1 Feb 2017

Delving Into a New Style

Over the past few weeks, I've been listening to fan-made Star Trek audio plays, specifically Starship Excelsior and Star Trek: Outpost.  I will right now recommend Starship Excelsior's episode, "Tomorrow's Excelsior", the series' celebration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary.  Listening to the episodes had me wondering if I could write a script.  I've been toying with the idea for some time; my writing tends to be dialogue heavy as it is, so an audio play is the next step.

I wound up spending a few days writing an episode and a bit of a possible Trek series.  While I should do something original, using an existing setting allows me to bypass most of the world building to get to the mechanics of writing.  The result, a beginning of understanding and an idea of what I need to find out.  I do need to figure out how to estimate running time of a script.  But that's just the first bit.  A script is just the start of an audio play.  There's also casting, editing, directing, scoring, and engineering.  I know I don't know how to edit, nor do I have software to create an audio file that sounds half-decent.  But, the audio plays I've been listening to have been team efforts.

With the script, I indulged myself a few times.  There are obscure references, character ideas for RPGs that were never played, and some general fumbling about.  And lots of ship names, which gets interesting when trying to keep things moving.  So, a few things to keep an eye out for - a character named after one from Reboot, a Nebula-class starship with what I hope is an obvious name once pointed out, an obscure reference to a character created by Cory O'Kelly, and names from Star Trek past including a few that were originally unintentional.  The next part, currently unfinished, let me add a pair of characters named from minor ones in the original Battlestar Galactica.  Like I said, I indulged myself.  The script follows after the break, in a raw format.  No infringement on trademarks owned by Paramount or CBS is intended and this is not a commercial work.

Star Trek: Deep Space 14
Episode 1 - Gateway to the Frontier
by Scott Delahunt

Set: Captain's Office
Effects: Low rumble of the station's power plant

Nogura: Station Log, Stardate $date.  Commander Belinda Nogura reporting.  Deep Space 14 is running with a skeleton crew as officers and crewmen have transferred out to their new assignments.  Of note, my former First Officer, Commander Spal, has already transferred to the USS Mutara.  Naturally, crew replacements are lagging behind crew transfers.  I've managed to keep three-quarters of my traffic controllers, but unless I get my replacements soon, I won't even have that.

Effect: Incoming call whistle

Lev: [over communicator] Captain to Command Centre.

Effect: Commbadge chirp

Nogura: On my way.

Effects: Sliding door opening.  Chatter and beeps from Command Centre that get louder until Nogura is in the centre of the action.  Footsteps.

Nogura: Mr. Lev, report.

Lev: Captain Sistonen of the USS Dauntless is asking for you.

Nogura: On screen.

Effect: Main screen communications beeps.

Nogura: Captain Sistonen, welcome to Sector 838.  How can I help you?

Sistonen: I think I can help you, Commander.  I have some passengers looking forward to their new assignments on your station.  I can send over their personnel files when your ready.

Nogura: We're ready to receive, Captain.  Personnel and files.  Lev, do we have a spare docking port?

Effect: Console beeps receipt.

Lev: Not until 2100 station time, sir.  The deuterium tanker Norton II should be on its way by then.

Sistonen: I heard, Commander.  That gives me time to get a few details wrapped up over here.  We will miss Jax.  You're getting a promising officer.

Nogura: I'll make sure he feels right at home, Captain.  DS14 out.

Effect: End call

Lev: This, too, shall end, sir.

Nogura: I should hope so.

Effect: Collision alert

Station's Computer: Collision alert.  Collision alert.

Traffic Controller 1: Negative, Pallas.  Set new course, one-two-zero mark three-five.  Transport Ventura, set new course, zero-zero-zero mark minus-four-zero.

Nogura: Lev, tractor beams.  Lock on both transports.  Help them with the new courses.  Communications, hail both vessels, command priority.

Lev, Kim: Aye.

Kim: Hailing frequencies open.

Nogura: Captains, shut down your engines, now!

Pallas Captain: They are.  We're drifting on momentum.

Ventura Captain: Thrusters are jammed, Commander.

Effect: Tractor beams.

