'Star Trek Sex' Author Will Stape Interview

Will Stape’s 'Star Trek Sex' explores sexuality in the final frontier.

Space: The Sexual Frontier. Star Trek Sex boldly explores what no book has explored before: the Enterprise crew’s notorious libido, which not even the most emotionally devoid Vulcan could possibly ignore. Will Stape is the man behind Star Trek Sex’s success. As a previous Trek writer himself, Stape brings his expertise, ingenuity, and warp-driven imagination to sci-fi’s most successful franchise.

What is your favorite excerpt/analysis from Star Trek Sex?

A favorite TOS episode of mine is "The Man Trap." It was the first episode broadcast back in 1966. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes dismissed as being a "monster of the week" shocker—the kind of Trek NBC demanded after rejecting The Cage for being too intellectual or cerebral or whatever.

When examining the tale, it’s truly compelling. It’s not only thrilling in the sci-fi way; weird alien creature on a haunting alien world, creepy vibe of the unknown, but it’s even a kind of CSI murder mystery. Crew members are being brutally killed by someone—or something. That ultimately, the something turns out to be an alien creature—the last of its kind—who’s been masquerading as Dr. McCoy’s old flame is unsettling, yet fascinating. How much of his love—personality or even soul—resides in the creature? Are mere surface traits or physical appearance copied? More fundamentally, of course, and more to Star Trek Sex, the creature can appear as any woman or man or any sexual partner desired. In return, the morphing, libido arousing creature needs to feed on biological salts. It’s been dubbed the salt vampire, and though it’s realized through a bodysuit, it remains one of the more effective creatures pulled off by TOS.

Who is your dream "fanfiction" couple from Star Trek to get together?

Fun question! How’s this for a power couple? The Borg Queen and Khan.

They’d probably ultimately cancel each other out—both are so power hungry. I wonder if the Borg Queen could successfully assimilate Khan—since he’s genetically upgraded. He’d probably give her a good fight—Resistance May Not Be Futile. But like Picard, he’d be more valuable as a Locutus—an equal in the collective.

Khan might even succeed in turning the Queen to his own personal crusade. It’s curious: They are two of the most popular, powerful and fascinating Trek villains (misunderstood geniuses?) and in many ways similar in approach. They’re basically humanoids who’ve been upgraded with science/tech and lead a band of "superiors" trying to bring their own special brand of dominance to the galaxy.

Both are incredibly sexual in attitude and interactions. In the Borg Queen’s case, she tempted Data with sexuality and the flesh. With Khan, his sophistication, charisma and heightened, even uber masculinity make him a fascinating counterpoint and contrast to a more feminine minded or submissive partner.

Owing to both their gigantic egos, I suspect their union wouldn’t last long.

If you had to choose a favorite Star Trek episode to date, from any series, which would it be and why? In addition, what episode do you wish you could write?

If I’m forced to choose between hundreds of episodes from all the shows, I’d pick, "City On The Edge Of Forever."

Harlan Ellison wrote the classic, and for many reasons, it’s the epitome of Star Trekwhile also simply being first rate storytelling. You have such memorable characters/concepts; namely The Guardian of Foreverthat mysteriously compelling, sentient time master. He’s not quite a machine, not quite an organic beinga combination thereof? His booming voice calls out and demands you pick an era, a timelinea destination. Time travel dramatized in classics such as The Time Machine or Planet of the Apes or Back To The Future, balances the awe inspiring theory of going back to the past or flashing forward to the future, with mind boggling hardware of a tricked out DeLorean or a Victorian time sledcomplete with comfy satin padding. Even the Rod Serling written, Charlon Heston starring Apes boasts an ultra cool shipwhich morphs into a time travel ship utilizing relativistic speeds. The Guardian of Forever remains one of the cooler time travel devices for anytime.

It is a love story—a classic, old fashioned romantic romp. In a way, it's a romantic comedy. It's light and breezy at times. We know falling in love is hard, tricky or near impossible—especially in well under an hour. William Shatner’s Kirk and Joan Collins as Edith Keeler make us forget such silly, pragmatic problems as realism—and we’re completely swept away by their tragic love tale.

I had the honor of pitching to producer Michael Piller at the Dead Zone writing offices in Hollywood. Piller co-created Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and also oversaw Next Generation as show runner for years. He penned one of the all time TNG classics, the Borg epic, "Best of Both Worlds." He would ask a writer, he did so to me, after hearing a pitch, "What does it mean? What’s it about?" I’m not sure I had the most satisfying answers for him, but I tried. I bring him up because "City On The Edge Of Forever" is truly about something. It balances searingly impossible life choices about loved ones and romantic entanglements, and brings it all home to be the linchpin in the survival of reality itself.

