Let’s talk about Treks baby
The One Where Riker Stars In The Grey.
When Riker is reassigned to go over a terraforming colony bedeviled by pesky, genetically engineered wolves, a new first officer is assigned to the Enterprise. And he’s kwazy.
The irritatingly named Quintin Stone is sort of the Nick Locarno to Peter David’s later Mackenzie Calhoun. Brooding rogue, troubled past, gets the job done, you know how it goes. It’s a pretty unabashed power fantasy/Mary Sue in New Frontier, but there the whole thing is so over the top and tongue in cheek that you really can’t take it too seriously. Quintin, on the other hand, is more played for drama--for most of the story, there’s a question as to whether he’s outright homicidally insane. Luckily, Troi is on top of things, checking on his mental well-being and also kinda being his love interest, like a literal version of this gif.
Spoiler alert: It turns out he’s deeply traumatized by a not wholly believable incident in his past*, so good on ya for catching that one, Troi.
Looking back on it, this book would almost seem to count as a deconstruction of the ‘broody antihero’ trope, showing that the character type just doesn’t work in TNG. He infuriates most of the cast and doesn’t get the girl, while those who are taken in by him are presented as saps (yup, Wesley).
Speaking of New Frontier, with the self-aware jokeyness and tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of Trek’s campier elements, would it be fair to say PAD was ahead of the curve in predicting the modern incarnation of Trek? Its take on Star Trek would definitely fit in with the Kelvinverse movies and especially with The Orville, which is pretty much the people’s choice for Trek these days.
*Okay, I get the interpretation of the Prime Directive as not interfering or revealing yourself to alien cultures until they develop warp drive, at which point they’re going to figure out you’re there anyway. And if you can stop an asteroid from wiping them out without them knowing about it, fine. Cool. I get that. But I don’t get Star Trek stories where the PD means you can’t interfere with the Romulans’ development, even though they’re showing up on your doorstep every other week and shooting at you. It’s like saying if Hitler 2.0 showed up in Germany and started amassing power, the US shouldn’t try to discourage that shit or, I guess, engage in any diplomacy whatsoever. It’s mindbogglingly isolationist. And isn’t it arguable that part of a culture’s natural development is interacting with other cultures? Like the back and forth between America and Japan driving forward the medium of animation?
The One Where Picard Nearly Bangs Guinan’s Sister
This one has a bit of nontroversy attached to it, because it came out while Star Trek was still kind of hashing out the Borg, so there’s a disclaimer at the beginning basically going
The gist of it is that Borg aren’t supposed to have gender (a bunch of people with blue hair just had their ears perk up, didn’t they?), but PAD here has a drone that gets detached from the Collective and is a girl. It seems pretty self-evident to me--Picard gets assimilated, they get him back, he’s still a dude, so why wouldn’t it work that way with a chick? But this is back when assimilation wasn’t the Borg’s m.o. the way it would later become. They assimilate a Ferengi in this book (yup) and it’s kind of a big deal. Oh, and as you might’ve guessed, Girl Borg bears a few similarities to Seven of Nine, who would show up later in the franchise, although PAD’s take on it is more “we rescued a girl from a serial killer’s basement after ten years and she’s totally catatonic,” less “what is this human emotion you call ‘kissing’?”
Good thing we have Deanna Troi, a counselor, to ease Girl Borg through the healing process. Oh, wait, she basically takes one look at GB and goes
Thanks for the help, Troi. I guess this subplot is supposed to prove that it’s pointless to try to save any assimilated person other than Picard, because mentally they’re already dead, so might as well just have a bunch of fun guiltlessly blowing them away
(And that goes for you too, audience.) But still, bit of a downer. At least Spock would’ve tried a mind-meld.
There’s also this chick Delcara, who in a pretty XXtra Flamin' Hot narrative choice is like Picard’s soulmate and he’s sort of in love with her slash obsessed with her after having a psychic vision of her in Starfleet Academy and y’know? TNG might’ve opened the door to this by having Crusher bang a ghost, but we should close that door. We should close it right now.
