If someone from the future had told me when I was in high school that I would be writing scripts for spinoffs of my favorite TV show, Star Trek (the original series, which was in reruns every afternoon on a local TV channel), I would have reported him to the nearest psychiatric hospital.

Forget the fact that Star Trek had been cancelled long before due to poor ratings and would never again produce new episodes — I was going to be an astronomer, doing research and teaching, and maybe, if I was very, very lucky, traveling into Earth orbit to do astronomy on the space shuttle that was
then in the planning stages at NASA.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. I majored in physics and astronomy in college. After receiving my B.S. I did a year of grad school in physics but found my interest in the subject wavering. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. There was no particular research problem I was dying to solve. I also had a competing interest in piano and composition (I was a half-decent classical pianist back then) so I decided to spend a year focusing on the piano while I reconsidered my future.

To make a very long story short, I discovered a certain talent for technical writing and teaching, and eventually tried my hand at creative writing. One of my teachers liked my work, and encouraged me to continue. Another unexpected turn of events landed me at George Washington University with a NASA Space Grant Fellowship to pursue a Master’s degree in science, technology, and public policy, with a focus on the U.S. space program. While I was at GWU, I shopped around for an agent, using a couple of spec scripts I’d written as proof of my budding talent as a screenwriter.
Remarkably, I actually found someone who was interested in representing me, Keri Kelsey. Keri was trying to arrange a meeting for me to pitch to Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was in its sixth season at the time, when she found out that they needed a new science consultant (I didn’t even know they had a science consultant). Would I be interested?

Of course I would be interested! Keri set up a meeting for me with some of the producers and writing staff. I hit it off with Jeri Taylor, a supervising producer on TNG at the time, during my initial interview. I then met Michael Piller, an executive producer, who gave me an “audition” script – an episode he’d written of the newest Trek series, Deep Space Nine, that needed some technical language.
Sorry – I said this would be short. I passed the audition. They liked me, they hired me, and they needed me to start the very week I finished my Master’s degree work at GWU. The timing was perfect. In May, 1993, as the blossoms were dropping from the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., I loaded up the Nissan and moved to Beverly… well, West Los Angeles.

Being the Star Trek science consultant was a perfect opportunity to better learn the show and develop my own story ideas. After pitching a dozen or so of my stories, they finally bought one, then another, then had me write a script (for Star Trek: Voyager, an episode called “Fair Trade”). They liked that script enough to have me do another, and eventually I became a full-time writer and co-producer on Star Trek: Enterprise.

Enterprise was a great experience. It was extremely demanding work. The pressure of producing a weekly television show is intense. During the first season, there was a stretch when I worked something like fifty days straight, sometimes ten to twelve hours a day.

Needless to say, I got to know some wonderful writers, actors and directors during this time; many are still close friends.