the original sketch it was merely some gentle homage making. As soon as I had written the Board Room scene at Star Fleet, it was obvious the Military would go on high alert and re-assignments, training and procurement take off. That gave me the chance to put Trip on board, with everything in a state of flux with Malcolm and much of his old crew having been re-assigned to Endeavour, which would also have later story telling value.
Most important it enabled me to give Trip a fresh perspective as Observer. Aside from the Captain I only brought forward support characters were there was a new dynamic for both sides of the relationship, namely Kelby and Hoshi. I deliberately kept the interactions tight, we do not meet Malcolm’s replacement and the one new character, the Science officer, was kept anonymous focusing on her character traits. Writing that section through the eyes of the key protagonists reminds me how much easier it is to go much further if you’re not anchored in the formula.
It wasn’t until very late I even thought about Phlox and considered a moment where he, as a physician, witnesses the destruction of Endeavour and former members of Enterprise who he had saved. In the end, I felt it was a distraction and simply homage making.
Other Existing Characters
Valdore and Vrax like T’Pau and V’Lor (my name for the unnamed character in the Kir’Shara episode) were all crucial and grounded the story, as existing characters, in the series.
Vanik came out of research for a Vulcan vessel and turned out to be part of the inner story, a neat coincidence, and M’ret helped stop Romulus being one dimensional as well as connecting with Act 3.
Captain Hernandez and Sergeant Richards were important for different reasons. The former gave the Endeavours Sacrifice more emotional depth being lead by Jonathan’s most intimate friend and Richards was able to show the reality of Hoshi’s grit and determination set against the haughty science officer dismissive view of Hoshi.
Atare and Valhoth were crucial to the storytelling and the former was one of a long line of ST: NG Romulans who were more circumspect. Valhoth originally echoed Valeris, the Vulcan traitor from ‘Undiscovered Country’. However many months after I had written the story I decided to do a rewrite and expand her contribution allowing her to be turned which added greatly to the sense of imminent danger and added yet another dimension to the torture scenes. She also bled into M’ret’s story who I imagined after finally escaping Romulus with Jean Luc’s aid would have travelled to Vulcan with her Khatra. This was also the point where I realised somewhat belatedly I had to place M’ret outside the senate room.
As I mentioned earlier, the revelation of T’Pol’s father had been floated as a potential story for Season 5.
It was clear to me a character that had infiltrated a society, married T’Les, had a child and left them grieving, was profoundly manipulative and, at the least, a sociopath. That he was a Romulan played perfectly into underwriting the unique personality that was T’Pol.
To place him at the centre of the rejection of the Peace Offering by the Alliance, using the revelation of his being T’Pol’s father, seemed a perfect example of their deluded singular view of their place. Logic dictated it proved quite the opposite, as Trip indicated later that they were a part of, not a separate entity from, another species.
T’Pol, a half Vulcan half Romulan, discovered the truth about their two worlds and proposed peace anticipating Spock’s determination to seek Re-Unification. In a perfect world if either had happened it would have brought the Romulans into the fold and avoided the disaster that engulfed them in the 24th Century. Put simply Tolsek drew T’Pol’s into a continuous narrative with Spock which continues into the new series “Picard.”
After writing the first draft and arranging for my hosts in New Zealand to provide me with access to an Amazon account so I could watch the final six episodes of Picard, I was amused to see that the character of Commodore Oh, a Vulcan/ Romulan plant, misused Mind Melds and lead the attack on Star Fleet.
Special Guest Appearance
The decision to take Trip and T’Pol to La Barre was envisaged right from the outset. There were essentially three reasons:
- The chance to place two voices together, who could offer a fresh perspective of each other. Jean-Luc was the perfect mentor for Trip: alone toward the ends of his life after loving several woman. No-one was better placed to give Trip advice and help the latter to find the right answer.
- Initially, the idea was to ensure the story did not undermine Spock’s unique place as half human half Vulcan in the overarching narrative. However once I began to think of the significance of T’Pol’s birth right and the place of Romulans in the late 24th century, then a child borne of Trip and T’Pol in the 24th Century was an internal metaphor for the bigger story and the ‘next phase.’
