23 August 2016

Deep Space Nine Reread, Season Seven: Prophecy and Change edited by Marco Palmieri

When I left off writing Deep Space Nine book reviews last December, we were watching Season Seven still, so I hadn't got to its book yet, which I finally did in February. At long last, here it is!

Acquired 2003
Previously read October 2003
Reread February 2016
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change
edited by Marco Palmieri

This seemed like a good book to read when the television program was fresh in my memory, since it weaves between its episodes. There are ten stories, plus a frame, though not every season gets a story, as we shall see, as the book is weighted toward the later parts of the series run. Not every character does, either; though the book does a decent job of giving each a tale of their own, poor Worf doesn't receive a tale of his own.

"Ha'mara" by Kevin G. Summers (Sisko and Kira, Season One)
Like a lot of stories in this book, "Ha'mara" slots pretty clearly between episodes, in this case coming shortly after "Emissary." Something my wife and I noticed when (re)watching the series was that Sisko's status as the Emissary goes weirdly unmentioned between "Emissary" and "In the Hands of the Prophets." This is especially a weird omission because the only person Kai Opaka tells about Sisko being the Emissary in "Emissary" is Sisko himself, yet by the time of "In the Hands," it's public knowledge. So when did this revelation happen and what effect did it have? That's the ground covered by "Ha'mara," where a group of Bajoran terrorists attack Sisko, Kira, and company on a visit to Bajor. Kira and Sisko have to work together to stay alive and save a group of Bajoran children; Kira's personal journey to accepting Sisko as the Emissary (I don't think the show deals with this until Season Three, bizarrely enough, though "Destiny" does try to explain why it's never been mentioned before) is the focus here, presumably a stand-in for the journey the whole planet will undergo. It's kind of an awkward story when it comes to the interpersonal interactions, but I think that's largely because Summers does a good job of capturing the awkwardness of the crew dynamics in Season One. (Bashir is a doofus.)

It was disappointing to me that there was no Season Two story, as I feel like early Season Two is one of the show's best periods.

"The Orb of Opportunity" by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (Nog and Kai Winn, Season Three)
The team-up you never knew you wanted! When the Maquis steal an Orb that's being returned to the Bajorans, Nog proves to be Kai Winn's best hope of recovering it. It's a cute little tale, especially when Nog receives an Orb vision that opens him up to possibilities he'd never seen before. Martin and Mangels handle this well; the story could easily have drifted into "explaining" where Nog's desire to join Starfleet came from, but instead the Orb unlocks something within Nog that he didn't know was there before. The focus on Winn is a little less successful; she's a difficult character to get right, and Martin and Mangels are better than some, but not as good as others, and she doesn't have a very clearly delineated character arc.

"Broken Oaths" by Keith R.A. DeCandido (O'Brien and Bashir, Season Four)
Definitely another gap-filling tale, in this case: how did O'Brien and Bashir overcome the rift in their friendship that was caused by "Hippocratic Oath"? Keith, as always, captures the character voices well, but I'm not convinced that this is a story that needed to be told. Or rather, that telling it in the tie-in fiction does much good. The show could have done something with this, but didn't; writing a short story about it eight years later doesn't really solve the problem that it seems to have no ramifications for their friendship.

"...Loved I Not Honor More" by Christopher L. Bennett (Quark, Season Five)
It's a bit disappointing that the show never brought Grilka back (or even mentioned her) after her two appearances on the show; Bennett, of course, explains that for us. It's true to the characters, and I like how it points out that Quark was willing to compromise with Grilka, but Grilka was never willing to compromise with Quark, and that proves the divisive point that means they can't have an ongoing relationship. But like "Broken Oaths," I think it feels largely like gap-plugging.

"Three Sides to Every Story" by Terri Osborne (Jake Sisko and Tora Ziyal, Season Six)
Something my wife and I noted is that there's a period on the show where there are tons of kids running around: Jake, Nog, Ziyal, and Alexander are all there in late Season Five / early Season Six. Yet the show never does anything with this: I feel like there ought to have been one episode that brought these characters together. "Three Sides to Every Story" weaves through the Season Six Occupation arc (one of my favorite periods of the show) to invent a relationship between Jake and Ziyal. And it's brilliant. Suddenly these two characters we never saw interact on screen have a deep and meaningful relationship that makes perfect sense. Ziyal's death hits even harder in this context, and both characters get to show their stuff. Jake really falls by the wayside on the show after this arc on the show, which was a real shame, but "Three Sides" is Jake at his best.

