This week I’ve been finishing the Vanguard series, set in the Original Series timeline and unfolding concurrently with the first three seasons of Star Trek. The first novel opened with the Enterprise enroute to its “Where No Man Has Gone Before” mission, and the third ends with the Enterprise taking part in the final battle, shortly after Defiant is attacked by the Tholians and disappears — into the mirror universe. The “real” Vanguard finale is Storming Heaven, but Dayton Ward — Mack’s partner in the Vanguard series — also provides an epilogue of sorts, In Tempest’s Wake, that focuses on Enterprise’s role in the finale. It’s told as a flashback, with a grizzled reporter visiting a captain-in-exile and trying to put together the pieces of what happened. As you may recall from previous previews, the Vanguard series is one of scientific mystery and interstellar politics; the Federation and the Klingons are competing to exploit the knowledge and tech of a long-vanquished civilization, the Shedai, and the nearby Tholians who regard the Shedai’s territory with dread and fear are working to make sure that the inferior Warms don’t reawaken the beast. In Storming Heaven, we have solid character drama, as civilian scientists and Starfleet argue over the morality of their actions in the Vanguard project, as they are throwing ancient power around recklessly; this sets the stage nicely for Carol Marcus’ deep distrust of Starfleet in TWOK, and the fact that an entire solar system went kablooey as a result of experiments (and was then covered up by Starfleet) also feeds into TWOK, by explaining why no one expected to find Khan on Ceti Alpha 5. Although I’ve grown gradually disinterested in the storyline, reading more for the characters, Storming Heaven was a solid finale. In Tempest’s Wake was more of an epilogue, telling the story from the Enterprise’s POV. Everything ends in a Big Ol’ Battle, as the Tholians assemble a massive fleet to stop Starfleet from unleashing unfathomable power.
Fast-forwarding into the 24th century, Enigma Tales borrows its title from a traditional Cardassian literary format, murder mysteries in which everyone is guilty, to explore the theme of societal guilt. We find a Cardassian a decade removed from its ruination at the end of the Dominion war, and growing into a flourishing democracy. But a previously unnoticed data file threatens to throw a dark light on the icon of Cardassian democracy, Professor Natima Lang, and some suspect that Castellan Garak (yeah, plain simple Garak is an interstellar head of state now) is trying to ruin her for his own ends. Enter Kate Pulaski, who promptly starts an incident. The Cardassians are my favorite Trek species, largely because we saw such a variety of them on DS9 — we saw dissidents, scientists, and artists — that challenged the “Japan with grey scales” stereotype they were originally developed as. The Cardassians are very…human, unlike the perpetually smug Vulcans and the eternal soccer hooligans of the Klingons. I was especially impressed by Garak’s ongoing moral battle: despite his past as a member of the Obsidian Order, who undoubtedly committed many murders and performed much mischief, he wants desperately to believe that both he and Cardassia can be redeemed. I’m an absolute sucker for that kind of story.
During quarantine I’ve been alternating between reading books and watching Star Trek. To date I’ve watched all of my favorite episodes from TNG and VOY, and am currently plowing through the Dominion War story in DS9. This starts in season 2 and continues until the end of the series (season 7), so it’s a lot. I’ve just started season 7, skipping the episode where Jadzia Dax is randomly killed by Gul Dukat, who for some reason became the Antichrist. I really don’t like what they did with him at the end of that series!