- By the 26th March, when I began writing, I had seen four episodes of ‘Picard’. It made me realise how ironic The Emissary’s Journey, once revealed, would look at a point in time when Romulus had been denied help, because of its centuries old separatist agenda, with devastating consequences. So, whilst ‘Q’ was always going to engineer the shift, equally important, it provided him with the opportunity to display very real frustration, outrage and anger, rather than mere provocative playfulness as he had in the past, and offer it with withering irony. Vash had always been a past master at saying much less than she knew and, whilst she was necessary to the functioning of the story, her enigmatic nature perfectly suited the story at that point. ‘Q’, recognising that there was no Jean-Luc among the Romulan’s, knew he could at least respond to Vash’s request to save Trip and T’Pol and unconsciously (or consciously) set in motion the next great Union within the Star Trek Universe.
More recently, I have wondered whether Guinan could have acted as a check on ‘Q’s interference and quizzed Trip and T’Pol. I was, however, very keen in ‘Blissful Ignorance’ that Trip & T’Pol had just one day when no serious questions came up. Instead, we focus on his Post Traumatic Stress and T’Pol’s expression of love, through her desire to both embrace experiments and display patience. However, Madam Bouvier echoes that enigmatic playful supportive curiosity of Guinan.
The most difficult section to write in the 3rd Act was those first few moments when Trip and T’Pol meet Laris and Zhaban. It feels awkward and yet it is meant to be: this is a meeting of four people who are puzzled. Given none of them would ultimately be violent, I concluded three of them would use humour to get through it, whereas T’Pol would be more formal and direct and yet would make the biggest move and channel her role as Emissary by making the first step toward creating trust.
One of the most curiously satisfying elements of writing this story during Lockdown has been to interact with a proof reader at first draft and final version stage. Once he was appointed administrator, he had unfettered access whilst the story remained private. But he also was the catalyst for me to expand the story. Originally, there was no sub plot but when he said he was anxious to experience what happened to Amanda real time, I found I had very strong views and opinions on the matter. These became Chapters 13 and 14.
Equally, just as I was finishing it was suggested that Chapter 19 was really two chapters. This led me to place the story and write the bittersweet ending, where we reveal the context of how the story was being told by the Mother to the Daughter at the point that Trip was ‘passing.”
It also provided a final affirmation of the unwavering straight-line that T’Pol’s love represented for her Bond Mate.
This seems a good point to thank Marc, my proof reader in the UK, for his dedication to the task, enthusiasm for the story and support through On Line Messaging. It has been much appreciated, particularly as the story was written during the most severe levels of lockdown between the 23rd March and 14th May . Thank you, Marc.
Why, thank you Michelle! It has been a joy and an honour to work with you on this and to see your progression as a writer, particularly in observing the creative response to some of my suggestions/gentle prodding. The idea of splitting Chapter 19 was, originally, simply from a place of structure: to allow two, in my mind, quite distinct sections more space to breath. You then took that and from that ‘broken egg’ emerged something quite other and something very special…
For me, too, this has been an extremely positive thing to emerge during Lockdown 2020 and given me something to focus on at this most peculiar of times. Working with you on it has provided a rhythm (never could spell that damn word!) to my days, which begin just as yours end. I have awoken from my sleep, eager to see where the next phase in the journey will lead. My interest in the story has been maintained and indeed grown throughout, along with a growing affection for these characters as they emerge and develop. And my enthusiasm for the ST canon, deepened. As you know, whilst a devotee of the Original Series and an admirer of the vision of the optimistic future of an integrated and more meritocratic human society it painted all those years ago, I was only an occasional watcher of the later series, and thus unfamiliar in any depth with the characters in ST: Enterprise, although, I know it featured Quantum Leap’s Scott Bakula in the Captain’s Chair. I think the benefit of this was I didn’t bring any ‘baggage’ about the characters and was just focusing on your writing and your vision of their development and interactions. As time went on, I became more ‘invested’ and wanted to see how you would resolve their fates.
You have a unique talent and I hope we have the opportunity to work together again on future creative projects (yes, plural!) This is entirely your work & you deserve all the praise for it. My role was just to hold up a mirror to what you had written and allow you to check the clarity of what was intended in your head and make sure that was reflected on the page. I had one simple aim in mind: to ensure that what you had created came over in the best possible way. If I have achieved that, then as T’Pol might say, with Vulcan understatement, ‘I am satisfied’ and Trip might add, ‘Job done. You aced it, MJ! High Five!’ MC.