Writer-Producer Mike Sussman, who began as an intern on Star Trek: Voyager, and ended up as a producer on Star Trek: Enterprise, shares memories of his time working for both shows.
Sussman was noticed because of a Star Trek: The Next Generation script submission that caught the attention of Ken Biller. “He liked it,” said Sussman, “[and] gave me a call and asked if I’d like to do an internship with the Voyager writing staff. Of course I jumped at the chance.”
As an intern, Sussman summarized and pitched stories submitted by non-professionals to Star Trek: Voyager showrunner Michael Piller. One day, Piller didn’t like any of the stories he heard, so Sussman decided to pitch his own idea. “Every now and then they’d buy one of these scripts,” said Sussman. “But Michael didn’t like any of the ones I’d read. Our meeting was almost over and he said, ‘Is that all you got?’ So I pitched him something I’d been noodling, a story about Tuvok mind-melding with an alien serial killer. Michael stared at the ceiling as I pitched the idea, hands behind his head, then looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’ve heard an idea like that before,’ and he bought it. My internship was over that Friday, and the following Monday I was back in the Trek offices as a working writer.”
Sussman was proud of that story, but considers Author, Author, in which the EMH writes a holonovel, to be his favorite Star Trek: Voyager story. “The Doctor writes a holonovel, a roman à clef that portrays the Voyager crew in a less than flattering light,” said Sussman. “The heart of the story was the Doctor’s struggle to be accepted as a legitimate writer and a regular person. Bob Picardo really made that episode and he brought the funny — you could give Bob the phone book to read and he’d be terrific.”
Once Star Trek: Voyager was finished, Sussman moved on to Star Trek: Enterprise. His favorite stories were one that was originally meant to be on Star Trek: Voyager, and the Mirror Universe stories. “Twilight turned out better than I’d imagined and was well-received,” he said. “It was originally a Voyager story — instead of Archer having a memory affliction and waking up in the future, it would’ve been Janeway, with Chakotay as her caretaker. It was my attempt at writing a love story for those two, but I couldn’t sell the Voyager producers on the idea. It turned out to work better as an Archer and T’Pol story anyway, with the background of the Xindi war upping the stakes. It’s always fun when you can toast Earth before the opening titles. I also had great fun writing the mirror universe two-parter in our last year.”
Working on Star Trek has helped Sussman write for other series. “The great thing about writing Trek is that you get to work out all your muscle groups,” he explained. “One week you’re writing a courtroom drama, the next you’re doing a quiet character piece, the week after you’re writing a screwball comedy. You work on Trek long enough and you feel like you can handle any genre. I think that’s part of the appeal of the franchise — it can be so many different things to different people.”