Nogura: Mr. Kim, can you shield either ship?

Kim: Negative, ma'am, not without hindering the tractor beams.

Nogura: Time to impact?

Kim: Seventeen seconds, mark.

Lev: I have better control of the Ventura right now.

Nogura: Do what you need to do, Mr. Lev.

Kim: Twelve seconds to impact.  Ten.  Nine.  (continues countdown)

Nogura: Mr. Lev, your miracle?

Lev: Working on it, sir.

Effect: Collision alert ends.

Nogura: Good work, Mr. Lev.  Can someone tell me just what in the galaxy just happened?

Traffic Controller 1:  My fault, ma'am.  I gave the Pallas the wrong heading.

Nogura: You look tired.  How long have you been on shift?

Traffic Controller 1: I lost track after my ninth hour, ma'am.

Nogura: Call in your relief, then go rest.

Traffic Controller 2: Ma'am?  I'm his relief, ma'am.

Nogura: How long have you been on shift?

Traffic Controller 2: I started an hour and a half ago, ma'am.

Nogura: Mr. Lev, start placing the newcomers into a holding pattern, starting at 2000 metres out.  Slow down the shuttles.  Last thing we need is a collision on a landing pad.  [sighs]  I need a coffee.

Star Trek: Deep Space 14 opening and credits

Scene 1
Set: MV Castor crew quarters
Effect: Starship rumble, heavy

Piper: Personal log, Danielle Piper.  Almost at my new posting.  I still haven't heard from Commander Praxis.  Great Bird, I am not looking forward to this.  I want to be on a ship, not on a Starfleet installation.  If I had my choice, I'd be on a freighter doing the Bajor-Vulcan run.

Effect: Intercom whistle

Castor crewman: [over intercom] Lieutenant Piper, report to aft shuttlebay.

Effect: Commbadge chirp

Piper: Shuttlebay?

Castor crewman: Aye, Lieutenant.

Piper: On my way.  Piper out.

Effect:  Door opening.  Door closing.  Some chatter.  Footsteps.  Door opening.

Piper: Aft shuttlebay.

Effect: Door closing.  Turbolift.  Door opening.  More chatter.

Castor shuttle pilot: Lieutenant Piper, this way.

Piper: Not to complain, Ensign--

Castor shuttle pilot: But you are.

Piper: Why a shuttle?  Shouldn't be we in transporter range?

Castor shuttle pilot: We are.  The station's busy.

Effect: Shuttle door closing/sealing.

Piper: Just wonderful.

Castor shuttle pilot: Think of it this way - you're getting a view that only captains and admirals get.

Castor crewman: Castor Cargo Shuttle Three, you are cleared to launch.

Effect: Force field warning.  Force field dropping.  Shuttle launching, then flying.  Engine noise heavier than normal.

Piper: Captains and admirals get to look over their ships.  I get to look at a station hanging in space.  [sighs]  Ensign, never play poker with someone who has control over your transfer.

Effect: Incoming hail.

Traffic Controller 2: DS 14 traffic control to Castor shuttle.

Castor shuttle pilot: Castor Shuttle Three.  Requesting approach vectors.

Piper: DS 14, can you tell me where Commander Praxis is?  Lieutenant Piper is looking for him.

Traffic Controller 2: [pause] One moment. [Effect: Computer beeps] Approach vectors transferred.  Stand by for Lieutenant Kim.

Effect: Comm transfer

Kim: Lieutenant Kim here.  You are looking for the Merchant Marine liaison?

Piper: Yes.  I am Lietenant Danielle Piper, the new Quartermaster.  I haven't heard anything from Praxis.

Kim: I'll look into it and meet you at [computer beeps] Shuttlepad Delta.  DS 14 out.

[fade out on shuttle engines]

Scene 2
Set: Shuttlepad Delta
Effects: Shuttle engines on idle.  Chatter.

Piper: He what?!

Kim: Commander Praxis transferred out on the Merchant Vessel Vivian's Chase four days ago.

Piper: Then who is the senior Merchant Marine officer here?

Effect: PADD

Kim: You, Lieutenant.  The moment you arrived.  Congratulations?

