© 2019 Christopher L Bennett
Captain Jim Kirk has just taken command of the USS Enterprise, and already he has a tricky situation on his hands. It should be simple: pick up a team of archaeologists who were investigating a site prior to an extensive terraforming project removing any possibility of exploring the ruins of a destroyed civilization. Three comets are within range of the system, and with a little manipulation they can serve to start making the planet habitable again. The lead archaeologist is a former Starfleet officer, one who served as Kirk’s science officer on his first command, but her intransigence is complicating a delicate timeline. To achieve a solution that satisfies both parties, Kirk must draw on his past experiences and accumulated wisdom, balancing passion and prudence. Bennett incorporates Kirk’s entire command experience into the story, jumping from past to present in succeeding chapters to explore the bond Kirk has with his crew, and the effect they and his previous challenges have had in molding his character. Bennett provides his customary winning mix of solid characterization, Trek adventure, and scientific plausibility.
Captain’s Oath welds together two episodes of Kirk’s earlier history as a captain, fusing them with his unexpected dilemma on the Enterprise’s first voyage under his command. As the interlaced stories develop, so to does the familiar character of Kirk: the reader witnesses him becoming the man we know from the original series. The original show had a perfect trio in Kirk, McCoy, and Spock, as the captain balanced the emotional and dispassionate forces of his two best friends and ablest advisors, but young Kirk had to strike different balances — and was, in fact, the serious, focused one among his early bridge crews! The trials that Kirk endures in his first two commands, which Bennett explores here, do not have perfect resolutions; fate always seems to extract its pound of flesh. They sharpen and season young Kirk, though, giving him better judgment, more confidence in his instincts, more willingness to act beyond the rules and regulations and fulfill the spirit of Starfleet’s orders if not their letter. Kirk’s personableness remains an important part of his character and the book, as his bonds those he’s served with — even those who have left the service — push him to be the best he can be, to never fail in the face of obstacles or frustrations.
Definitely a good one for TOS & Kirk fans, and especially for those interested in the Kirk-Mitchell friendship. Michael Jan Friedman did a trilogy based on Kirk & Mitchell called My Brother’s Keeper.