Friday, April 17, 2009

Peter David and Robert Greenberger website problem

As posted in various places online, for reasons unknown, the websites of Peter David and Robert Greenberger (who have, among many other things, been very involved in the world of Star Trek books and comics) have been delisted from Google. This is not good. They request that people link to their sites (see above) and, better yet, link to particular items from the sites.

You might be interested in Peter David's bibliography or biography, for example. Or Bob Greenberger's bibliography or biography. If you're at this blog you must already have some idea who these guys are and what they do, but you may not realize how much other stuff they've done.

You may be entertained by some of PAD's blog entries, like this amusing one on Sarah Palin. Or touched by Bob Greenberger's recent post on the 21st birthday of his son Robbie, who died of cancer before he reached that age. I've never met either Peter or Bob in real life, but I've been reading their blogs for quite some time now, and they both seem like good guys. You can follow Bob's RSS feed or Peter's.

So come on, spiders and bots, index away.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Manga: Boukenshin

Spoilers ahead.

Tokyopop's first Next Generation manga, following three TOS volumes, is another mixed bag. Boukenshin (Adventurous Spirit) features three returning writers (David Gerrold, writer of "The Trouble With Tribbles," a few Trek books, and a lot of original SF; Diane Duane, writers of several Trek and fantasy novels; Christine Boylan, whose only previous Trek credit is in a TOS manga) and one new contributor, F.J. DeSanto.

Gerrold's story, "Changeling," is an underwritten sketch of a lesson story. Picard sends Wesley Crusher, on his first mission as an ensign, along with several of the senior officers on a mission to "the Labyrinth of Wisdom [...] the nexus of powerful energies." Despite being told to wait and be careful, Wesley keeps assuming he knows what he's doing and jumps on something that changes his appearance. Each time it happens, making him resemble (and act like) Geordi, Worf, and Deanna, he faces a challenge related to that person's skills. Turns out it was a holodeck lesson for the cocky young genius, who needed to be taught "about brains, courage, and heart." How the holodeck gave him Troi's empathic powers is never explained. It's a generic lesson story, making a cardboard character have some transformative experiences with some other cardboard characters. The dialogue is weak, too.

Duane's story, "Sensation," is a definite step up, as Deanna is faced with what at first seems to be a medical mystery at an archeological site on an alien planet. It feels like a TNG episode. The art by Chrissy Delk is also an improvement over E.J. Su's extremely minimal manga style art for Gerrold's story; Delk's work is stylized, and still in the manga mold, but shows more of a flair for characters and backgrounds.

Boylan's "The Picardian Knot" has an interesting idea -- Picard has become strangely unemotional after his mindmeld with Sarek -- but the story, involving an encounter with Romulan commander Tomalak and an ancient artifact, feels a little underdeveloped. And I really didn't care for Don Hudson's art.

DeSanto's "Loyalty" ends the book on an appropriately mixed note. Again, it's a good idea -- Riker is ordered to meet with several Starfleet senior officers and offered command of the Enterprise on the grounds that Picard, following the Locutus incident, is hopelessly compromised -- but several pages are wasted on making a point of the meeting being some kind of ultra mega top secret session. It makes perfectly good sense for some kind of inquiry to be held into whether Picard should be removed from his position; it hardly seems necessary to hint at it being Section 31-related. (I may be reading too much into it; it's all hush hush and Riker, in an unfamiliar part of HQ, escorted by silent security guards in nonstandard gear, asks "Never seen this part of HQ before, what's this section called?"but gets no answer.) Still, Riker manages to make the case for Picard. Some familiar faces, including Philippa Louvois and Elizabeth Shelby, appear as well.

So far, I think IDW's conventional American-style comics are doing a better job of telling stories that feel like Star Trek than Tokyopop's manga version. Perhaps a volume with only two longer stories and artists trying to be less faithful to manga conventions would allow the writers to tell deeper and better characterized stories with art that serves the story rather than demonstrating adherence to a particular style.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Blast from the past: Rising Son

It's almost become a cliche now for people to say "I love the DS9 relaunch books! I didn't bother reading Rising Son, though." There aren't very many books in the series, and all of them are worth reading. So, here are notes toward a review, as written in December 2002.

Spoilers ahead!

