The idea of crossing Dr. Sam Beckett to Captain Jonathan Archer has been done by others before. That much is for certain. I had wanted to do this for a while, and then the opportunity suddenly presented itself.
The story opens with Beckett materializing onto the NX-01, and meeting Jennifer Crossman. The time period for Quantum Leap is after the end of the series, so Sam has been leaping about in time under all sorts of odd circumstances and those include going past the beginning and end of his natural life span. The show’s creators had said that, if the series had continued, the leaps would have gotten odder, and so going to ancient Rome or even to the taming of fire by primitives would certainly fit the bill there.
As Beckett meets Crossman, he seems (she still thinks he’s Captain Archer) a bit faint. She gets him to Sick Bay, where he yells in alarm when he sees Dr. Phlox. It’s explained to him, eventually, that Archer was in the midst of early negotiations with the Xindi, Degra. Beckett, feeling this is his reason for being on board the Enterprise, asks to be debriefed and vows to attempt the mission.
Meanwhile, on Earth, and a good century previously, Admiral Al Calavicci is trying to work with a somewhat agitated Jonathan Archer. As Tina, Gooshie, Verbena Beeks, and Sammy Jo Fuller all help Jonathan figure out what he needs to do, Donna Eleese stays back. Eventually, Jonathan realizes that the reciprocal leap is a lot less about Degra (although Sam does confront the Xindi) than it is about Donna.
The story starts off with Porthos narrating the action. Because he is a dog, he’s not too communicative in terms of language. Instead, the world is divided into good smells and bad ones.
Most of the Enterprise is on the side of what Porthos refers to as good smells, everything from Sick Bay to the remnants of a cheeseburger that Hoshi ate for dinner. He listens to Captain Archer (Alpha) make plans about meeting a species called Azezans. Being Porthos, he doesn’t pay attention to every single syllable.
The same scene is then repeatedly normally, and the story goes on that way throughout.
Porthos sees action when it’s determined that the Azezans are being oppressed. Captain Archer finds their predicament uncomfortably familiar, but he is initially unsure as to exactly why that is so.
I love dogs and I believe that they truly think quite a bit like this, paying somewhat selective attention and continually being distracted by the various aromas around them. They apparently understand some 200 – 350 or so words, so it would follow that a lot of what Porthos hears is just so much semi-random noise to him.
Furthermore, the emphasis on scents prefigures the Daranaeans, and the switching between the scenes was altered to great effect in Reversal. I like the story but don’t love it; the Alien of the Week plot could have been stronger, I feel. But the story had an unexpected, award-winning sequel, The Further Adventures of Porthos – The Stilton Fulfillment. And, as I have explained, it showcases some concepts and techniques that I have improved over time. I think it’s a decent older story.
The character is, of course, Star Trek canon. In canon, Archer is the first captain of a Warp Five star ship, the NX-01 Enterprise. He gets the nod over his friend, A. G. Robinson (they are both test pilots).
He becomes, eventually, a Federation Representative and then President of the Federation. He also becomes an Admiral. Some of the order of these events is a bit unclear. And that’s canon.
Affable, intelligent and eager to get out there, Archer is in for a surprise when he meets any number of new species who are less than happy about meeting him, eating meat, smelling his dog, shaking his hand, eating in front of him, letting him walk on their grass or do any number of what we would consider to be easy and nonconfrontational acts. It’s not easy being first.
By the time of the Xindi War, Jonathan is obsessed with finding the Xindi ultimate weapon. He is as tense as anyone was in the United States a few months after 9/11. He’s been charged with a serious mission, and needs to see it through. And that means torture, piracy and other ruthless tactics. It’s not easy to lose one’s innocence, either.
When the serious concludes, he has been through a great deal, including the death of a close friend. Space has changed him but, ultimately, he has grown as a person.
As I write him, I add a second ship assignment, the USS Zefram Cochrane (DC-1500), in Fortune. The Cochrane is better-equipped than the Enterprise and can hold more people. It has more advanced weaponry but it isn’t any faster. Because Tripp is gone, and T’Pol has returned to Vulcan, Jonathan selects Malcolm to be his First Officer. Malcolm is on paternity leave when Archer asks him to come along. Therefore, Hoshi fills in temporarily. Travis continues as pilot. Phlox has also departed, returning to his home world. Hence the role of Chief Medical Officer is filled by Blair Claymore. The Science Officer position goes to Ensign Lucy Stone.
In Equinox, Malcolm reveals that Jonathan is elected as a Representative and the Cochrane instead falls to Malcolm. Jonathan’s tenure as a Representative is also shown in Flight of the Bluebird, and his later career and years are in Bread and A Hazy Shade. Being an eligible bachelor means the tabloid press is also very interested.
During the events of Together, Jonathan is paired up with Security Crewman Deb Haddon. The relationship is unequal, as he ranks so much higher than she does. Complicating matters is the fact that she has a crush on him.
Her crush is also revealed during the alternative timeline story, The Black Widow.
