Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Space Between

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Space BetweenOrder this bookStory: A series of loosely connected adventures traces the Enterprise crew’s infrequent brushes with a slowly-unfolding mystery that points toward a shadow faction of Starfleet whose actions could endanger the Federation’s peaceful agenda.

Review: Published in six issues in 2007 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Space Between”‘s six discrete stories are so tenuously connected that one could be forgiven for not realizing that there’s connecting tissue at all. But that’s not really a problem, since “The Space Between” also happens to consist of some pretty good stand-alone stories that feel absolutely authentic to the “eras” of TNG that they portray.

The first story, “History Lesson,” is a nifty little mind-bender that would’ve done Brannon Braga proud in the show’s later years of Mental Possession Plots Every Third Week, and yet this one seeems almost fresh, set during the first season with an interesting artistic take on the characters and Tasha Yar kicking ass like she seldom got to do on TV. “Captain’s Pleasure” builds on the notion of Picard taking leave from the big chair to go on archaeological digs (see also The Chase, Gambit part I), and as with the television episodes where that happened, there’s not only an archaeological mystery but a murder mystery to solve, along with the unlikely sight of Beverly Crusher getting down in a Studio 54-style holodeck disco.

“Strategy” fast-forwards to season 7 and, amid a plotline about recurring attacks by a mystery vessel possession Federation, Romulan and Borg tech, addresses the Worf-Troi-Riker love triangle more adeptly than the series ever got around to doing. “Light Of The Day” is an odd duck, almost like a Star Trek take on a zombie story – which, of course, IDW later did across all of its licensed ranges with its Infestation miniseries. With zombies about as overexposed in horror fiction as vampires are these days, this was the least interesting story to me, though it did at least bring Ensign Ro back into the fold (I’m guessing somewhere in season six, since no stardate is given), and features some fascinating visual effects for the view from Geordi’s VISOR.

The in-jokey title of “Space Seeds” (playing off of Space Seed, the original Trek episode that introduced Khan) is set during season 2, and features an interesting agricultural sci/tech mystery (yes, you read that right) in which Wesley Crusher plays a vital role (you read that right too) and even kicks butt (you’re still reading that right). It’s almost my favorite story in the book, with one exception: without the restriction of having to track down a specific actor or meet the approval of producers making a current Trek series, why no Doctor Pulaski?

The end of “Space Seeds” abruptly sets up the final story, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which would seem to be a TNG nod to Section 31 (a concept introduced in Deep Space Nine and later revealed to have been around as far back as The Space BetweenStar Trek: Enterprise). Admiral Nechayev is brought back and cast in a rather sinister light – we still don’t know whose side she’s on by the end of the story. (Maybe she doesn’t know either, explaining her eternal crankiness.)

Writer David Tischman – who scripted all of the disparate adventures – betrays a little bit of love for the last Star Trek spinoff to hit TV to date; Picard’s archaeological team finds a long-lost Starfleet shuttlepod from the starship Columbia (NX-02), while “Strategy” revives the notion of Romulans deploying remote-controlled ships. The TNG characters are written pitch-perfect – perhaps too pitch-perfect, as there are a few places where I rolled my eyes at a couple of seemingly over-the-top characterizations before reminding myself that the TV series, a creature of the ’80s that just happened to live on into the ’90s, would likely have done exactly the same things. For good or ill, Tischman’s scripts evoke the series perfectly.

Casey Maloney’s artwork improves throughout the story cycle, though this may be a case of other inkers (Maloney draws and inks the early stories) bringing their own style to the table and enhancing his already impressive artwork. By the time the final story kicks in, it’s one of the best-looking Trek comics I’ve ever seen. And thank goodness for the lovely cover artwork on the trade paperback: the individual issues had three covers each – an “A” cover (usually very nicely done artwork), a “B” cover (always an execrable photo-montage of well-worn publcity shots) and retailer incentive covers, which zig-zagged between both styles. The cover on the TPB is the best of one world, thank you very much.

