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markk

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A poor employment of a classic Star Trek trope

Mutiny on the Enterprise - Robert E. Vardeman

One of the most prevalent tropes of the Star Trek franchise is the disruptive effect of the outsider to the smoothly-functioning operations of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The ship picks up a person or small group of people, these people introduce some foreign values to the crew, and then a few leaders (usually, but not always the captain) address the disruption caused and reassert Starfleet order. It's a recurrent trope in part because of its versatility and the number of variations possible, but that doesn't make it any less of a trope.

 

It's no surprise that the trope would appear eventually in a Star Trek novel, and Robert Vardeman's book seems to be the first employment of it in print. Yet for the first use in a novel with all of the greater possibilities the medium entails, his use of it is surprisingly unimaginative. Picking up after the events of his previous contribution to the series, The Klingon Gambit, Kirk and company are assigned to transport a small team of ambassadors to a system where two planets are on the verge of conflict. Along the way they rescue Lorelai, a woman of an unknown species from her disabled craft. Once on board her pacifist philosophy and powers of persuasion quickly sow dissent among the crew. Though Kirk and Spock attempt to battle her influence, they soon find their mission in jeopardy in the face of the resistance of the crew, who are following Lorelai's siren song (get it?) instead of the orders of their superiors.

It's fair to note that just because a trope isn't terrible just because it's a trope, and the subsequent use of it in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise, and other franchise media demonstrate some of the creative possibilities still possible with it. This is why Vardeman's novel is so disappointing; rather than take it in rich new directions possible thanks to the freedom inherent in a novel, he prefers to deliver instead what could have been just another warmed-over episode of the original series. There is little development of the plot and even less of the characters, as Vardeman relies upon the work of the series and what limited effort he put into his previous contribution to coast through. Even his main antagonist is defined more by her powers rather than any inherent motivation beyond "It's her job," and her employment in the story's resolution is predictable from the moment her abilities are defined. To be fair it's an improvement over his previous novel, but that reflects more the very low bar set by his earlier effort than a dramatic improvement in quality between the two books. Perhaps a subsequent novel would have been even better, but I can't say I'm regretting that he never wrote another one for the franchise.