Piper: [groans] Great Bird preserve me.  Bloody bureaucracy.

Kim: Common refrain today.  Shall I show you to your new office?  Or would you prefer your new quarters?

Piper: The office.  Lieutenant, what is going on?  Ships three kilometres out, no transporters, speed limits on shuttlecraft?

Kim: Staffing shortages.  You missed this morning's excitement.  Any help your people can give would be appreciated.

Piper: Is that an order?

Kim: It's an unofficial request.  We can't keep up right now.  You'd make a great first impression with Commander Nogura if you can get the Norton II to leave on schedule.

Piper: Norton II?  The deuterium tanker?  Is she still being commanded by Captain T'Ploth?

Kim: You've met her.

Piper: I'll have a talk with her.

Kim: Thanks.  And if no one else has the time, welcome aboard, Lieutenant Piper.

Scene 3:
Set: Station Command Centre

Lev: Sir, I'm getting an update on the Norton II.  They should be done with fuel transfer and gone by 20:30, station time.

Nogura: Who lit a fire under their collective ass?

Lev: The new Merchant Marine Liaison has arrived, sir.

Nogura: Finally, some good news.  How is traffic out there?

Lev: Starting to taper off.  No urgent cargo left to be transferred.

Nogura: Mr. Lev, arrange a farewell function for the crew transferring out on the Dauntless.  I want one or two volunteers to be around to guide the Dauntless in, then we're shutting down the station for the night.  We need this break.

Lev: Aye, sir.  Sir, I'll volunteer.

Nogura: Just you and me here, then.

Effect: Incoming communications

Nogura: Mr. Lev, open channel D.  On screen.

Lev: Aye, sir.

Effect: Screen turning on.

Nogura: Administrator Baris.  I wasn't expecting to hear from you.

Baris: Commander Nogura.  I wasn't expecting you to be on duty.

Nogura: A station commander's work never ends.  Much like this day.

Baris: Some of my colonists are still waiting for deliveries.  They know that the ships are still in orbit, Commander.

Nogura: Administrator, my people have been run ragged for the past two weeks making sure that the ships up here don't try to occupy the same space at the same time.  Now, if you had the capacity for landing cargo ships...

Baris: We have a landing field, Commander.

Nogura: For shuttles.  And the station would still have to monitor their flight path before they dropped out of orbit.  If I had the personnel, I'd allow it.  I don't have enough traffic controllers right now to keep up with what is up here already.

Baris: The colonists are getting worried, Commander.  Some of them are waiting for their basic possessions.

Nogura: Then maybe you can ask the transports to beam down the cargo?

Baris: What if there's something dangerous inside?  We must be careful with the local ecology.

Nogura: Hans, I don't know what to tell you.  We're going to get everything where it's supposed to go.  It's just going to take time.  If the colonists need something basic - food, shelter, water - I can get that down to you.

Baris: trust me, Belinda, I know.  I'm the liaison, therefore, I must liase with you.  I'll try to tell the people down here that the station is at capacity.

Nogura: Beyond, Hans.  Beyond maximum capacity.  Even with triage, there's just so much we can do up here.

Baris: Would it be possible to send down a specific cargo shipment.  I'll transmit the details to you.

Nogura: What's in it?

Baris: The children's centre.

Nogura: Send the details.

Effect: Computer - data transfer complete

Lev: That came in with the Castor cargo shuttle earlier today.

Nogura: Has the shuttle left?

Effect: Computer beeps

Lev: Negative, sir.  The shuttle's waiting for clearance to return.

Nogura: Belay that clearance.  Get that cargo back on the shuttle and reroute it to the surface.  Bribe the pilot if you have to.

Baris: Bribe, Belinda?

Nogura: You didn't hear that from me.  You'll get your children's centre, Hans.

Hans: Thank you, Commander.  Baris out.

Nogura: Mr. Lev, give that shuttle priority.

Lev: Children's centre, sir?

Nogura: Mr. Lev, don't tell me what's inside that cargo shipment.  I don't want to know right now.

Lev: Aye, sir.

Nogura: On second thought, if you think there's something odd with the cargo, tell Lieutenant Kim instead.  He's head of security.

