Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Good that Men Do

Star Trek Enterprise: the Good that Men Do
© 2007 Michael Martin and Andy Mangels
464 pages

There's a man who leads a life of danger
 To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
 With every move he makes another chance he takes
 Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow!
 Secret Agent Man! Secret Agent Man!
 They've given you a number and taken away your name....



No series finale and few episodes of any of the various Star Trek shows are treated with as much loathing as "These are the Voyages", the series finale of Enterprise. The reasons are numerous, but the useless death of a major character and the episode's framing device are particularly despised. The episode is treated as a holographic recreation of one of Enterprise's missions -- the mission that caused the aforementioned useless death, and Commander William Riker is viewing the historical events as a way of drumming up courage to confess something to Captain Picard.  The device effectively turns the last Enterprise episode into various scenes tucked into TNG's "The Pegasus", but its portrayal as a holographic recording allowed Martin and Mangels to reinterpret the story with  framing device of their own.

Late in the 25th century, Captain Nog of Starfleet makes his way to see his best friend, the famous author Jake Sisko. While reviewing recently declassified files from Starfleet's early history, he's stumbled upon something that would make a compelling novel in the hands of a gifted author -- historical records that indicate that the accepted history of the Federation's beginnings is fabricated. A Starfleet commander was declared dead, even though new records indicate that he played a far more active role in historical events yet to come than would be expected of a dead man, and new records make the official story look painfully fabricated. And so the two old friends spend an evening viewing the records together, finding out what really happened in the days before the birth of the Coalition of Planets, the Federation's progenitor.  The novel is in essence a ret-con of "These are the Voyages", one sanctioned by Paramount and CBS, that turns one of the series' most badly received episodes into a fantastic novel of politics, espionage, and war. For the sake of the Federation's survival, one man will fake his own death so he may steal into the shadows and infiltrate enemy territory to prevent a war from endangering the lives of billions.

The Good that Men Do redeems "These are the Voyages" while giving attention to my favorite character from Enterprise, Commander 'Trip' Tucker. In addition to undoing some of the episode's 'mistakes', Martin and Mangels also iron out all the various oddities of the episode, but The Good that Men Do can stand on its own. It is the introduction to the Enterprise relaunch, and in recounting Tucker's story makes  the Relaunch's first major arc obvious: the mysterious Romulan Star Empire is ambitious and paranoid, and sees in Earth's attempts to unite the worlds of Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, and Coridan a major threat against its future plans of expansion. War seems unavoidable, but Tucker -- aided by a mysterious and autonomous intelligence department within Starfleet -- intends to make Romulus' job as difficult as possible.  Martin and Mangels tackle the Tucker/T'Tpol dynamic well, though I'm surprised Archer agreed to Tucker's plans so readily. In any case, I want to read more of these guys and look forward to Star Trek's new "007"'s adventures.

Related:

  • "Journey to Babel",  in which the Enterprise carries delegates from Vulcan, Andor, and Earth to discuss Coridan's entry into the Federation. I wonder how much work their make-up artists went through...(The episode introduced Sarek, Spock's father.)
  • Cloak, S.D. Perry; Rogue, Martin and Mangels; Abyss, David Weddle and Jeffrey Lang;  and Shadow, by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. All four novels deal with the same autonomous intelligence department, although by the late 24th century it's degenerated into a far less innocent organization. 
  • The Good that Men Do on Memory Alpha
  • Martin and Mangels on Memory Alpha
  • Enterprise Relaunch on TvTropes

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