ST: The Better Man
© 1994 Howard Weinstein
McCoy: “I should have told you about this in my quarters, not yours.”
Kirk: “Why? Some kind of weird protocol?”
McCoy: “No, I’ve got a better liquor selection.”
Fresh from a refit, the Enterprise has been summoned to the planet Empyrea. Or rather, Dr. McCoy has. In his days as a young officer, he and his captain-buddy Mark Rousseau discovered there an isolationist colony of human beings, dedicated to perfecting their own gene pool. Though the Emyreans were stridently against outside contamination, Rousseau did manage to win permission for Starfleet to set up a science station on the planet to monitor unusual star activity. Shortly after their ship, the Feynman, left Empyrea, McCoy sought transfer away from both it and his now ex-best friend, Rousseau. Whatever happened? And why have McCoy and Rousseau been asked back? (Was it a woman? Of course it was a woman. Discover new life and go to bed with it, that’s the StarFleet way!)
The Better Man is a rare TOS book in that McCoy is the primary character, with Kirk stuck on the Enterprise. Though it takes place two years after The Motion Picture, the plot could have easily fit within the five-year mission: two main threads quickly emerge, with a third crisis tying them together. When McCoy visited the planet eighteen years ago, he worked with a local scientist, and now — almost eighteen years later — she has a daughter, just about eighteen years old. And that’s a problem, because when the child is given her customary bioscan at eighteen to make sure she’s worthy breeding potential, the government is going to realize her daddy is Not of This World. She’ll be sterilized, or worse yet, killed, because that’s the sort of thing that happens when people start controlling others to make things…Perfect. You get mass killings or reavers, and so in the fashion of Captain Mal, people here are aiming to misbehave. Specifically, McCoy manages to get himself kidnapped by the Empyrean Liberation Front, which is even more embarrassing than it sounds: the ELF is one teenager who wants to start a revolution and use McCoy as leverage.
I found A Better Man a fun, quick read. Weinstein gets the subtleties of McCoy’s language fairly well, and there’s several fun lines:
McCoy: “Y’know, that day Spock threw that bowl of soup at Christine Chapel will always be one of the highlights of my life.”
Kirk: “I suppose that says something about your life.”
Kirk: “I thought you wanted to have as little to do with them as possible.”
Scott: “I do, sir, I just want it to be my idea — not theirs!”
Scott: “Looks like so-called genetic perfection has doesn’t away with the occasional horse’s ass.”
Spock: “A correct observation, Mr. Scott, if I understand the reference.
Scott: “That y’do, sir.”