This was IDW’s first foray into the Next Generation license, and in many ways it’s still my favorite.

Year: 2007
Writer: David Tischman
Pencils: Casey Maloney
Inks: Casey Maloney, Aaron Leach, Stacie Ponder
Colors: Leonard O’Grady
Letters: Robbie Robbins, Neil Uyetake, Chris Mowry

Publisher: IDW
Pages: 144

Star Trek: Countdown

Star Trek: CountdownBuy this book in StoreStardate 64333.4: A threat to Romulus is detected by a mining ship commanded by a Romulan named Nero. A supernova with unique properties is consuming everything in its path. Ambassador Spock, now the Federation’s formal ambassador to Romulus, urges the Romulan Senate to treat this threat with the utmost severity, but his pleas fall on deaf ears – at least at the highest levels. Spock’s proposal of a means to stop the all-consuming supernova captures Nero’s imagination, and Nero is willing to pledge the resources of his mining ship to gather the decalithium Spock’s plan requires. This also means leaving his wife – about to give birth to a son – on Romulus, but Nero is swayed by Spock’s promise of help. Despite interference from Reman pirates – a situation which is resolved in Nero’s favor by the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Captain Data – Nero’s crew gathers the material necessary and heads for Vulcan. But both Nero and Spock are unwelcome on Vulcan: the Romulan is considered a security risk, and Spock is considered a traitor, until Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard steps in to clear the obstacles in their path. But even Picard’s influence cannot sway the Vulcan Science Council: they give the supernova threat no more credence than the Romulan Senate. Nero races back to Romulus to evacuate his family, only to see the planet destroyed before his eyes. Enraged, Nero decides that the trip to Vulcan was a Vulcan/Federation plot to delay his mission to save Romulus, and when Nero’s ship, the Narada, recovers surviving members of the Senate, Nero kills them, feeling that they too betrayed the Romulan people with their indecision. Using information acquired from the Senators, Nero takes the Narada to a top-secret Romulan facility called the Vault, where he acquires adaptive technology for the Narada and sets forth on a mission of vengeance. Ambassadors Spock and Picard, Captain Data, retired Commander Geordi La Forge and Klingon General Worf combine forces to try to stop Nero’s unquenchable thirst for revenge, as well as the spreading supernova threat. Only one of these goals can be met – and though Spock succeeds in preventing the supernova from spreading further, he finds that the resulting cosmic energies unleashed may have given Nero a way to take his quest for revenge into the past. Spock pursues the Romulan into the past, knowing that it can only be a one-way trip.

Review: Considered the “official prequel” to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, “Countdown” sets up Nero and Spock as we see them in the movie, and gives us a taste of the future from which they hail. The story also shows us where the TNG characters are in relation to all of this, and helps to tie the movie’s story in to the existing franchise. As is typical of material in the “expanded” Star Trek universe, there’s no indication that IDW was under any pressure to pay any attention to what’s going on in the increasingly cataclysmic post-Star Trek: Nemesis novels by Pocket Books, and some readers may be just fine with that. The comic even ties off some of the developments introduced in Nemesis itself, and in some cases it minimizes their impact or erases it altogether – again, perhaps not something that anyone will mourn. Read More

Star Trek: The New Voyages

Star Trek: The New VoyagesOrder this bookStory: A collection of short stories about the journeys of the starship Enterprise and her crew.

Review: It’s hard to realize nowadays, when fan fiction is so prevalent (some would say invasive) but in 1976, the idea of finding a broader audience for fan fiction (outside of the meager readership of fanzines) was a fantastic notion. Without the all-powerful, all-seeing Internet, the only hope for fanfic writers would be the outlandish idea that Paramount themselves would allow a professionally published collection of such stories. But that’s just what Paramount did. They were about to launch the regular series of Star Trek novels with “Spock, Messiah!” and, perhaps, “Star Trek: The New Voyages” was an easy way to get material out to the public while the more professional work was being finalized. (They also upped the ante by getting Gene Roddenberry and the principal cast to write introductions, maybe as a way to take the curse of fanfic off.) Whatever the reason for the book’s publication, it’s good to know that this isn’t the first properly published Star Trek original fiction (having been preceded by junior novel “Mission to Horatius” and James Blish’s “Spock Must Die!”) as it is one of the most embarrasingly amateurish collection of nonsense ever to get the “official” stamp of approval. It basically proves that fan fiction hasn’t changed all that much in thirty years: it stinks. Read More

