“It doesn’t matter what planet you’re on, there’s nothing like biting into a crisp Fuji apple first thing in the morning.”
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY has been a somewhat controversial entry into the series but that’s nothing new for longtime Trekkies. Every series has its critics and every one of its changes got torn to shreds by the original fandom nerds (of which Trekkies used to have a copyright on). While I have complaints, I’ve overall enjoyed it and especially liked the characters of Captain Lorca and Captain Phillipa Georgiou that represent binary differences on how two Federation heroes might act. I also was a fan of the previous novel, DESPERATE HOURS, which seems to have already been decanonized given it’s hard to reconcile with Michael Burnham/Spock’s relationship in Season Two.
The premise for this novel is it chronicles the events of the Tarsus IV massacre. In the original Star Trek series, “The Conscience of the King”, Governor Kodos massacred 5,000 of his citizens in order to stave off a famine that would have killed the entirety of the colony. Unfortunately, this was an enormous mistake not just on moral grounds but on practical ones. It turned out Starfleet relief ships were able to get there much faster than expected and if he’d waited just a day longer, no one would have had to die.
This episode is, in my opinion, probably the best Star Trek episode of the original series other than “City on the Edge of Forever.” It was a dramatic Shakespearian revenge plot with guilt, lies, betrayal, and intrigue. Captain James T. Kirk was a child on Tarsus IV when this massacre happened and it weighed upon him his entire life. It probably didn’t happen in the Kelvin timeline of Star Trek (you’ll get that reference if you’re a nerd like me) and episodic television means it was never brought up again but it always stuck with my vision of who James Tiberius Kirk was.
Drastic Measures postulates that Captain Phillipa Georgiou (then Commander) is there to be the first responder for the famine relief, only to find a massacre’s aftermath instead. Also, Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Lorca is planetside, chilling with his girlfriend and buddies when events turn nightmarish. Putting both of them in such a pivotal Star Trek event pushes credibility but not too much. It also fits Gabriel Lorca, at least as how Discovery treats him, that he’d be witness to such a terrible event.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel and had fun reading it but it does feel like it had a few missed opportunities. The majority of the book deals with the manhunt for Governor Kodos who, we know, will survive for decades until Captain James T. Kirk discovers him. The problem is that the most interesting part of the story, the decision to incinerate the colonists and build-up to it, is more or less skipped over.
I also feel like Kodos’ personality is a bit off. While it’s certainly possible that a man could change drastically in twenty years, the sheer dark dramatic irony of his situation barely seems to affect him. He has a bunch of followers and is primarily concerned with their escape like they’re terrorists. Given the massacre was completely and utterly unnecessary, I feel like the horror and regret of events would be weighing on Kodos much more.
Even so, it’s entertaining and has an epic twist at the end I didn’t see coming. The best parts of the book are probably the interview sections that create the fictional premise that this is a documentary being done on the massacre a good decade in the future. I felt that added a gravitas to the whole thing that would be otherwise absent.