STAR TREK: GARTH OF IZAR
by Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski
Pocket Books MMPB
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Written by Bill Williams
, edited by Steve Krutzler
The legendary Captain Garth’s exploits are required reading at Starfleet Academy – where he became a hero of James T. Kirk. Brutal injuries sustained on Antos IV forced the native Antosians to heal Garth by means of giving him their natural shape-changing abilities… but the cure proved worse than the disease. He was driven insane and condemned to a rehabilitation colony on the planet Elba II. Now, seemingly healthy and fully functioning, Captain Garth must rebuild his shattered life and career. The opportunity arises when Captain Garth is called to duty to mediate a crisis on Antos IV, with the aid of Captain Kirk and the starship Enterprise. This plight requires Garth of Izar to return to the very planet where he mentally fell to pieces. Has Garth truly put his insanity behind him, or will he renew his plans for conquest, starting with the Antosians?
In Shakespeare’s HAMLET, readers and viewers wonder whether the title character is only feigning madness to expose his uncle as a murderer, or if he is truly mad from the start of the story. The central question then becomes, when does Hamlet truly go insane? As Hawkeye Pierce once said in “M*A*S*H”, insanity is not all that it’s cracked up to be, and neither is cracking up. Even in today’s times, criminals who are deemed insane by society attempt to justify their crimes by claiming insanity while being completely rational during their actions and afterwards.
The latest STAR TREK original series novel, GARTH OF IZAR, returns readers to one of the most intriguing characters from the episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Set two years after the events of the TOS episode, writers Pamela Sargent and George Zebrowski
have crafted a story that balances a man’s personal quest through sanity – or madness – and his desire to return to a normal life by settling a conflict on the very planet that drove him mad to begin with. It’s up to Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise to determine if Garth has truly redeemed himself from his madness or if he’s just putting on the perfect cover in his attempt to conquer the galaxy.
The opening chapters of GARTH OF IZAR set the scenario with the perfect air of mystery and uncertainty: a seemingly restored Captain Garth is assigned to the Enterprise for a test mission: return to Antos IV, the planet that healed his injuries and gave him the shape-shifting abilities, to mediate a possible crisis between rival factions of Antosians on the brink of war. Already leery of their previous encounter on Elba II, Kirk agrees to ferry Garth to Antos IV with the condition that should Garth show signs of madness once again, Kirk will step in to mediate the crisis. Once on Antos IV, Kirk is surprised to learn that Garth of Izar has surfaced once again, apparently leading one of the Antosian factions.
At this point, one would think that the story could only improve. The memories of “Whom Gods Destroy” and the confrontation between Garth of Izar and Kirk are still as exciting today as when the episode was first aired. Unfortunately, the story does not rise to the anticipated fever pitch. Sargent and Zebrowski let the air out of the bag at the mid-point, revealing that Garth of Izar is truly gone and that only Captain Garth remains. The story then goes through the standard paint-by-the-numbers plot of preventing two rival warring factions from going to war.
GARTH OF IZAR then takes an unusual twist, as the warring Antosians, without the desire to remain among their countrymen, are exiled to a remote island and, like Napoleon, seek to return to their homeland. It is up to Kirk, Garth, Spock, McCoy, and Sulu to rescue the Antosians who would rather die returning to their homeland than remain exiled forever. The back story of Garth’s mission to Antos IV, his involvement with the Antosians, and the beginnings of his descent into madness serves as an excellent expansion to the Original Series episode “Whom Gods Destroy”, fleshing out Garth’s character all the more. Sargent and Zebrowski paint a beautiful portrait of the Antosian shape-shifting ability and culture, serving as a perfect complement to the original episode.
However, the promise of a return confrontation between Kirk and Garth of Izar is never fulfilled. It’s unfortunate that Sargent and Zebrowski had such a promise in mind and never developed the concept further. As they state in their afterword, “One may wonder whether, if Steve Ihnat had not died prematurely, he might have been the character who would have been developed as Kirk’s antagonist for the second feature film instead of Khan. Our novel represents a youthful wish to have seen that happen.”
GARTH OF IZAR has good potential but loses that potential amid a pretty picture. The wish still remains.
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