Six months after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Doctor Christine Chapel and Spock must save the life of an ailing Audrid Dax, her true nature as a Trill having remained a mystery until now. But after an unknown vessel attacks their shuttle, a risky game of cat-and-mouse may be the only way to save all their lives.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads
I have been a Star Trek fan since I first watched The Original Series with my dad, during the original broadcast run. (Yes, I just dated myself.) But the show is a part of my life. So a chance to read Trek fiction is always at least the opportunity to visit with old and dear friends. Sometimes it’s more, but it is never less.
One of the advantages of Trek fiction is that the author can use all sorts of shortcuts, because the readers already know these people and this setting fairly intimately. It’s also possible for the author to use a ton of in-jokes and internal referencing of past events, because the reader will probably remember everything.
It also allows for exploration of parts of the story canon that are left in the dark by the series and the movies. So it is with this book, as it illuminates an incident during the time shortly after the first TOS movie, Star Trek The Motion(less) Picture.
This story also allows one of the secondary characters from the series, Nurse (and by this point, Doctor) Christine Chapel. In the canon, she was only featured on occasion, and we don’t know why she left the Enterprise between the first movie and Wrath of Khan.
As an added bonus, we also get a glimpse into one of Jadzia Dax’ earlier incarnations, Audrid Dax, at the relatively early stages of Federation/Trill relations. Her role is small but crucial–she’s a sick patient that Dr. Chapel is not allowed to scan or medicate, because the whole Trill/symbiont biology is still a secret.
Instead, Chapel is assigned to escort Dax to a Trill ship, using a small shuttle piloted by Spock, and with no other crew. We get the chance to see Spock as he is still assimilating the overwhelming emotional turmoil he experienced in the movie. For Spock, he’s somewhat of a hot mess, trying to determine how he will integrate the more open emotional experience (for him) with the logic of his Vulcan heritage.
That Chapel and Spock have always had a somewhat strange relationship is also a big part of the story. Once upon a time, she had a huge crush on him. Once, briefly, she housed his consciousness. They know more about each other than mere friends. And yet, that is what they’ve become. He’s never had to experience the nuances involved in a relationship with someone that has so many conflicting facets.
So in this brief story, we have Spock dealing with a certain amount of emotional backlash, Chapel sifting through her options now that McCoy has returned to the Enterprise and his old position as Chief Medical Officer, and Dax, who needs medical attention but isn’t allowed to ask for it.
Oh, and Orion slave traders are chasing the small shuttle, in an attempt to capture (and sell) the lot of them.
For a relatively short story, we have a lot of plot threads. As I said, it’s easier to do this with Trek, because we already know these people and the author doesn’t have to take time to establish characters and setting.
On my other hand, I think this story only works because the readers are assumed to know everyone. Admittedly a fairly good assumption. But still, the story is only interesting because of all the things we already know.
This was a fun visit with old friends. It was terrific to see Chapel take charge, something that she doesn’t get to do in the series. I understood her conflict, that she loved her “family” on the Enterprise, but that it was time for her to take a serious look at where her career was going, and staying on the Enterprise was no longer the best thing for her.
The difficulty that she and McCoy have in figuring out how to relate to each other as more equals, and how she deals with her resentment that he has swooped back in and taken her job, were well done.
Spock is more emotionally messed up than we are used to seeing. His displays of temper and confusion are a bit jarring, but felt possible in context. He’s pretty far emotionally out there at the end of the first movie, but certainly has it all together, with a little more warmth, by the time of Wrath of Khan. He must have figured things out in between, but we don’t see it. So maybe this was how it went.
One reviewer referred to the use of the Dax symbiont and host for the patient that necessitates this whole trip as a case of “small world syndrome”. That is was just easier to use someone we sort of already knew. I think I’d agree. I kept wanting to see Jadzia Dax in the place of Audrid, but at the same time, the secrecy surrounding the Trill made this journey necessary.
On the whole, I enjoyed this trip down memory lane with my friends Chapel and Spock, and liked the story. It felt a bit like a “missing episode” and that was fun. But if you’re not already a Trek fan, I doubt it would work.
I give Star Trek: The More Things Change a B. (For a different take on this story, check out Galen’s review at Reading Reality)