Some thoughts written at about halfway through the book:

The book captures Jake's personality well. He's open, friendly, likeable, thoughtful, but still a bit naive. He's eager for some excitement, but also nicely and properly conflicted about his role on the ship he ends up on, Even Odds (thinking his dad wouldn't approve, although everything Jake participates in can be justified somehow.)

The father issue is one of the key themes. Jake latches on to Dez as a father substitute. He's been motivated in this whole thing by his search for his father, with whom he's been very close (one of the TV show's nice touches, and usually handled much better than Star Trek's other families). But he's not a kid now, he's a young man, and transferring his need for his dad, however, temporarily and shallowly, onto Dez is something I expect to lead to some kind of problem. Having Dez set up as someone with his own father issues (underexplored so far) was a good move because it helps integrate Jake into the crew more quickly and easily, but again is the sort of thing that could lead to some kind of problem between Dez and Jake eventually as each can only fill the other's needs so far. Something missing from the story so far: some kind of potential romantic entanglement for Jake, which is often part of a coming-of-age story. Unless the problem between Dez and Jake is going to end up involving Facity, who is apparently the only shaggable humanoid female present Jake's noticed as such.

This is sort of a Farscapish version of Trek, though that would have had more women and more sexual undertones.

Fanwank: references to New Bajor, Tosk, "The Die is Cast", Vash, Q, the Wadi, the Karemma, etc. it's all justifiable in a couple of ways. The planets and races mentioned are all closer to the wormhole than the Dominion is, so it would make sense to bump into them. DS9 was not supposed to be about the Alpha Quadrant and the Dominion only (I liked the line about it being a year before anyone from the Alpha Quadrant even heard rumors about the Dominion). Also, I like how the continuity-heavy stuff Jake's experiencing contrasts with the mostly new stuff the Defiant encounters in Mission: Gamma.

Lots of decent SF stuff (types of aliens, the Wa, etc).

Some thoughts added a few pages later (after the info on Dez's father, among other things):

Stessie's final moments with Glessin were very touching.

Dez trying to emotionally manipulate Jake for reasons that are questionable but not evil make for good DS9-style character-based storytelling. More so than the other Trek series, DS9 is good at morally ambiguous characters and situations instead of clearly drawn good and evil.

The story changes dramatically when Tosk and Wex appear -- are they about to meet Opaka? How does Wex know humans when she sees them?

I should have recognized Ennis from Sen Ennis the first time it was mentioned in passing, though it was obviously going to have some kind of payoff, as was the village of the poor.

Opaka's story is way overdue -- not in the context of this book, but in the context of the Deep Space Nine as a whole.

Thoughts written after I finished reading the book:

The story is well-structured, with everything seemingly there for a reason (even the Wa ends up tying in with the Eav'oq somehow). Early mentions of Eav-oq, the clues that Tosk will lead them to Eav-oq artifacts, leading to discovery of the Eav'oq... it all starts off just as casual details mentioned in passing and builds nicely. The stuff with Raiq gets an interesting payoff when Opaka later realizes what Raiq's people's belief system is actually about -- and I have no doubt we'll be seeing them again. They have the potential to be a really interesting adversary, with their own weird take on the wormhole aliens as another challenge to the Bajoran belief system (which will by then have already been rocked by the Eav'oq).

A bit of a digression: several years ago, KW Jeter's Bloodletter made the obvious-in-retrospect point, never made by the TV writers, that there should be a station on the other side of the wormhole. This novel makes the idea of a Gamma Quadrant group of wormhole alien religious believers seem equally obvious in retrospect. Some of the Eav'oq spin on the wormhole aliens seems potentially problematic, because everything in the Bajoran faith can easily be viewed as consistent with the portrayal of the aliens as beings who don't experience time as we do and who therefore could impart knowledge of the future to Bajorans of the past, who then see and play it out as prophecy. The notion of reincarnation of spirit seems more like a conventional (i.e. Earthly) religious belief and doesn't work as well with the traditional matter-of-perspective way the Bajoran religion has been presented. (That is, the Starfleet types and the Bajoran types can see the same things happening while disagreeing on what they mean. This won't be the case with either the Bajorans or the Starfleet types and the Eav'oq, because they see different things happening.) But again, I suspect that that difference in belief is there to provide some kind of payoff later on, although it may simply be as part of a theological conflict between Bajorans and Eav'oq.

