The Prometheus Design

Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

There’s something about the planet Helvan that seems to have affected the entire Enterprise survey team: First, Captain Kirk has separated the landing party under dangerous conditions and totally against the advice of Mister Spock; next the captain disappears and Spock is unable to sense his living presence; finally various members of the survey team experience lapses in memory.

Spock, Doctor McCoy and the other members of the survey team set out on a search for the missing captain only to find him being manhandled by a large contingent of Helvans. Part of his disguise—a set of horns—has been surgically removed, and he is being hailed as a monster by the crowd that carries his unconscious form along. Heedless of danger to themselves, the survey party rescues the captain and beams up to the Enterprise. There Kirk is treated for deep shock and upon his recovery is unable to remember much of what has happened to him, but feels a sense of rage and deep shame.

Soon after a report is filed with Starfleet, Admiral Savaj, a legendary Vulcan commander, arrives on the Enterprise; he promptly relieves Kirk of command, naming Spock his replacement. Although Kirk protests, the orders stand. Kirk is given the choice of appealing the decision, which means traveling alone to the nearest starbase while the Enterprise continues without him, or taking Spock’s place as science officer. Unable to leave the Enterprise as it sets out on a mission to save the galaxy, Kirk soon finds himself as the main suspect in a series of near fatal attacks on Spock.

When the Enterprise returns to Helvan to determine the cause of its rapid advancement, Kirk is put in temporary charge of the ship and ordered to attempt no rescues of the away team if anything goes wrong. However, when the team appears lost to the sensors, Kirk disobeys his orders and sets out to rescue the two Vulcans. Unfortunately, he soon finds himself part of a laboratory experiment and in need of rescue himself. That rescue comes in the form of Spock who puts him under guard for disobeying his commands. However, even with a guard to hinder his actions, it is Kirk who finds the path they must follow if they are to save the galaxy.

While the story line of the novel is compelling, it somewhat follows familiar ground by continuing the theme set forth by the authors in their other works: The Price of the Phoenix, The Fate of the Phoenix, and Triangle. Since the inhabitants of Helvan boast a set of horns, the allegory is not hard to determine: Kirk is once more put in the role of a Christ-like figure and seeks to offer himself to save the galaxy. However, this novels often seems to do more "preaching" than telling a story as it seeks to look at the legend of Prometheus and how all races must at some time cope with the ability to destroy themselves.

Even though the dialogue of the characters—especially Kirk—at times seem stilted, the message does come through. While not as action packed as many Star Trek novels, the reversal of the roles of Kirk and Spock is intriguing and the conclusion presents an interesting twist. Although the story is entertaining, readers would be advised to be familiar with the series as there are many references to the episodes and to the authors’ other works.

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