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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Well of Souls by Ilsa J. Bick (Review)

This November and December, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Well of Souls is a story of the Enterprise-C, the ship introduced in Yesterday’s Enterprise. One of the best-received episodes in the history of Star Trek: The Next GenerationYesterday’s Enterprise established Rachel Garrett’s ship as the troubled Enterprise, the tragic flagship, the doomed space craft. Ilsa J. Bick builds on that characterisation in Well of Souls, one small story from some point in Garrett’s command of the Federation flagship.

While Well of Souls feels like a rather unconventional Star Trek novel, it is charming in its own way. Bick connects her tale to the themes of Well of Souls, suggesting a troubled ship manned by a struggling crew. The novel returns time and again to the theme of unfortunate choices, the weight of making the best decision of the options open. Unlike Kirk or Picard, Bick seems to suggest, this version of the iconic starship doesn’t get that many lucky breaks, with her crew repeatedly forced to accept the least bad of a selection of unappetising choices.

Well of Souls is  a thoughtful, introspective piece. It doesn’t flow or pace itself as well as it might, but Bick crafts a compelling picture the never-the-less. While not quite the best of the Lost Era tie-in novels, it’s ambitious and insightful. It lacks the energy of Serpents Among the Ruins or The Art of the Impossible, but it’s still a very worthy read for anybody looking to sketch out a gap in the Star Trek mythos.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Lives of Dax: Sins of the Mother (Audrid) by S.D. Perry (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Conspiracy.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch was the first truly successful attempt to continue a Star Trek television show past its final episode. Of course, there had been novels written before taking place after the finalés of the various shows, but the Deep Space Nine relaunch was the first conscious attempt to directly build upon the events of the series and structure the novels as something of an “eighth season” to the show. If I get through the seven years of Deep Space Nine, I am seriously considering covering the novels.

What’s interesting is that the novels didn’t quite come to be in an instant and decisive sort of way. There was a hazy grey period where books were published after What You Leave Behind, but not necessarily structured as part of that “eighth season.” Two of those books, The Lives of Dax and A Stitch in Time were retroactively welcomed into the relaunch. Indeed, this short story from S.D. Perry proves to pretty essential to the relaunch as a whole.

Like Deep Space Nine itself, the novels picked up and developed on particular themes and plot threads. The entrance of Bajor into the Federation is the most obvious, a plot point set up in Emissary and never completely resolved in the show. However, one particular plot thread seems to have emerged from out of nowhere, stretching back to an aborted arc from the very season of the second generation of Star Trek television shows. The relaunch built heavily on Conspiracy.

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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: Brave New World by Chris Roberson (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Quite a few of the Myriad Universe stories feel like “for want of a nail” stories. Changing one little detail of Star Trek history and the entire universe comes apart at the seams. In the Echoes and Refractions collection alone, The Chimes at Midnight offers a nightmare glimpse of a universe where Spock died in childhood, while A Gutted World explores what might have happened if the Cardassians had never left Bajor. Neither alternate universe represented a sustainable alternative to the Star Trek we know and love. The subtitles might as well have been “… and then things got worse.”

With the final story in the collection, Chris Roberson takes another tack. Brave New World isn’t a story about how removing one vital thread of the Star Trek tapestry causes the whole thing to unravel. Instead, it’s something quite a bit bolder. It’s a genuine alternate universe, one boldly different – not inherently better or worse, but just an example how things might have unfolded if just one little thing had been different.

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Star Trek: Mirror Universe – Shards & Shadows: The Greater Good by Margaret Wander Bonanno

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

If Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness proved one thing, it’s that it sucks to be Christopher Pike, in any universe. The first captain of the USS Enterprise not only had to wait until 1988 to see his pilot (The Cage) finally broadcast on television, he also got shuffled off-screen unceremoniously in the franchise’s first two-parter (The Menagerie) and was never really mentioned again. When JJ Abrams’ Star Trek introduced us to a rebooted Christopher Pike played wonderfully by Bruce Greenwood, he observed of George Kirk was captain of a starship for eight minutes. It seemed like Pike ended up in command of the Enterprise for only slightly longer than that.

It seems that even mirror!Pike can’t catch a break, as Margaret Wander Bonanno demonstrates in her short little glimpse into how exactly mirror!James Tiberius Kirk took control of the ISS Enterprise.

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Star Trek – Crucible: Spock – The Fire and the Rose by David R. George III (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

The second part of David R. George II’s epic Crucible trilogy, The Fire and the Rose, can’t quite measure up to the charm and warmth of the first instalment in the series, Provenance of Shadows. George’s Crucible trilogy is a breathtakingly ambitious piece of work. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek with a trilogy of novels, each grounded in The City on the Edge of Forever and each based around a different member of the show’s leading trinity. The Fire and the Rose is still a very smart and well-constructed read, but it stands in the shadow of the first of George’s three books.

I suspect that at least part of the reason The Fire and the Rose doesn’t work as well is down to the subject. Leonard McCoy is a vitally important Star Trek character, but he was also a relatively under-developed one. While he was one of the leading trio on the original show, he was never as popular as Kirk and Spock, and never garnered the same amount of attention. (Notwithstanding solid work done by writers like Diane a Duane.) So McCoy was a relatively blank canvas for George to develop.

In contrast, Spock is the face of Star Trek. He was part of the first episode of Star Trek ever produced. He appeared in the most recent film released. Although DeForest Kelley christened Star Trek: The Next Generation with a cameo in Encounter at Farpoint, Leonard Nimoy’s visit to the spin-off earned a full two-parter in Unification. As such, Spock is a character who has been developed and explored and expanded by countless writers over the franchise’s long history.

Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine there’s too much left to say about him. George tries quite hard, and find a nuance or two, but The Fire and the Rose feels more like an attempt to consolidate what we already know of Spock.

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Star Trek – The Menagerie, Part II (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

I will admit that I am sceptical of Gene Roddenberry as a writer. There’s no denying that Roddenberry was a fantastic ideas man. After all, his concepts and characters have stood the test of time. Without Roddenberry, there would be none of the Star Trek that we all love so dearly. As such, I feel a little guilty when I criticise his writing, or when I argue that his influence on the early years of Star Trek: The Next Generation held the show back from greatness. (I’d suggest that it was only when Roddenberry’s involvement was minimised, and the writers were allowed to add shading to his futuristic utopia that The Next Generation truly came into its own.)

Still, Roddenberry was always an excellent salesman, and his script for The Menagerie brings out that quality in abundance. The Menagerie is effectively an excuse for why the show ran out of original scripts half-way through its first year, and Roddenberry might not make the most convincing argument, but he still makes it compelling.

Watching Star Trek on Star Trek...

Watching Star Trek on Star Trek…

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Star Trek – Burning Dreams by Margaret Wander Bonanno (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

It’s amazing just how iconic and influential the character of Christopher Pike is, despite the fact that he only appeared as a guest character in a two-part episode of the first season of Star Trek. Of course, he was the lead character of a pilot that was filmed in 1964, but not aired until almost a quarter of a century later, but it still seems strange that the character should hold such sway over Star Trek fandom. Perhaps it’s a sign of how preoccupied fans are with trivia and minutiae. Maybe it’s a sign of how skilfully Star Trek cultivates holes in its own mythology (in this case Pike’s time as captain) for the fans to fill. It might even be the lingering sense of tragedy surrounding the “captain who never was”, played by an actor who died at the young age of 42.

Whatever the reason, it feels appropriate that Pike was one of the characters celebrated and included in the franchise’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and the character is well served by the decision to task Margaret Wander Bonanno with writing “the definitive Pike novel.”

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