Back to the Stars: Rediscovering Star Trek’s Legacy with Captain to Captain – A Retro-Review
There are near-countless Star Trek novels out there. Unlike the production of movies, episodes, or video games over the franchise’s lifetime, there have pretty much always been new novels readers can look forward to. These novels, never canon but always a celebration of well-loved characters, ideas, and places, have been integral to building Star Trek’s legacy. Let’s pull one such celebration out of the pile and retro-review Star Trek: Legacies: Captain to Captain, the first book in a trilogy designed to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
Published in 2016, Captain to Captain shines a long-overdue spotlight on Number One, as most of this book focuses on her experiences in two different years: 2249 and 2267. In that earlier year, Una, a young officer onboard the Enterprise under Robert April, makes a disastrous first contact with an alien race called the Jatohr on the planet Usilde. The botched mission leads to several Enterprise crew members, including Una’s good friend, Tim Shimizu, going missing in action – but not your normal missing in action, as Una discovers thanks to further interactions with the Jatohr. We won’t spoil where these crew members went, but rest assured it’s an appropriately mind-boggling science-fiction concept.
Going rogue to Usilde nearly 20 years later, and with the Enterprise in hot pursuit, Una – who now holds a key piece of tech stolen from the Enterprise that’s only known to the ship’s recent captains and first officers – must decide how far she is willing to go to try and save her former crew members. Spoiler: as this is the first entry in the trilogy, Una doesn’t get her happy ending just yet.
We enjoyed reading this book, as Una has more than earned a spotlight despite her brief pre-Strange New Worlds appearance. It sure is interesting picturing characters such as Una and Robert April as you read this book: are you picturing Majel Barrett or Rebecca Romijn? Adrian Holmes or a live-action version of the older white man from The Animated Series? With all respect to Majel Barrett, our mind’s eye kept venturing to Rebecca Romijn, which is an interesting side effect of the character’s resurgence in Star Trek media.
Author Greg Cox is a formidable presence in the pantheon of Star Trek novels, known for works such as The Q Continuum and The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh trilogies. Captain to Captain shows him near his best as he fleshes out a world thoroughly rooted in The Original Series, although this book is weighed down, in our opinion, by some clear filler. Perhaps there was an effort to get the proposed plot of the trilogy up to a certain length, and therefore this first book needed to be longer than the story organically called for. Some scenes, like Kirk and Spock’s escape from an alien facility in the last few chapters, or Una’s escape from an alien stronghold in the middle of the book, seemed to go on for too long with little plot reason other than to pad the runtime. Or maybe Cox just revels in these characters’ ability to display feats not realized well on 1960s-era TV?
Anyway, one aspect of this book we appreciated was the intriguing characterization of new characters. Sure, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Una, and other well-established dramatis personae are portrayed on Cox’s pages as one would expect, no surprise there. (It’s neat how Cox’s portrayal of Una, based on the character’s sole appearance in “The Cage,” is so familiar with who we see in Strange New Worlds. Una is fiercely intelligent, devoted, and motivated, so readers who enjoy Rebecca Romijn’s portrayal in SNW will find a lot to like here.) But it’s the supporting characters that Cox devotes much attention to and ultimately what makes Captain to Captain a success.
Tim Shimizu, the driving force behind Una’s long-simmering quest for redemption, is a charismatic young fellow whom the reader quickly appreciates, especially since Tim has made such an impression on Una. A couple of Jatohr who either help or heed Una, Banev, and Eljor, are illustrated as two members of a race with a distinct difference of opinion on where their species fits within the Milky Way – quite the quintessential Star Trek dilemma, right? In one of those character’s cases, the reader can’t help but feel sympathy when their nobility and progressivism meet sacrifice. Last but not least, we were surprised by the book’s cliffhanger twist, where a character who appears to be an innocent, TOS-style young female crew member is a double agent, but that’s all we’ll say for now.
Out of all the novels to choose from, we were glad to visit Captain to Captain eight years after its initial publication, and look forward to the next two books in the trilogy, which were also published in 2016. Reading a story from Una’s point of view, especially one that involves her wrestling with loyalty amid a shocking alien discovery and mind-numbing consequences, is a joyful opportunity. Cox has wonderfully fleshed out a novel story in the TOS timeframe, and our only critique of this book is that the action scenes go on longer than our attention allowed. If you can get by that admittedly minor critique, Captain to Captain is worth your time.
You can buy Star Trek: Legacies: Captain to Captain on Amazon.
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