Star Trek: Voyager – The Farther Shore

Star Trek: Voyager - The Farther ShoreOrder this bookStory: With Borg assimilation slowly spreading in viral form on Earth, and Voyager’s holographic Doctor accused of having a hand in a violent “holorevolution,” suspicion is cast on Voyager’s crew. Admiral Janeway is already putting plans into action to free the Doctor, Seven of Nine and Icheb, in the hopes of not only clearing their names, but putting them to work solving the Borg mystery. With help from Lt. Commander Data, who has ostensibly arrived to provide legal counsel in the Doctor’s fight for recognition as a sentient, Janeway and her reunited crew retake Voyager and prepare for the fight ahead, when a shocking discovery is made: a new Borg Queen is behind the assimilation virus, and has been working on it for years – from within Starfleet itself.

Review: Picking up from the end of “Homecoming” and barreling toward the story’s conclusion without pausing for breath, “The Farther Shore” continues to complicate the immediate plotline for Voyager’s crew, but is clearly setting up problems for them to tackle down the road. Read More

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Avatar: Book Two

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Avatar: Book OneOrder this bookStory: The discovery of an ancient prophecy about 10,000 deaths before the birth of the Avatar – the son of the Emissary – worries Kira and Ro. When Vedek Yevir is summoned to investigate the ancient book, he instantly denounces it as the writings of a Bajoran heretic cult that turned away from the teachings of the prophets. But Kira isn’t so sure – all of the prophecies thus far have come true. She doesn’t have time to worry about it, however, when a new crisis arrives – the Jem’Hadar soldier who claims to have come to DS9 under orders from Odo breaks out and goes on a killing spree, making his way toward the station’s reactor core to overload it. Commander Vaughn, having just arrived aboard the recently-docked Enterprise-E, helps Kira to prevent the station’s destruction, but the two only survive with the help of another Jem’Hadar who claims to be on the same mission. A Starfleet attack force masses in anticipation of a new Dominion War, unless the new Jem’Hadar arrival can prove what he says to be true – and Kira unleashes chaos on Bajor by revealing the forbidden prophecies to the general population…only to discover that the prophecy of 10,000 sacrifices has already come to pass.

Review: I was sharply critical of the first volume of the two-book “Avatar” because it seemed like it was all setup. Book two is all payoff, and it really does redeem the story as a whole. Maybe this is a better relaunch for Deep Space Nine than I was really capable of giving it credit for after reading only the first book. Read More

Star Trek: Voyager – Homecoming

Star Trek: Voyager - HomecomingOrder this bookStory: After Voyager’s spectacular return to the Alpha Quadrant, Captain Janeway and her crew have mere days en route to Earth to readjust to life as they once knew it. Amid subdued ceremonies at Starfleet HQ, Janeway is promoted to Admiral, and several of her officers – including Tuvok, Tom Paris, B’elanna Torres and Harry Kim – receive promotions as well. The standing charges against the Maquis crewmembers are dropped and each is offered an opportunity to resume their Starfleet careers at their previous ranks (an offer Chakotay prefers to sleep on). The heavily modified Voyager is immediately impounded by Starfleet Command so that its unusual technology can be studied. The holographic doctor is annoyed to find that virtually no one pays him any attention in this new environment, while Seven of Nine is just as annoyed to find herself at the center of attention. Voyager’s crew scatters to new lives and new assignments, but when a fanatical hologram rights activist launches a full-scale revolution – inspired by the doctor’s holonovel – and several incidents of spontaneous Borg assimilation befall unsuspecting victims, Starfleet brings Voyager’s crew together again…to arrest and detain them on unspecified charges.

