Sunday, May 31, 2009

Star Trek 905: Survivors

905. Survivors

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation #4, Pocket Books, January 1989

CREATORS: Jean Lorrah

STARDATE: Between The Arsenal of Freedom and Symbiosis. The last chapter occurs during Skin of Evil.

PLOT: When she was young, Tasha Yar was rescued from her dystopian world by a Starfleet officer called Darryl "Dare" Adin. By the time she graduated from Starfleet Academy, they had fallen in love and were engaged to be married. On her training cruise, however, Orion slavers attack and make off with a shipment of dilithium crystals. Dare is implicated and accused of treason, a rap he can't beat, partly on Tasha's testimony. Today, while the Enterprise delivers time-sensitive grains to a planet, Tasha and Data are sent to Treva, a dystopian world not unlike Tasha's homeworld, to investigate its leader's cry for help. They discover that she's been oppressing her people by simulating terrorist attacks and putting pacifying drugs in the water supply. Things get more complicated when a local warlord/freedom fighter abducts our heroes to convince them of his cause. Dare, long escaped from prison and now working as the "Silver Paladin", is helping him raise an army. Tasha and Data decide to help the cause in a plan to clean up the water supply, and feelings between Dare and Tasha are reawakened. She still places him under arrest when the Enterprise arrives. However, Data unearths information that proves the Orions framed Dare, and that Treva's tyrant is actually a surgically altered Orion (chasing Prime Directive concerns away). Dare rejoins his mercenary group, hoping that Tasha will eventually leave Starfleet and seek him out.

CONTINUITY: Tasha's colony was set up during the Post-Atomic Horror (Encounter at Farpoint). The scene with the rape gang from Where No One Has Gone Before is expanded upon, and the cat Tasha's holding in that scene becomes a frequent companion. Her relationship with Data that began in The Naked Now is developped, better tying in with her message in Skin of Evil and her general softening in her last couple episodes. The Orion males featured in this novel are gray-skinned (TAS). There's a great line about security guards not being "faceless disposable beings armed with phasers" (redshirts).

DIVERGENCES: The title is at odds with TNG's "The Survivors". Tasha's homeworld is called New Paris,w hile in Legacy it is Turkana IV. When remembering her family, Tasha does not mention Ishara, whose surname is particularly suspect, since Tasha took it from an old woman who took care of her after her mother abandonned her. Sentience is a requirement for joining Starfleet, contradicting The Measure of a Man. The Klingons are said to be members of the Federation. I won't dispute that Data is more emotional than he believes, but his emotional awareness is a little high in the last few chapters.

REVIEW: Thanks to Tasha's death, Jean Lorrah was given the chance to fill in her background, something Star Trek novelists only very rarely get a chance to do with cast members. By the end of Survivors, I liked Tasha about one billion percent more than I did after her 20-some episodes, so I'll be recommending this book today. Tasha's history is revealed organically, the flashbacks working so well, you'll miss them when they disappear around the book's midway point. And though the contemporary plot is pretty standard, the novel is so well constructed, everything seems to satisfyingly pay off. I wasn't always sure about the main characters' speech patterns, but the psychological portraits of both Tasha and Data are very well drawn. Tasha, falling in love with the Federation's utopia and subsequently the man who rescued her. His similarities to Data and why she would be attracted to the android. Data is too emotional at times, examining his jealousy, for example, but what it means to be an android is well represented, as is his closeness to Tasha. His "one-episode" obsession is beauty, and it ties in with various elements of the plot. Lorrah's is a tight novel, and she uses everything we ever learned about Tasha in Season One to good effect. And because there was no call for Tasha to ever return, the novel feels important in a way these numbered novels never do. It feels canonical. The last chapter, though it reprises Skin of Evil's events, tries to fill in some holes as well. Picard gets to deliver one of his great speeches, and the coda about "survivors" is simply beautiful. As a companion to Skin of Evil, it just makes both stories more touching.


De said...

This was the first TNG novel I ever read. Borrowed it from the public library and liked it quite a bit. At the time, I was a tad dismayed when "Legacy" overwrote just about all of the neat Tasha backstory here.

Sea-of-Green said...

I used to have ALL of the original TNG novels. When I cleared out a bunch of books a few years ago for chairty, this is one of the few I kept.

Anonymous said...

Well, speaking of dilithium crystals, I think you all may find this interesting.

Go to: