Chabon, best known for his novels like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and Wonder Boys, is living out a lifelong dream by writing for CBS All Access' small-screen Trek universe. On a series level, he's now in the writers' room for Patrick Stewart's new Jean-Luc Picard show, but before that he happened to be collaborating with Akiva Goldsman, one of Discovery's executive producers, on a film. Chabon mentioned how much he liked Discovery, and Goldsman brought him in for "Short Treks," the series of short stories now making their way to All Access.
For "Calypso," Chabon's short co-written by Discovery's Sean Cochran, we are still following the title vessel, but it's in a very different place than what we're used to. The short is set 1,000 years after the events of the series and follows a war-ravaged soldier (Leverage's Aldis Hodge) who takes refuge in the ship and finds that its artificial intelligence, Zora, has spent the past few centuries evolving into a new personality with a number of very human-like cognitive abilities.
For Chabon, the story presented the opportunity to explore a number of interesting concepts centered around what it means to be a human, which is a key theme at the heart of many Trek stories. To do it, though, he had to take the tale into the future, to a point when viewers could be assured the Discovery's crew was not about to appear around the corner and change everything. To that end, he opted for the 1,000-year time jump, as he explained to IndieWire.
“If it’s 1,000 years, you know the crew’s not coming back,” he said.
“I tried to do a draft where it was less time, or it was a much more reasonable period of time. All of the pathos went away as soon as I shortened the time into something that you could somehow, maybe, account for in a 50-minute episode… I just put it back and I went with 1,000. Nobody said anything.”
Speaking to SYFY WIRE about exactly what went down in those 1,000 years, Chabon mused that he's sure Zora tried on many different personality hats, adding a richness to what is, for us, a brief glimpse at a far future still filled with mystery.
“In my mind, in the 1,000 years she’s been alone, she may have been all kinds of people, a whole library of personas. But Zora is the one she chooses to present to Craft,” Chabon said. “She had a lot of time on her hands and went through many incarnations. She may have had a male persona and a female persona and all kinds of persona. She also consumes massive amounts of media. Every film ever made. I mean, a starship like that could have a media library representing the cultural output of hundreds of civilizations over tens of thousands of years."
"Calypso" is now streaming on CBS All Access as production continues on the proper Season 2 of Discovery.