An episode I wish I could write? Anything I want, a completely no limits story? One of the frustrating things about pitching to TNG, DS9, and Voyager, were "restrictions"—with TNG you couldn’t pitch anything involving Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) since she was handled carefully. Like many others I wanted to see more of Guinan’s abilities. In "Q-Who," when she and Q face off, and she seems to ward him off with hand gestures. What exactly is going on there? Is her race of listeners more powerful than merely being sympathetic? Or was Guinan herself unique among her people with a potent defensive or offensive capability? I think I’d explore those ideas in an episode.

Star Trek: Next Generation was often lauded for its cerebral storytelling, but Abrams has taken it back to the pulpy roots of the original series. Which direction do you believe leads to a better Star Trek story?

While TOS can be seen as somewhat "pulpy," the history of Trek’s first pilot—"The Cage"—being rejected for being "too cerebral" attests to its intellectual aspirations. You can argue Roddenberry responded by serving up the 2nd pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before"—an action packed, even comic book like tale. When Gary Mitchell as a raging, near omnipotent godhead tries to literally alter life itself, you do wade into cerebral, if not overly ambitious waters.

That said, Abrams did a fine job of balancing Trek’s legacy with fan expectations—while also playing it safe with the "alternate universe" or "timeline" conceit. Chris Pine, Quinto, Pegg, Saldana, Urban, Cho, and Yelchin do a fantastic job with what they’re given. So far the outings are fun, even thrilling, but I’d really like to see more cohesiveness in future chapters. Maybe we’ll get it with Star Trek: Beyond. The Nicholas Meyer "Wrath of Khan," first of the original features trilogy,—no matter how loosely constructed—feels important, even mythic, while still mainstream box office fodder and entertainment. I’m so glad to see Nicholas Meyer on board for the new Trek show. When I heard Bryan Fuller was hired as show runner and Meyer joined the mix, I got excited.

I suppose you can view TOS as pulpy through the whole "cowboy diplomacy" charge Picard makes in TNG’s "Unification." There’s a character based texture where Picard can’t compete with Kirk. They're different men from different times. But look at Captain Janeway; Her demeanor wasn’t exactly soft or retiring. She could summon up a little cowboy diplomacy with the best of them. I think there’s room for both approaches—the more thrilling/action or say pulpy to the more measured, cerebral or philosophy minded forays.

When you first heard about J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the original series via film, what did you think?

Hearing about the reboot excited me. I had hoped the production handling would be a class act and it turned out so. Star Trek 2009 is a great flick. However, I would have done things differently come Into Darkness.

Reworking or flipping Khan in TWOK and Trek or even pop culture memes therein was always going to be problematic. As Abrams has now confessed, he'd have done things differently if given another crack. Revisiting such a beloved and important moment in any global mythos is fraught with peril. Star Trek and Stars Wars and comic book heroes aren’t just entertainment for many. They're dearly beloved friends, companions even treated like family. The bottom line is Khan came back, yet his wrath wasn’t all too spectacular.

Why didn’t it resonate with hardcore fans? For me, I felt ID's Khan wasn’t dynamic enough, and he was way too unfamiliar. I love Benedict Cumberbatch, but his material never sparkled. Also, the whole Khan of "Space Seed" and TWOK were basically gone. It was like having Darth Vader donning a completely different uniform and giving him a new accent or physical appearance. You can tweak costumes, you can play with a bit of backstory, but when you fundamentally change a character to where he/she is unrecognizable, you must ask yourself why and how is this ever going to work?

Why did the later series pull away from Star Trek: The Original Series’s playful sexuality and eroticism? Did we see a return of these values in Abrams’s reboot?

We definitely see a playful return to the open sexuality of TOS in the Abramsverse. Those fun bits of eroticism are among my favorite moments in the new films and provide the mature fun similar to what TOS dabbled in liberally.

I can’t speak for later Trek incarnations as to why exactly they weren’t as sexually playful. I do recall early TNG moments. In a 2nd season episode, "Up The Long Ladder," there’s a great romantic scene between Jonathan Frakes and the beautiful actress Rosalyn Landor. In DS9, the Changeling Great Link and the way they’d merge together and link up conveyed a nice alien sexuality and eroticism. I’d agree though, newer Treks were decidedly less erotically inclined. In pitching and submitting scripts, there was no discouraging of sexual content or ideas. I must praise screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ron D. Moore in bringing eroticism to the second TNG feature film. Alice Krige’s Borg Queen of First Contact does remain a supremely erotic character. In fact, with her tempting Brent Spiner’s Data with the promise of flesh, she just may be the most sexually charged creation in all of Trek.

