Sunday, March 15, 2009

Star Trek 828: Spock Must Die!

828. Spock Must Die!

PUBLICATION: Bantam Books, February 1970

CREATORS: James Blish

STARDATE: 4011.9 - 4205.5 (Season 3)

PLOT: While the Enterprise is way on the other side of the Klingon Empire, the Federation loses contact with Organia and the Klingons start a new war. Months away from the action, the crew attempts the impossible - creating a tachyon duplicate of Mr. Spock with the transporter and sending it instantaneously to Organia to see what's happening. Something goes wrong, however, and a duplicate of Spock is create, one that proves to be a traitor to Starfleet. The ship takes the long way to Organia while one of the Spocks locks himself away and both demand the death of the other. When they reach Organia, it is surrounded by a thought-reflecting field with which the Klingons have isolated the Organians. The duplicate Spock escapes to it while the ship encounters Klingon resistance. The duplicate Spock figures out how to use the field projector to affect the planet's environment and he fights the real Spock in a surreal battle, but loses and is destroyed. The crew then helps the Organians destroy the field, and the godlike beings stop the war and isolate the Klingons from the rest of normal space-time.

CONTINUITY: First real mention of Joanna McCoy, the doctor's daughter, in any media (Blish had access to the original script of The Way to Eden in which she would have appeared). Both the Organians - including the very same council members - and the Klingons - including Kor - first appeared in Errand of Mercy. Koloth and Korax (The Trouble with Tribbles).

DIVERGENCES: McCoy's nickname is Doc instead of Bones, apparently the editor's fault. Janice Rand is still aboard - possible, but not borne out by onscreen evidence. Kirk wears an Academy class ring which has never been seen on the show. The Klingons are ruled by a Grand Senate. If the Organians did indeed trap the Klingons in some kind of time loop for a thousand years, it didn't take.

REVIEW: Spock Must Die!, James Blish's only original Star Trek work, is an intellectual trip. Certainly Blish's roots in serious sf show, and while the story does tend to boil down to talking heads, the ideas discussed are so interesting that I was riveted. "What happens to your immortal soul when you go through the transporter?" is the kind of metaphysical dilemma I expect the author of A Case of Conscience to explore. Every decision is well thought out and its logic discussed. Every MacGuffin has "hard SF" science to support it (even the reasoning why a transporter duplicate could prove to be "evil"). Heck, Uhura even proposes to send a coded message in "Eurish", the language used by James Joyce in the undecipherable Finnegan's Wake! Great role for her generally in this one. Remove all the talk, and you're left with only a few pages of plot, and a weird surreal sequence I don't really care for (never do), but the stakes are high and life aboard a starship feels real. The only real flaw for me was Scotty's brogue, which might as well be Eurish in spots. Otherwise, as a fan of real SF (as opposed to space opera), I really enjoyed this thinking man's Trek.


De said...

I've never read this novel (it's on the loooong list of Trek novels I still need to read) but was the entire Klingon Empire thrown into a time loop or just the warring ships?

Siskoid said...

Seeing as Ayelborne has a talk with the "Senate", I'd say the whole thing.

But the Organians fell off the face of the universe soon thereafter for the Trek timeline to make sense.

Temlakos said...

Think maybe some ranking Federation politician went all soft on the Klingons and sent Ambassador Sarek to beg the Organians for the Klingons' release? (Against Sarek's better judgment, of course, but Sarek probably figured that logic dictated preserving the prestige of the Federation Council and Supreme Secretary.)

Seeing as how it worked out in the end (see The Undiscovered Country), I could live with that solution.