Ending of the book: Tosk gets his payoff from the Hunters but gets to be true to himself; Dez and Jake also both realize they have to be true to themselves and thus are able to part on good terms. The discovery that the Jem'Hadar ship that rescued Jake was after the Even came as a bit of a shock -- Jake's new friends had a narrow escape. But that explains why, in Lesser Evil, it was a Dominion ship that handed over Jake, Opaka, and Wex. They didn't just happen to be there. Everything happens for a reason.

Gamma comment: one thing I missed in Mission: Gamma was references to and appearances by some of the Gamma races the DS9 gang encountered before the Dominion. I've already mentioned this above, but anyway it works nicely as a counterpoint to Mission: Gamma. Instead of having his own ship and his familiar faces, Jake (and later Opaka) is out there alone, having to find a way to get along from the inside -- but whereas Vaughn et al are dealing with new species, Jake at least has some familiar species to deal with. Notwithstanding the fact that the Ferengi and Cardassian characters are among the ones he spends the last time with. (If there's a follow-up novel with the crew of the Even Odds, I'd like Glessin to have a larger part than he had here.)

Jake's spiritual quandary, his frustration with the prophets, is understandable and well presented. Even if he comes to peace with it all, he should never be completely comfortable, because he and his family have, after all, been manipulated.

As for what comes next: the Ascendants will likely be a threat at some point, but for at least the next novel the focus is much more likely to be on the parasites. If the Ascendants do turn out to be the next major adversary for the DS9 regulars, it'll be a nice change of pace. The parasites were a good choice, coming out of established continuity that cried out for some kind of follow-up, and nicely set up in DS9 by The Lives of Dax. Creating a new threat that could only have come from DS9 for the next possible adversary is better yet. Continuity is great, but too much can become a crutch. Making something new that nonetheless fits the series concept so well is a sign that there's some good creative thinking going on. It's also a good way to look at Bajoran religion from another perspective. The events of the first several relaunch books have done nicely at looking at the religion from the inside, through the excommunicated Kira and the agnostic Ro. That will have to continue, as the return of Opaka is bound to have some dramatic effects on Bajoran society. But knowledge of the Eav'oq and the Ascendants will force the Bajorans to look at their society and their faith in a whole new context.

There's a lot of potential for Bajoran political and religious intrigue here, and I always enjoyed the episodes of that type. The story of Deep Space Nine is the story of Benjamin Sisko, but it's also the story of Bajor, and that got lost a bit during the Dominion War. The books have made up for that. However, there are an awful lot of plot threads in progress right now (Kira's attainder, Kasidy's pregnancy, Bajor joining the Federation, the parasites, Opaka's return, Shar's problems (and Andorian problems more generally), Ro and Quark, etc). I hope at least a few of these are resolved in Unity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Voyager: Full Circle

Warning: spoilers ahead.

You could make a checklist of all the things this book has to accomplish.
  • It has to resolve unfinished plot threads from Christie Golden's post-Endgame novels.
  • It has to make up for a few years without any post-Endgame novels.
  • It has to deal with what's happened to some of the Voyager characters in the Next Generation and Titan novels: Tuvok joining the Titan crew, Janeway being killed by the Borg.
  • It has to deal with the events of the Destiny trilogy, and how the end of the Borg affects Seven of Nine.
  • It has to establish a new direction for the Voyager novel line.
  • Oh, and, ideally, it should be a hell of a read.
Good thing the book is 561 pages long, then, because it has so much to do. And it hits every one of those targets.

As I've mentioned in the past, I tend to think of Voyager as a series of lost opportunities. All that groundwork laid in several Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes to create the opportunity for conflict between Maquis and Starfleet as Voyager struggles to survive far from home... pretty much ignored after a few episodes. Even Voyager's desperate position was often forgotten, as the crew had wacky hijinks on the holodeck, and new shuttles magically replaced all the shuttles destroyed over the years.

Then the series ended and everything the show was still about -- that is, getting home -- was resolved. It was time for a bold new rethink of what Voyager after Endgame could be about. Instead, we got Homecoming and The Farther Shore, which shuffled a couple of characters offstage as quickly as possible, showed everyone settling back in without much trouble, and went back to Voyager's last season for story ideas, doing yet another Borg crisis and the completely unthought-out holorevolution storyline. Throw in B'Elanna going nuts, Chakotay having magical adventures, and the crew getting a new counselor whose method of counseling is to get everyone together for a great big crying jag, and you've got a soggy spiritual mess of a lost opportunity.

