This week, the crew of DS9 is newly aware of an unfriendly presence on the other side of the wormhole, and the numbers they’re crunching don’t look so hot. But when Odo finally discovers others of his own kind, he doesn’t care who he has to ditch to catch a shuttle and head their way. What’s up with the Defiant’s bridge replicator? What carrot should you dangle in front of Diane Carey to keep her attention? And what are Beavis and Butt-head doing here? All this and more in The Search, the book that’s as helpful as a summer poetry workshop.
Last time Diane Carey pulled novelization duty, it was abudantly evident to anyone paying a crumb of attention that she would rather have been brushing her teeth with steel wool. Descent isn’t a terrible episode of TNG, but Carey’s interests clearly lay elsewhere, and the mismatch of author and material resulted in a resounding dud. The Search doesn’t suffer nearly as much from such a problem, directly resulting in an improved reading experience. There are reasons for that that are fairly easy to suss out, but let’s take care of business first.
In case you’ve slept a few times since it aired, “The Search” is the two-part premiere of Deep Space Nine‘s third season, in which Sisko and his crew, having recently become cognizant of the Dominion’s, well, dominion over the Gamma Quadrant, venture back through the wormhole to establish their peaceful intentions. “The Search” marks the introducton of a number of key series elements, the aforementioned collective and species therein notwithstanding: security chief Michael Eddington joins the senior staff, and the station gets a slick new battle cruiser, the Defiant—perfect for exploration, but also loaded for bear in case they find themselves in a pickle.
And a pickle they do find themselves in, indeed: despite the enhanced artillery and maneuverability of the Defiant, they take a pounding anyway. Sisko has to make the tough decision to strand Dax and O’Brien in the outpost at Callinon VII, and in short order everyone gets knocked unconscious except Odo, who takes Kira to a shuttle and lights out for the Omarion Nebula, to which he’s found himself drawn for reasons he can’t explain ever since he saw it on a map. Most of the second half comprises his meeting the Founders and acclimating himself to life among his own kind in the Great Link. When they tip their hand and reveal a nasty prejudice toward “solids”, however, he slowly comes to realize it might not be the amazing existence it’s cracked up to be.
Deep Space Nine has more of the sort of stuff one might expect could hold Diane Carey’s attention somewhat better than anything in TNG was ever able to. I’ve always thought of the show as more of a piece with TOS, with its sense of frontier justice and predilection for revisiting that show’s characters and situations, which definitely places it more firmly in her lane. In addition, “The Search” specifically gives Carey the exact sort of toy she loves to play with—i.e., the Defiant. With a new ship to lavish attention on and plenty of great battle and exploration scenes to put it through its paces, Carey has all the incentive she needs to remain engaged for the duration of a whole novel. Sure enough, even the lulls in the action hum with an energy that even some of the more exciting parts of Descent lacked.
Naturally, being a novelization of an episode, there isn’t a lot to talk about even in the best case that wouldn’t be redundant to cover. There aren’t actually a whole lot of new scenes; most notably, we get to see one of the drills Kira and O’Brien run at the beginning, and Dax and O’Brien’s stranding on the Callinon VII outpost is vastly extended, showing them capturing a Jem’Hadar soldier in a makeshift force field and convincing him (with some bold bluffs about the extent of Starfleet’s military prowess) to take them to the Founders. Other than that, it’s largely business as usual and a fine enough example of the format, if an inessential one.
MVP & LVP
- My MVP of the week is Dax, for her outstanding work in the extended original scene on Callinon VII. The Jem’Hadar are an adversary every bit as relentless and frightening in their way as the Borg, and Dax (with a solid assist from O’Brien) not only manages to trap one, but reason with it. That kind of BAMFness simply can’t be denied.
- As with last week, there’s no one who especially stands out as bringing the vibe down or falling down on the job. Bashir doesn’t get a lot to do, but not everyone can get equal play all the time. I never really cottoned to Eddington that much, but I’m not going to punish him now for what are, at this point in the series, future actions. Another week, another well-oiled machine.
Nuggets & Stray Bits
- Eddington’s first name is given as Paul in this book rather than Michael. Must have been working from an early draft.
- “[Kira] led the way down the narrow stairs to Quark’s bar, noting with a resentful shiver that the stairs were barely wide enough for two humanoids to walk down together and that the width was calculated to make those two humanoids bump each other tenderly with each step. Bothered by what the holosuites up there were most often used for—not exactly battle simulation—she leaned away from O’Brien, anticipating that a settled family man might be embarrassed to bump once too often.” — Don’t be so sure, Nerys. He might be more into the idea than you think. But that’s getting a couple seasons ahead of ourselves. (p. 8)
- “To Odo, solidity would always be a mystery.” — Well, not always. As with the previous nugget, however, that’s more of a season 5 concern. Still, it raises some amusing thoughts about how writers were still taking the general staticness of Trek characters for granted even as DS9 was starting to move away from that. (p. 17)
- The Defiant’s bridge replicator only produces “water, hot or cold.” That’s pretty spartan, all right. Not even coffee or Red Bull to keep the edge on during an intense battle (or a boring patrol). I can understand not wanting your officers to get complacent, but that’s a tad extreme. (p. 54)
- “Starfleet had made a mistake dropping its plans for heavy defense just because the surface of a threat had been smoothed.” — Gee, sounds a lot like a certain ongoing viral situation this glorious country has been repeatedly bungling. Except we didn’t even really wait for any meaningful smoothing! (ibid.)
- A cute little paean to coffee that wouldn’t be out of place in Captain Janeway’s inner monologue covers most of page 88 and a bit of 89 before ending on an amusingly sour note.
- “Oh, this was just great. Perfect. Elastic non-answers. Odo could get this out of any summer poetry workshop.” — I can only speculate, of course, but this has the distinct ring of bitter personal experience to it. (p. 197)
- There is an ad in the back of this book (shown below) for, of all things, MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head’s Ensucklopedia, a trade paperback that purports to contain “the 96-page sum total of their combined knowledge, with 95 pages of incidental material.” I wonder what the Venn diagram of Star Trek fans and Beavis and Butt-head fans looks like. Anyway, Beavis makes a pretty decent Kurt Cobain, I’d say, though I’m not quite as sold on the idea of Butt-head as a cop. His IQ is way too high for that line of work.
I recommend The Search—if you’re into episode novelizations in the first place, that is. This isn’t an essential example of one, but compared to Carey’s previous outing, she’s much more engaged with the material, a fact that leads directly to a more spirited authorial voice and a fun and easy read. Extra book-only scenes are few and far between, but the ones that are present are executed well. You’re probably better off just rewatching the episode, but it’s hardly a waste of time either.
NEXT TIME: Zefram Cochrane is pursued through the centuries in Federation