765. Mission to Horatius
PUBLICATION: Whitman Publishing, 1968; reprinted by Pocket Books in February 1999
CREATORS: Written by Mack Reynolds, illustrated by Sparky Moore
STARDATE: 3475.3 (after The Trouble with Tribbles, so Season 2)
PLOT: As its crew starts suffering from space cafard (a melancholy condition caused by extended deep space work), the Enterprise follows a mysterious distress call to the Horatius system, but which of its three colonies sent it? The stone age-level Neolithia didn't. Kirk meet a young boy named Grang there who stows away in a sample container and is brought along on the rest of the adventure. The backwards theocracy of Mythra didn't. They're too busy controlling their population with an LSD derivative. Kirk leaves an antidote in the water supply and moves on. The Nazi-like Aryan planet Bavarya didn't, as Kirk and crew (and Grang) discover when they are forced to fight in Roman gladiatorial games against cloned zombies. They are freed by the leader's daughter, who reveals her father is actually a duplicate. She sent the distress signal. Kirk helps her destroy her planet's cloning capabilities and returns Grang to his homeworld as a hero (Bavarya was sending raiding parties to the other planets). To cure the crew of its cafard, McCoy makes everyone believe Sulu's pet rat has the bubonic plague and must be exterminated. They run around for weeks catching sightings and trying to kill it before Kirk figures it out.
CONTINUITY: Since the tribbles incident, the ship has a no pets policy. Kirk is consistently bitchy with Sulu.
DIVERGENCES: A brief history of space travel (written in 1968, remember) charts a crash landing on the moon and the first woman in space before the first spacewalk. 23rd-century Earth ships aren't all equipped with artificial gravity. Instead of a Star Empire, the Romulans are organized into a Confederation. Yeoman Rand is apparently still on the Enterprise during Season 2. Chekov doesn't have an accent and says things like "Holy smokes!"
ILLUSTRATION OF THE WEEK - Waste extraction system emergency
REVIEW: The very first original Star Trek book offers a couple hours diversion, though it's clearly written for the youth market (Spock's educational info-dumps, for example). Still, it doesn't excuse an episodic structure that reads like a bad video game script. The characters don't always sound like themselves, Kirk and Chekov in particular, nor are they smart in their decisions (why even consider the stone age planet as a source of the subspace signal, for example). Sulu and Chekov are particularly rash and stupid. But it may be that "space cafard" is causing them to make mistakes. In fact, the scenes of shipboard life aren't bad and make good points about the boredom that must accompany any long journey. The episodes are entertaining enough and usually end with a grievous breach of the Prime Directive (kind of a hoot, actually). So really, it's not as bad as I might have expected. I only have the eBook version of this, so I don't know if printed copies have the same number of typos, but there are a lot of them. Words are frequently missing at the end of sentences, that kind of thing, but there's at least one funny one:
I'm really glad the Federation can tell which way the wind is blowing.