And then there were no more relaunch novels for a few years. Golden was busy writing other books, and her editor, John Ordover, left Pocket. Handing Voyager over to a new editor and writer meant that it would take some time to rethink where the books should be going, and that took time. Meanwhile, other complicating factors came along: the book schedule was cut back, continuity between novel series was increasing, some big status quo-changing plans were in the works, and Voyager characters were appearing in other books. And Janeway died.

Full Circle is a novel of two halves: before Janeway dies, and after. There's an emotionally wrenching prologue in which Chakotay waits for Janeway to arrive for a long-planned dinner to mark the next stage of their relationship -- but she doesn't show up. Instead, her ex-fiance Mark Johnson arrives to tell him that Janeway's dead. After that, the first chapter moves back in time to a point shortly after Golden's novels. Much of the first half of the book wraps up her plotlines. Some things are done quickly and neatly; Astall, the new counselor, is replaced by Hugh Cambridge, who has a key role in the book that simply could not be performed by the hyperemotional Astall. The B'Elanna and Miral storyline, on the other hand, expands into an action-packed chase through Klingon space that could have been a novel in its own right. Meanwhile, we get glimpses into Starfleet's plans for Voyager and its crew through some new characters: Captain Afsarah Eden and Admiral Willem Batiste. Throughout all this, all of the Voyager regulars who returned to the Alpha Quadrant have a part to play.

Then Janeway dies. We don't see a recreation of what happens in Before Dishonor; instead, we see how this affects everyone left behind. And before the healing is done, Destiny's Borg invasion makes things worse. The ship is badly damaged, some people are killed or badly injured, and Seven finds herself in a strange new position again -- the Caeliar have removed her Borg implants and left her fully human, but they haven't taken her wherever the other former Borg and Caeliar have gone. And the person she had most depended on to help her find her way is dead.

Where much of the book's first half focuses on B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, Chakotay and Seven get much of the attention in the latter half, as the two people most damaged by their losses. Meanwhile, Starfleet's plans for Voyager -- equipping it with slipstream drive and sending it back to the Delta Quadrant with a fleet of slipstream ships to explore, to reestablish contact with friendly Delta Quadrant civilizations, and to ensure that the Borg threat really is gone -- continue to move forward. But how many of Voyager's key crew will go? And what happened to B'Elanna and Miral, whose names appear in a list of confirmed deaths in A Singular Destiny?

I've criticized Golden's Voyager relaunch novels for being driven by emotion; Full Circle is an emotional roller coaster ride, especially Chakotay's and Seven's very different descents into despair. But it's not cheap emotion. It's believable, raw, and real, and comes from a story that shows every sign of being composed with intelligence and thought rather than just gushers of feeling. That's where Cambridge comes in. Astall would have been utterly useless at helping Chakotay make sense of his problems. Cambridge helps Chakotay rebuild himself, to become once again the man who was Voyager's captain. But that's not where his future lies.

We've continued to learn more about Eden and Batiste through the novel, and it's not too surprising that Eden is to be Voyager's captain on its new journey. What is surprising is a revelation about Eden late in the book: she's not human, she doesn't know where she's from, but she recognized something from Voyager's files, and she's wondering if Voyager's departure from its home will lead her to her own. She's joined in her new mission by a few familiar faces in new roles.

But Chakotay and Seven are still on Earth, with their own new journeys. And it's probably just my shipper tendencies, but I could see this leading to a post-J/C pairing of C/7 that actually makes a degree of sense for these characters in their new lives. Not that Beyer is necessarily going there, but it could work better here than it did in Voyager's seventh season.

In other times, Full Circle might have been published as two or three separate books. It's a big book, but one that's compelling and well-written enough that I blazed through it. It does everything it needed to do: it ties off loose ends, it sets the stage for new stories, it tells a couple of complete stories of its own. And it pays tribute to Kathryn Janeway. It's a book for Voyager fans, because it respects the show's characters, and for its detractors, because it makes those characters more real and believable. It's a book that Voyager fans really should read, regardless of whether they like or dislike the idea of killing off Janeway, because it's a hell of a story. If there exists a Voyager fan who is centered exclusively on Janeway and actively dislikes every other character, that person might safely skip this book. Likewise anyone who insists it's not Voyager if Kes and Neelix aren't in it. But fans of the Janeway/Chakotay relationship should find this a powerful and devastating story, worth reading even if that relationship no longer has a future. So too should readers who like action rather than relationships, because there's a good amount of that, as well. Most importantly, despite so much happening in this book, it ends leaving the reader wanting to know what comes next. It's good to know that the follow-up is only a few months away, and that it's by Beyer, too.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

IDW: Bringing me stuff I've bought and paid for three or four times already!