Lev: Aye, sir.  Would you like me to reserve a table for you at the Taproom tonight?

Nogura: I'll just get something from the replicators.

Lev: Take out it is, sir.

[fade out]

Scene 4
Set: Docking Bay 5

[fade in]
Effect: Chatter of crew.  Rumble of power plant mixed with an Intrepid-class' engines.  Grav platforms passing by.

Piper: [in background] Let's keep it moving, people!  This is the last ship for the day.

Travis: Computer, shouldn't there be someone here to meet us transfers?

Computer: Commander Nogura in en route.

Travis: Is it always this busy?

Computer: Question undefined.  Please restate your request.

Travis: Just thinking out loud.  Travis out.  Hey, crewman, who's in charge here?

Effect: Grav platform hovering.

Merchant Marine crewman: That'd be Piper.  She's the one yelling out directions.

Effect: Grav platform leaving.

Travis: Piper.  Excuse me, Piper!

Piper: [getting louder as Travis approaches] Add that to the stack for Cargo Bay 2.

Travis: Piper?

Piper: What is it-- oh figures.  Yes?

Travis: I was told you were in charge here.

Piper: Of getting the cargo off your ship.  Don't you recognize the Merchant Marine uniform?

Travis: Apologies.  I haven't had the privilege to work with any of you before.

Piper: Lucky me.

Travis: I'm Lieutenant Commander Jackson Travis, the new exec.  I have crew transferring in to your station.

Piper: First, Commander, this is not my station.  Second, I still have to find my quarters.  I don't know where your people are going.

Station crewman: Captain on deck!

Effect: Sound of people coming to attention.

Piper: Keep those grav platforms going!  I'd like to sleep before my shift starts tomorrow.

Nogura: [approaching] Commander Travis?

Travis: Here, ma'am.  Permission to come aboard?

Nogura: Permission granted.  Welcome to DS14, Mr. Travis.  And, you, Lieutenant, are...?

Piper: Lieutenant Danielle Piper, Commander.  Merchant Marine.  I'm supposed to be the new Quartermaster.

Nogura: Quartermaster?  I thought we were getting a liaison.

Piper: I thought you had one.  Commander, I have a ship to empty and a bunk to find.

Nogura: As you were, Lieutenant.

Piper: [Fading as she leaves] No, that area's for the transporter.  Put that crate on the other side.

Travis: Long day, Commander?

Nogura: Long week.  This station wasn't built to be a supply centre.

Travis: I'm looking forward to diving in.

Nogura: You might want to check the waters first, Mr. Travis.  We have New Valenze opening up to colonists, including refugees displaced by the war.  We have starships returning to exploration, and we're right on the edge of the sector, so every ship makes port here to resupply.  That means, we now need supplies, so every transport Starfleet could round up and load is on its way.  Earth's Spacedock hasn't seen the traffic we have over the past week.

Travis: New eyes, Commander.  Never hurts to have a new perspective.

Nogura: Good idea.  I have your first asignment, Mr. Travis.  I want a meeting of senior officers, old and new, in your office tomorrow morning, 0800 hours.  And take this PADD.  It has the quarters assignment for the transferees.

Travis: Aye, Commander.  Anyone else you want at the staff meeting?  Maybe the Merchant Marine liaison?  She has the expertise.

Nogura: Good idea.  Get your people sorted away, schedule the meeting, then get a good night's rest, Mr. Travis.  Tomorrow's going to be busy.

Travis: Aye, ma'am.  What about you?  When was the last time you ate?

Nogura: I have one last task to deal with, saying my farewells to the crew leaving.  I'll grab something there.  Goodnight, Mr. Travis.

Travis: Goodnight, ma'am.

[fade out]

Scene 5
[fade in]
Set: Main Drag, outside the Taproom
Effect: low power plant rumbling underscoring the soft music from inside the Taproom, laughter, chatter

Piper: Closed?  I see people inside!

Cecil: The Taproom is hosting a private function tonight.  Would you like to make a reservation for tomorrow?  I can get you in for 1900 hours.

Piper: I just want a drink.

