Dillard, J. M.

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

3.7 out of 5

(3 books)

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

 The novelisation of the movie story created by William Shatner, Harve Bennett and David Loughery.  The crew of the newly commissioned Enterprise-A are on shore leave and the ship is being overhauled when they are given an urgent mission: to rescue diplomats from the Federation, the Romulan Empire and the Klingon Empire from a hostile force on Nimbus III, the Planet of Intergalactic Peace.  But the leader of the hostage takers is no ordinary adversary; a figure from Spock's past, Sybock will let nothing stand between him and his ultimate goal.

'The Final Frontier' is arguably the least-loved of the classic Trek films (although 'The Motion Picture', reviewed here, is also a contender) and whilst I've always felt the criticisms levelled at it were fair, I've never hated it.  In fact, I'd take it over the inane J. J. Abrams reboots any day of the week.  Sure, the production values were noticibly lower, the script much messier and the special effects pretty dodgy when compared with, say, 'Wrath of Khan', but there was still stuff to like, so I was interested to see if the novelisation could redeem those failings (as happened with the aforementioned 'The Motion Picture').

Honestly, the results can be called mixed.  Dillard does take full advantage of the prose medium to give the characters, particularly Sybock, much more depth and clearer motivations, as well as explain away some of the plot holes or more nonsensical moments of the film (I'd always wondered why Kirk and Spock could also see the memory of McCoy's father if it's happening in Bones' mind).  I also enjoyed reading about the main characters coming to terms with a new Enterprise, similar to how when a beloved pet dies and is immediately replaced, you'd have to learn to let go of the old one and come to love the new one on its own terms.  This particularly resonated with my personal Trek fandom, because I had exactly this problem when learning to accept the Enterprise-E after so many happy years watching its predecessor in action.

Where this novelisation falls down, however, is in its depiction of the relationship between the three core characters; Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  I've always thought their bond and the easy chemistry of their interactions was what saved the movie version from being terrible.  Even when the story was confusing or bizarre, you always believed that these three loved each other like brothers (which was a particular testament to the acting skills of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who hated each other in real life).  Unfortunately, Dillard doesn't manage to capture that same feeling and, in fact, rationalises too much of it away in an attempt to explain everyone's motivations.  It means that whilst the overall narrative and detail of the movie has been improved on, the heart of the story gets lost.

3 out of 5

 

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The novelisation of a screenplay by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn from a story by Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal.  The final screen story focusing entirely on the original Star Trek cast of characters, the crew of the Enterprise are mere months away from retirement.  However, a disaster within the Klingon Empire pushes the Klingons and their Federation adversaries towards an urgently-needed peace treaty.  However, when the Klingon Chancellor is assassinated Captain Kirk must find a way of setting aside his own hatred of the aliens in order to ensure that galactic peace remains within reach.

This has always been one of the better-regarded Trek movies and is one I've loved from first seeing it as a child.  What makes it interesting as an adult, however, is that although it has all the sci-fi trappings you'd expect, the story here is actually about the end of the Cold War.  Coming out only a handful of years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this story explores the ramifications of peace on those whose whole life has been defined by having an enemy to face off against.  We get a wonderful examination of the world-weariness and prejudices of our beloved Trek characters, as well as having them reflect on their time aboard Enterprise coming to an end (in the real world, it was because TNG had already taken up the Star Trek mantle by this point).

As novelisations go, this is pretty much just a perfectly functional adaption of a very good source.  Most of what makes this book enjoyable comes from those same factors working onscreen, without Dillard really adding anything new to expand or elevate the source material significantly (see Vonda N. McIntyre's novelisation of Star Trek III - reviewed here - for an example of that done brilliantly).  That said, one thing I was impressed with was the way that Dillard gives us point-of-view sections for most of the new major characters and manages to do so convincingly without ever letting on which of them are involved in the assassination conspiracy.

A nice, strong send-off story for the beloved  Enterprise  crew under Kirk (yes, I know some of them turn up in 'Generations', but this was their true swansong).

4 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Emissary

The novelisation of the very first DS9 story.  Embittered after the death of his wife, Starfleet Commander Benjamin Sisko is resentful of being placed in charge of Deep Space Nine, a former Cardassian outpost abandoned when the Cardassians relinquished their occupation of the planet Bajor.  Sisko's efforts to get the damaged station and its disparate crew of Starfleet and Bajoran officers operational becomes a far more personal quest when a Bajoran religious leader identifies him as an Emissary of the Prophets.

Many Trek fans cite DS9 as the best series and whilst I wouldn't agree (TNG has always been my favourite), I still always loved it.  Here we're introduced to Ben Sisko, a very different style of commanding officer than most Trek stories (Picard has always been my favourite) in that he's more in touch with his emotions and more willing to develop affectionate bonds with those under his command.  In short, he is not a rehashing of either Kirk of Picard and that's integral to making DS9 work in and of itself.

At first I felt this book was just a pretty by-the-numbers novelisation that was just getting through the events of the story in a straightforward by unremarkable way.  Slowly, however, it began to win me over and I realised that it was doing an excellent job of establishing the core characters of the series, each with their own challenges, motivations and baggage.  When the story enters its endgame, you get a genuine sense of elation as the disparate members of the crew all come together to face down a threat which could see the station destroyed.  I was impressed by how strong the transition from collection of disgruntled individuals to cohesive crew felt by the end.

It's not DS9's best story by far, but then neither was 'Encounter at Farpoint' (novelised by David Gerrold) the best of TNG.  It is, as it should be, a good start.

4 out of 5

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