STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - THE GORN CRISIS: Kevin J. Anderson, Part I (Mania.com)
By:Matthew F. Saunders
Date: Friday, November 10, 2000
Forget the Klingons and Romulans. Ask almost any fan of the original Star Trek who their favorite 'evil' aliens were, and the answer is simple: the Gorn. The green, warlike reptiles' first appearance was in the fan-favorite episode 'Arena,' in which Kirk battled a Gorn captain in the desert of Cestus III. But since then, over Star Trek's 30-plus year history, they've been veritable ghosts, receiving only minor appearances and mentions in the animated series, comics and novels. All that's about to change, though, thanks to WildStorm and best-selling author Kevin J. Anderson.
In answer to Gorn fans everywhere, WildStorm is placing the Gorn squarely in the spotlight once again in its new Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Gorn Crisis hardcover graphic novel. Co-written by Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moestabest known for their numerous Star Wars and X-Files novelswith painted art by Igor Kordey, the graphic novel dives deep into the heart of Gorn society. And, as if the Gorn's return wasn't enough to whet most fans' appetites, the story also reveals a missing chapter in the now-classic Dominion War, weaving the Enterprise-E's conspicuous absence during the conflict into an indepth look at everyone's favorite reptiles.
Anderson recently took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Fandom about the graphic novel, which debuted in stores on Wednesday, Nov. 8. In part one, the prolific writer discusses the book's origins, the story and his thoughts on the Gorn's enduring legacy.
FANDOM: HOW DID THIS PROJECT COME ABOUT?
Kevin J. Anderson: One of the Star Trek stories I've always wanted to do is to bring back the Gorn. I loved the episode ['Arena'] growing up as a kid. There was this huge Gorn Empire that caused a lot of troubles, and then just sort of got whisked under the rug and Star Trek never talked about them again. After I got to know John Ordover, who's [editing] the Star Trek books, I asked him what the chances were of doing a 'Return of the Gorn' story. And I said, 'I'm flexible. All I want to do is play with these lizard guys.' But at the time, the book line didn't want to use any aliens from the old Star Trek series. They wanted to do their original stuff. So I kind of put that on a shelf. This was about four years ago. And then I did a lot of comicsStar Wars, Predator and X-Files.
Then, the Star Trek line of comics moved over to WildStorm and I know the editor, Jeff Mariotte. He had a brilliant, what us writers think is a no-brainer idea, that he wanted to have genuine novelists write the scripts for some of these new Star Trek stories. Since I already had experience writing comics, and had a good track record for novels, he asked if I'd ever considered doing a Star Trek story. I kind of smiled at him and said, 'Well, will you let me use the Gorn?' He checked and got approval for it. And because this was so flexible, Paramount came back and said they would really like to see a Next Generation story because they needed somebody to tell why the Enterprise was not involved in the Dominion War, which was such a big thing in the Deep Space Nine storyline. We never got to see the Enterprise, mainly because I'm sure they couldn't hire the actors to be on Deep Space Nine. But, we've come up with this story [set] during the middle of the Dominion War.
SO, HOW DID YOU MERGE THE GORN AND DOMINION WAR STORYLINES?
The Enterprise is dispatched to this quietly simmering, but powerful Gorn Empire to attempt to forge an alliance with these wonderful lizard guys to see if they'll help fight the Dominion. The Enterprise and Picard show up in Gorn space, which has basically been quiet and isolated since Captain Kirk fought them. The Gorn had their hands slapped [by the Metrons] and were sent back into their empire and told to behave for the rest of all time. And Picard's assignment is to re-establish relations. Unfortunately, he happens to show up right in the middle of a big revolution where the warrior Gorn are trying to take back all the space that the Federation moved into after the 'Arena' episode.
The book opens up in the middle of this bloody revolution. Basically the warlike Gorn don't want to sit around anymore, since it's been a hundred or so years since they got their hands slapped. And the politicians are afraid to expand past their boundaries, because they're afraid of getting defeated again. That's what the revolution is all about. And then Captain Picard comes kind of stepping into this minefield without even knowing what's going on. It causes lots of problems. And right from the very beginning, I realized how cool it was going to be having Klingons versus Gorn fighting hand-to-hand, so there's of course a diplomatic Klingon ship flying with them as well.
SO THERE'S BEEN NO CONTACT SINCE THE EVENTS OF 'ARENA' AND PICARD'S ARRIVAL?
According to Paramount, it's been a completely silent wall. They haven't heard anything about them, and the Federation has re-established a colony on Cestus III, which is the one the Gorn wiped out in 'Arena.' Of course, the Gorn come back out and kick some butt there, too. So, we expanded beyond just the Gorn homeworld. The warrior caste are still pissed off because Captain Kirk and Starfleet whupped them so bad. So, one of the castes wants to go out and hurt the Federation. Other ones want to take over the planet and the politics, and the other ones want to defend the status quo. There's a lot of wheels within wheels going on there.
WHERE DOES THIS FIT INTO THE DOMINION WAR STORY ARC?
It's not at the very beginning. It's after a year or so, when things are looking bad enough for the Federation that they're willing to start searching for unlikely allies. Paramount wanted to be fairly vague. They didn't want us to give a specific stardate. But they wanted it to be late enough in the Dominion War that the Federation had had their butt kicked a couple of times. But they don't want to put it between specific episodes so they can leave themselves open for putting the Enterprise in the Dominion War in a book. Or for bringing the Gorn back at a certain time.
HOW DOES THIS FIT IN WITH THE TWO DOMINION WAR NOVELS THAT INVOLVED THE ENTERPRISE, BEHIND ENEMY LINES AND TUNNEL THROUGH THE STARS?