Kim: [approaching] I have this Cecil.  Lieutenant Piper, I almost didn't recognize you.

Piper: Lieutenant Kim.  Can you explain to this gentleman here that I just want to sit and have a drink.

Cecil: I tried explaining that we're closed for a private function.

Kim: I know.  Lieutenant, there's a café at the other end of the Drag.  No alcohol, but it is quiet.

Piper: [sighs] Lead the way, Lieutenant.

Kim: It's not far.  Is there something I can call you other than Lieutenant?  We're both off duty and, well, if what you're wearing is the Merchant Marine dress uniform, I want to send a suggestion to Starfleet brass about learning from you.

Piper: Danielle.

Kim: I'm Gregor, Danielle.  Thanks for your help today.  How did you get the Norton II out ahead of schedule?

Piper: T'Ploth is cautious but is willing to listen to reason, when presented in the proper manner.

Kim: Should I ask about that manner?

Piper: I pointed out that the Norton II should be able to empty its tanks faster than she was going and if it wasn't, I could have the ship held for a thorough inspection that could take upwards of two weeks.  T'Ploth has a schedule to keep that would be destroyed if I did that.

Effect: Large sliding door with chime opening and closing.

Kim: Anything you want, Danielle.  My treat.

Piper: Thanks.  I don't suppose you have Irish creme?

Barista: Still trying to get the paperwork through for that.  Lieutenant, any word?

Kim: It's out of my hands, sorry.

Piper: I didn't think you would.  I'll have a hot chocolate, whipped creme on top.

Kim: Green iced tea, please.

Barista: Coming right up.  I'll bring it to you.

Kim: Thanks.  Danielle?

Piper: Come here often?

Effect: Chairs being pulled out as Kim and Piper sit.

Kim: Often enough.  I take a few shifts patrolling the Main Drag and the café has a good vantage point to watch the crowd.

Piper: Because Starfleet space stations are hives of crime and villainy.

Kim: Six months ago, I'd have agreed with you.  Then the Corps of Engineers came in.  This entire area used to be lab space.  DS14 was a science outpost until then.  Now?  We have colonists passing through, every ship in the sector making her way here, and a constant flow of people from all over.  The biggest problem is just keeping the peace, making sure frayed tempers don't result in brawls.

Piper: [laughs] Days like today must keep you busy.

Kim: Did you get a chance to sit today?

Piper: Point.  Busy for all of us.

Kim: Why are you here, if you don't mind me asking?  I mean, were you assigned as the liaison by Command or did you volunteer?

Piper: Assigned, but I've worked with Praxis before.  I could have been the Assistant Quartermaster on the Mudd, but this was a step up, even being on a Starfleet base.

Kim: You have a problem with Starfleet?

Piper: Not at all, especially after the war with the Dominion.  Some of its officers, though, could stand to set foot out of their shiny white ships.  And before you start, Gregor, I have run into that type of officer.  I'm related to at least one.

Kim: Thus, you joined the Merchant Marine.

Piper: I'm a Starfleet brat, Gregor.  Technically, I have a homeworld.  I haven't seen it since I was seven.  I don't like being tied down to any one place for too long.  There is so much of the Federation to see.

Kim: And space stations are known for travelling from one end of the Federation to the other.

Piper: Long term thinking, Gregor.  I do well here, I become the Quartermaster of a large transport, then become the First Office on another.  Except, I`m apparently the senior member of my service here.

Kim: It's going to look good on your record.

Piper: If I don't get tossed into your brig first.

Kim: What was your last assignment?  You must have dealt with Starfleet personnel before.

Piper: A few times.  My last assignment was along the Klingon border.  Before that, convoy duty to the front lines.  As much as call your ships shiny, seeing one sitting off the port nacelle while evading Cardassian patrols was reassuring.  Even then, we didn't get off unharmed.  We lost a dozen crew when a Jem Ha'dar fighter punched through our shields and our hull. [sighs, sips] What did you do during the war?

Kim: I was on a Rapid Response team, fighting on the ground.

Piper: This must seem quiet, then.

