11 October 2023

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Section 31: Disavowed

Star Trek: Section 31: Disavowed
by David Mack

January 2386
Published: 2014
Acquired: September 2021
Read: June 2023

This novel returns us to Bashir, last seen back in The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses. Now living on Andor, Bashir has the opportunity to help bring down Section 31... from the inside. But doing so involves a trip into the mirror universe, stopping a potential plot by the Typhon Pact to steal wormhole jump technology from the mirror universe. This draws on a couple different earlier David Mack stories, most notably Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions and Cold Equations: Silent Weapons.

The Bashir / Section 31 strand of the Destiny-era novels has never really clicked for me. I think there's a couple reasons. Partially, it's because Bashir feels very passive in the middle of all of it, it doesn't seem like Bashir makes a lot of interesting choices. He's brought into Section 31, he goes on the mission, and then he does all the things he's supposed to do. The one part I found interesting was when Bashir is recognized as the killer of the mirror Odo in "Crossover" and the mirror Dominion seeks to sentence him to death—and eventually Bashir agrees to hand himself over for the greater good. But outside of this, Bashir does very little except carry out action sequences. Once he hands himself over, Bashir isn't who gets himself out of the situation; it's not Bashir either who does anything to foil the true Section 31 plot in the mirror universe. He just stand there as all these other people make the interesting decisions.

I also—and this just might be my fault—always expect more moral compromise on Bashir's part in these books. But it seems to me that he signs up with Section 31, and pretty much just acts as he normally would. I want a sense of Bashir going deeper, things getting beyond his control, him getting soiled, but this never happens. I don't know that the book promises this, but it's what I feel a Section 31 story ought to deliver, and this story doesn't.

On top of this, the Sarina relationship never works for me. I like the idea of it, that Bashir has finally a woman who can keep up with him... but in the actual book they mostly just exchange some weak banter. When do they click like no one else can? As a character, she has never interested me in her novel appearances, I find it hard to get a hold on her in a meaningful way.

Outside of Bashir, I found most of what was happening not very interesting. The other characters, Typhon Pact and Commonwealth alike, are pretty one-dimensional, and I found it tedious every time the narrative switched to them sniping at one another. As I said back in my review of Rise Like Lions, I never cared much for DS9's approach to the mirror universe, and it's particularly boring in prose form, where a character may be called "Saavik" but can basically be anyone for all she has to do with the Prime Saavik when she's not played by Kirstie Alley or Robin Curtis.

The whole plot ends up resolved with Memory Omega being essentially omnipotent, which takes a lot of agency away from everyone else, and I thought raised more problems than it solved. How did they even get into the situation of being threatened by the Prime universe Breen if they had quantum windows? Why did they let Cole and his friends attempt what they attempted if they knew all along what they were going to do?

It's competently written, of course, but it all felt pretty hollow and uninteresting—made worse by my consistent feeling that somewhere out there in the multiverse there's a different Section 31 novel that really spotlights Bashir's character in the way that the best Section 31 episodes of the show did.

Continuity Notes:

  • Cole says new laws ban Starfleet Intelligence from operating in the mirror universe, thanks to a "reaction to blowback from certain recent operations involving your former colleagues on Deep Space Nine." But I wasn't sure what this was actually referring to
  • Bashir says the last he knew of Odo, "[a]s of last year, he was leading the Dominion." But Odo was trapped in the Alpha Quadrant in September 2383, and had not returned to the Gamma Quadrant yet when Bashir left the station in September 2384.
  • A guard that Bashir knocks out in "Crossover" is here identified as the mirror Cenn Desca. I don't think there are any great shots of him in the episode, and Memory Alpha doesn't know who played him, but you can see Deep Space 9's least interesting character (except for all the others) over on the right.

Other Notes:

  • Though as I said above, I was disappointed in how Bashir played little role in his own fate, it was nice to see that the mirror Dominion was somewhat different and had a different way of operating. The follow-up conversation between Bashir and the Founder is pretty good, too.
  • I appreciate the revival, twelve years later, of the Section 31 branding... though of course I would have preferred the same logo and even more importantly... spinal consistency!
  • The idea that Section 31 has a uniform only becomes more hilarious the more times you read it. (And, of course, Discovery would take this to new heights later on. BLACK BADGES!)

I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: Deep Space Nine: Force and Motion by Jeffrey Lang

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