Star Trek: Resurgence – Interview with Lead Writer Dan Martin of Dramatic Labs

Star Trek: Resurgence Interview with Dan Martin

After an extended absence from our TV screens, Star Trek roared back into the limelight in 2017 with Star Trek: Discovery, a brand-new show set pre-The Original Series. This spurred an entirely new era of Star Trek shows, with Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds following soon after. With this renewed interest in Star Trek, it wasn’t long before a new video game was announced for PC and consoles: Star Trek: Resurgence. However, unlike most other action-oriented Star Trek games of the last decade, Resurgence went with a genre that is arguably a better fit for the property: an adventure game.

In Star Trek: Resurgence, you take on the dual roles of First Officer Jara Rydek and Petty Officer Carter Diaz aboard the Starfleet research vessel, the U.S.S. Resolute. As Rydek, a half-Kobliad who recently joined the crew, you must navigate the challenges of adjusting to your new role after a tragic warp core testing accident. Meanwhile, Diaz is a dedicated human crewmember on the ship’s lower decks, playing a vital role in the ship’s operations without being directly involved in the bridge’s high-stakes decisions. This dual protagonist approach allows players to experience both sides of the Starfleet equation: the ones who give the orders and the ones who carry them out.

Audra Bowling reviewed Resurgence a few months ago and enjoyed how it replicated the experience of binge-watching an entire television season. So, when RPGFan was offered the opportunity to interview the lead writer of Star Trek: Resurgence, Dan Martin, she eagerly embraced the opportunity. Our review manager, Jono Logan, arguably the biggest Star Trek fan on staff, also jumped into the fray, adding some of his own questions.

RPGFan: What is your favorite Star Trek show?

Dan Martin (DM): It would have to be the first Star Trek show I watched: The Next Generation, during its initial airing. It was appointment viewing for me, and it’s the show I re-watch most often.

RPGFan: What is your favorite current-era Star Trek show? (Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, etc.)

DM: There’s a lot to like across the various series, and each has its own high points and unique contributions to the grand tapestry that is Star Trek. But the final season of Picard delivers one last great adventure for that TNG crew that originally made me a fan, so that puts it at the top of the list.

RPGFan: Who is your favorite captain?

DM: Captain Rudolph “Rudy” Ransom of the U.S.S. Equinox really knows how to make tough choices and do what has to be done… But in all seriousness, while Captain Picard would be an easy answer — a logical one, even — to keep things interesting, I’ll say Captain Kirk, specifically in the TOS films. He’s a little older, a little wiser than in his earlier five-year mission, but he has vulnerabilities and imperfections. That makes him really interesting to watch.

Jara Rydek in Star Trek: Resurgence reflects on their situation against a starry backdrop
Jara Rydek is one of the dual main characters in Star Trek: Resurgence.

RPGFan: In that same vein, everyone has their favorite alien species in Star Trek: Vulcan, Klingon, Trill, Ferengi, etc. Which is your personal favorite?

DM: The Klingons. They’re probably the most fleshed-out alien civilization in the Star Trek universe. I wouldn’t want to serve in their fleet, but they’d be more fun to hang out with at Quark’s for a few drinks than some Vulcans or Romulans.

RPGFan: What made you choose the timeframe you used for the game?

DM: The game is set in 2380, which is right after Star Trek: Nemesis. As a continuation of the timeframe that I and many others on the production considered our favorite — the TNG era — it was already very appealing. But more crucially, in an interactive narrative, it’s important to give the player the freedom to make their own choices. And between 2380 and the Romulan supernova in 2387, we had a lot of space to tell our own story before we’d start bumping into other canonical events.

RPGFan: It’s always great to get a new story set in a previously “unexplored” period of Trek (outside of the novels, of course). How much freedom did you have to play in the post-Nemesis/pre-Picard era?

DM: When we started this project, Lower Decks hadn’t premiered, and Picard had just begun releasing, so there wasn’t a lot established around the state of the galaxy in 2380, outside of where we left it in Nemesis. Paramount helped steer us clear of some subjects that would overlap with Picard, but the thing that most informed how we explored this period was our desire to make an authentic Star Trek experience. We were only turning over a few pages of the fictional calendar, so we had a good foundation to build upon.

RPGFan: Did any storylines from the current crop of Trek shows impact the direction of the narrative? For example, William Riker and the U.S.S. Titan showing up in Star Trek: Lower Decks.

DM: We knew in advance that the Romulan supernova and the Borg would play a large part in that first season of Picard, so we were going to give those elements a wide berth. And I think fans appreciated getting something a little unexpected from the story we ultimately decided to tell.

RPGFan: How did Jonathan Frakes get on board to reprise his role of William Riker for the project?

DM: Our central plot is drawn from an early TNG episode in which Riker featured very prominently, so it organically fits within our narrative to include Will Riker in the game. We were very hopeful from the start that we could get Jonathan Frakes to return — so much so that I think we actually wrote his scenes before he had agreed to voice the character! That meant we were able to tell Jonathan exactly how Captain Riker would fit into our story. But if he hadn’t been available to join our cast, we would have had to find a way to write around his absence because we weren’t going to include Riker without having Jonathan Frakes to voice him.

RPGFan: Was seeing the story from the perspectives of a member of the bridge crew and a lower deck crew member always planned?

DM: It certainly was. Of course, in most Star Trek stories, you want to be on the bridge, and we put the player in the first officer’s seat there. But I always liked Miles O’Brien — who seemed to be the only enlisted member of Starfleet. And the TNG episode “Lower Decks” was very memorable, showing life outside of the bridge, where command decisions have major consequences for the people on the receiving end of the orders. So the decision to shine a light on the enlisted ranks with one of our POV characters was made early in the process.

