Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Time Trip Through Star Trek's Universe

I grew up a fan of the original Star Trek, which I discovered, like many others, in syndicated reruns. It was fun when original novels based on the series began being published in the 70s and 80s. Prior to the successful movies and spinoff series, these novels were the only way you got to experience new adventures of the Enterprise crew. Around the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Pocket Books acquired the license to publish material based on the series, and expanded the scope of the books as sequel films and new TV spinoffs were released. Unlike Bantam Books, who published the previous series of novels, Pocket played around a lot with the established canon, and published stories from all eras of the various movies & shows.
I hadn’t picked up a Trek novel in a few years when I recently came across Christopher L. Bennett’s Forgotten History in the bookstore. It’s an enjoyable time travel story that stars the crew of the original USS Enterprise. The novel also features the two Department of Temporal Investigations Agents who were introduced in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribbleations,” in which the DS9 characters interacted with Kirk & company during the events of the “The Trouble With Tribbles.” This time, a mysterious ship that bears the warp signature of the original USS Enterprise appears, along with a temporal anomaly, deep in Federation territory. But its hull markings identify it as Timeship Two. What’s going on? And what does this all have to do with Kirk, who’s no favorite of the DTI for his many infractions regarding time travel and interfering with established timelines.
From that setup it’s a dizzying ride through the Trek universe, with references to many of the classic era series and movies (and a few other Pocket Books adventures), and some cameos by familiar faces from Star Trek history. As Agents Lucsly & Dulmur try to figure out what’s going on, we also get an inside look at the formation of the Department of Temporal Investigations, and see how the Federation tried to regulate time travel. Bennett is clearly a fan; he even references episodes of the Trek Animated series of the 70s.  The author also includes a helpful afterword that details all the episodes and books he’s referenced in the novel. By the way, Agents Lucsly & Dulmur’s names are anagrams for Agents Mulder & Scully from The X-Files, a little in-joke on the part of the DS9 writers.
If you’re an aficionado of Star Trek, this is a fun read which will leave you smiling as you recall some of the original episodes & movies featured here. While Bennett has authored a previous “Department of Temporal Investigations” novel entitled Watching The Clock, it’s not necessary to read that one to enjoy Forgotten History, which stands just fine on its own. He really gives you a sense of the rich tapestry that classic Trek established for all its follow-ups.  I highly recommend Mr. Bennett’s time travel adventure, even if you haven’t picked up a Trek novel in a while, or if you haven’t read one of the books. This one really is for the fans.

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