Review: I think I’ve stated, more than once, a faint annoyance with most “licensed property” fiction. With the “reboot” of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Pocket Books had a chance to get daring, and a few years later, Pocket got the chance to do it again with the now-decommissioned Star Trek: Voyager. And this time, they got it right – “Homecoming” is not just an inventive way to continue Voyager’s story past the television series’ irritatingly lame finale, but the book also does one Mr. Roddenberry proud by using its 24th century setting to address serious issues that were just beginning to make themselves known in the post-9/11 21st century. Read More

Boarding The Enterprise

Boarding The EnterpriseOrder this bookStory: A lively mixture of SF writers (many of them with connections to the original Star Trek) and other essayists look back to the dawn of Star Trek, dissecting the original show to ponder its meaning, and stepping back to analyze the meaning that the Trek phenomenon has taken on over time. Contributors include David Gerrold (who also co-edited), D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Howard Weinstein, Eric Greene, Michael Burstein, Robert Metzger, and several others.

Review: I’ve been an admirer of BenBella’s Smart Pop books for some time now, enjoying the variety of ways of looking at their subjects that the standard-issue scattershot of writers brought to the table for each book. Sure, there are the occasional bone-dry essays, and there have been a few occasions in the past where attempts at humorous essays flatlined like badly-written internet humor. Generally, though, I look forward to the more-or-less factual essays, examining their subjects from an angle that I might not have previously considered. And if there’s an occasional essay from someone who’s worked on the show, that’s icing on the cake that elevates it slightly above the other “Unauthorized! And Uncensored!” books about various pop culture phenomena that are already on the market. When you look at the short list of honest-to-God Star Trek luminaries lining this book’s table of contents and credits, it’s clear that “Boarding The Enterprise” has hit something of a home run. Read More

Star Trek: Mission To Horatius

Star Trek: Mission To HoratiusOrder this bookStory: The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is growing restless after months without shore leave. Unfortunately, a distress signal has been sent to Star Fleet from the Horatius system and Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise are given the mission to find out which of the distant planets of the system has sent the message and help if they can. When they arrive at the system in question they find three planets colonized by humans, all in various stages of stunted development. Travelling to each one by one, the crew of the Enterprise try to determine who is the victim and who is the aggressor.

Review: “Mission To Horatius” has the distinction of being the first original Star Trek novel, published two years before James Blish’s “Spock Must Die”. It is also the only one published during the show’s original run. Reflecting the view of the day that Science Fiction was meant for children, “Mission To Horatius” was printed in a hardcover format similar to the “Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew” novels (and proudly boasts of being an “Authorized TV Adventure” on the spine). Read More

The Star Trek: Voyager Companion

Book titleOrder this bookStory: The journeys of the starship Voyager are explored through extensive synopses of every episode.

Review: First, a note about how we approach things here at Even the stuff that we don’t really get into, we realize that someone, somewhere, probably adores. When it comes right down to it, it’s just our opinion anyway, and everything is somebody’s curate’s egg. We really try not to pan something relentlessly. That being said, readers should be forewarned that, in this reviewer’s honest and fair opinion, The “Star Trek: Voyager Companion” sucks. I cannot believe Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster, or Viacom Licensing let this turkey hit a printing press in this form. Read More

Star Trek: Voyager – A Vision Of The Future

Star Trek: Voyager - A Vision Of The FutureOrder this bookStory: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the first two seasons of Voyager, including the torturous pre-production process of developing the show’s premise.

Review: This book received much pre-release hype as being a product of the same author who penned the justly acclaimed 1968 behind-the-scenes story of “The Making of Star Trek”, though this time writing under his own name instead of the pseudonym of “Stephen E. Whitfield.” Since Poe’s definitive tome inspired many later works, including the excellent books by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, it stands to reason that surely he can exceed his own previous work and give us a Star Trek behind-the-scenes book like no one else can. Read More