Star Trek 1017: Masks

1017. Masks

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation #7, Pocket Books, July 1989

CREATORS: John Vornholt

STARDATE: Unknown (between The Measure of a Man and The Dauphin)

PLOT: The Enterprise-D visits the volcanic planet Lorca, a world colonized by the anti-technologists and theatrical performers 200 years ago that have evolved a society where everyone wears a mask to denote status and function. Federation ambassador Fenton Lewis has acquired the Ambassador mask from Ferengi and plans to use it to meet the world's king-in-hiding, who wears the legendary Wisdom mask. Picard and Troi beam down with him and are immediately cut off the ship by a volcanic eruption. Riker, Worf, Data and security guards beam down to search for them where they meet an old peddler who helps them pass for Lorcans. Meanwhile, Lewis, Picard and Troi have met Piercing Blade, a warrior woman who's angling to become Lorca's next leader. Through many adventures, both parties fail to find each other as their masks get upgraded along the way. To complicate matters, the Ferengi are in orbit and are looking for the Wisdom mask as well with the help of local raiders. Picard and Piercing Blade have gotten intimate and during one of their interludes, Lewis has fled from camp. He meets up with Riker's group and tells them Picard's group was killed by Piercing Blade. Not trusting him, they continue the search and fall afoul of the Ferengi, at which point Riker orders the ship to simulate a volcanic tremor which winds up destroying the peddler's wagon. In the wreckage, they find the Wisdom mask and the old man takes back the mantle of king he'd abandonned. When the two groups meet, Piercing Blade challenges the old man - her father! - to a duel for the Wisdom mask. She wins, but spares his life, and Lewis grabs the mask and runs hoping to become king of Lorca and escape Federation justice for breaking the Prime Directive and killing a Ferengi to get the Ambassador mask. He runs right into the Ferengi who capture him and send him to his execution and before the Enterprise crew and Lorcans can mount a rescue of the mask, the raiders and Ferengi all kill each other over it. In the wake of these events, Lorca becomes a Federation protectorate and the natives fashion masks especially for Federation visitors.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: Masks is the title of a 7th season TNG episode. Karue Nobnama is quite a long name for a Ferengi.

SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK - The first step was to align the eye holes.
REVIEW: There are two things the novels should be good at over the show, and Vornholt makes good use of both of them. One is telling a story that would not technically work on television. Everyone having to go masked is antithetical to Star Trek's visual dogma. The other is creating detailed worlds and societies, because time wouldn't allow for the necessary explanations (which would require lots of dull exposition to boot). Lorca is such a detailed world. Not only is the society unusual and interesting, but the it's also a fully realized environment. The plot makes good use of both in a rousing, almost fantasy-style, adventure where exploration, revelations, romance and brief but crisp action scenes are well juggled. It is surprising to me this was Vornholt's first adult novel. If there's a complaint, it's that there are some very big coincidences in it, but all the talk of destiny actually justify them. A clear success with plenty to do for most of the characters, and where the Ferengi play an important but small role (a little of them goes a long way, shall we say).

Next for the SBG Book Club: Antimatter (DS9), Here There Be Monsters (SCE), The Starless World (TOS), The Captain's Honor (TNG).

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