REVIEW: Star Trek: TOS — “No Time Like the Past”

notime-coverStar Trek: The Original Series
No Time Like the Past
By Greg Cox
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Pocket Books

 

From the back cover:

STARDATE 6122.5. A diplomatic mission to the planet Yusub erupts in violence when ruthless Orion raiders attempt to disrupt the crucial negotiations by force. Caught in the midst of a tense and dangerous situation, Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise finds an unexpected ally in the form of an enigmatic stranger who calls herself “Annika Seven.”

STARDATE 53786.1. Seven of Nine is taking part in an archaeological expedition on an obscure planetoid in the Delta Quadrant when a disastrous turn of events puts Voyager’s away team in jeopardy -- and transports Seven across time and space to Yusub, where she comes face-to-face with one of Starfleet’s greatest legends.

STARDATE 6122.5. Kirk knows better than most the danger that even a single castaway from the future can pose to the timeline, so he and Seven embark on a hazardous quest to return her to her own era. But there are others who crave the knowledge Seven possesses, and they will stop at nothing to obtain it -- even if this means seizing control of the Enterprise!

My thoughts:

I will freely admit that when I first heard about the concept behind this novel, I was skeptical. Seven of Nine travels back in time for an adventure with Captain Kirk and the original Star Trek characters? Doesn't that seem a little... fan-wanky?

seven-banner

I should have known better than to doubt a veteran of Star Trek writing such as Greg Cox! After reading No Time Like the Past following its release last month, I found that I had to eat my words. Mr. Cox has crafted a terrific story that is both fun and realistic despite the fantastical premise.

In fact, while reading No Time Like the Past, I remembered why the novel is such an excellent medium for Star Trek. In 1996, we got an episode that was unprecedented: Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations" showed us a crossover between DS9 and the original series. While that episode was ground-breaking and incredibly well-done, it still suffered from one inescapable limitation: no new footage of Captain Kirk and the rest of the original cast could be created. However, in the case of the novels, the action is limited only by the writer's imagination. So, while on the face of it the idea of Seven interacting with Kirk and company seems silly, with the right author at the helm, the end result is excellent.

With regards to the plot of No Time Like the Past, the story is a fun romp through some of the highlights of Kirk's original five-year mission. In the pursuit of the solution to the puzzle that will allow Seven to return to her own time, we are taken first to Gamma Trianguli VI. Home of the machine-god Vaal, Gamma Trianguli VI was first seen in the episode "The Apple." From there, we get to visit Cheron, the planet of Bele and Lokai from the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."

bele-loki

It is in this part of the book that I found the most enjoyment. Cox's exploration of Cheronian society is excellent, and I really enjoyed the deeper look into this strange culture that ultimately destroyed itself due to race-based hatred. Finally, we get to revisit Sarpeidon, site of another time-bending adventure, the TOS episode "All Our Yesterdays." Cox's love of the original Star Trek is apparent as he ties together a number of different adventures to craft his tale.

Greg Cox makes good use of the Orions as the villains of the piece. While the primary antagonist feels a little one-note at times, it was nice to see the Orions used instead of the usual stand-bys, the Klingons and the Romulans. Personally, I would love to see a little more exploration of Orion culture in the novels.

One other note that I would like to add: something that's been missing from Trek lit that I think would be welcome is further adventures set during the respective television series' timelines other than The Original Series. With No Time Like the Past, we get a taste of what that would be like with Seven of Nine and the Voyager crew. It was definitely enjoyable, and I have to think that there would be a market for more novels set during the run of TNG, DS9, or Voyager.

seven-banner2

The problem, of course, is what do you set to the side to make room for those stories? I would not want to give up the shared continuity we've been enjoying lately in the 24th century, nor would I like to lose some of the more unique series on the go at the moment such as Titan, Rise of the Federation, or the upcoming Seekers.

Final thoughts:

Great interactions between Seven and the classic Trek crew make this novel a memorable one. Greg Cox really captures the voices of the original cast as well as that of Seven of Nine, and the interplay between Seven and the TOS crew felt very genuine. Additionally, revisiting some of the "greatest hits" of the original series is an interesting concept that plays out well. I especially enjoyed the exploration of the culture of Cheron.

Greg Cox has certainly shown a penchant for unique time-twisting adventures that are sure to make the most stalwart Temporal Investigations agent blanch in horror. Whenever you open a Greg Cox novel, you can be sure that a fun time will be had! No Time Like the Past marks another excellent entry into his catalog, and I'm looking forward to his next novel, due out at the end of this year!

- Reviewed by Literature Editor Dan Gunther

div_spacer

notime-cover Order Star Trek TOS:
No Time Like the Past

  • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

    How much of the non-Kirk TOS characters are there in the novel? How heavily is the book weighted towards Kirk and Seven of Nine, and how much do we see of Spock, McCoy, and the other TOS crew?

    • http://www.treklit.com/ Dan Gunther

      Hi Corylea! Most of the action takes place aboard the Enterprise, so we see a lot of the TOS crew. Seven interacts a great deal with McCoy and Scotty (and Kirk, of course), but everyone is ultimately along for the ride.

      • http://corylea.com/ Corylea

        Thanks for your reply!

  • phyfell

    “Fan-wanky” is an apt term for something like this; in my opinion, the writers of Trek literature are squandering opportunities for expanding the Star Trek universe beyond what has already been done, by succumbing to impulsive fanservice such as this. The groundwork for truly original story ideas are already in place; these writers just need the courage to take a chance with them. For example: in the post-Nemesis books, the Federation has begun to equip their starships with quantum slipstream drives, right? So, what do they do with this new superluminal technology; do they start sending exploratory missions to other galaxies? No; they retread Voyager’s footsteps through the Delta Quadrant! Has anyone ever thought of, I don’t know, sending a ship to one of the Magellanic Clouds, or Andromeda, or M33? (Oh, wait; they went there already in “Where No One has Gone Before”) Think of all the storytelling possibilities that extragalactic exploration could offer; but no, they instead come up with stuff like this. I mean, what’s next; Neelix going back to trade recipes with the NX-01 chef? Honestly, this idea is almost as bad as that Star Trek/X-Men crossover that Marvel Comics did back in the Nineties, or those atrocious crossovers that IDW is currently doing!

    • http://www.treklit.com/ Dan Gunther

      I must respectively disagree. I’ve really enjoyed the novel line lately, and I feel that they’ve been an excellent source of really unique Trek stories that haven’t been told before. From Titan’s deep space exploration of parts of the galaxy no one has been to, to the Full Circle fleet expedition, I’ve really enjoyed the track the novels have been taking.

      What in particular did you not like about this novel? I thought Seven interacting with the TOS crew was done very well and brought a fresh and unique perspective to the original series.

      • MJ

        Dan, I agree with you 100%.