Shatner must have heard – and surprisingly listened to – some of the complaints about the two novels preceding Star Trek: Spectre in his “Kirk didn’t die” series. In both Star Trek: The Return and Star Trek: Avenger, Kirk of the 24th century is running around acting much like the starship Captain from the original series, even though more than thirty years have passed. It also seems that some of the poorer characterizations of the crew of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation have been remedied as well.
In Star Trek: Spectre, Kirk is a bit less of the unstoppable hero. Although still somewhat larger-than-life, he does suffer from the aches and pains of advancing age. I liked this depiction of Kirk much better than the seemingly never-wrong, always-the-hero, loved-by-all-women-who-meet-him character of the last two novels.
It is very obvious that this novel was inspired by viewing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Whether that was done by William Shatner himself (Kirk’s portrayer in the original Star Trek series) or by his co-authors Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, I can’t determine. In this respect, I give them credit because there is an attempt to keep up with the (then) current state of the Star Trek universe.
In the original Star Trek series, the episode Mirror Mirror was devoted to the exploration of an alternate universe. This theory comes from the “path not taken” idea. For instance, what if Monica Lewinsky had chosen to have that dress dry-cleaned? There would be an alternate universe where that did happen and the state of the world today would be quite different. Now, imagine that on a global scale, with all of the decisions people make spawning different realities.
In this case, during transport Captain Kirk and others were accidentally sent to an alternate universe where the Vulcans and Humans rule as a “Galactic Empire” through fear and intimidation. The crew’s counterparts from the alternate universe came aboard a peaceful exploratory Enterprise. It sets up an interesting episode.
In Spectre, Shatner picks up on one of the last things Kirk says to Spock from the alternate universe. This has caused a cataclysmic chain of events that leave Humans and Vulcans subjugated under dual enemies: the Cardassians and the Klingons. Earth has been all but destroyed.
In the regular universe, a chain of events takes place whereby the starship Voyager, presumed lost in the delta quadrant of space, suddenly appears out of an area of space known as the Golden Discontinuity. She is greeted by Captain Picard’s Enterprise who quickly learns that half her crew is missing.
Meanwhile, on Earth, while attending a reception for people of the 24th century who have been affected by a temporal shift, Captain Kirk is kidnapped by Kathryn Janeway. It is then that he learns of the situation on the mirror universe and feels it is his responsibility to right the wrong he created so many years ago.
What follows is a very interesting story that involves the original crew of the Enterprise and the crew of the Enterprise E, though they actually don’t meet up until quite close to the end of the novel. The story is filled with suspense as there are lives both in this universe and the mirror one at stake. There are just-in-the-nick-of-time rescues, convoluted plots which play out before the eyes, battle scenes involving everything from starships to hand-to-hand combat, and engineering miracles courtesy of Mr. Scott and Geordi LaForge.
A complaint I had about Shatner’s other two novels which involved the characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation was inaccurate depictions of those characters. Whether he and his co-authors have just gotten a better feel for those characters or if complaints similar to mine were heard, the depictions of these characters is much better in this novel. At least, that is for the characters he does feature at any length. It seems to focus mostly on Captain Picard, while the rest of the crew is mainly background to be used as needed in certain scenes. Perhaps if they were given more to do in the story, the characters would have appeared as poorly as before.
Another point I had a problem with was the fact that the authors seem to go out of their way showing us how much they are keeping up with Star Trek history. Several times Kirk mentions that he recognized Benjamin Sisko (Commander of Deep Space Nine) from being on his Enterprise years ago. This occurred in a fabulous crossover between the two series with the episode The Trouble with Tribbles. I have a hard time believing that Kirk would remember the face of every person who served under him. It also felt like I was being hit over the head with the fact; as if the authors were going out of their way to show off what a great job they were doing keeping up with Star Trek history (when it’s convenient for them, that is).
This novel is actually the first of a series Shatner has written involving the mirror universe. This surprised me at first, as it really felt like the novel was drawing to a close just to throw in a curve leading to the next story.
The novel is good for fans of the series. You would have to have a good knowledge of events in four of the Star Trek series to really enjoy the novel, plus have read the novels by Shatner preceding this one. Otherwise, characters and events will be confusing. As the novels for this series go, it is definitely not the greatest, but neither is it one of the worst.