Kim: I requested the post because of the quiet.  That was when the station was Science Outpost 1138, before the labs were torn out.  Keeping an eye on a science team on a planet was why I joined Starfleet in the first place.

Piper: Protecting scientists?  Really?

Kim: My parents were researchers.  They have tenure on Earth now, but they spent a lot of time in the field.  I don't have the mind set to analyze data, but I like being around for discoveries.  No shiny ship there.

Piper: [laughs]

Effect: PADD chirp

Kim: Hmm.  Looks like the Commander's holding a staff meeting tomorrow morning. [PADD chirp] And you're invited.

Piper: What?

Kim: Here, take a look.

Piper: Great Bird, don't we have enough to do as it is?

Kim: Nogura doesn't call meetings out of thin air, Danielle.  She's not fond of them, either.  Comes from her science background.  The reason she's in command here is that she rose up through Science, not Command.

Piper: Then we should call it a night, Gregor.  I need to be awake for Nogura's meeting.

Kim: Good night, Danielle.

[end credts, legalese]


  1. Audio drama, it's an interesting medium. On the one hand, if one's writing trends towards dialogue anyway, it should transfer fairly well - except, as you note, setting still has to be portrayed. Somehow. As do (which you point out in your commentary after this) things like race, assuming it's an issue... which likely needs to be established near the outset, or one tends to fight one's own initial visualizations. (There's that tendency to see people as oneself, such as human and white.)

    A couple thoughts on this as a whole, bearing in mind that I don't listen to audio dramas, or even podcasts. First, the whole "Merchant Marine" thing - I have no idea where that's supposed to fit in with the Starfleet hierarchy. (Is it related to MACOs from "Enterprise"? Or Chief O'Brien being a petty officer?) Yet knowing seems to be an assumption going in (along with what a "Quartermaster" does...). In a book, there could be description. Here, you can't necessarily have people talk about things they already know - though at least one person doesn't know them well - I wonder, is that the sort of thing you'd have in a description before doing an audio download?

    Also, what makes this an episode? It starts in ops and doesn't end there; in fact it's different sets of people entirely. So it's not a "bookend" thing. It also finishes at the end of a day but doesn't seem to start at the beginning of one. While I get that it's not necessarily meant to stand alone, and resolve all problems, does Piper even know where her room is? Just wondering about the framing, why it stopped where it did.

    That said, good job getting in things like names, and backstories, and even personalities (I haven't decided if Piper's ongoing "Great Bird" is amusing or annoying; likely depends on inflection). Starting with some action was a good call, keeps things interesting while being relevant to plot too. And like with serials, there's a setup for what will happen next time. Hope you're enjoying yourself, that's the main thing.

    1. And audio tends to be noticed when it's absent. If there's a forest, I'd need leaves rustling, skittering of animals like squirrels from time to time, footsteps on dead leaves, birds chirping. I could leave out any one of those and it wouldn't be a problem, but miss all of those and I have voices in a void. The race element is important, too; Lev should sound like a Tellarite, and be more argumentive. With audio, the visual effects budget is infinite!

      The Merchant Marine is a separate but parallel organization from Starfleet. Where Starfleet does exploration and defense, the Merchant Marine ensures that freight gets routed where it's needed. Not all merchants in Star Trek are Merchant Marine, though - Cyrano Jones, Harry Mudd, and Cassidy Yates are all independent traders. The equivalent in reality would be the Merchant Marine here on Earth, especially during World War II and the Liberty ships used to ferry materiel to Europe from North America. (http://www.usmm.org/libertyships.html) Piper's position as Quartermaster is essentially somewhere between Q from 007 and Radar and Klinger as company clerks in M*A*S*H; she makes sure that the station and the colony has what it needs and arranges to get what is missing. Information like this would be part of a webpage, especially in an "About the Series" link. And someone should be wondering, yes.

      Part of what makes this an episode is that it's meant to be the first of an ongoing series, though what I did with the next episode might work better for the pilot instead. The pilot lays out the problems to be expected in the series should I keep working on it. As I put into the early parts of the next episode, Piper doesn't know where her room is. Turns out, she currently has two, one as her role as Quartermaster and the one her missing superior had, so she slept in her office.