Amazon's got some info on the next three volumes of IDW's Star Trek Archives (and the covers of only two of them). One looks like a straightforward reprint of the old DC trade paperback collection The Mirror Universe Saga (bought the comics, bought the DC paperback, bought the Trek comics DVD ROM). Another has a few issues reprinted by Titan just three years ago.

Dear IDW: I know, I already have damn near everything, so I'm not really the target market, but still: how about more obscure stuff for the Archives line?

Star Trek Archives Volume 5: The Best of Kirk
This six-issue collection includes the fan-favorite "Trial of James T. Kirk" written by New York Times best-selling author Peter David. As the Klingons and Nasguls pursue their vendetta against the captain, a deadly bounty hunter is eyeing the price they've placed on his head. But if Kirk is fortunate enough to survive the encounter, will he survive the attentions of his own Federation, eagerly looking for a scapegoat to preserve universal peace?
Due July 2009. At least some of this material has been published in trade paperback twice before. The three-part "Trial of James T. Kirk" appears in both DC's 1991 The Best of Star Trek and Titan's 2006 The Trial of James T. Kirk.

Star Trek Archives Volume 6: The Mirror Universe Saga
The treacherous but intriguing tales of Star Trek's Mirror Universe are presented in this collection of the 8-part Mirror Universe Saga! Witness the deception and desperation that unfolds as the Empire sets out to conquer another universe. It will take all the guile and cunning Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise can muster if they hope to ward off the coming Empire invasion, and save themselves in the process!
Due September 2009. This appears to be a reprint of DC's 1991 collection, Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Saga, reusing the original's cover art. The book reprints a storyline from DC's Star Trek comic issues 9 to 16 from 1984-85. Though the cover art on Amazon shows the title as Best of Alternate Universes, Amazon lists it under the DC title, and IDW's solicitation covers are often different from the final versions, including titles.

Star Trek Archives Volume 7: Best of Klingons
In stories like "The Wormhole Connection," "The Only Good Klingon...," "Errand of War," "Deadly Allies," "Maggie's World," and "Judgment Day," get a close look at the relationship between the Federation and Klingon Empire. These fierce, warring people present unique challenges to the Federation, and in these classic DC stories get a glimpse of what the future holds for Federation-Klingon relations.
Due November 2009. If the information above is correct, this collection reprints the first four issues of DC's original run of Star Trek comics, which began in 1984, followed by issues 31 and 32 from 1986. The first four were reprinted in 2005 by Titan in their To Boldly Go reprint collection.

Nicholas Meyer's View From the Bridge

Coming in September from Viking (text from catalogue):

The critically acclaimed director and writer shares his account of the making of the three classic Star Trek films

The View from the Bridge is Nicholas Meyer's enormously entertaining account of his involvement with the Star Trek films: STII: The Wrath of Khan, STIV: The Voyage Home, and STVI: The Undiscovered Country, as well as his illustrious career in the movie business. The man best known for bringing together Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud in The Seven Per-Cent Solution had ironically never been interested in Star Trek until he was brought on board to save the film series.

Meyer shares how he created the script for The Wrath of Khan, the most revered Star Trek film of all, in twelve days -- only to have William Shatner proclaim he hated it. He reveals the death threats he received when word got out that Spock would be killed, and finally answers the long-pondered question of whether Khan’s chiseled chest is truly that of Ricardo Montalban. Meyer’s reminiscences on everyone from Gene Roddenberry to Laurence Olivier will appeal not only to the countless legions of Trekkies, but to anyone fascinated by the inner workings of Hollywood.

Jewish Themes in Star Trek is finally available

It's been years since Rabbi Yonassan Gershom first posted online about his work in progress. I mentioned it in my blog five years ago and it wasn't new then. Gershom was looking for a publisher, and eventually decided to self-publish. It's available now at I'll be ordering it soon. Here's the back cover copy:
Your unauthorized guide to the Jewish future!

Rabbi Gershom boldly takes you where few Trekkers have gone before!

