20 January 2021

Review: Star Trek: Picard: The Dark Veil by James Swallow

Published: 2021
Acquired and read: January 2021

Star Trek: Picard: The Dark Veil
by James Swallow

Like the early Discovery tie-ins, it looks like the Picard tie-ins will be prequel stories; this one is a story of Riker and Troi and their son Thaddeus on the Titan, about a year after The Last Best Hope and fifteen years prior to season one of Picard. It's not just a random adventure, but one which ties into the Romulan machinations of season one and sets up some aspects of "Nepenthe," the Picard episode featuring Riker and Troi.

The actual story is fine; to be honest, it's somewhat generic Star Trek stuff: an alien race with a secret, a battle against Romulans. Generic can sing with the right sparkle, and Swallow has shown himself capable of such sparkle in the past, but this one didn't quite succeed on that level. Maybe it's because I found most of the Titan crew pretty bland? I'm not sure I could point at something done wrong, but I found it hard to invest in the plot. I did like the original character of the Romulan commander, who was very interesting, and a good portrayal of a more open Romulan who was nonetheless recognizably of his culture.

Where the book does really succeed, though, is in its portrayal of the Troi-Rikers. I could imagine everyone one of Riker and Troi's lines being read aloud by Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, and the characters convinced as older versions of the people we saw on screen so long ago in The Next Generation-- this is what Riker would be like as captain and father, and what Troi would be like too. Thad was a pretty lively character, too, building on the hints we got about him in "Nepenthe." Probably my favorite scene is one where Riker's executive officer talks to him about how it's hard for him to be captain when his son is in mortal danger... but then Riker just goes ahead and does it anyway. It rang true. I'd be up for more Riker-Troi-Thad(-Kestra) Picard prequel novels. Even as I think Picard is the worst of the new CBS All Access Star Trek shows thus far, the Riker-Troi family is one of its strongest parts.

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