If you could cosplay as any Star Trek character, who would it be and why?

Dr. McCoy. I’ve always admired the character. Deforest Kelley excelled as the passionate physician and the compassionate glue holding the Kirk and Spock dynamic together. But there’s a supremely geeky reason why I’d love to cosplay as Bones: his tech/gadgets. Bone has lots of great toys to play around with—Medical Tricorder, Hypospray kit—all sorts of cool things to play with and show off at a con.

Can Vulcans experience real love?

Love is reasonable. Love is rational. Love is logical.

Let’s make a distinction between the beneficial, cooperative nature and concept of love or loving and being IN LOVE. Being in love isn’t always logical—or at least much of the time the ups and downs and ways a lover can drive you crazy exhausts us all as not being logical. However, the beneficial coupling of those coming together to care for one another and or a family appears completely in line with Vulcan philosophy and how they view life. The Vulcans say Live Long and Prosper. I’d modify that: Live Long, Love, and Prosper.

With the unveiling of a new Star Trek television series, do you believe it will play towards breaking boundaries (like the original series) or lean more towards moderation and regulation?

I hope the new show breaks social and storytelling boundaries. It’s difficult to remember now, but back in 1966, TOS was truly a most groundbreaking TV show in so many ways—and not just the sexually charged nature or tackling social issues. People can mock the model work or film optical FX in light of today’s magician like digital wizardry, but the fact remains those pioneering TOS shots look better and aspired to be more visually interesting than anything which had come before. Shows like Lost In Space or Land Of The Giants from the same time period were visually interesting, but Trek’s FX had them beat by far.

In terms of social issues, it would be nice to finally see a regular gay crew member. I know some may feel this is trendy or chic, but to not have any ongoing look at the LGBT community on such a socially minded and philosophical show like Trek seems pretty irresponsible or creatively lazy. I’d also love to see more explorations on genetic manipulation like we had with Dr. Bashir. It’s arguable that character revelation stunned as the most transforming of any character in Trek, and going forward with more examination in the area would be great. We hear about how medicine will one day be specific to us, designed to our individual genetic mapping. By the time of Trek, I’d imagine it would be not only common, but encouraged.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I’ve outlined a few more books and have been approached by an independent production company to perhaps produce/write a TV pilot or one shot film. The group boasts a wonderfully talented group of artists and it’s exciting to hear of its development progress. It’s a sci-fi vehicle in the spirit of the great space opera shows and films. The time is still ripe to be involved as an investor at a kickstarter level, so if anyone’s interested in, they should contact: [email protected]—please, serious investor inquiries only.

Tell us about your time writing for Star Trek. What was it like? Who did you collaborate with? What did it feel like when you saw the finished & filmed episode?

I worked as a freelancer and submitted my teleplays through an open submission policy which producer Michael Piller instituted with the studio. As far as I know, it was the only policy of its kind for any Paramount Television show. It allowed anyone—after signing a legal release form—to submit scripts for consideration. I believe my TNG sale was one of a handful for the whole series to be produced in such a manner. I had no agent at the time.

After I sold another script to DS9, I was invited to pitch to Voyager, which had just premiered on UPN—United Paramount Network (now defunct)—also to DS9. My pitch with Jeri Taylor at Paramount, co-creator of Voyager, was scheduled only a few months after the pilot aired. It became a unique challenge, in that it was still Star Trek, but in a completely new environment being so far from the Alpha Quadrant and detached from Starfleet’s directives and resources such as Starbases.

Watching the finished episode was thrilling—kinda surreal. I was enrolled in my first year of college, and so the publicity office at my school got the word out about my script sale. WPIX TV news in NYC covered it live as my family watched, so it was pretty thrilling to have a camera crew documenting the event as it happened.

Why should newcomers to the Star Trek series read Star Trek Sex?

Will my book make you horny, baby? Randy!? (Austin Powers voice)

Those who wade into Trek as a newbie will find Star Trek Sex fun and informative. I wanted to do a book with a breezy, playful vibe, and from the reviews and feedback, I think it’s mostly succeeded. Everyone loves a good love story and sexuality is certainly diverting—so it’s a fun place to launch a focus to get to know and revel in Star Trek. I don’t hit the reader over the head with all the tech minutiae and geekery of Trek, but my analysis is comprehensive enough for a well versed fan, yet accessible enough for a curious newcomer.

