Much like Doctor Who, the longevity of Star Trek has allowed much iteration with many stories, not only on TV, film, and fan made shows on the internet, but in novels as well. While Doctor Who waited until it was close to thirty years old before allowing original novels to be released, Star Trek has been giving us new (and non-conical) tales almost since the show ended its run back in 1969. And since 1979, there has been one continuous run of original novels.
But Star Trek has a uniqueness to it that has allowed novelists to continue to release new adventures. What a lot of writers have done is take minor elements (and major ones) within the continuity of the franchise and go off in tangents both good and bad. They’ve been able to expand minor characters (both guest casts and other crew members who did get names) and give them a full back-story –whether you care or not.
Greg Cox’s Legacies: Captain to Captain is designed to tie-into the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series, and is the opening story in a new trilogy that stretches from the earliest years of the Starship Enterprise under Captain Robert April to Captain Kirk’s historic five-year-mission, as well as one universe to another. Hidden aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is a secret that has been passed from captain to captain, from Robert April to Christopher Pike to James T. Kirk. Now the return of the enigmatic woman once known as Number One has brought that secret to light, and Kirk and his crew must risk everything to finish a mission that began with April so many years ago. Nearly two decades earlier, April and his crew first visited the planet Usilde, where they found both tragedy and a thorny moral dilemma. Today, the legacy of that fateful occasion will compel Kirk to embark on a risky voyage back to that forbidden world—which is now deep in territory claimed by the Klingon Empire!
As always, the novels are not “official” Star Trek. But Cox, who has written a number of other titles in the franchise including the duology Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, does a fair job of exploring the unmade TV years of Captain April and Captain Pike (beyond the TV series first pilot) along with giving us a look into the Number One character that vanished in the re-writes the series went through when NBC gave Star Trek a second chance. In Cox’s tale, we learn that Number One is Illyrian who goes by the name Una. The moniker of “Number One” comes from the fact that she was a high achiever in everything she did, not only on her home planet, but in her rise through Starfleet.
Of course, we get references of Kirk era stories, in particular Mirror, Mirror (even though the Captain and crew are more supporting characters here) and that mysterious Tantalus Device that the alternate Kirk used, which connects the plot along. Cox does spend an insufferable amount of time giving us minute detail about the landing party and them walking the six kilometers (and if Usildar is a rainforest, why do the original inhabitants of the planet need misters? They’re only beneficial in areas like a desert where there is low humidity) which, sadly, enabled me to skip a number of pages (and a reason I read it so fast -though having the day off from work helped). Then there is Una’s plan to rescue her fellow crew members, which is nearly the same plan as Older Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyagers series finale.
It’s an okay book, but it is a reminder to me why I eventually gave up trying to read these them. Part of it, of course, there are so many novels, not only in TOS line, but The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise (but since I dislike the last two, I’ve never taken the time to read those spin-off novels).
I have so much other stuff I want to read that I cannot lock myself into one series, one genre anymore.
The other part of my issues with them is that these tales are always (well it seems) connected to past episode stories; at least when Bantam was releasing titles back in the early 1970s, they writers tried to do original science fiction stories. Now everyone seems to have its roots in previous television episodes.
I suppose there is some logic to that. Online fan shows, in particular New Voyages and Continues, are setting their stories within TOS TV run and usually feature some sort of continuation of tales started there. It’s comforting and familiar, I guess, to those old school fans. But current Star Trek, in whatever form it comes in now, seems more concerned with rehashing previous episodes than actually telling a great science fiction story with a moral dilemma.