To be honest, I haven't read them. But The Gorn Crisis in our storyline doesn't last for the entire Dominion War. It's only a few months worth of time. So there's plenty of room for all of that. The fans are flexible enough they can work anything into it, I'm sure. It's impossible for even an avid Star Trek fan to keep up with all the books and comics that are coming out and to try to work them into some continuity. But we're viewing this as a standalone story, and the publishers and Paramount don't generally want the writers to refer to any other books. You can refer to anything that's in the TV series and movies themselves, but the books are supposed to be standalone. Their philosophy, I think, is they want it so any fan can pick up any book and enjoy it without worrying about having to read a bunch before or afterward.
In fact, it's interesting. It's kind of the opposite of how Lucasfilm does the Star Wars stuff. They've mapped out this entire story, and they want to fit each novel into a certain continuity, which also feels good, because it means they've got all the details worked out. But the bad side is, especially for us authors, you have to worry about the tonnage of material that happened before. So either way is fine. I obviously have worked in both ends of the spectrum. We just try to tell a good story that has the right look and feel of Star Trek, in this case, or Star Wars in my other books.
DOES THIS FOCUS ON ANY OF THE NEXT GENERATION CAST IN PARTICULAR? OBVIOUSLY PICARD'S IN THE FOREFRONT WITH A DIPLOMATIC MISSION.
Right. The two main things are, Picard is on the diplomatic mission, actually going into the Gorn homeworld. And Riker has gone with this Klingon ship to set up an outpost near the edge of the Gorn Empire near one of these other colonies that have been attacked before to build up some of the defense there, hoping that it will be a stepping stone for bringing the Gorn military into the Dominion War. So we've got Riker and the Klingons as one main storyline, and we've got Picard and his diplomatic mission in the middle of this revolution as the other main storyline. And they all of course come together when the Gorn start flying all over the place and shooting things.
THE EPISODE 'A MATTER OF HONOR,' WHICH PLACED RIKER ON A KLINGON SHIP, IS A FAN FAVORITE. WERE YOU ABLE TO SPIN OFF OF THAT STORY AT ALL?
Well, I loved that one. And I've done a lot of things like that in this script. Riker is with the Klingons and their commander has been disgraced because he made some botched decisions. And now the rest of the Klingons disrespect their own commander a lot, and Riker is trying to keep the Klingon morale up and keep them together, even though he's this human that they don't respect very much either. So I think his situation is one of the most interesting ones that's in the book.
WHAT ABOUT PICARD? DOES PITTING HIM AGAINST THE GORNAN OLD KIRK ENEMYHELP HIGHLIGHT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN KIRK AND PICARD?
I think so. That was very much in my mind, because just throwing another captain in the middle of the Gorn isn't interesting unless you can say well, Kirk would respond in one way, as we know, and then Picard would respond in a completely different way. And he does. I think that we see the difference in command styles, and the difference in reacting to an emergency. I think we all know what would happen if Kirk showed up in the middle of this revolution. He'd sweep the beautiful Gorn princess off her feet and start shooting things. Picard doesn't do that. He has to use most of his diplomatic abilities. He's there in order to convince the Gorn to help the Federation, but he finds himself with an even bigger problem, of the entire Gorn Empire tearing itself to pieces.
AND HE'S THERE WITHOUT ANY BACKUP ESSENTIALLY.
Well, that's the thing. He has the Enterprise, and there's this Klingon ship that's not real close. They're off on a nearby outpost. And when the popcorn starts popping, and everything begins to go wrong, Data calls Starfleet and says we need some backup. But they're all saying, 'We're getting trounced in the Dominion War. We can't send anybody. Picard can handle it.' So they're left to face an empire all by themselves.
DID YOU MISS HAVING ACCESS TO WORF, SINCE HE WAS STATIONED ON DEEP SPACE NINE DURING THIS TIME?
Oh, I sure did. When we were first developing this, I needed to have Worf fighting with the Gorn. That's kind of why we have lots of Klingons instead. But, I would rather have had Worf grappling with the Gorn commander.
THE STORY'S FOCUSED ON THIS CRISIS WITH THE GORN, BUT DOES IT EVER COME BACK AROUND TO THE DOMINION WAR SPECIFICALLY?
Well, the mission is to go see if you can make an alliance with the Gorn Empire. But basically they find the Gorn Empire is in so much trouble that the focus of the story is just trying to stop that, and to get the Gorn back on their feet enough that, at some time [in the future], they can go and try to bring them back out.
MANY FANS LOVE THE GORN AND THINK THEY'RE LONG OVERDUE FOR THE SPOTLIGHT. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHY THEY HAVEN'T RECEIVED MUCH ATTENTION OVER THE YEARS?
I was kind of surprised, because there were a lot of other Star Trek novels and comics. But I think you're right. The fans have been waiting for this a long time. I believe for some reason Paramount wanted to hold them in reserve, or they wanted to focus on the new batch of aliens and races that they came up with for The Next Generation.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE GORN ARE SO POPULAR?
I always liked them because they were the only real bug-eyed monster that the original show had. There weren't very many of them. They used to have people in funny outfits or Andorians with little antennas and things, but they never went over into the Lost in Space fringe, where they put all kinds of prosthetics and rubber on them. And [the Gorn were] much more cool than that silly, spiny-backed white gorilla, the Mugato, that Captain Kirk fought [in the episode 'A Private Little War']. In The Next Generation, of course, everybody has a little funny bump on their nose and that's it. But the Gorn were really alien monsters and we all liked them.
Look for part two of Fandom's interview with Kevin J. Anderson next Wednesday.
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