Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Continuing IR In Star Trek

Star Trek is well-known for its championing of civil rights. Star Trek was the first show to show an interracial kiss on television (between Kirk and Uhura), despite the controversy. Also, one of the main characters, Spock, was biracial (1/2 Vulcan and 1/2 human). Spock's "death" in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan was so heartfelt and shocking that they had to find a way to resurrect him by the next movie. Ironically, even though I enjoyed Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Spock just wasn't the "same" Spock. I'd thought it would have better served the series if he'd stayed dead...but such was not to be. Then they brought Spock into Star Trek: The Next Generation as an activist for Romulan-Vulcan reunification. It was interesting, generally likeable and thankfully, confined to a two-part episode.

William Shatner and Judith and Garland Reeves-Stevens began writing Star Trek books in the 1990s. And believe it or not, they have brought Spock back to life much better than the post-Khan Star Trek movies ever did. Likewise, Shatner brought Kirk back to life (again) following Kirk's dramatic-but-still-disappointing death in Star Trek: Generations. The Shatner/Reeves-Stevens pairing started with The Ashes of Eden and begins just prior to Kirk's Generations appearance on the NCC Enterprise 1701-B. The adventure continues in The Return, which follows the events in Generations. I have not yet read The Ashes of Eden or The Return but I am looking forward to doing so.

I just finished reading the next book in the series, Avenger, last night. Thus far, this is the best, most satisfying Star Trek book I have ever read. That is not praise I easily give out; I wasn't even sure I was going to like this one, especially with it's "environmentalist" theme. Fortunately, the environmentalism was a secondary theme, more plot device than gripping conversation piece. To me, this was a "tying up all the loose ends" book with a dual primary theme involving both Kirk and Spock. One of those themes heavily involved Spock's biracial heritage and it was used well.

Avenger is more of an "Original Series" book than a "Next Generation" book but that's not to say the authors neglect the TNG characters. Shatner and the Reeves-Stevens know how to write Jean-Luc Picard, Will Riker, Deanna Troi, Beverly Crusher, Geordi LaForge and the android Data. Lt. Cmdr. Worf does not appear in this book; he was probably at Deep Space Nine during this time.

Still, this book seemed like a gift to "Original Series" fans.

I don't want to give too much away because I'd like to encourage people to read this book. Do like I did, check it out from the library. What I can say is this: we learn of an early connection between Kirk and Sarek, Spock's father, going back to Kirk's teenage years. The events from that experience not only saved "Jimmy Kirk's" life and helped fuel his passion for space exploration but also directly ties-in to the environmental threat facing the entire Federation.

In the present, Spock is informed that his father may not have died of natural causes from "Bendii Syndrome" as previously thought; he may, in fact, have been murdered. This clearly shocks Spock and puts his human side's emotions in conflict with his Vulcan side's trained reason and logic. Spock is driven to find his father's killer and learn the reason why this occurred and he is willing to go to great lengths to accomplish this.

Meanwhile, Captain Picard is assigned, along with the Enterprise-E, to help maintain a necessary (but to Picard, maddeningly boring) planetary blockade to help contain the devastating "virogen" that has broken out and is spreading throughout Federation space. The virogen is breaking down and destroying all biological life, devastating ecosystems as well as animal and human populations. The Federation's best scientists have no clue how to stop the virogen, in part because the virogen's rapid spread has been exhausting Federation relief supplies and personnel, causing communication chaos and mechanical failures due to lack of parts. Morale is plummeting while death and ecodamage are skyrocketing. Picard would rather his enemy be some megalomaniac in a spaceship than some nonsentient pathogen best left to medical personnel.

Amazingly, everything I've described thus far ties together in a web of mystery and treachery. It's a really great read (I read all 370 pages in only 4 days -- faster than usual for me). I did have some nitpicks and dislikes but they didn't rob me of the overall satisfaction I had with the style, methodology and care with which the authors wove their web. Spock's biracial nature is handled with some surprise (I can't tell you how many surprises the authors throw in, along with the proverbial kitchen sink) and ultimately, an astounding conclusion connected to his relations with his father. I also learned more than I ever imagined I would about Kirk -- and I liked this. After all these years, in the hands of the right writers (of course, including Shatner), James Tiberius Kirk still has life and intrigue.

Time also reminds us why Kirk, Spock and a certain ornery medical professional were the stars of the original series. And that's not a slight at the other actors and characters from "TOS." I can't wait to read about Captain Sulu and the Excelsior in The Ashes of Eden and I loved getting reacquainted with "Scotty" and McCoy in Spectre. Kirk and Spock demand our respect and attention and Dr. McCoy continues to remind us that Kirk and Spock are human after all.

Best Wishes,

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