(By the way, in case you’re wondering if this Guinan’s sister business means Picard is down with the swirl, it turns out she’s Guinan’s adopted sister, so is it just me or is that weirdly ambiguous? She’s a beautiful black woman and Picard wants to do her. You can come out and say it, book. No one minds.)
Anyway, Delcara is piloting one of dem planet-killers from back in TOS--in hindsight, it’s weird that the Abrams movies never did anything with the one big Death Star-y thing that actually is canon to TOS, isn’t it? They gave Khan and Nero ridiculously super-sized ships, but the one kaiju that’s actually in continuity, nothing--on a vendetta against the Borg, who basically killed her family twice over. Man, if only there were some kind of psychologist on board the Enterprise to help her through that trauma.
I sense she feels great bitterness, Captain.
Yeah, why does she get a seat next to the Captain again? Let Worf have that seat. How is it fair that he has to stand around all day, he actually does stuff!
Anyhoo, as you might’ve guessed from the opening set on a holographic rendition of Don Quixote, with a Data Discussion(tm) of quixotic endeavors... and the fact that Delcara intends to totally wipe out the Borg, gosh, I wonder if she’ll succeed--this one’s something of a downer. It does give the promised Planet Killer on Borg Cube action for those fanboys who’ve wondered who would win in a wrassling match, and Picard learns a valuable lesson about not pursuing suicidal vendettas against the Borg, which he definitely takes to heart...
(Wow, he did that one-handed? What kind of gains does Sir Patrick have?)
But still... bit depressing.
The One Where Bones Becomes A Space Pirate
Another giant novel, I’m surprised this one never got raided for parts in any adaptation. Even on the page, it’s pretty breathtakingly cinematic, and yet, the only part of it that’s really been used is, if you squint, Bob Burnham in Discovery being a disgraced Starfleeter.
The premise is that, some months ago, the TOS Enterprise crew was involved in a breaking of the Prime Directive that resulted in the destruction of a world and the ‘Enterprise 5′ of bridge officers blamed for the tragedy being shunned and hated wherever they go (ah, that utopian Star Trek future, predicting an entire population that’s politically engaged).
Now, with the command crew scattered, everyone’s trying to get back to the planet where it all happened to find out what tf went down for reals. In a bit of a stretch, this is really hard for them--no one seems to be able to call in a favor or hire Han Solo to take them there or anything, which I suppose is in keeping with Star Trek 3′s similar situation six years prior. They don’t have to go so far as to steal a Constitution-class this time. I suppose it’s fitting for the wild and woolly TOS era. In TNG time, they’d probably be able to dial a Space Uber. (As it turns out, it seems like if they’d just coordinated their plans, they all could’ve hitched a ride with Spock, but then there’d be no book, much less a Giant Book.)
Anyway, Kirk’s been court-martialed and is working as an asteroid miner, Chekov and Sulu fall in with Orion pirates, Spock is challenging the whole thing in court, and Uhura’s in jail........oh. It’s like that, huh, Starfleet?
Like I said, most of the plot involves the crew going off on all their separate adventures, eventually getting the band back together and figuring out what went down. Apparently, the book was criticized for its nonlinear structure, but I think it worked out really well. Starting months after the incident, with everyone disgraced, gets you pumped to find out what happened. Then when they flashback to the shit going down, there’s a great sense of foreboding because you know something is going to happen, just not what exactly.
If I can make a criticism, it’s that after some great build-up, the ending seems a bit anticlimactic. The nature of the threat requires some unbelievable Hollywood Evolution to buy (nothing new for Star Trek, admittedly, and this is a crew that’s fresh off meeting Apollo and Abraham Lincoln) and while it is fitting that they’re able to resolve the situation without blowing up anything or punching anyone (Star Trek loves to talk the talk about how anti-military it is, then end their movie with some Klingons getting blasted), it still seems a little... dry. You’re not going to have Kirk hang off of anything, story? Not even a little? Okay. I still had fun.
And you’ll note that once again, Deanna Troi was of no help whatsoever. Geez, woman, you’re oh for three here!