How would you define the term science fiction? How do you believe you contribute to the genre?

Science fiction encompasses an intellectual quest for a more comprehensive understanding of humanity and our world and our greater enlightenment through science and technology. It also, as much as it can, helps to highlight social issues or concerns through a speculative lens. At its core, the sci-fi focus should be speculation—informed guessing and wondering on how mankind and its world progresses through the assist of the scientific method and technology.

Aside from all that, it’s just plain fun.

Forbidden Planet deals in monsters of the id, but it’s also really fun. The Day The Earth Stood Still warns against our responsibility as a young species in how we expand outward from Earth, but Gort the robot is incredibly cool and fun. The fun factor can’t be denied in sci-fi’s appeal.

I remember reading that both Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry read lots of science fiction short stories to help with story ideas. Both Serling and Roddenberry brought on sci-fi writers to enlarge and make more sophisticated the story canvas of their shows. My Star Trek work covers family and the notion of being charitable or a humanistic kind of appreciation for your fellow man or species. I’d like to think it’s where the best of my work lies—delving into the humanity behind the sci-fi. And now, with Star Trek Sex, exploring the sexuality behind the sci-fi.

What makes Star Trek such a great universe for writers to play in?

If Star Trek didn't exist, somebody would have to invent it. Thankfully, Gene Roddenberry did just that.

Before I came to Trek as a writer, I was a fan—a lifelong one. There are few shows I’ll watch over and over. Today, with streaming such as Netflix and Hulu, it's easy. Of course, it wasn’t always so. Shows I loved: The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, The Incredible Hulk, The Bionic Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Cheers, Three’s Company, The Outer Limits, and Family Ties. It’s a small sample of what I grew up watching. The commonalities are people/characters who make it a pleasure to spend time with each week. They’re about families or extended families who work/play together and who like each other—or at least highly respect one another.

In the case of The Twilight Zone and The Incredible Hulk, we have two shows were almost anything can happen; anthology shows where science fiction and fantasy is played out in the most fantastic terms. Rod Serling’s imagination vehicle could be wondrous, yet often truly nightmarish. Kenneth Johnson’s Hulk saw Dr. Banner’s journey from respected scientist to a haunted, hunted fugitive being chased by reporter Jack McGee. Trek is a near perfect blend of this kind of storytelling.

I think it’s what excites writers to Star Trek. It’s got the stability of family operating in a space of limitless possibilities. We have a central and regular cast of characters—our crew—yet our storytelling canvas is as wide as the galaxy itself and beyond. It’s not a pure anthology in that the regular cast always returns, yet those new life forms and new civilizations promise just as much variety as say in Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. It’s said Gene Roddenberry would watch the editing of Twilight Zone when he was working on Have Gun, Will Travel, a CBS show for which he was a writer. It comes as no surprise. Classic Trek's vibe often has a surreal, creepy and otherworldly texture—as Serling’s classic does.

What is your least favorite Star Trek series and why?

Must I answer this? I plead the fifth. The Fifth Element?

Enterprise, though a laudable effort, never came together in my mind—it never gelled for me. I must confess though, I didn't watch it all. After the first two seasons, I would tune in occasionally, but it never became must watch TV for me.

I think if you travel too far behind, it’s hard to make a compelling case for the forward momentum you need to maintain in exploratory sci-fi. I did catch the show’s finale. Watching Jonathan Frakes (Riker) and Marina Sirtis (Troi) reprise their Next Generation roles was great fun, however, I think it only highlighted why Enterprise never caught on with many fans. I did love Linda Park and John Billingsley as Hoshi and Dr. Phlox, respectively—their memorable moments were some of the fun highlights of the show for me.

Star Trek Sex: Analyzing the Most Sexually Charged Episodes of the Original Series by Will Stape

Star Trek Sex tastefully explores the romantically loaded tales of Gene Roddenberry's landmark TV show, Star TrekKirk's crew, including Spock, Scotty, Uhura, McCoy, Sulu and Chekov, get just as much action as he does in the volume. Starting with the iconic classic and then moving on into Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Natasha Sydor
Natasha Sydor

French-born travel enthusiast. Musician, triathlete, Quidditch player, puppy petter. Maybe one day she’ll be an extra in a Star Wars film... 

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'Star Trek Sex' Author Will Stape Interview