STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION – DO COMETS DREAM?
Pocket Books MMPB
262 pages, $6.99
Released July 2003
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Written by Bill Williams, edited by Steve Krutzler
Summary: Every five thousand years, so the people of Thanet believe, the world ends in fire and a new cycle of creation begins. Now the Last Days are once again upon them, and a fiery star draws near. This is the Death-Bringer, the Eater of the World, whose coming heralds the end of all things. But to Captain Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the Death-Bringer appears to be nothing but a rogue comet, easily destroyed. Picard faces a difficult dilemma: how can he save the Thanetians’ rich and intricate civilization without the destroying the very beliefs upon which their culture is based?
Review: In preparing for reviewing this latest NEXT GENERATION novel, it was hard for me at first to determine exactly which direction the story was heading. Something from the start just dulled my perceptions of this particular story, and I could not identify what it was.
All own world’s cultures have always been focused the key question, where did we come from? Is our world billions of years old, or is our world’s history only six thousand years old? Evolution or creation? Where do we determine where the lines blur and theology meets reality? This is a question that continues to merit much debate to this day, as scientific evidence continues to mete out Earth’s origins and placement in historical perspective. Only in the end of time may we finally have all the answers.
This is the parallel that writer S.P. Somtow brings to the novel DO COMETS DREAM. Somtow paints a picture of the Thanetian culture, one that seems to be five thousand years old, yet in reality renews itself every five thousand years due to the presence of a comet that enters into their system, wiping out the culture and beginning anew.
Captain Picard and the Enterprise are called to Thanet after Picard researches the writings of Federation observer Robert Halliday, who has studied the Thanetian culture. Early on in the story Somtow sets up the conflict in question: should Picard violate the Prime Directive in rescuing Thanet from destruction from the rogue comet, thus destroying the Thanetians’ religious system, or does he sit back and watch a planet die according to its religious beliefs? Ultimately Picard chooses to rescue the planet from destruction while attempting to discover the secret of the comet’s path of destruction and Thanet’s evolving culture.
The establishment of the story’s premise, and the introduction of a key Thanetian figure in the story, is worthy of promise, and had the story maintained this position, this would have been a good adventure. Somtow also brings back Simon Tarses, the half-human, half-Romulan officer who had been persecuted because of his background in the classic NEXT GENERATION episode “The Drumhead,” and his return is a welcome addition to the story.
However, the novel takes many unusual turns, among them Tarses and Data exploring the Thanetian home world and finding themselves embroiled in an adventure of their own that seems to have no serious bearing on the main story at hand. In addition, Somtow paints many vague pictures of the Thanetian culture that draw the story off track. Also, an interesting subplot occurs involving Troi and the rogue comet that has many vague moments to it as well. The ambiguity of these incidents left me wondering when they actually occur and asking how do we know where something transpires.
The second half of DO COMETS DREAM falls flat in its execution after a good set-up, and at times it seemed just plain boring and dull. I didn’t find any excitement at all throughout the story and nothing to really latch onto and say, “This is a solid story.” The final chapters, in which the mystery of the comet and the Thanetian culture are finally explained, feel rushed and uninspiring. The theme of creation versus evolution has been better explored in STAR TREK, particularly in one of the better VOYAGER episodes “Distant Origin.”
DO COMETS DREAM had the potential to be a good novel, but its execution leaves much to be desired. Even the underlying theme of the novel felt thinly veiled throughout. The debate continues.
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