You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Jewish Themes in Star Trek, a well-researched and reader-friendly journey into Jewish themes, actors, writers, in-jokes and subtexts in the Star Trek Universe. Inspired by a class he taught at the Minneapolis Talmud Torah, the book explores such things as:

The Jewish origin of the Vulcan salute

How Vulcan culture is based on rabbinical Judaism

"Who is a Jew" in episodes, movies and novels

How Talmudic logic and rabbinic thinking helped expand the Star Trek universe

Plus: proof positive that the Ferengi were based on Yankee traders, not the Jews!

No, these scriptbooks aren't all going on the website

Three years ago, started selling trade paperback collections of TOS scripts through They did a dozen or so volumes, each containing the same old photocopied scripts and next to no new original content, and charged around $40 per volume. With that quality at that price, even I didn't bother buying them all, and I still had a job at the time.

So now has an even smarter idea: every episode of TOS and TNG, published as an individual trade paperback through cafepress, for $20 each. That's over $5,000 to get the full set. I assume they don't expect anyone to actually even think of buying all of them; this is just a replacement for the unbound photocopies they used to sell. But still, there has to be a better way (and a better pricing scheme) than this.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Star Trek Archives Volume 4: Best of Deep Space Nine

If you're like me -- and you probably aren't, but let's pretend -- you think that the first two seasons of Deep Space Nine are underrated. There was a lot to like in those pre-Dominion, pre-Worf, pre-Defiant days. There was tension between the Federation and the Bajorans, the Cardassians kept hovering in the background, and the Gamma Quadrant was a place of mystery. No one knew who or what might come through the wormhole.

That's the Deep Space Nine we see in the new IDW reprint collection, Star Trek Archives Volume 4: Best of Deep Space Nine. It's not really a "best of" compilation; it's the first five issues of the comic from 1993 plus a short story included in an "ashcan" preview edition.

Written by Trek comics veteran Mike W. Barr, the early comics alternated between single-issue and two-issue stories.Like the show, the comics make use of the ensemble cast, and all of the regulars make appearances in this volume. Barr captures the characters' voices and personalities well, no small feat given the brevity of the stories. The stories also feel like the kind of stories we got early on in DS9. The opening two-parter, "Stowaway," deals with a threat to the station accidentally unleashed by Jake and Nog; the single issue story "Old Wounds" involves an old Cardassian general's visit to the station and becomes a murder mystery; the two-parter "Emancipation" echoes elements of "Captive Pursuit" and "Sanctuary," as a shipload of slaves from the Gamma Quadrant flees their owners and seeks freedom in Federation space. The stories may not have the kind of depth longer stories can offer, but they get the feel right, and the art isn't bad.

I'm a big DS9 fan, and I'm glad IDW is reprinting at least a few issues of the DS9 comics. Malibu never published any trade paperback reprint collections, and the UK Boxtree collections weren't widely distributed (if at all) in North America, though of course these comics are included in last year's DVD-ROM collection of Star Trek comics. I'd like to see IDW do more DS9 collections, and for that matter I'd like to see them get the license to publish new DS9 comics. If coordinating developments with the Pocket DS9 relaunch is problematic, there's no reason they couldn't do stories set during the TV series. The more DS9 the better.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Star Trek: Countdown

Warning: lots of spoilers below.

Here's the most important thing to keep in mind while thinking about the comic prequel to the new movie:
TrekMovie: Well the bigger issue is more [Star Trek movie prequel comic] "Star Trek: Countdown" and whether or not that is considered canon. That is not a promotional thing, that is a…. thing thing. Your name, JJ’s name is on it and Alex’s name is on it. So canon or not canon?

Roberto Orci: I don’t think that is for me to decide. As you know I considered some of the books, in my mind, to be of character canon. And some of them in between the movies to possibly be even possible candidates for canon, until some other movie comes along and makes those impossible. That is my personal view, but I am not going to declare whether comics are canon.
So some things possibly might possibly be candidates for canon until they're contradicted by a movie (hey, Roberto: canon, by definition, is the stuff that the movies shouldn't contradict), and he won't say whether the comic is canon. It's the latter that's key here, because I'd hate to have to see the Star Trek novels having to tie into this story a few years from now, when they reach the year Countdown is set. Whichever year that is.

Countdown is setting the stage for the movie that's supposed to be a bold, fresh, new vision of Star Trek. Unfortunately, Countdown itself is hampered by everything that makes that new vision necessary: fanwank, technobabble, and yet another attempt at recapturing that Khan magic.