RPGFan: I greatly appreciated the character of Portal 63. Was he always planned to be a central character to the plot, or was that decided later in development?

DM: Including Portal 63 was part of the appeal of revisiting the Tkon Empire. He was such a mercurial character in the first season TNG episode “The Last Outpost” — someone with incredible power, a different moral framework, and even a sense of humor — he seemed like a fantastic wild card to throw into the mix with our crew. We never considered NOT including him once we settled on continuing the story of the Tkon.

RPGFan: I enjoyed how you delineated each segment, like they were episodes of a TV show. It felt almost akin to binging an entire TV season. What made you decide to structure the game like that versus a separate-release episodic approach, like classic Telltale Games?

DM: By releasing the whole story all at once, we were able to really refine the story from start to finish. You plan as much as you can when outlining the story, but when the first episode is released before the last episode is even written, you can’t go back and seed ideas that reveal themselves in the writing process. There were definitely changes we made to the first act as soon as we finished drafting the last act. The “episode” titles themselves came later in the process, but it was intentional that chapter ends (usually accompanying a change in POV character) would always feel like the cliffhanger before a commercial break or at the end of the first episode of a great two-parter.

RPGFan: What’s your personal take on the Prime Directive? Should it be absolute or applied selectively?

DM: Captain Kirk doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, and I don’t believe in absolutes. There are always exceptions, and those exceptions are fertile ground for interesting Trek stories!

Nili and Carter are hard at work in Star Trek: Resurgence.
It wouldn’t be Star Trek if there weren’t tricorder scanning!

RPGFan: One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Star Trek is the inclusivity behind the idea of different alien cultures working together. How did Resurgence approach this concept in its story?

DM: Portal 63 comments on it directly when he comes onto the U.S.S. Resolute and notices the diversity among the crew. He’s impressed that so many different species can work together in harmony. He’s hinting at some backstory we created for ourselves about the fall of the Tkon. Without going as far as the Borg assimilation, we envisioned the Tkon as promoting conformity to a monoculture during their expansion rather than acceptance of diversity. For a star empire that spanned hundreds of star systems, we didn’t think it was JUST a supernova that destroyed their civilization. We think it was factional conflicts from within that ultimately brought down the Tkon. By comparison, the Federation and Starfleet draw their strength from their diversity and ability to come together for a common goal, which plays into the game’s climax. And along the way, our Starfleet characters form alliances and friendships with the aliens they encounter — made all the more gratifying when those aliens start out as antagonists.

RPGFan: Bioforming is an intriguing concept from the game and made for some emotional scenes since quite a few characters meet this fate. If the opportunity presents itself, are there plans to address this plot point and its potential impact in future games?

DM: It would be hard not to address the fallout of the bioforming, given the huge number of people who have been affected by what the Tkon did. But classic Star Trek told a new story every week, and who doesn’t want to see what else could be out there?

RPGFan: What made you decide to have Jara be half-Kobliad? It certainly gave her an interesting perspective on story events.

DM: Much like the choice to make Jara Rydek a new arrival to the U.S.S. Resolute, an outsider coming in as first officer, we made her half-Kobliad so she would have something else she had to work against. She has a condition that makes her vulnerable, and some people prejudge her for it. As it turns out, Starfleet’s officers aren’t always perfect, and the ethos of inclusivity sometimes takes work. Making her a half-Kobliad also informed her backstory — suffering under the Cardassians much like the Bajorans did — giving her the perspective of an oppressed group that many others in Starfleet wouldn’t have.

RPGFan: Some of the best Trek games of all time fit into the adventure game genre (25th Anniversary, Judgment Rites). Do you think the adventure game genre is the best fit for Star Trek video games? What other genre do you think fits well with the property?

DM: I’m certainly biased, but I do think this genre IS the best fit for Star Trek! At its heart, Star Trek is about characters, moral dilemmas, and difficult choices more than anything else. A fighter pilot combat sim makes a lot of sense for an adaptation of Top Gun. But Star Trek has a much broader experience. That’s why we have so many different mini-games, exploration, and other modes of interaction in addition to the dialog and story decisions.

RPGFan: Would you be interested in doing a follow-up to Star Trek: Resurgence? Would you want it to be set in the same era or explore others (post-Enterprise, post-TNG, pre-32nd century Discovery, etc.)?

DM: I was a fan of Star Trek long before I ever actually worked on it, so I would jump at the opportunity to tell more stories in this universe. And I’m sure many others on the Resurgence team would as well. When we finished writing the script for Resurgence, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the crew of the U.S.S. Resolute, which was part of the impetus to write the prequel comic for IDW. And fans seem to like these characters and the ship as much as we do, so hopefully we all get to go on another journey together!

RPGFan would like to thank Dan Martin for his in-depth answers about Star Trek: Resurgence! For more information about Resurgence, you can check out Audra’s review, and for any and all news about this upcoming Star Trek adventure game or RPG news, stay tuned to RPGFan!

Jonathan Logan

Jonathan Logan

Jonathan (he/him), or Jono for short, is the host of Random Encounter and the Reviews Manager for RPGFan. While reviewing a game, he has been known to drink up to 10 cups of tea to keep focused (Earl Grey, milk, no sugar). Fun fact: Jono holds a Masters of Music Theatre degree, which is only slightly less useful than it sounds.