Continuity? Make it so!August 10th, 2010 by Kenneth Jones
In the mid-1960s, Gene Roddenberry imagined a television series set in the future. He originally wanted to call it ‘Wagon Train to the Stars,’ but it eventually made it to television with the title ‘Star Trek.’ ‘Star Trek’ was not just a B-grade science fiction series. I won’t guild the lily: it had a small budget, a main star with some acting difficulties, and a view towards women that was more representative to 1960s America than 23rd century space.
None of that was important, though. What was important was this television series showed viewers what we, humanity, could be. This was a future where there was no racism. There was no Cold War, or ‘hot’ war. Humanity had come together to make Earth a paradise, and while there were threats ‘out there,’ we had made a big step forward as a species and as a civilization.
One of the things Gene Roddenberry always shied away from both in the original ‘Star Trek’ and in the pursuant ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ was war. Space was a dangerous place. People died. In their battle with the Borg, the Federation lost 11,000 lives. Life in the ‘Star Trek’ universe was not perfect, and Roddenberry and the other individuals behind the two series would not insult our intelligence by pretending otherwise. Yet, a prolonged war, one that cost millions of lives and threatened to destroy everything the Federation stood for, was something Roddenberry wanted to avoid.
After Roddenberry’s death, ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ committed the last two seasons of the series to a war between the Federation, and other Star Trek familiars, and the Dominion. The war was the bloodiest in Federation history, with death, destruction, and moral compromise everywhere you turned. ’DS9’ was right to do this. It was brave, and not a little epic, and it opened up a whole new aspect for the series. It was the right thing to do.
Now, however, I’ve become not a little concerned with what I’ve seen in post-‘DS9’ and post-’Voyager’ novels. Shortly after the completion of the ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ series, John Vornholt published his ‘Genesis Wave’ trilogy. In this trilogy, terrorist forces use technology to create a destructive genesis wave that consumes several planets, killing billions. As one admiral in the novel says, ‘In five minutes we lost more people than in the entire Dominion War.’
Then, there came a new line of novels that followed on the events in the ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ finale. The continuity between these novels was impressive, especially as they were mostly written by different authors. The novels chronicle the lead-up to a massive attack on the Federation by Borg forces, dedicated to eradicating the Federation after the events of ‘Endgame.’ Culminating in the, admittedly, incredibly written ‘Destiny’ trilogy by David Mack, the Borg murder 63 billion people, including the entire populations of Deneva and Risa, and destroy 40% of Starfleet. (This includes Tom Paris’ dad.) Subsequent novels have followed this continuity, as the Federation rebuilds.
‘Endgame’ was supposed to feature the destruction of the Federation’s most dangerous enemy. Instead of following in that vein, a new continuity has been produced which uses those events as the catalyst for 63 billion deaths.
This was all bad enough. So imagine my upset earlier today when I found a new ‘Star Trek’ novel entitled ‘The Needs of the Many,’ by Michael A. Martin. In it, with ‘co-author’ Jake Sisko, the story of the war between the Federation and Species 8472 is told. In it, a war like no other is fought between the two powers, with massive death and destruction as a result. The Federation almost loses everything it stands for just to ensure its survival.
These may not all be in the same continuity. The ‘Destiny’ trilogy does not refer to the events of ‘Genesis Wave,’ and, admittedly, I haven’t and won’t read ‘The Needs of the Many.’ I don’t want to read about any more death and destruction in the ‘Star Trek’ world. ‘Star Trek’ has always been my happy place. I watch it when I’m feeling badly, and I’ve read more ‘Star Trek’ novels than I can number. With the exception of the two-seasons long Dominion War, the ‘Star Trek’ universe has never been a war-consumed reality like ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ This is not meant as an insult to these series, it’s just this is not what ‘Star Trek’ is about.
‘Star Trek’ has always been about the inherent goodness in man, about our ability to rise above our basest natures, to work together, to explore and discover and reveal everything we can. So why have these later books suddenly done a U-turn? Surely the ‘Star Trek‘ universe is diverse enough to write about without having to invoke some death-choke on decades worth of continuity?
As long as there is ‘Star Trek,’ there will be phasers and photon torpedoes. It’s time, though, for those who are not just fans but Trekkies to demand that ‘Star Trek,’ in written or visual form, return to the ideas that defined ‘Star Trek,’ that made it something special that has lasted for 44 years, with greatness not just behind it but ahead of it.
Make it so.