By the time of Fortune, he realizes that he misses, if not her (she is already married to Chip Masterson by that time), then he at least misses the idea of having someone in his life.
In Fortune, they meet. They initially cannot get married because she is wed to another. But that doesn’t stop a relationship from developing, for Miva has as open a marriage as all Calafans do. For Jonathan, though, things are more complicated and difficult. He feels he can be with her during dreams, but not in reality until she becomes available. They are still unwed as of the events depicted in Flight of the Bluebird. She is eventually widowed, and they wed about a year after that.
Their marriage is a long-term one, shown in A Hazy Shade. I currently have an even later portrait of their marriage on the drawing board. That story is tentatively entitled These Are the Destinations.
A I write the E2 stories, there are actually two kick backs in time. In the first one, Jonathan takes up with an Ikaaran woman named Ebrona. He loves her very deeply, but her life is cut short, due to a genetic disease that the Ikaarans call the decline. Together, they have a son, Henry. Jonathan’s feelings for Ebrona are depicted in If I Could Do it All Over Again.
While this is a canon E2 relationship, she is never seen, and neither are any full-blooded Ikaarans. Therefore, I have had to conjecture about her looks and their relationship. As with Ebrona, the feelings are very deep. However, by the time he weds Esilia, a treatment is found for the decline. Hence Jonathan is not widowed as early as before. In addition, during the second kick back in time, Jonathan learns that Ebrona kept some things from him. He doesn’t have those issues with Esilia.
Jonathan’s mirror universe counterpart is canon, and his death, at the hands of Hoshi, is also canon. I don’t mess with that. Hence, at the time of Reversal, the mirror universe Archer is long dead, and Doug and Tripp do not have to deal with him. Since he was poisoned by Hoshi, it’s entirely possible that that was via tricoulamine.
As of the writing of this blog post, I do not have many mirror universe Reversal prequels in mind. But that may change, as I may be writing more of a back story for Ian Reed. Hence Jonathan might get some air time.
“Smile just a tiny bit. It’s been a helluva day. I just want to see a little something good.”
Handsome and heroic, Jonathan is a quintessential leader. But he’s also torn and doubtful at times, and is far from perfect. I hope the way I write him dovetails sufficiently with canon.
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Because my first exposure to Star Trek was watching the original series in its first run, naturally some inspiration comes from the big flashing box in the living room.
Star Trek itself is, of course, an inspiration, and there are a lot of cross-references among the various series, plus the films. I’ll explore that in another blog entry.
QL shows up in all sorts of places. Richard Daniels’s boss is the feminine version of Al – Admiral Carmen Calavicci. The premise of the Times of the HG Wells series is to put back what a faction has meddled with – in short, it’s the reverse of Quantum Leap. Reversal‘s reference to the Defiant‘s database as being so full of holes that it’s like Swiss cheese is a direct reference. Richard’s original girlfriend, Tina, is another reference, as is him being called “Future Man”, a play on the “Future Boy” episode. Even a calla lily worn in a groom’s lapel is a shout-out to the series.
Culp played Major J. Hayes on Enterprise and so a lot of references swirl around him and various television roles he’s played. References to Desperate Housewives come from E2 characters Bree Tanner and Rex Ryan and Reversal characters Jennifer Crossman and Brian Delacroix are references to Marcia Cross,
Malcolm is a major character in the In Between Days series. Therefore, there are a lot of references around him as well. In Intolerance, the character names Blair, Claymore, Nguyen, Owen and Will all refer to something to do with Keating.
The surname Sloane is a quick shout-out to Cheers – that was Diane Chambers’s boyfriend in the pilot. Chip Masterson‘s real first name, Chandler, is a reference to Friends. So is the throwaway reference to one of Melissa Madden’s sisters – Monica. Her sister Meghan is a reference to The Thorn Birds.
There are more references, and undoubtedly there will be more to come. Can you spot them all?
I actually have a bit of training in creative writing, and I like to call upon it as I write, in particular when I write longer pieces.
My two sources of creative writing education were my 12th grade AP English teacher, Kitty Lindsay and the poet George Starbuck, who I studied under while I was a student at
Boston University. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy – I did not take more than the one creative writing class although I do wish I had.
But let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
I’ll start with Kitty’s biggest and best mantra for writing, which was, simply, characters-conflict-crisis-change.
What does it all mean?
I don’t think you’ll find anyone who disputes the need for good, solid, memorable characters. However, there are those who would rather see (mainly) Star Trek canon characters in fanfiction stories. I disagree but do not, of course, begrudge these people their opinions.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the canon characters in pretty much all of the series (I am even okay with Wesley). But this does not mean that other characters and other situations don’t appeal.
For example, the Reversal storyline hinges, to a large extent, upon the fact that Lili and Doug are pretty much down to their last chances. I needed for Lili to be an original character, as there was no one else aboard the NX-01 who would have fit the bill. The character had to be human (so T’Pol was out), had to be older (so Hoshi was out) and had to be someone who would normally be underestimated (so Erika Hernandez and Amanda Cole were out).
