Star Trek 898: Spock, Messiah!

898. Spock, Messiah!

PUBLICATION: Bantam Books, September 1976

CREATORS: Theodore R. Cogswell and Charles A. Spano, Jr.

STARDATE: 6720.8 (between TOS and TAS)

PLOT: A survey of the planet Kyros gives the Enterprise a chance to test new telescan technology, implants that bond a crew member to a native, allowing him or her to tap into the nuances of their language, culture, behavior and even memories. The repressed Ensign Sara George takes on a nymphomaniac personality and decides to switch Spock's with a more extroverted one as well. She might just be able to have her crush requited. However, her choice is a bad one, and he is bonded to a lunatic "prophet". Soon, Spock is calling himself a Messiah, sabotages the ship, and starts performing high-tech miracles on Kyros. Unfortunately, a cosmic storm is coming in, threatening the crew with radiation. As Kirk and crew (including a regretful Ensign George) try to get close enough to Spock to fry his telescan implant, he seems to always be one step ahead of them. In the end, Sara discovers the mad prophet is actually the Messiah, reverse-bonded to Spock. She breaks Spock's connection, stages an escape, and then Spock undoes his cultural contamination by appearing as a god who condemns the Messiah.

CONTINUITY: Series recurring characters Lt. Leslie and Dr. M'Benga appear. There's a Commander Pulaski in security. I wonder...

DIVERGENCES: Sulu was born on Alpha Mensa Five (should be San Francisco). Chekov has black hair and Scotty is a red head. The ship runs on trilithium instead of dilithium. The telescan technology seen here is of course never mentioned again. Why the universal translator isn't used is a mystery.

REVIEW: Between two writers and an editor, you'd think a tie-in novel that manages to footnote reference actual episodes would know Scotty's hair color. It's the kind of silly mistake that drives me nuts. And the book hasn't aged particularly well. The sexism is one thing (Ensign George has two characterizations: nympho and regretful), but phrases like calling M'Benga "a black" stand out to modern sensibilities. A more subtle equating of Mohamed and Hitler might also offend. Once the action moves to the planet, things gets a lot more interesting. Kyrosian cultures (yes, plural, like real places) are rich and alive, detailed and well-described. Kirk's plans and near misses provide plenty of suspense. And though the ending becomes an explainathon, it does redeem Spock. Without the final twist, I don't think his character could have been salvaged. So some interesting ideas, great background, and strong adventure writing, coming at a time when Spockomania was indeed hitting the world. Its problems are minor, since some sexism was part of the original Star Trek mindset (never this titillating though).


Siskoid said...

For those reading along...

The next books I would cover, if all goes according to plan, are:
Survivors (TNG)
Fallen Heroes (DS9)
Cold Fusion (SCE)
The Price of the Phoenix (TOS)

I'll try to give you that heads up once a month.

snell said...

The Price of The Phoenix? Oh dear...

Off topic, but did you catch that all of the old Stardates are now invaild?"Logan: How does the Stardate work in the new Star Trek-Movie? It’s shown quite different in the ways seen in the past films and series.

BobOrci: The year, as in 2233, with the month and day expressed as a decimal point from .1 to .365 (as in the 365 days of the year)."
Oh, dear. So much for my once having all the old Stardates memorized. (And how nice of the Federation to use a completely Earth-centric timekeeping system...all you other cultures--you're on Earth-time now!)

Siskoid said...

Well, since the entire history is invalidated, who cares what happens when, right?


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