The first issue's not all bad. It introduces Nero, a Romulan working stiff whose ship is used in dangerous planetary mining expeditions. We haven't seen many ordinary Romulan civilians, and we get a bit of a sense of what their lives are like; Nero has a risky job, a loyal crew, and a pregnant wife at home. But the star of a planet he's trying to mine is flaring up.

And here comes the technobabble. The Hobus Star (it's always called The Hobus Star, never just Hobus) is going to go supernova. Not only that, it's likely to destroy the whole Romulan Empire unless the decalithium (oh, joy, another kind of lithium) Nero mines can be converted by top secret Vulcan technology into the mysterious and magical substance known as red matter (like dark matter, I guess, but more colourful). But wait, the supernova is changing. It could destroy the whole universe. Or maybe the whole galaxy. Depends which issue you're reading. Either way, it's scarier than Genesis and the Nexus combined. Now it's really really essential to get some decalithium converted into red matter to create a black hole to suck up the supernova. But the Vulcans aren't eager to help.

Fortunately, some people are willing to help. First, there's the starship captain who saves Nero's ship from some nasty Remans: why, it's Data! What a surprise! Looks like he got better after being killed in Nemesis. Then there's the Federation ambassador to Vulcan. Why, it's Jean-Luc Picard! What a surprise! (Vulcan, by the way, almost feels like it's not part of the Federation; they haven't shared red matter technology with anyone else, and they have their own ambassador on Romulus, where Spock lives and serves as the Federation ambassador. They also see Spock as a traitor.) Then there's the brilliant spacecraft designer who has the one ship that could possibly deliver the red matter into the supernova: why, it's Geordi LaForge! What a surprise! And then, when the plan works just a little too late and Romulus is wiped out, killing Nero's wife and unborn son (and a lot of other people), who's the general leading a Klingon battle fleet to stop Nero's quest for revenge? Why, it's Worf! What a surprise! The pages are practically stuck together with all the fanwank going on.

Nitpick: Romulans have green blood, not red (someone noticed that by the last issue).

The only connection to TOS is an image of Kirk on a monitor when Nero, as a guest of the Enterprise early on, pokes around the ship's library computer to see what he can learn.

So... why is Vulcan now almost belligerent towards the Romulans, Spock, and the Enterprise, when the Romulans have greatly improved relations with the Federation? Why is it necessary to wipe out the Romulan Empire (and, it's suggested, most of the Romulan people) with a scientifically wrongheaded big technobabble threat, when Nero's main concern is his wife and unborn child? Why is it necessary to bring Data back through B4, when Nemesis tells us that wouldn't work? Why have drastic career changes for Picard, LaForge, and Worf? And how much of this is going to end up established as definite canon through the movie?

For too long now, people making Trek movies have looked back to The Wrath of Khan as a model, forgetting that a lot of the best Star Trek TV episodes didn't have a big black hat villain. Nero is another Trek villain who starts out as a not bad guy who ends up a villain seeking an over-the-top, misguided revenge. There's a bit of Khan (whose wife and other frends died), there's a bit of Soran (who wasn't evil, originally, he just wanted to get back to the Nexus), there's a bit of Shinzon (the Romulan citizen who kills Romulan political leaders and gets a ridiculously powerful ship with unethical tech, though Shinzon got the ship first then wiped out the Romulan leadership), there's even a Borg connection (that's the unethical tech this time, instead of thalaron weapons)... well, the never-seen-before old Romulan tradition of shaving off your hair and tattooing your face and head as a sign of grief is something new.

I guess the writers of the comic (the movie's Orci and Kurtman get story credit, Mike Johnson and Tim Jones get the writing credit) wanted a Big Event story as a preface for the movie that changes everything. But, in my humble opinion, it comes off as a misfire too reminiscent of past Trek movies and of Pocket's Ordover Era, when the Federation/galaxy/universe was threatened with annihilation two or three times a year. They're just trying way too hard here to pile on the Bigness without thinking any of it through.

When the movie comes out, I don't think reading this will add a lot to the experience. It's highly unlikely that it will seem like a necessary bit of backstory to make sense of anything in the movie. So let's have it not be canon, please.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I decided to delete the moribund old blog and imported the Trek books-related posts to this blog. Hope it doesn't flood anyone's LJ page or rss reader or anything...