Character creation is an ongoing process. Generally, for me, a character springs up but then changes as more back story is added. Shelby Pike, for example, arose as a former ballerina but she didn’t originally have some issues with confidence. Declan Reed wasn’t originally an artist. And Aidan MacKenzie was originally just a pretty face. He didn’t get any depth until later.
For canon characters, I don’t change anything that’s already been defined. Hence Captain Archer is still Scott Bakula, Charles Tucker still has a Florida accent and Travis Mayweather remains a space boomer. But there are all sorts of other things that I was able to add and define and then refine.
For example, as I write Malcolm Reed, he has a knack for giving exceptionally good presents, for children and adults. The Travis I write is not interested in parenthood, although his Mirror Universe counterpart is. The Phlox that I write tells bad jokes that often backfire.
Without characters, stories aren’t worth reading.
For longer works, conflict is key (for very short slices of life, it can be skipped). Otherwise, stories meander and seem to have little point. In Reversal, the conflict between the Enterprise (in our universe) and the Defiant (in the Mirror) with the Calafans is a big driver of the piece. Without these conflicts, the story is mainly a bunch of dreams, and so is (I hope) interesting but, ultimately, somewhat soulless.
Also known as climax, this is what the story is moving toward. In Reversal, I actually played on the synonym and then that led me (because my mind is in the gutter) to the idea of physical climax. And so I decided that, instead of one large climax (which would be male), I would go with a number of small climaxes, which is more female in nature. The smaller climaxes included the rescue, the movement of personnel off the Defiant and the aftermath of getting to the Enterprise.
Characters and situations that do not change leave a reader, when a work is finished, with a feeling of “what was the point of all that?” I agree – and I despise when that happens. In Reversal, Lili ends up with a boatload of changes, but one of the biggest ones is that she begins the story essentially alone in the dark and ends it, again in the dark or at least semi-darkness, but she is no longer alone.
Edit It. Cut that story until it bleeds!
That is the other mantra that Kitty had for me (and my fellow classmates). What it means, simply, is – don’t waste the readers’ time and good faith.
I have seen plenty of stories out there that seem to have extra stuffing in them. And one of the issues with Reversal is that, toward the end, I had some trouble letting it go. It wasn’t until I began to seriously think of a sequel that I was able to finally wrap things up. But if I were writing the story today, I would likely trim some of the chapters. As it is, between its initial posting on Trek United, then its addition to Issuu and then to its archiving on Ad Astra, the story has undergone some changes. Most are fairly cosmetic in nature, but I have attempted to tighten up the prose, which I feel makes for a better story.
Professor Starbuck was a different teacher and so he had different ideas of what made for good creative writing. I well recall a number of exercises – one was to write about a far older relative and then to write about that person as a fourteen-year-old. Plus we wrote quite a bit of poetry.
One of the main things I learned from him was an appreciation for whimsy. There are plenty of ways to not take things quite so seriously, even when they are incredibly serious.
In the Times of the HG Wells series, I made it a point to give the time ships silly names. They are all named after something to do with time travel pop culture, such as the Flux Capacitor and theAudrey Niffenegger(she wroteThe Time Traveler’s Wife). There is even whimsy on top of whimsy, as there is one outlier. One of the time ships is a successor vessel to the original Audrey Niffenegger and is simply called Audrey II, after the man-eating plant inLittle Shop of Horrors.
Sports are another occasion for whimsy. A MACO is named Rex Ryan, after the current coach of the New York Jets. Gina Nolan‘s maiden name is Righetti, and she confirms to Kittris (who was named after Kitty Lindsay) that she is a descendant of 1981 American League Rookie of the YearDave Righetti. Baseball player Ty Janeway has a fairly obvious origin, as do Mirror Universe baseball announcers Ted Trinneer and Jeff Blalock. Mirror Universe baseball is one big joke, with twelve team members instead of nine, twin pitchers and catchers and four bases. Even in a highly charged romantic moment, Doug dons one of Lili’s baseball caps and says, “Hey, I could play fourth base.”
The first title was Paving Stones Made of Bad Intentions, as it is a Mirror Universe story. However, I didn’t like the idea of going with a straightforward opposite. Instead, I wanted for it to be a lot clearer that the centerpiece scene was an act of love, albeit somewhat misguided love.
The second iteration was Paving Stones Made of Good Intentions, which corrected the idiom and better evoked the undercurrent of it being the road to hell. But I didn’t love how it flowed.
The final title was Paving Stones Made From Good Intentions. This title brings together not only the fact that the centerpiece scene is happening because people mean well but also because this is the road to hell. Furthermore, I wanted the title to effectively denote that the road to hell is actually deliberately and actively fashioned from these good intentions, rather than somewhat more passively made of them. A subtle difference, to be sure, but the idea was that the intentions are in a somewhat more refined form. It is – there are good intentions but they are perverted and shaped into the paving stones, as opposed to just laid down in the roadbed.
In particular, when stories appear to be winding around a bit too much, or seem to be getting too wordy, I try to remember these lessons. I hope I’m doing my two teachers proud.