"The Devil You Know" by Heather Jarman (Jadzia Dax, Season Six)
Jadzia is another character who fell by the wayside on the television series sometimes. The stories that deal with her as a Trill in the first couple seasons ("Dax," "Invasive Procedures," "Equilibrium") always make her a bystander in her own tale, subject to the minutiae of space biology. Later in the show, episodes that are ostensibly about her really become about her and Worf; her best moments really come as a side character in other stories. Like, she's great as a member of the ensemble, but the writers struggle to give her her own episodes. "The Devil You Know" falls into none of these traps, however, giving us a story that is very Jadzia and very Trill in a way that's revelatory: Jadzia Dax is tired of death. The war hits her even harder than it hits everyone else because she has already seen centuries of death by this point, and she is fed up with it. What she will do to stop this from happening gives us a side of Jadzia we never saw on screen, but one entirely consistent with it, and I appreciated this plumbing the depths of Jadzia's soul. Plus this story contains a surprisingly sexy Jadzia/Worf scene. Like, whoa. Way to go, Heather Jarman, and too bad the show never ever pulled that off.

"Foundlings" by Jeffrey Lang (Odo, between Seasons Six and Seven)
Lang's story reunited Odo with his predecessor as chief of security on Terok Nor, Thrax, a man we never actually met because in "Things Past," Odo substituted Thrax for himself in his memories. I like their interactions, and I'm a sucker for any DS9 story with an "Odo investigates" plot; like all of the writers in this book, Lang has a good command of his chosen characters. But the ending of the story reveals a plot too convoluted to believe; I don't buy why all the subterfuge was necessary.

"Chiaroscuro" by Geoffrey Thorne (Ezri Dax, Season Seven)
Geoffrey Thorne is a very distinctive writer of Star Trek fiction, with out-there, cosmic plots that function more on an allegorical level than a literal one. Sometimes it works for me (Sword of Damocles is the best Titan novel, and if you disagree with me, I will fight you over it) and sometimes it does not ("Chiaroscuro"). This is a weird story, where Ezri discovers that on a pre-DS9 mission Jadzia found a key to resetting the universe, set up a maze to access based on Dante's Inferno and knowledge of her past hosts, and then wiped the whole incident from her own memory. There's a lot of great imagery here, but it's used in service of a series of weird and arbitrary puzzles. Plus for some reason everyone in this story gives mission briefings that omit essential information, which may build suspense, but is hard to believe.

"Face Value" by Una McCormack (Kira and Garak and Damar, Season Seven)
Una McCormack can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, and this story confirms it. Set during the Season Seven Kira-on-Cardassia arc, this story expands on its events, and lets us see more of how Kira and Garak were able to work with the man who killed Tora Ziyal. McCormack is famous for her capturing of the voice of Garak, but here she shows that she also gets Kira and Damar perfectly as well. A great story about how three people from very different walks of life can come together under a common cause they never even thought they'd have in common. (Also it has a shifty fellow in it named "Vilar," who is so totally Blake's 7's Vila, played by the excellent Michael Keating.)

"The Calling" by Andrew J. Robinson (Garak, long after Season Seven)
This is a weird story, and I'm not convinced it makes sense. I like a lot of the individual components (the deterioration of Cardassia, Garak visiting Paris), but the story doesn't always successfully integrate them: if Garak is going to Paris to get help for Cardassia, why does he assume a cover identity and need to get a job while he's there? Robinson is, of course, the only person better at capturing Garak's voice than McCormack, so the story is worth it for that if nothing else, and it's filled with lovely Garakian insights into the human (and Cardassian) condition. I haven't yet read any Star Trek novels that take place after The Next Generation: Losing the Peace; do they deal with any of what's going on in here? I know Bashir becomes a Section 31 agent, which I guess could explain why Garak can't make contact with him.

"Revisited" by Anonymous (Jake Sisko, even longer after Season Seven)
The whole book has a nice little frame sequence that shows how "The Visitor" played out in the Prime timeline, where Jake wasn't warped by losing his father at a young age. (I shall remain convinced it was written by Marco Palmieri until someone comes forth to prove otherwise.) It's pretty nice, except that the whole thing is premised on a statement Melanie makes to Jake: "In all your writings, you never talk about the station where you grew up. About Deep Space 9." But Jake's first book is, according to "You Are Cordially Invited," a set of stories about the Dominion Occupation of the station!

During Marco Palmieri's time at Simon & Schuster, he edited four anniversary anthologies: Prophecy and Change for Deep Space Nine's tenth anniversary in 2003, Distant Shores for Voyager's tenth in 2005, Constellations for the original's 40th in 2006, and The Sky's the Limit for The Next Generation's twentieth in 2007. Together, they constitute one of my favorite parts of Star Trek fiction, and though Constellations is probably my favorite, Prophecy and Change is next. The richness of the Deep Space Nine tapestry means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; it's great to see the characters grow and change all over again.

Next Week: I return to another reading project, my journey through the adventures of Professor Bernice Summerfield!

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