A review I wrote a long time ago about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was titled “Shatner’s Ego Trip”. Apparently, his ego needed another vacation.
In the movie Star Trek: Generations, the proverbial torch was passed from the original Star Trek series to The Next Generation when Captain Kirk of the original Enterprise was brought through time to aid Captain Picard of the Enterprise D. At the end of the movie, Kirk dies after helping save the day.
Why Shatner ever agreed to do the movie if he didn’t want to have Kirk die is beyond me. In The Return, he resurrects Kirk and then (sort of) kills him off again in his own way.
That’s not to say the novel is bad – far from it. I think a lot of that credit has to go to the et. al. not included on the cover. It is only on the title page that you learn that Shatner was not alone in crafting the novel; he had the aid of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
Yes, a reader will need to know Star Trek history to read this book. You will have to have viewed Star Trek: The Motion Picture movie to understand why Spock is perceived as being a Borg. You will have to have seen the episodes Unification Part I and Unification Part II of the Star Trek: The Next Generation series to understand Spock’s relationship with the Romulans. You will have to have seen the original Star Trek series episode Balance of Terror to understand the animosity that a particular Romulan feels towards Kirk. You will have to have seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes Best of Both Worlds Part I and Best of Both Worlds Part II to understand what happened to Picard at the hands of The Borg. There are many other snippets that refer to other happenings in the universe of three of the Star Trek shows (including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), but I don’t think they are as essential. Still, if you are not a regular viewer of the series you will not understand many of the references.
Spock is brought to the planet Veridian III, where a salvage operation of the destroyed Enterprise D is going on at one side of the planet. On the other is where Picard and Kirk battled Soran and Picard buried Kirk underneath a cairn of rocks. Starfleet wishes to give Kirk a proper funeral and Spock has come to escort the body back to Earth. When an attack occurs on the salvage operation, Spock watches Kirk’s body stolen from underneath the rocks.
The mystery to the familiar Star Trek characters is who has stolen Kirk’s body and why. The readers are given the answers: Kirk’s body has been stolen and revived by rebel Romulans who have aligned themselves with The Borg to defeat the Fedeartion. Their goal is to have Jean-Luc Picard killed. Since he was once assimilated by The Borg, he has knowledge that can possibly defeat them.
One Romulan in particular has a grudge against Kirk. She wants to humiliate him as a traitor and begins programming his mind to murder Picard.
Throughout the novel we follow Kirk’s quest to hunt down Picard and kill him. All the while, we are also following Picard and Dr. Crusher as they attempt to infiltrate The Borg collective. Spock is another story as he attempts to find out who has stolen and resurrected Kirk by infiltrating the Romulan criminal network.
Fans of the Star Trek series’ will enjoy this novel. It has great action scenes and tension as the different crews circle each other suspiciously. If there’s one problem I have with the novel, it’s the characterization of some of the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation. For whatever reason, it seems that Shatner has a problem with either the character Commander Riker or the actor who portrays him in the series, Jonathan Frakes. Riker comes off here very belligerent and at times downright mean and nasty. The female crew members such as Deanna Troi are often given little to do except seem supportive of whatever the male crewmembers do and yell “Watch out.” Likewise I thought the character of Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was also characterized somewhat poorly as a person, although his physician abilities seemed to be consistent with the “miracle worker” doctors we see in Star Trek.
However, fans shouldn’t let this deter them from reading this novel. Although it’s beginning to feel like Kirk is a cat with nine lives, it is a very good read. It’s fun to see the different characters from the different crew together. The various storylines come together in a very believable way.
At 367 pages, it goes by fairly fast and leads right into Shatner et. al.’s next novel. At a convention I once attended, the late actor John Colicos said “In soap operas and science fiction, you’re never really dead.” Shatner is going to extremes to prove that.
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