Monday, November 26, 2007

Enterprise Marathon and Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky

In the continuing saga of my Star Trek kick . . . I spent “Black Friday” planted in front of the television, watching the Enterprise marathon on Sci Fi. Having never watched Enterprise before, I was intrigued enough to watch about 7 or 8 episodes that day. (Christi could hardly stand the boredom of such a day--and in retrospect, I understand.) However, I came away with no need or desire to watch more. The bottom line is that the characters never appealed me to such a degree that I wanted to follow them longer. In other words, all the characters, even Captain Archer, seemed flat and cardboard-esque. Except for rare instances, the show also seemed devoid of a character-driven sense of humor—which has always been fundamental to Star Trek, as far as I’m concerned. Really the only thing that held me in place for those hours on Friday was the delight of seeing Original Series aliens, such as Andorians and Orions, given contemporary make-overs and more fleshed out storylines. But it’s not enough pleasure, in my opinion, to invest any more time in. I now understand why Enterprise never caught on with most Star Trek fans.

Along similar lines, I have just finished reading Vulcan! by Kathleen Sky. Originally published in 1978, this was one of the earliest Trek novels. Sky did a great job portraying the characters of McCoy and Spock in this novel. However, Captain Kirk does not come across as accurate to his character. Most of the novel, Kirk is grouchy and irritated, and due to Star Fleet instructions and the threat of a Romulan ship, his hands are tied from any action. Perhaps one could argue that the circumstances are what causes Kirk’s unfamiliar demeanor, but I just felt as though Sky missed the fullness of his character. At one point, Kirk is portrayed as wishing that an antagonistic character, Katalya Tremain, a scientist who hates Vulcans, would be killed on the away team. That is certainly not the Kirk we all know. It’s important to note that Kirk is really a background character in this novel anyway, so the inaccuracies of his portrayal are not make or break for this novel.

By the way, the Romulan commander is portrayed as a bit of a coward—at least when it comes to Kirk. Apparently, Captain Kirk has a huge reputation at this point among Romulans as a trickster and dishonorable opponent. Even so, I was surprised to see the Romulan commander to be characterized as so weak and unsure of himself. It did not seem to fit with previous glimpses into Romulan command.

The central figure in the novel Vulcan! really is Katalya Tremain. McCoy spends the first half of the novel attempting to uncover why she hates Vulcans and goes into hysterics at the sight of Spock. (Trust me, Sky gives sufficient reasons for Tremain’s assignment to the Enterprise for this particular mission, despite her apparent bigotry.) The investigation into her psyche is interesting, but not worthy of the 70 pages or so devoted to it. I suspect this short novel (only 175 pages in total) needed some padding to be completed, and it was the front end that got the padding treatment.

The second half of the novel is much more exciting as Spock and Katalya are trapped on the surface of the planet Arachne—alone and surrounded by threatening creatures . . . sort of a cross between giant ants and tarantulas. McCoy’s earlier work with Katalya makes it possible for her to work with Spock, but she still isn’t happy about it. As they struggle to survive on Arachne, there is an opportunity for Spock to uncover what is really behind her displays of hatred toward Vulcans.

Overall, the novel Vulcan! is a swift, pleasure read. The tone and pacing is closely derived from the original Star Trek television series--so I’d recommend this one to anyone looking for a bit of Star Trek nostalgia.

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