reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline
With an introduction by David Gerrold, best known for the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles," the short story collection Constellations carries on the Star Trek tradition with 12 short stories that "boldly go where no man has gone before." Written in honor of the 40th, anniversary of the series, each story focuses on the characters and the types of situations that made the series so popular when it debuted in 1966.
The very first story in the book "First, Do No Harm," by Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, for example, takes a closer look at the Prime Directive as Doctor Revati Jendra, an old friend of Doctor McCoys, seeks to right a wrong created by Starfleet years before. An earlier visit to the planet NGC 667 has inadvertently caused a virus to mutate with deadly effects; now Starfleet believes Jendra is breaking the Prime Directive as she seeks to help the natives it has affected. Its up to Kirk, Spock and McCoy to find a way to aid Jendra and the natives without breaking the Prime Directive themselves.
Then theres "Official Record," by Howard Weinstein, which showcases Pavel Chekhov. Fresh out of the Academy and on the Enterprise, his dream posting, nothing seems to go right. Not only has he caused an explosion that almost destroys three decks, hes managed to allow Doctor McCoy to be kidnapped by a rebel group on a routine mission to the planet Tenkara. Sure that his career is totally doomed now, its up to him to get McCoy back and turn in an officer that has tortured a prisoner in an attempt to learn the doctors location.
"See No Evil," by Jill Sherwin, takes us to that period when Uhura returns to the bridge after having her memory wiped clean by Nomad. Although she now doubts herself and her decisions as she returns to communications, Uhura is the only one who can get the leader of a planet to allow the repair of their power grid before it destroys that world. To do this, Uhura must reconcile who she is now with her previous self while she gets the planet leader to face reality and not live in a world that she wished existed.
When a shuttle bearing Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Sulu, and Ensign Kerby is forced to land on a nearby planet after a Klingon attack, they find the descendants of a colony ship believed lost years before. While the newly found Humans are excited by the new arrivals, "The Leader" Captain Anders feels threatened as his charges begin to turn from him to Kirk and the Enterprise men for information. It isnt long before Anders believes the only thing that can put him back into a position of authority is to betray Kirk to the Klingons that have followed the Enterprise shuttle to the planet. The question of what makes a leader is the underlying theme throughout and one that both Kirk and Anders must face.
Perhaps the most poignant story in the book is "Make-Believe," by Allyn Gibson. The story parallels Kirks search for a missing crewman on a mission gone wrong to that of a young boy searching for a way to face the loss of his Army father in Iraq through playing with Star Trek action figures.
And, of course, theres also plenty of humor in "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," by Jeffrey Lang, as Montgomery Scott and Doctor McCoy are mistaken for Kirk and Spock in a bar on the planet Denebia.
All in all, this is a solid collection of short stories that focus mainly on character. The stories are all written by known Star Trek writers and definitely add to the series continuing popularity. While none of these stories are "quick reads," they have enough content to make us sit back and ask the typical Star Trek questions about humanity. Despite that, however, the stories are missing one main ingredient: action.
One reason for the popularity of the original series was its focus on action as well as theme and characters. While well-written, these stories are almost totally lacking in action, even when there is a logical role for it in a story. A good example of this is the story "Fracture," by Jeff Bond. The Enterprise has stopped by station M-33, where Kirk has a chance to meet Commodore Merrill, his personal hero. The station is located near the edge of Tholian space, and there seems to be an ongoing war between two Tholian factions.
When Kirk grants political asylum to a Tholian pilot against the wishes of Merrill, M-33 soon finds itself in the center of a war. Most of the stations personnel are evacuated before the Tholians attack it with their web ships, but we see all of this happening from the Enterprise as though it was being played on a movie screen. It seems that after all the years that M-33 has been in its location, Merrill and those before him would have tried to ascertain the reasons for the conflict; however, its not until Kirk arrives and begins to converse with the Tholians that the reason is found and the conflict ended.
In the case of "Chaotic Response," most readers will find themselves wanting more information. Spock has been the victim of a Klingon mindsifter, and its up to Kirk and McCoy to overcome its effects by using the mindsifter on themselves to bring Spock back to reality. There is no mention on how they manage to have the Klingon device on the Enterprise or who gave them the directions for its use so they can use it on themselves and yet avoid harm. The story does give us good insight into Spocks background, but the plot holes leave the reader with more questions than it answers.
Then theres "As Others See Us," by Christopher L. Bennett. The Enterprise trio and a couple of security officers go undercover to find out more about a planets inhabitants. When all return to the ship, the reader finds that the two security officers have been under control of colony of beings from the Coalescence. Nowhere are we told how they came to be infected; we just find out that they are. This colony was to observe humans, and by the end they believe that there are some possibilities for these humans in a few hundred years. What starts as an interesting look at the Prime Directive ends in confusion due to the lack of explanation of this colony being.
These plot holes and lack of action are present in almost all stories. Despite the excellent characterizations, the reader is left wanting more: more action, more plot; more background; more faithfulness to the original series. Without the blend of action and a stronger plot structure, these stories are only shadows of the Star Trek legend.
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